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To my dear 8th graders:

If someone had warned me that our school year would take such an uncharted and radical turn, I would never have believed it.

We had so much momentum going just before our world abruptly stopped.

We had so much left to do. More short stories and a novel to read aloud together. Poems to recite and compose. Nonfiction to uncover. We could have had so many more discussions and debates and disputes.

We still had more laughs and inside jokes and silly moments left in us.

We had spring break, Spring Fling, and our class trip to Chicago on the horizon.

You were supposed to help me finish learning The Renegade so we could get TikTok famous (again—but this time on my terms).

You were supposed to begin coasting along and I was supposed to reel you back in.

RELATED: Dear Students, We Didn’t Even Get To Say Goodbye

You had a handful of sweet moments left with your little first grade buddies.

You had your 8th grade clap-out. Your awards ceremony. Your graduation. Your final dance together as classmates.

So many big moments were taken away from you, but you were also robbed of so many ordinary, everyday memories. Lunch with friends. Recess. Passing one another in the hallway.

I am absolutely crushed that the school year ended so drastically different than ever before.

It hurts my heart that you did not get the traditional send-off you deserved. That you didn’t get proper closure.

It was painful to watch you each come in one by one to drop off your books and gather your belongings. We couldn’t hug. We couldn’t see each other’s smiles (or frowns) behind our masks.

RELATED: To the Big Kids Missing the Little Things

Though the ending of your grade school days was rather devastating, I know this will not limit or break you.

It will be a powerful and defining part of your story, yes. A plot twist for sure.

But I hope you know your story has only begun.

The chapters ahead will be filled with new adventures and hard work and lots of fun. You have lessons to learn. New experiences to experience. Love to give and receive. Knowledge to acquire. So much to discover about yourself and the world.

It’s all unwritten before you.

There will likely be heartache and pain. Roadblocks and struggles. Conflict. But isn’t that all part of the rising action in every good narrative?

My hope is that you’ll take it all in, enjoy it, and really, really live your story knowing that a hard chapter is not the end.

Soon enough, you will turn the page to a brand new chapter. A blank page.

I also hope that in writing your own story, you’ll learn that hard work is always worth it, that you’ll get out of life what you’re willing to put in it, that doing the right thing is always the right thing, and kindness can truly change the world.

I hope you know you are loved and important and worthy. You are brave and strong and resilient.

I am beyond grateful I got to be part of your story even if it was only a small chapter. You are more than ready for all that comes next, but how I’ll miss each one of you so very much. You were a highlight of my story.

This has been a hard chapter for us all. And though everything is up in the air and uncertain right now, I look forward to seeing how each of your stories unfold.

Ready or not, it’s time to turn the page.

Mrs. Willen

This article originally appeared on Leanne Willen at Life Happens When

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

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Leanne Willen

Leanne Willen is a wife, mother of four, writer, and teacher. She writes about motherhood, faith, finding joy, and grief. Her blog Life Happens When encourages and challenges others (and herself) to embrace the ordinary amid the everyday chaos of life. 

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