Dear Class of 2020,    

As you get ready to say goodbye to your childhood and Millburn and hello to the rest of your lives; I can only imagine that many thoughts are going through your head, magnified by the events of the day.

I don’t know what you’re thinking right now.  But my guess is that you’re wondering about whether you’ll actually be heading off to college in the fall, or perhaps more broadly, you’re thinking about how the world you thought you were stepping into doesn’t exist any more, and about where and how are you going to fit in.  Life was so simple when the path was clear. But now you are going to have to make your own path.

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While you’re thinking about that, give a thought to your parents. They have given you the gift of unconditional love, that you will only understand when you pay it forward to a child of your own. Realize they are also struggling with a parenting challenge that they never imagined. They’re thinking, what kind of world is my child entering into?  Did I provide them with the skills and common sense to navigate this new reality?  And the fact that they worry about you doesn’t mean that they think that you’re not up to the challenge. In fact, we’re all betting on you!

As a teacher in Millburn, I can tell you that the curriculum did not -could not- anticipate your future, and so you’re going to have to use the skills you learned and invent something new. The extent to which you are successful will serve as an evaluation of the education you received. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Those of us who are invested in you, believe that you’ll do okay in the long run. After all, we are depending upon you in the years to come to make the world better than we gave it to you. You’ll need to fix the environment. You’ll need to deal with 400 years of systemic racism. You’ll have to learn to live with germs, and scientific challlenges in a world where some political parties and tv stations along with millions of Amercians are in denial. You won’t be able to be leaders until you become good citizens.

But I remember you from 5th grade; eager to learn, quick to smile, willing to take a challenge. I hope you didn’t loose that part of you. And if I did my job well, you learned to ask tough questions and to challenge authority, to use your voice in a responsible way, to trust scientific evidence, so as not to be fooled by prejudice and archaic beliefs that won’t help our world-your children’s world-to become a better place to live.  Only time will tell if I suceeded.

It’s amazing that the school district let me try to teach these things to you.  I hope school didn’t bang you back into submission in subsequent years.

But to help you along your way,  here is some advice.

Question everything-especially the things that “they” don’t want you to question.  Many of the facts that you learned in school are already outdated or will be soon. I hope you leaned to think for yourselves.

Don’t be intimidated. Stand up for yourself, without being arrogant. Someone else may have a better answer. If so, accept it; but if your ideas are better and can live up to evidenced based challenges, then go forward and invent the future.

Be kind to each other and your parents.  Although it sometimes seems easier to go along with the crowd, acts of kindness are noticed and come back to reward you.  You already know what’s right…just have the courage to do it.  Being kind and caring will never come back to hurt you.

Think about the world and others beyond yourself.  You are privileged.  It’s not a sin, but it is unfair, and you need to recognize it.  Think about how you will use your advantages to not only help yourself, but to help others.  How will you help to make the world a better place for everyone?  Just helping yourself is like “giving up.”  Many adults have given up.  Build the future. This is not a slogan; it really is up to you.

Don’t be afraid.  Yes the world is scary, but if you study history, things have actually gotten a lot better over the past few thousand years. So there is reason for hope.

And finally my dear 5th graders, now taking your place in the adult world. I’m sorry for the way your childhood ended. But it does provide a unique opportunity.

Not every generation grows up in historic times.

The young men and women, like my mom and dad, of the World War II generation did, and they changed the world and became the “Greatest Generation. “

Now it’s your chance, if you make it so.

So as you go out into the world, I want to thank you.

  • I want to thank you for your enthusiasm and spirit.
  • I want to thank you for being willing to undertake this unforeseen challenge along with the world that we’ve given you in the state that it’s in.
  • I want to thank you for letting me touch the future through you.

We are all so excited to see what happens next.

Let your journey begin!

With love,

From your 5th grade teacher

Doug Weisberger