24 Juni 2022, Berlin, Deutschland, Europa: Gruppenfoto im Schulhof des Abiturientenjahrgangs 2022 des Heinz-Berggruen-Gymnasium, Bayernallee 4, Charlottenburg-Westend. Online (365 Tage) für Tagesspiegel.

It was mini dialogues like this that ran through the high school graduation speeches and proms of the year 2022 hundreds of times. Sometimes you could think that the whole story of the pandemic-related school closures and other restrictions was nothing more than just an entertaining crash course in digitization. But shortly after the laughter, a shadow often flitted across the faces because other, sad or depressing images pushed themselves between the funny memories.

Because the 2022 Abitur class with its around 17,000 graduates has had a lot of hard experiences and has experienced little normality since March 2020, but above all: ventilation, testing, fear of infection. Then also: infections, quarantine, shared study groups, school closures.

Word of how devastating that was for many people only gradually got around. For a long time, those affected believed that they were more or less alone. In March 2021, however, schoolchildren from Tempelhof-Schoeneberg decided to make their mental health problems public. The whole city learned what life without a normal school day meant for many children and young people, and what the isolation had done.

Not everyone was able to shake off the fallout from the school closures as normality returned. Some are still being treated or have decided to step back a year: we will then hopefully read their names in the 2023 Abitur supplement. Others would normally have finished in 2021 and instead belong to the 2022 class because they had repeated more or less voluntarily.

So behind each of the thousands of names in this supplement is its own story of frustration and overcoming, of setbacks and triumphs. It helped many that the Abitur conditions were made somewhat easier, that there were fewer math problems or more opportunities for re-examinations.

In any case, it can be heard from many schools that the grades are even better than in previous years, when the 1.0 had already been achieved hundreds of times. The overall Berlin section could therefore level off at a grade of 2.2 or 2.3.

The best thing about the 2022 Abitur should have been that it was celebrated like it was in May. All the popular locations between Mitte and Neukölln, between Pankow and Charlottenburg were fully booked again, the tables weren’t just under champagne, wine and beer, but also under huge ice cube trays and mineral water because of the heat. People danced until they dropped, and in the speeches given at the graduation ceremony, there were many appreciative remarks about hard-drinking teachers and teachers who were gifted at dancing.

Thoughtful remarks were always mixed in between, because many young speakers conveyed more than usual the feeling that the serious side of life was not just ahead of them, but in some cases already behind them, and they thanked the teachers who had helped them who often laughed with them despite the unreasonable demands of wearing a mask, who had done good online lessons during the months of lockdown or at least made an effort.

“This year will be remembered in particular because it had to endure so much,” believes Robert Rauh, who has been a teacher at the Lichtenberg Barnim-Gymnasium for 18 years and has been supervising high school graduation courses: This year had to cancel its tenth-grader graduation trips in 2020 due to Corona, which later fell then the course trips ended, and since February many of them had been preoccupied with the Ukraine war. Rauh often spoke to his classes about their questions, but he also celebrated with them on Saturday – at the first prom in three years.