What a year it’s been! As I was closing up my classroom for the summer at the end of last week, I started realizing just how much Corona took from us this year. We were just supposed to leave for spring break, and be back in a week. We were only supposed to be without each other for one week. That ended up being three months. I realized how I felt I didn’t have closure with all my classes, and I imagined you felt similarly with all of your classes and friends and teachers. We just never came back. Never got to laugh or learn together, never got to talk or discuss or push each other to do and be more. We just left, thinking it was temporary, and never came back.
When I realized I missed this closure, missed all those days we should have had together, I wanted the chance to say goodbye. School will start again in the fall, but you all will no longer be in Mrs. Vondra’s class, and for that I am sorry. I wanted to say I will miss you, have missed you, and wish you all the best. I am honored to have gotten the time together that we did, honored that I got the chance to know you, honored that I got to (and get to) call you my students.
This is such an incredible time to be alive. “Incredible” doesn’t have to mean “wonderful”. In fact, at it’s most true core, “incredible” means “hard to believe”. It’s hard to believe that we’re in the middle of a world pandemic. Hard to believe that we’ve been sheltering in place in our homes for three months. Hard to believe we never went back to school. I’d imagine during this time at home you’ve felt bored at times, alone at times, misunderstood at times, angry, unfulfilled, and so many more emotions. But this time, however incredible, is only temporary. When we emerge from the other side of it, I hope that you will use these experiences to your benefit. I hope you never take for granted just sitting in the presence of friends. I hope getting out of bed to go to school will seem a little less terrible, because you’ll have discovered that staying in bed by yourself all day, everyday, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I hope you get to swap quarantine stories and laugh and hug and enjoy all of the best parts of community and humanity together. We were never supposed to do this life alone. I hope you have learned that a life without purpose is only half a life. Find purpose and chase it. My point is: we can bring good out of this bad. I hope you find the good and cling tight to it. Let it change you for the better. Forever.
Speaking of change, I’m sure you’ve noticed the social unrest grabbing our nation’s attention at the moment. How I wish we could have been in class to be able to talk about this together. We talked somewhat about it when we read Dear Martin together (and how glad I am for those discussions!) but I would have loved to let you share your thoughts and feelings about what’s been going on. I told you at the very beginning of the year, the first day of class even, that you each had a story and that each of those stories were important. That remains true. What you do with that story is so important. Right now, especially for my students of color (which many of you are), the world is poised to hear your story. Let them. Speak. Tell us truths we need to hear. These stories at the forefront of our social consciousness are shaping the nation we will become. Join your story to theirs. Speak and be heard. Though our nation has such a dark past where our citizens of color are concerned, I believe this can change. My students, your inherent value is immeasurable. Never let anyone make you doubt that. So, have real conversations. Hard conversations. Vulnerable conversations. For my white students: listen. Hear. Join in the change. I know that I can never understand fully, but know that I stand fully with you. I hope you felt you each had a voice in my class. I hope you felt heard and valued. I hope you can take that voice and continue to use it. Be the good. Voice your story. Though this ended up being an incredible year, I am so thankful for the days we had together.
Have a wonderful summer. 🙂
P.S. If you haven’t already, I’d love if you (virtually) signed my yearbook here: bit.ly/vondrayb. I’ll print the messages out and put them in my yearbook when they come in.