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Class of 2020: Redeem Your Senior Year

March 21, 2020

On Friday, March 13, 2020, I reported to school for a professional day to end the third grading period. Since it was a teacher workday, my students had the day off.

Just as our faculty was assembling for an afternoon meeting, Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards released a statement that all schools were to close until April 13, 2020.

My principal was stunned.

The afternoon was surreal.

I thought about my classes, wondered about how to end the school year, but I had no answers.

When I was on social media that evening, I began reading the expressions of shock and grief written by some of my seniors.

My desire to help the Class of 2020 nationwide and their families process grief over the profound loss of the senior year prompted me to contact a friend who had also lost his senior year, 2020 Louisiana Teacher of the Year, Chris Dier, to ask if he would write an open letter that I might offer the public as a guest post on my blog.

The resulting post, “Louisiana Teacher of the Year: An Open Letter to High School Seniors During Coronavirus Crisis,”  has had over 1.7 million views since its publication six days ago. Numerous readers– students, parents, grandparents, teachers, and others– have offered their stories in the comments section, with many adding that the post made them cry.

The grief is all too real, and it needed a place to be expressed. With so much of regular life being abruptly altered, I am grateful to have been able to connect Chris’ timely words with his very important audience and to provide such a place.

But let us not stop with grief.

A friend and fellow teacher asked me how she might help her students to have a better senior year. What she is really asking is if there is some way to redeem the senior year– some way to reclaim it despite the impact of the pandemic.

Yes. Yes, there is. Let me offer a few suggestions.

First of all, consider having prom in the summer or even in the fall. So what if it is late? Reschedule. Have prom anyway.

Second, try to do the same for a canceled senior trip or other senior outing. If rescheduling a senior trip is too complicated, change the event to a senior weekend at a closer destination, or create a senior picnic or a senior day at a water park or some other event. Don’t rule out scheduling the event in the summer or fall. Consider it your first “class reunion,” if you like (smile).

Third, if you are uncertain as to the viability of your school’s holding a formal graduation ceremony, consider a less formal setting. Rent a hall. Contact as many classmates as possible. Rent, purchase, or borrow some graduation gowns. Have a school or community member read your names as you walk across a stage. Take pictures with your friends and family. Throw your caps into the air.

Take charge. Create fresh opportunities for joyous memories.

Now, if you were a member of a club, sport, performing group, student council, or other extracurricular activity, consider redeeming memories in these venues, as well. Be creative even as you practice the necessary social distancing. Dress in your uniform, costume, professional attire, or other performance gear, and perform for the camera, whether it be for still photos or videos. If you are an artist, film yourself at your craft. Create a collage with other members of the group. Find someone to take charge of collecting the videos or pics and creating the collage. Disseminate the result to all group members of a particular activity, their families and even the entire senior class.

Do not let coronavirus defeat you.

As you grieve your loss, may you creatively turn this crisis on its head.

sunlight thru trees


My latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, is now available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!


Follow me on Twitter @deutsch29blog


  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    The response to the first post is ample evidence that you both made the right moves. I think this post is a great repeat of your collaboration with specific ideas that others may wish to begin working on. Thanks for both posts and any others acknowledging the emotional jolt of social distancing in the hope of saving lives.

  2. Mary K Bellisario permalink

    Mercedes, creative thinking as ever! Such a needed article, and such great ideas. Thank you!

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