Governor Baker announced an extension of the school closure through May 4, 2020, at his press conference this afternoon. I will begin by saying that I have no intention of trying to relieve the real sense of loss this decision and this pandemic is causing. As I said yesterday in my blog we are living in a surreal time filled with uncertainty, fear, and our collective well-being is under attack, scared, frustrated, and perhaps even angry over the loss of things big and small. We would all be forgiven for succumbing to hopelessness, but we can’t.
My heart hurts for all students, but it breaks for the great Class of 2020. This is not the senior year you envisioned. You undoubtedly have lots of questions, and we are short answers. To combat this pandemic requires cooperation across the state, country, and globe, and a bi-product of this collective effort leaves answers outside of our control.
The Governor and the education commissioner will provide guidance for us to follow. I know you understand this is primarily out of our hands, but I also know there is no solace in that fact. These last few months of your pk-12 school experience were earmarked for culminating activities and the right of passage celebrations. Closing of school until May, seems unfair, and it hurts, and all the words in the world will not assuage those feelings.
Although lacking in terms of comfort, I can promise you that someday in the future, we will call your name and I will hand you a diploma, and we will congratulate you on your achievement and applaud your resiliency. As we forge ahead on this uncertain path, we mourn, at the very least, the loss of March and April. This is unfair, devastating, and unprecedented. Take the evening to feel the sting of this loss. Sleep to gather strength for the morning will come.
Tomorrow, take the time to picture your future self describing this time in our nation’s history to a friend, your children, or grandchildren. How will you tell them you passed this newfound time? Did you sleep too much, play video games too much, use your phone too much? Did you take your anger out on your loved ones?
Or, did you deal with this hardship with grace and humility? Did you use this time to sharpen your skills, learn something new, read more, exercise more, leverage the incredible technology in our hands to connect with friends, teachers, and loved ones? Did you make the best of a bad situation?
If I possessed a magic wand, I would end this pandemic tomorrow and return to normalcy, but I can’t. One thing I do know is prior to this pandemic we were all, present company included, over-scheduled. Change is never easy, and abrupt change even more challenging. Are you up for this challenge? Will you come out on the other side a better person with a new skill? Or someone bitter? Will you describe yourself as someone who used their time to get healthy in both body and mind?
In the moment, our feelings are rarely aligned with what is best for us. We too often opt for what feels right now, or what is more comfortable; rather than doing what we know in our hearts will make us ALL the better in the future, and rarely does the term “ALL” encompass all of humanity.
I listened to a Ted Talks Daily Podcast featuring Bill Gates. The richest man in the world who has dedicated his life since leaving Microsoft to harnessing technology to save lives. He described, in detail, how we missed our chance in February to curb this pandemic. It is not too late, but extreme measures (like closing schools for months on end) are needed to combat this pandemic.
Let’s not wait for horrific images on the news to adhere to the advice of health experts. Quarantine, and when this passes, come out the other side a better, more resilient, and more grateful person. I miss you all!
Michael J. Mastrullo