An Open Letter to High School Seniors

Dear High School Senior,

On Friday afternoon a few seniors came into my classroom after the last bell rang. They were concerned about prom and their senior trip. It broke my teacher heart to listen. As you’re reading this, you most likely have similar concerns.

This is supposed to be your year. The year for your senior prom, sporting events, cheer competitions, senior trips, clubs, and the rest of what senior year has to offer. You were supposed to be the captain of that team, the officer of that club, or that student who wanted to be with their friends one last year before venturing into the unknown. This was THE year that your entire schooling was building up to. But it was robbed from you because of this global pandemic. 

Let’s be abundantly clear – you were robbed, and it’s unfair. If you’re upset, then you should embrace those feelings. Commiserate with one another. Some folks will downplay the situation because they won’t know what it feels like to have their senior year stripped at the last moment. 

I, for one, will not downplay it as it happened to me. Hurricane Katrina devastated my community when I was a high school senior. I remember leaving my school on a Friday afternoon with my buddies only to never return to that school. I was supposed to be the captain of my soccer team, go to prom with my longtime crush, and finish the year with my lifelong friends. But it was all canceled. Instead, I stayed in a shelter and finished high school in a different state. It was tough, and I had to find solace in places I never envisioned. It was hard, but we made it through. And I’m reliving that pain as I think of your disruption to your senior year. 

Most do not need to experience Katrina to know that this is tough on you. Those of us who work in schools do so because we care above all else. That caring does not stop once you leave those school walls. In situations like these, we worry more about you. There is a lot of uncertainty, but rest assured, districts across the nation are working in creative ways, from potentially abbreviated school years to organizing social events when this subsides, to make this situation the best they possibly can for you. Some educators are working endlessly to transfer to virtual learning and accompany those without the internet. Administrators are working to get those meals together for those who need them. We are all in crisis mode but know that we are all doing everything we can to help during this tumultuous time. You are not forgotten. We are thinking about you. We are here for you. We care.

There’s nothing I, or anyone, can say to make up for that time you are losing in what is supposed to be one of the best years of your life. 

But I can offer some encouragement. Right now, you have the power to make the most out of this unfortunate situation. If a decade of teaching has taught me anything, it’s that people your age are resilient and innovative. Your generation can navigate multiple worlds and bounce between physical and digital spaces with ease. You are part of the most racially and ethnically diverse generation, and you embrace those differences in ways adults seem to struggle. You courageously put yourselves out there for the world to see and criticize. You push boundaries and challenge norms. You find ingenious ways to compensate for any gaps you may have accrued without the help of educators, whether it’s through Khan Academy or a sibling. It’s a small wonder why “post-Millennials are on track to become the most well-educated generation yet.” 

I can also offer some advice. Help one another and your family. They need you. Do your grandparents or your elderly neighbors need groceries? Offer support. Some teachers may even need your help as many try to transition to online learning. We need you. Utilize your tech savvy ways to bring yourselves closer together. Practice “social distancing,” or physical distancing, but stay as social as ever. FaceTime. Text. Tweet. Snapchat. Make TikTok videos (I don’t know if that’s still a thing so don’t laugh if I’m already out of date). Use these platforms to connect and uplift. Binge Netflix and Disney+. Make memes. Exercise. Read books – maybe even those boring ones your English teachers were stoked for you to read. Or just read manga. Read something! Reach out to those friends you know don’t have internet access. Call and check up on ‘em. Listen to podcasts. Make a podcast. Start a hobby. Journal for posterity. You’re living through history. Your bold reaction to this is going to make history.

Lastly, I can offer some support. You may not know me, but I feel your pain; it stings. We as educators mourn with you. Again, you are not forgotten. We see your hard work. We value your unique perspectives. We hear your audacious voices. We cherish all of it, and we will continue to do so even from afar.

