High School Seniors Have Been Robbed And They Need Our Support

High School Seniors Have Been Robbed And They Need Our Support

We need to be very gentle with our high school seniors. They’re experiencing big losses right now and they need some extra support, compassion, and empathy from the adults in their lives. Seniors were already walking into uncertain territory, but now what little time they had left of their childhood has been ripped away from them. Everything in their lives so far has led up to these last few months of high school and now it’s just canceled for them. 

They’ve lost most of their freedom, independence, and autonomy, something parents and teachers have been pushing them to develop so they can succeed at college. They aren’t able to spend time having adventures with friends – they aren’t even able to hole up inside staring at their phone in the same room as their friends. Many teens have lost their jobs. Pursuing their passions at home isn’t the same as it is in school with art classes, band rooms, fields, teachers, and friends who get it. Just as they were really starting to get the hang of spreading their wings, they’ve been clipped.

They’ve given up sleep and free time their whole childhood to excel in sports, chorus, band, drama, etc. Those big tournaments, competitions, exhibits, games, and performances they’ve been preparing for aren’t happening. The college auditions are postponed. There will be no awards banquets or team celebrations. They’ve worked as a team for years and it just ended without even a fistbump. 

Many seniors are worried about college. Not all students have it all planned out and locked down at the start of senior year. Some are still retaking the SAT, touring campuses, and exploring their options into the second semester. They were already anxious about this next chapter in their lives and now they’re wondering if they’ll have time to wrap up loose ends in time to start college in the fall. Those with acceptance letters are wondering if summer orientation and camps will still be held – and if college dorms will even be open in the fall. They’ve worked hard to be brave and accept walking into the unknown, but now there’s no timeline for when that will happen or what it will look like.

Think about your prom. You likely remember it vividly. We’re sold the idea of a magical night way before we went set foot in high school. It’s the reward for trudging through the less glamorous parts of childhood. What should have been prom night is quickly approaching or has already passed for most high school seniors. The dresses they excitedly shopped for months ago are hanging in the closet, still in the plastic protective cover. Many didn’t get to shop at all. 

They’re also missing out on so many other senior traditions they’ve long heard siblings, past upperclassmen, teachers, and even their parents describe. All the amusement parks are closed so there will be no Grad Night. There’s no senior skip day. Their accomplishments won’t be celebrated with an awards banquet or scholarship presentation. There will be no graduation parties to attend because graduation, as they were expecting it, is canceled. 

Can we let that sink in? Losing prom is devastating, but there will be no big graduation ceremony with caps, tassels, gowns, handshakes with the principal and tons of photos with proud parents. They’ve put in all of those years and they don’t get to hear their name called while a large crowd claps for them.

But probably even more upsetting than these big events are all of the lasts they’re missing out on. The last time they celebrate their friend’s birthday as a group. The last time they walk on the field or stage. The last time they eat soggy chicken nuggets in the cafeteria. The last meeting of the student council, film club, National Honor Society, math team or Key club. They don’t get the thrill of physically handing in their last final exam. They won’t get to walk the halls and clang the lockers shut as a group for the last time. They don’t get to say goodbye to their classmates, many of which they’ve known since kindergarten, or their teachers, some who have made huge impacts on their lives. Their yearbooks will be blank.

“But I didn’t go to prom and it didn’t impact me.”

“They’re still getting the diploma, that’s what matters, not the ceremony.”

“My father spent his senior year in Vietnam. They have it easy on the couch watching Netflix.”

“People are dying and losing their jobs. There are more important things going on in the world.”

Choosing not to attend a milestone event isn’t the same as it being canceled for all. Our seniors have worked hard and they deserve the big festivities and fanfare. War is traumatic and so is living in a pandemic. The end of senior year is an extremely important time in a teenager’s world. They are losing so much and they have every right to be sad or angry because it isn’t fair. Facebook throwback posts, “adopt a senior” programs, virtual proms, drive-thru graduations, and delayed events just aren’t the same.

Many teenagers act tough and would never admit they’re shaken, but how could they not be? Parents, consider cutting your teen some slack for the messy room, late-night video games or dramatic sigh when you ask them to walk the dog. Teachers, think about extending that deadline or accepting late assignments. And, of course, both parents and teachers can support and encourage seniors using the universal teenage love language: memes.

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High School Seniors Have Been Robbed And They Need Our Support

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Rachael Moshman
Rachael Moshman, M.Ed., an editor at Bored Teachers, is a mom, educator, writer, and advocate for self-confidence. She's been a teacher in classrooms of infants through adult college students. She loves pizza, Netflix and yoga. Connect with her at rachael.m@boredteachers.com
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