I watched a pre-recorded high school valedictorian speech this week written by a young man whose senior year had suddenly shifted from the expected to the unexpected. As I listened to some wise advice given by this 18-year old, I thought about how many times in life we are forced to shift to Plan B. The Class of 2020 end-of-year looks much different than our graduates imagined it would look. Instead of walking the stage at UNT, graduates are lining up at Texas Motor Speedway, wearing masks and sitting several feet apart. Their invited guests, from the safety of the family SUV, watch them on a giant screen accepting their diplomas.
The Cambridge dictionary’s definition of Plan B is “an action or set of actions for doing or achieving something that can be used if the preferred method fails.” We have all been forced into a Plan B. School administrators, teachers and faculty have banded together to creatively figure out ways to continue to educate, motivate, evaluate, and feed the students who suddenly went missing from their classrooms. Students have been required to distance themselves from their friends and cancel or postpone ballgames, proms, pep rallies, summer camps and track meets. They have struggled to find a new normal, logging onto their computers for Zoom lessons or driving by to pick up packets of work to complete for their teachers. Some have been left at home while essential working parents leave for jobs which put their families at greater risk.
Parents have learned that teachers are extremely under-paid, that homeschooling isn’t for the weak. They have gained a greater appreciation for the heroes who educate their children. They have figured out ways to balance jobs while assisting with homework and daycare. Many parents have lost valuable jobs with no Plan B in place. Some have dealt with this virus on a very personal level, caring for or losing loved ones during this quarantine. Others have been on the front line, looking this virus directly in the face.
Plan B looks different for each of us because individual circumstances vary greatly from family to family. One thing I hope we have in common is that we learn from this unprecedented time in our nation’s history and become better human beings. As the already-wise valedictorian stated in his speech, life does not always follow the expected route. We will all face the unexpected, the detours. The choices we make when faced with choosing a Plan B and sometimes a Plan C, are the ones that define us.
The Class of 2020 will be one to remember and reflect upon. What stories they’ll have to share. Their year has been one of shifting, changing, and rearranging. I believe we can learn a lot from these 18-year olds. Congratulations on making the best of your Plan B.