I am sad for you; truly, I am. I feel deeply for you; truly, I do. It makes my heart hurt as I write. But if there is any group that can plow through this in creative ways, it is your group. There is no pandemic strong enough to silence you or dent the passion of your generation. Keep your head up and keep fighting. Our country needs you because you provide hope for our future. This year may not be what you envisioned, but I’m eager to see what you do with it.

After all, it is still very much your year. 

Stay healthy,

Chris Dier, a high school teacher


33 thoughts on “An Open Letter to High School Seniors

  1. Thanks so much for this. This senior class started kindergarten in Aug 06 (katrina in 05) My son lived through Katrina and Covid-19. He does feel robbed and as his mother, I am mad and sad for him. I keep trying to tell him to give school staff the time to figure it all out. On 3/13, we went from no closings to full statewide shut down in 2 hours. We want their “rights of passage” for them just as much as he does. Prom would have been a week from now. No one was prepared for this. However, we do have be safe and cautious. This for right now is for the best. We hear their angst and love them to the moon and back.

  2. As a high school senior, I appreciate this letter. I feel like this year has lead to alot of disappointment and disaster. I just wanted to go to prom and enjoy. I hate that this is how this is going down, but I know if we get through this we can beat anything.

    1. Very touching Mr. Dier! The seniors this year were my very first class of 5th graders at Lacoste. I couldn’t wait to be able to watch my first babies walk across the stage this year as they graduated. I was trying to possibly organize them being able to walk through the hallways at Lacoste with the Kindergarten and 5th grade graduates in their caps and gowns to give our Bulldogs something to look up to. My hope is that this can still happen, but with the ever changing day to day life we are currently living I feel like that time may never come. I hope they as well as yourself are able to stay well during this time.

  3. I am currently a high school senior, it was nice to hear something so kind and inspiring. I’m not disappointed about what happened, even though it’s kinda sad. On the bright side, worse things have happened in the world so maybe we should count our blessings.

  4. I don’t have any seniors in school at this time, but I just wanted to say how much your letter meant to me. I feel so bad for the seniors in High School and College, I know this is now what they wanted, but I also believe like you do that will make the best of it! Thank you!!

  5. This is exactly what my daughter who is a senior, expressed the other day after the school closure was announced. She was upset about things are not progressing the way they were supposed to. But as you mentioned, she already accepted the situation and making the best out of it. She is helping at home and getting creative

  6. I needed this read more than I thought I did. I was so overwhelmed and worried for my AP exams, graduation, and prom. However, you motivated me and helped me step into the light that is surrounded by darkness. We can still make this our year, and it can still be wonderful in untraditional ways. We are class of 2020 and we are stronger than ever. Thank you.

  7. Thank you so much! This touched my heart. Thank you for taking out time to understand & help restructure the thoughts and concerns the kids may have. I have a Senior. He had to go back to his middle school because 2016 flood caused them to transition back to the middle school (only being at the high school for 1 week in the 9th grade) He told me yesterday mom this has been the worst 4 years of my life. I had to talk to him. With me running across this made my spirit smile. I am going to forward this to my son. I thank you! & continue to be blessed!

  8. As you stated so eloquently my fellow educator, this generation of students will thrive and surprise us all and they will do it with class. My heart hurts as well for them, it is so unfair but they are making history. I can’t wait to see the kind of history they make.

  9. My daughter is in this class. Do you realize that they are also the 911 babies. My daughter was born 12 days after 911. I guarantee some of the class.was conceived right around 911.

  10. Dear Sr.’s, my heart goes out to you! I have children in High School (but no Seniors) and one in his last year of Elementary, he also was so excited to Graduate from 5th grade (I know it isn’t the same as Graduating from High School), when I had to tell him last night that most likely he will not get that Party and Ceremony at school, but we can at home, he said “that’s okay” but you could tell from his face expression he was a little devastated. As soon as this Pandemic started and schools were closing I though of High School Seniors. This letter is so well said, a beautiful reminder that you are strong and can get through this and find ways to still connect safely to your friends. Please, all be safe, our Country will get through this, but we all need to Love, Care for, and Look out for each other. Stay Strong!

