This has struck a chord with many parents. I wrote it for my twins and their cohort at Hampton Primary School, but clearly it is a universal letter now. Lots has been written about the senior school students and all that they are missing out on in this horrid year. Undoubtedly it is hard for all students. I simply want to acknowledge the “other seniors.” Those grade six kids who are letting go of the many lasts of childhood with patience and grace beyond their twelve years. I see you grade six.
You started the year so proud of finally being the biggest kids on campus, hearts and minds full of the adventures promised. With school leadership badges pinned to grade six hoodies, you led your prep buddies around the grounds with pride. Suddenly you looked huge standing next to the littlest students. The monkey bars you once dangled from were now firmly in your hands with your feet on the ground.
Parents gathered at drop off even though almost all of you made your way to school by yourselves. It was our last chance to watch you disguised by the excuse of catching up for coffee. The parent association had a huge influx of volunteers. We were clutching our own last chance to say goodbye.
You were beginning to look like you had outgrown primary school, but still needed that final year to practice using your newly fledged wings before flying off to high school.
In that first month, excited chatter filled the classrooms as you tried to guess what your big musical production would be… such a deeply held secret you began speculating about it last year. Lists were made of who you wanted in your cabin at your final camp. Sport teams were picked for term one and you went out to grab some last trophies for the school. So much to look forward to in this year of primary school. All things you needed to complete this stage of growing up.
Then the reality of the worldwide pandemic filtered down to your world. We tried to protect you from it because you are still just kids, but it arrived on our shores and slowly began to wash away the rewards of year six.
Seven years ago I watched you walk into assembly as tiny preps hand in hand with your buddies and was looking forward to seeing you guide the next generation in, but there was a case of COVID 19 in a family at our school, the principal was in quarantine and assemblies were cancelled. Things went downhill fast from there. Suddenly we were all clearing desk space at home and picking up your pencil cases and notebooks from a deserted school to prepare for distance learning. The final round of sport tournaments were cancelled and your undefeated season evaporated as quickly as it started.
You got on with it the best you could. You faced it as just a different adventure, but as the time went on there were tears of frustration. The week you would have been at camp was spent in home isolation. Your production was cancelled before you even found out what it would have been. For the record, you guessed it was Aladdin. Everyone wanted to be the monkey.
Australia began to do well controlling the virus and there was some hope returning. You got to go back to school for two weeks with new short haircuts, personal bottles of hand sanitiser and staggered start times by last name. Over the break grown-ups failed you again so here we are in lock down facing another term of remote learning. The new camp the teachers worked so hard to find for you is probably not going ahead and as you already know, graduation is a maybe.
To top it all off, your beloved principal has suddenly retired mid year.
You are starting and restarting this final year with such resilience. It certainly is not the year you wanted and it might not even be the one you need, but it is the one you have. As kids, it must be so hard to understand the many different levels of grief, but I am so proud of you and your grade six cohort. You are showing the grownups that being ready for what life after primary school brings is not down to simply this final year. I can clearly see now that your school has been building this strong base over years and teaching you how to get your balance when it tilts.
We are never ready to say goodbye to experiences, homes, people or comfort zones but if we spend less time upset over what we think it should be, we get more time to figure out how to enjoy what it is. You have taught me that.
And by the way twins, both of your teams would have totally brought home the state lacrosse trophies for HPS. Be proud and never forget that.