A LETTER TO THE HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES OF 2020
Dear Graduates of 2020,
Let me start off by saying this one thing, YOU HAVE BEEN AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE RESILIENT! You were born around the time of the fallout from 9-11, when the Twin Towers came down. I remember sitting at my desk, my baby still fluttering in my tummy, when I heard the news. You think this Pandemic caused fear when it was announced, so did that! There were just as many unknowns and perhaps even greater widespread shock after those bombings. However, just so we are clear, your generation is not the only generation that has experienced a disruption or change to the education system. Ask anyone in their 80s & 90s what they remember of the Dirty ‘30s and wartimes. Survival of communities and families required a type of resilience during those times that we can not even fathom in middle class North America.
Your struggle this year as you transition from in person classes to, in some cases, strictly online classes is very real. Your educators are aware of your challenges. Your families are aware of your challenges. This first year of transition was meant to be full of excitement and new college and university life experiences, not being stuck at your parents’ kitchen table listening to professors talk to you from a small box on a computer screen. Your first year is meant to be filled with new friends, study groups, cramming for exams with peers, and building your social network. Much of this has been taken from you. Your parents empathise with you as you feel isolated from what was deemed to be a ‘rite of passage’ after graduation from high school.
Many of you are experiencing the normal challenges faced by decades of students who have moved from high school into post secondary education. There are no assignment extensions, there is no extra time given to complete exams, there are far fewer opportunities to work directly with your teachers when you are stuck on the material. Tutoring availability is limited. Plus, you are having to cope with these regular challenges from the confines of your home which may not be conducive to day-long study sessions with younger children and busy parents disrupting your daily routines.
I have compiled a list of information that I would like you to consider as you move forward throughout this first year, and ultimately throughout the rest of your life:
- Reach out for help when you are feeling overwhelmed. Do NOT be too proud or fearful to admit you are struggling. Struggling does not mean you are stupid, incapable, or in the wrong program. It means this new style of teaching does not easily match your style of learning. Give yourself time to adjust and ask for support. The most successful people in life became successful by asking for and seeking help when they needed it.
- Between each online class (time permitting) get your ass off that chair and go outside. If you do not go out and look as far as your eyes can see once in awhile, they will get too accustomed to only seeing what is in front of your face and a whole world will pass you by without you even noticing it. Get outside and see the world around you. (Thank-you to Fred W-S for this pearl of wisdom!)
- If you are one of the students who participated in sports through your school years, this year is the year you need to find your own reason to exercise. DO IT! Adding daily muscle and cardio maintaining activities is a MUST. Yes, you are only 17/18/19 years old; however, your bodies will start to change in negative ways if you do not replace your past activity with something new. If you make physical activity a MUST in your life right now, before you get married, get jobs, get crazy busy with life, the habit to be active will be firmly in place when you get to those next stages of life. This is not just a passive “you should do this”, this is a “you MUST do this”. Your future health depends on the habits you form NOW, not later, NOW. Do you want good future health? Increase your odds by taking action now and creating healthy lifestyle patterns and choices.
- As you are spending a whole lot more time in front of a computer screen than you likely did before, I strongly suggest that you invest in an auxiliary keyboard or monitor. Any combination that allows you to type at proper desk height and view the screen up higher to prevent neck strain that causes neck and back pain and migraine headaches. If you are not able to make this technology compensation, then do this: find some appropriate stretches for you back and neck and do them daily. Yes, daily! Your 50-year-old self will thank you for this!
- Under these new challenges of having to study in what might be a busy household, to have your best opportunity to study effectively, you may need to arrange an alternative location for your school hours. Grandma’s house? An elderly neighbor with Wi-Fi? The library? This is your job. To learn and get the most out of your education opportunity as possible. You are spending hard-earned money on these classes so treat this time in school seriously and make some serious changes to give yourself the best opportunities for success.
Okay, I am all done with the lecturing points. Please understand that I am making all these suggestions to you because I never knew some of this stuff when I was your age. I didn’t know what sciatic issues were until I got older and I can almost guarantee I would not be having problems at 47 had I taken my advice as an 18 year old and added consistent healthy activity and stretching into my daily routine. The stretching and activity are especially important to all students pursuing desk-job careers. Do the stretches, your joints will thank you when you are older!
Now, let’s talk about what happens if Christmas time comes, you have failed a couple of classes or your marks are not high enough to get into your next year and you still are not adjusting to the way things are. You still have choices. You always have choices. Learn from your experiences in the first semester. Evaluate how you really feel. If your body is experiencing unmanageable stress trying to cope with the new system, then perhaps taking the rest of the year off and coming back when classrooms are open again would be of greater value to you. If the social atmosphere of a classroom setting is something that you need to succeed, do not take on any shame in wanting to put off your studies until the classes open. Some people NEED to be around people. This is not a shortcoming or a fault, it is merely a fact of your personality. If you are one of those people, then get out there and get a job in customer service and you will still be learning skills, simply different ones. Pick up your studies when the classrooms open again. Who knows, by then you may have found a new direction you are more passionate about.
There are no wrong ways of doing life. If you are putting forth effort to look after your personal affairs and are committed to learning something new everyday, you will be successful. Graduates of 2020, you are RESILIENT. You will be as successful as you endeavor to be. If you want great things, you must take great action. Invest in yourself by looking after your physical and mental health and please remember, my door is always open if you need to talk. Good luck in the rest of your first year in post-secondary education or in your jobs, whichever you choose to do!
THE CABIN DOOR