  11. I am reading this with tears. I am so sorry the Seniors are missing the last and best part of High School, because the media is pushing an agenda of fear and politics. God Bless each and every one of you..

  12. Thank you, Chris. After reading your letter, not only I felt hope, but also immense gratitude for expressing in such a beautiful way what many of us, teachers, believe, fear and feel. I came from Spain to teach to this country in the year 2000. My first destination was Galveston, Texas, where I was acquainted first row with a few hurricanes. I had to leave my house twice without knowing whether it would still be there when I came back from a place that was only three hours away—it took me 35 hours to get there without sleeping and with the fear of running out of gas. Life brought me to California in 2006, and under the current circumstances, like you, I believe our future depends on our actions now and how we react to adversity. I loved how you empowered these kids, who probably didn’t see the consequences and magnitude of this pandemic beyond Prom and a their trip, to appreciate what they have, be resilient and make the best out of it supporting their families and friends.
    Thank you!! (Silvi Martín, San Diego)

  13. Currently, I am an Indiana high school senior. It is 2:00 in the morning and I am in tears after reading this. I feel like each day I am receiving another email of someone expressing their sorrows that, yet again, another notable event is being canceled. While reading, I was instantly flooded with all the things that myself and thousands of others are painfully missing out on. Things that many of us have been looking forward to since gradeschool. My heart aches for the memories that won’t be made and the relationships that won’t be built, but you’re letter definitely gives me hope and reassurance. That despite the chaos and changes we are being forced to overcome, it will make us better people, citizens, neighbors, friends, listeners, advice-givers, etc. So, thank you. Thank you for your kind words, feelings, and shared grievances because they are definitely necessary during this time.

  14. Thanks for the letter. But will they be getting some of their money back from their senior free that will make them feel a little better what will be devastating is no graduation for them.

  15. Seniors – senior year is a lot about shared experience. You have lost some important local events, and that’s hard, but you’ve just gained a global generation, bonded by circumstance across the world, a thing that is completely unique in history. You’re part of the largest cohesive graduating class ever by a factor of millions. From now on, every time you meet someone else from the class of 2020, no matter how distant, you’ll automatically have a connection because of the experience you shared — and that will bring its own enviable silver linings.

  16. The other day I was overwhelmed and worried that everything was going to be canceled, everything I’ve dreamed of since I was 12. My family told me don’t cry you can get over it. Prom and graduation may seem like no big deal and you may say so what if it gets canceled? But for many including myself, this is a big final celebration of high school. My last chance to be stupid with my friends before I’m in the real world and before I’m an adult. This post made me realize we can overcome this, we were born around the tragedy of 9/11 and we graduate amid a pandemic.

  17. It’s very sad about everything that is going on I personally think that they should just keep there head up and everything will be fine .

  18. Thank you for this, Chris. I too have a senior (and an 8th grader too). They’re both grieving for what will be lost. You can’t replace these rites of passage, but I keep telling them that knowing all the seniors everywhere are going through this same thing, can bring some kind of comfort……and we look forward to seeing what they might be able to create later in the summer when this passes, to help bring some closure to their high school experience. It won’t be the same for sure, but it’s practice for one of life’s biggest lessons, resiliency! Pull up your boot straps Class of 2020- you will get through this (but it is truly sad).

  19. Amazing and obviously you were meant to be a teacher because of your passion. My daughter is a senior – it’s been tough I won’t lie but she will persevere. She was born right after 9/11 and now graduates amidst a pandemic. You are right – this generation is smart, tech savvy and brave! Thank you for your message. I shared it with all my senior parents and friends!

  20. As I was reading this letter to this years seniors I got goosebumps throughout my body. This just proves of how much of a Amazing job you did Mr. Chris and how you really understand what this year seniors may be feeling. In your words “you have the power.” You have the power Mr. Chris to open the eyes of many.

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