Commentary: Teachers Rally, Seniors Struggle

A Senior Reflects on the COVID-19 Closing


On Friday, March 13, 2020, in the early afternoon, all members of the Reading Public School community knew what was probably going to happen. Schools would be closing, that much was almost guaranteed. At the time, the possibility of not walking at graduation, of not seeing my teachers in person again, of not having a prom, of not having a senior week, of my Winter Chorus Concert having been my last, of not being able to do my senior internship had never crossed my mind. We were just going to be out ‘til around March 27. I could survive that. Then it was April, and now it is May. And finally, it hit me like a train a few days ago.

We were just going to be out ‘til around March 27. I could survive that. Then it was April, and now it is May. And finally, it hit me like a train a few days ago.

— Autumn Hendrickson ('20)

My teachers have always been a very important part of my support system and many people who know me know that. Change has always been hard for me and leaving things behind has always been hard for me. Part of the reason why I want to be a teacher is because when those difficult things happened to me, it has often been my teachers who have helped me through, even if they had no idea they were. As my former English teacher at Parker, Mr. Andrew Spinali, put it in an email: “When we have tough, uncertain times in the world – we are able to be with our students and have those difficult, but meaningful discussions to help all of us process it.” He went on to say that though success has been found in connecting with students through various forms of digital media, the absence of that face-to-face interaction is very difficult and completely new.

The Remind texts have been pouring in, email notifications have been roaring to life again after a long silence, and the inactive classroom social media accounts have started posting again. As a student who is (oddly) familiar with a fair amount of pedagogy, I expected this. Student-teacher interactions and relationships are incredibly important in ensuring that meaningful learning can take place. But I gravely underestimated how much I had been missing my school and my teachers. I couldn’t help but smile every time one of these notifications would appear on my phone. It didn’t matter if they were from my teachers, just the sheer amount of love and support that was being directed at our district’s students was inspiring for an aspiring educator to see. Ms. Jennifer Blackmon, a math teacher at Parker Middle School, has been posting daily videos and activities on her Twitter account to offer some level of enrichment to those who may come across her account, Mr. Spinali’s team has been sharing photos and tidbits of what they have been up to during this time and constantly reminding students of how much they are missed, and Barrows Elementary School even had a “teacher parade” around the local neighborhoods so that elementary students could see their teachers. Their love and dedication for the students and communities they serve shows clearly!

there is still a piece that I don’t think has gotten much attention: our seniors.

Unfortunately, even with all the amazing things teachers have been doing, there is still a piece that I don’t think has gotten much attention: our seniors. When I have talked to my fellow seniors about this, it often takes us a bit to really hone in on what it is that is the most painful: the fear of being lost, of being forgotten about. I think I have sat in my room and cried at least four times in the past week and a half about that exact fear. Much of being a senior is, ironically, the pomp and circumstance that comes along with it. The title means next to nothing without the tradition: the prom, the all-night party, the senior week events, the graduation, the graduation parties, the goodbyes… Right now, the product of all these years of hard work is unclear. What is a high school diploma without the people who helped you get it in the first place? 

If you are a teacher and you are reading this, I implore you to post something on social media or send an email to some of your seniors, even if it has been years since they sat in your class. Let them know that you remember them, and that you are proud of them. If you are a student and you are reading this, I ask you to reach out to the seniors you know and send them your love and support. It will make all the difference. Right now, Reading’s students and teachers need love. 

Author’s Note: Included below is a beautiful song that a high school senior in Crawfordsville, Indiana wrote to encourage all her fellow seniors. It’s definitely a great thing to share on your social media or send to a senior you know: