Pomp and (unusual) circumstance
Every June, that’s the emotional outpouring from schools as the rows of buses line up one last time and the children march triumphantly aboard to return home for the next couple months.
When I used to work in newspapers, the final sendoff was always a great event to cover and take pictures. Some schools made it such a celebratory occasion that music, funny hats and ticker tape was involved. It was like the Fourth of July parade celebrating an independence from the perils of homework.
There are hugs. There are tears. There is excitement that can hardly be contained for the days and weeks to come.
And that’s just the school staff.
In many ways, those long, yellow vehicles pulling out of the school parking lot are the first visible signs of summer - like a flock of birds making their way north.
The official closing ceremony for the 2020-2021 academic year will be with far fewer busses and fanfare, for certain this month. Still, there has never been a year more deserving of kids, teachers, school staff and parents celebrating a complex job well done than this one.
The school year was tumultuous - forcing all involved to cling to their last delicate strand of patience at several junctures. The pandemic forced all of our hands. We could only play the best cards we had access to.
In honor of this tradition of sending off everyone into the summer months, I believe a DIY sendoff party - done from the safety of your home - is in order to properly celebrate.
Celebration for students
This part is just for the kids. I will assume all adults will scroll down this column to their appropriate place…
Hi kids, are the adults gone? Good.
You guys and girls had to make quite the adjustments this year. You had to learn via screens for much of it. I know you are probably more tech savvy than the adults when it comes to using screens, but still, kudos to you.
You had to be more responsible for paying attention. After all, you probably had some cool toys or your pet or something else within eyesight that probably sounded like more fun than schoolwork.
To celebrate your sendoff, follow these steps…
Step 1: Find a Halloween costume, super fancy shirt or something you don’t always wear and change into the special outfit to get in the spirit.
Step 2: Gather the people you live with and have them stand outside. Encourage them to wear silly hats. The zanier, the better.
Step 3: Announce to everyone that you finished your grade and are now in grade ____.
Step 4: Walk in the most hilarious-yet-confident way by those people you live with like you just won a Grammy Award and make sure to slowly wave to all like you are the queen in a parade.
Step 5: Take a bow.
Celebration for parents
This section is dedicated to the parents, who needed to adapt, learn and adapt some more to all the curveballs coming your way. The constraints of work (and work changing venues for many of you) and managing a household that for months became a makeshift classroom was something to behold.
You, parents, are a testament to fortitude and hustle in the name of making sure your kids got the best experience possible.
My hat is off to you - so off that I’ll keep it in the other room while I write this column.
After the kids march around during their ceremony, make sure they stick around to honor you in your part of the festivities...
Step 1: Have kids grab fistfuls of confetti and streamers and let them shower you with these tiny paper goods as they yell, “Thank you for everything you do!”
Step 2: Instruct the kids to go grab a trash bag and clean up all this confetti and these streamers. Just be aware and be ready for the rush of that “thank you” to lose its charm with your kids at this moment.
Step 3: Take part in the ceremonial uninstalling of Zoom from your laptop.
Step 4: Inform children that after months of getting them up and fed for school, this summer it is their turn to get up, prepare your breakfast and get you ready for the day. And don’t be stingy with the maple syrup on those pancakes, Junior!
Celebration for teachers/staff
The craziest of school years is officially in the books. You survived. Your dexterity in making learning happen amidst all the pandemic-induced chaos is admirable.
Step 1: Take a nap.
Step 2: Break that class planner in half (unless you can use it again next year; school supplies are getting pricey, you know).
Step 3: Go outside and grab your work bag/briefcase/etc. and throw your paper files into the air - letting the pages wash over you like giant confetti.
Step 4: Go back to sleep. If you have kids at home, have them fan you with giant grape leaves and serve you any pastries in your house like you are some sort of VIP at a ritzy resort.
I hope this exercise put all of you in some form of celebratory spirit.
No matter what category you fit into, there is one more step to take. Thank each other. Really.
This academic year has been a long hard road. For everyone. Some of you might be a bit tired and worn from having to make school work. Understandable. Some of you might even be tired of each other as you all tried to make the best of a difficult situation.
Just know that you were all in this together.
Now, go enjoy that summer. And rest up, because school is just a couple months away. And here’s to hoping there are many celebrations to follow in the 2021-2022 school year to make up for lost time.
And maybe a celebratory sendoff to cap it all off the following summer?
Now that’s pure joy.
Josh Farnsworth is a husband, father of goofballs Cooper and Milo, goofball himself, and award-winning writer and columnist living in Worcester. He can be reached for column ideas at email@example.com.