The middle of every March is always busied by preparations for the graduation ceremonies. There are always a number of classes that are cancelled which makes my life easier, but also puts a bit more pressure on me to look busy in the teacher’s room. After a week or so of honing my acting skills, I suit up for the middle school sobfest. This year was a bit different than usual, because for whatever reason the news media was crawling all over the place. I guess when this graduating class was back in kindergarten, they made some books to give their future selves. I think they must have been about growing up, but I don’t know why it was such a big deal. Not wanting to lose a story to their competitors, EVERY broadcast crew around was there. NHK, OHK and three others came with big professional cameras. Then, there were a couple more people with small cameras, and finally both the Asahi and Shikoku Newspapers were there as well. It was certainly a little distracting, but really it was great to have something to watch and find interesting. The graduation ceremony takes about an hour and a half, though in reality it could be done in 10 minutes.
The students were led in by their homeroom teachers, with whom the students always develop a special bond. One of them was my English teaching partner, Miss. Yoshida, who was wearing a beautiful kimono. She has always worked too hard and too much, so to see her wearing something of beauty was a little surprising – along the same lines as in Miss Congeniality. There were a handful of speeches from different suited individuals who talked about things like the importance of hard work and doing their best – typical graduation fare. Also, there was a nice address given by the class representative, Kouta Ogasahara, where all of the different people were thanked. He thanked the teachers individually, and also made a plea to current 2nd years to be the best role models they could be to the incoming class. Again, it was pretty straightforward, but at the same time there were some really nice things that were said. Throughout all of this though, the cameramen would scurry about and jockey for position. Seeing eight guys surrounding a speaking individual with enormous shoulder mounted cameras was my entertainment for the day.
Here you can see 8 different cameras all trained on the principal. This was a tad ridiculous.
When it’s time for the kids to walk out of the building is when the emotions surge for everyone. I think they view it as the end, rather than a new beginning. The teachers all gather around the exit to clap and congratulate each each student as they stroll down the red carpet one at a time. Tears from students and teachers were flowing, though I was just a happy dude. However, for one of the graduates I will admit to being moved. He is a mentally handicapped student who is unable to speak. While I didn’t have any exposure to him in English classes, it was great to see him crossing the finish line. Whenever you spoke to him he would only smile.
After walking out, they returned to their classroom one last time where they received some final advice from their teachers and a handful of cards and presents that some teachers had made for them. The rest of the student body meanwhile cleaned up the graduation and then set up the traditional paper flower tunnel. This year was especially great because the students made party balls for each graduate. When a string was pulled, they would burst open with kind messages streaming out. This concluded with some group photos before everyone went home.
Here are the 11 graduates, their homeroom teachers and myself. Because they were a really small class, they all got on really well and each seemed to have their own voice in the class. They had a lot of personality and were a lot of fun to teach. They will most definitely be missed.
This year I was also able to attend the Yasuhara Elementary graduation. Last year was Kaminishi, and hopefully I can round it out next year by going to the one at Shionoe Elementay too. The elementary level was really nice, though people didn’t show quite as much emotion since the graduates weren’t yet leaving the school system. The other students did a sort of popcorn appreciation speech, where each student had a rehearsed line to shout to the departing students. The coordination effort must have been pretty significant and I was definitely impressed. After it was all said and done, the students ceremonially walked out the school gates one last time as a class, though the symbolism of this was lost entirely as they returned immediately for pictures. Both ceremonies were good this year, and though I sat absolutely freezing in the gyms, it was great to see my students take big steps into the next stage in their lives. Of course I’m excited about the students all moving up a grade and what changes that will being to my classes.