Mid March marks the end of another year, which of course means another graduation. I’ve written about these before so I’ll spare you the specifics, but there were a few more things that I was able to get out of the whole procedure. The graduating students were easily my favorite class here at the middle school level and also the last to have been here when I arrived. Once the the new students enter the school next week, the three year turnover will be complete. As students that actually possessed a desire to communicate with me I enjoyed coming up to them in the hallways or sitting with them at lunch and will really miss having them around.
All the essentials: School & Country Flag, Flowers, and bonsai or vase of flowers
This year’s ceremony had all of the usual components: singing songs, speeches from the principal, community members & students, and of course the awarding of the diplomas. Everything had been rehearsed to a T, so I wasn’t surprised to see the students nailing their pivots and motions when accepting certificates.
Here is an instance of excellent form.
The other part of the ceremony that had to be there was the emotion. Whereas in America we think about the future, our potential, and what will come next for us, in Japan they fixate on the friendships lost and the change that their lives will undergo. Of course they want to go from here and get their carpe diem on, but it seems as if that all gets lost within the ceremony. The best instance of this was when the graduating student representative took the mic to read her speech. When she had to pause five seconds in to release the pressure valves on her eyes, I knew that it was all over. A lot of what she was saying were really nice things, reflecting on past memories and thanking each teacher individually. The whole time though, I was just wondering if that was an elected position or whether she was chosen at random. I mean, I can’t really think of anyone who would volunteer to get up in front of basically everyone they know and cry into a microphone for 15 plus minutes.
It was over and at last we could transition into the next part of the ceremony, leaving. First the graduates, followed by the distinguished guests, then the parents and at last the students. At this point everyone usually just stands around and gets ready for the graduates to reemerge from their homeroom and pass through the tissue paper flower tunnel. This is good fun and all, but for the first time I thought I would jump in with the graduates, their parents, as well as their homeroom teachers as they returned to their classroom one last time.
I was able to take a moment to pass out some notes that I had written for each student, with my contact info attached, and then chat with some of the parents. I was surprised at just how many of the parents I had gotten to know over the year through various community events and involvement. At last the three homeroom teachers took to the front of the room to give a final speech to the students and to thank them for all of their hard work. I hoped/feared that they might throw me up there as well so I prepped something in my head, but in the end I was spared/denied the embarrassment/chance . Lastly, the students presented bouquets to those teachers and then got ready to leave the school towards towards their peers and teachers awaiting their return.
Getting ready to kick things off.
Because of the construction outside, we had to use the first floor hallway as the tunnel funnel, but we were all still able to gather outside for photos. Graduating a whopping 30 students was the largest class I had seen, and getting them all to submit to a group photo was basically impossible. I was able to gather up the majority of them, but the mother I entrusted my camera to utterly failed to comprehend how to push a the one big button on top. If I can hunt down the photo from someone else’s camera I’ll update this, but in lieu of it I can offer only these two.
These students were wonderful. Girl on the right was the class speech giver
It wasn’t long before everyone dissipated and we teachers returned to our lounge for a quick meeting to recap the event. One of the interesting points mentioned was how this was the last graduation this school would see before moving into the new building. We didn’t really do anything special for it, but its nifty for me to have been there at least. With everything finally over, I was able to inhale the bento and Japanese treats that always accompany a graduation.