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Kindergartners All Grown Up

By Carissa Tobin

FRI JUN 05, 2020

Today is the last day of school for students and teachers in Minneapolis as well as other districts.

Yet today doesn’t feel like the exuberant, locker-slamming, teachers-running-after-the-buses-waving type day that it often does.

With a pandemic sending our education system online, and then with the murder of George Floyd and the destruction in our city, it’s hard to feel like celebrating today.

Instead, I'm thinking about what this current moment will mean for the future. I hope it will bring changes to the institutionalized racism that has formed our country with its effects still rippling out in huge ever-present ways today. I hope those changes will show up not only in the law enforcement arena, but also in schools and other arenas.

Yesterday I texted my friend Alissa. “Was your son in kindergarten the year we started teaching? I think our kindergartners from that first year graduated this year!” Her son is in the class of 2020, so I wanted to test my math.

“Yes!!!” she responded.

I looked up the Minneapolis Public Schools graduation ceremonies - online, of course; not what these seniors had expected. I knew that many students may have left the district, plus there are multiple Minneapolis high schools. I started with one ceremony near the elementary school I taught at 13 years ago. And there, in the Class of 2020, I was able to locate seven of my former students. One was Valedictorian and I got to listen to her speech. I remember her mom so clearly. She must be so proud.

To my former kindergartners - Graduates, I am proud of you. This virtual graduation in a time of grief is likely not how you thought you would end your high-school career after all of your hard work. I hope we remember this time as a turning point, when we stopped accepting the status quo. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that our country and world have a long way to go to identify and remedy systemic racism and brutality, to protect people’s lives and hearts.

It’s time to do something. Whether that means going out to protest, sending emails, making calls, supporting organizations fighting for justice, or reaching out to your own networks of family and friends. Even if you’ve been wondering, as I have, for the past two weeks, what to say, or how to say it, worried you might get it wrong. But we owe it to generations of future kindergartners to do something.

And I'm not sure if it helps, but today I was thinking about the the rules of kindergarten: be kind to others and yourself, do your work, be safe, and of course, take care of your classroom and world.