Recently, I was talking with my sister when she happened to mention my nephew’s graduation. My little nephew had just finished kindergarten, and while most playschool graduations arrive with little fanfare, this year had been different. The situation with COVID-19 had inspired the teachers to go the extra mile. They wanted their kids to end the school year with a happy memory, so they set up a mobile graduation in the parking lot of their school. Each student was able to drive through, wave to their teachers one last time, and pick up a bag of goodies to take home.

The story got me thinking about other students and the transition they’re facing right now. For many of us, the coming fall will be a challenging time. Schools are facing budget cuts while countless educators are trying to adapt their lessons to better fit the new safety guidelines. But what about the soon-to-be high school freshmen? What about the uncertain seniors trying to navigate college in this new educational landscape? And do I even need to mention the new crop of middle schoolers?

Why Celebration Matters

It’s hard to be a student right now. There’s so much uncertainty in the world, along with the usual drama of being young. As such, it’s important that we teachers take the time to celebrate their accomplishments when we can. Giving them a graduation not only imparts some much-needed closure, it also reminds them of what they’re capable of achieving. Small moments like these will make all the difference for our students in the years ahead.

It may not have the traditional caps and gowns, but here are a few ways you can give your students the graduation they deserve.

A Car Parade

We’ve already seen several fun examples of educators using vehicles to hold a graduation parade. This popular option gives your students the spectacle they deserve while also proving quite flexible. One idea is to create a pickup point in your schools parking lot. Students can drive (or be driven) to the spot and be treated with applause, goody bags, and fun signs wishing them well. Another possibility is for teachers to write positive notes on their cars in washable ink and swing by their students’ neighborhoods while playing fun music.

Either way, your class gets a big, end-of-year celebration!

Create a Virtual Kudos Board

If you would prefer one gift that fits all, try creating a virtual “kudos board” for your class. This virtual bulletin board can be decorated with pictures, videos, fun gifs, and heartfelt messages from you to your students. Parents and other teachers could even add to the festivity with artwork of their own. Use a website like to create your poster or build a similar document through Google Drive and Microsoft OneNote. Whatever medium you choose, this end-of-year collection of memories is sure to make your students smile!

Give a Speech

You don’t need to be a celebrity or former president to give your students a powerful commencement address. Invite your class to a speech over Zoom and leave them with some final words before they begin the next chapter of their lives. If organizing an entire class over Zoom sounds difficult, try recording your speech beforehand and sending it to them later. You know these kids better than most adults. You’ve seen their highs and their lows. This is your opportunity to help them look back on how much they’ve grown and prepare them for what comes next.

Write a Letter

If you have enough time and stationery, you can’t go wrong with a personal letter. Had-written messages have taken on new meaning during this season of social distancing. People appreciate knowing that someone is thinking about them and even took the time to craft and send a personal note. The same is true for our students. Share a specific memory from the school year when they really impressed you. Your words and affirmation will give them something to carry into the new semester.

Just because graduation looks different this year doesn’t mean we can’t still honor our students and celebrate their accomplishments. With a little curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking, we can bring together the important people in their lives and send them onward toward a hopeful future. So, congratulations graduates! We’re very proud of everything you’ve achieved this year.

We hope you are all staying healthy and safe during this difficult time. For more free educational resources, or ideas on how to promote healthy SEL, simply follow this link!

*Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons