A Socially Distant Farewell to High School
June 2, 2020
You know that saying “You never really know what you have ‘til it’s gone”? We never thought it’d be applicable to a random day in March, just a school day away from Spring Break beginning. March 12, 2020 was our last normal day of high school. It was one of those unassuming days — hardly special. There were fourteen kids in the same classroom, people hugging each other (an oddly strange commodity of a bygone era), and large gatherings (see previous parentheses) in common places. The campus was buzzing with life. “See you after the break,” students happily exclaimed. Nobody really understood the gravity of those goodbyes.
One waning thought in the mind of every senior was “What if this is it?” But those thoughts were quickly put to rest as we cajoled ourselves into seeing a more positive side of this. We believed that by April 13, we would all be back at school. As that date became May 4, then May 15, and finally the entire academic year, that thought of “What if this is it?” became a very brutal reality we all had to grapple with.
Experiencing the last months of senior year from behind a laptop webcam has put our previous time at MBS into perspective. We miss the morning drive to school, complaining that the cafeteria was serving pasta…again, and walking into the Stu, founders, or any other place that students gather to see a group of familiar faces. We miss actually raising our hand in a classroom instead of using the reaction functions (👍👏) on Zoom. In a school like MBS, built on community, participation, and face-to-face interaction, distance learning just isn’t the same. Moments of spontaneity inside and outside the classroom, impromptu lessons on a particularly engaging topic, and surprise frozen yogurt topping bar days are far less likely to happen through a screen (logistically that last one would be a nightmare).
To put it simply, distance learning whittles down the classroom experience to the bare essentials: notes, class work, and homework. It’s as though the classic experience were put to boil, and reduced down to the very bare, solid essence of what it means to learn. We take notes, we have a small discussion. The whole ordeal takes maybe 30 minutes, and then we do our homework. There’s no room for talking to the classmate next to you, making a joke, or sitting next to someone new. The experience takes on a sterile tone. There’s room for questions, a couple check-ins, but otherwise, everyone’s muted (literally).
The end of senior year was supposed to be technicolor. The sun, a little bit brighter, and the grass and sky a bit more saturated. We imagined that by the spring, the Class of 2020 would walk around a bit slower, nostalgically taking a mental photo of the campus around them.
Here’s how May 8, 2020 was supposed to go: all 110 seniors would have been seated in Founders on the stage, in white folding chairs. We would have been facing the audience, wearing our college shirts with pride, looking back on our time with nostalgia. We would have received our yearbooks in our hands, sat with our friends and looked at our senior pages together. We would have run to our teachers and friends to get our yearbooks signed, before departing for Senior Projects. That week would have been filled with fun — like a bouncy house coming to campus during the Senior BBQ — to remind us of what brings us together.
Now onto the elephant in the room: Commencement. The entire year, we had been looking forward to our time on Senior Circle beneath the white tent. Some of us would be in white dresses with short stemmed roses, others in navy blazers and MBS ties, but we’d all be together. This was the plan. But the pandemic had other plans. We’re not going to sugarcoat it, this is not the situation that anybody wanted or expected. As much as we may try to replicate the magic of a traditional MBS graduation, it won’t be quite the same. That doesn’t mean, however, that we are excused from making the best of the situation. This is our graduation, and it is what we make of it. As difficult as it may seem, graduation can still be, on some level, the unifying and emotional experience that it’s meant to be.
So now, as we sit at home, farther from each other than we’ve ever been, it’s important that we take these unprecedented times not as an excuse to grow further apart, but as a challenge to bring ourselves closer together. It would be easy to lose touch, but that’s not who we are. Our bond as a community, as a school, is strong enough to endure physical distance. School isn’t, and never has been, four walls (or a giant sphere). These last few weeks of our senior year should be spent reaching out to classmates you may not have spoken to in awhile, organizing Zoom calls with longtime friends, and maybe, just maybe, a virtual frozen yogurt topping bar day.
Stay apart. But stick together.