Saturday, March 04, 2006

Graduation (The Second Try)

Today's lesson, as always, is:

NEVER GO OUT DRINKING WITH THE BASKETBALL COACH THE NIGHT BEFORE GRADUATION.

Sound advice.

Today 50 third-year students graduated from Starfish High. As SH went co-ed three years ago (we used to be an all-girls school), this year's graduating class is the first co-ed class to graduate from our hallowed (paint-peeling) halls. So it was a big deal in a lot of ways.

We held the ceremony in Benedict Hall, the school's auditorium. First, the other students went in and took their seats. Attendance is required for all students at Japanese graduations. Meanwhile, the graduates were lining up in the gym, preparing to come in to the auditorium at 10. At 9:50, the parents and other family members were welcomed in, and the teachers went and took their seats stage right. On stage left, various special guests took their seats, like the Superintendent of Muroran Schools, the head of the PTA, and a representative from the Hokkaido Prefectural Council. A quiet settled over the room.

10:00 sharp, and here come the graduates. They were decked out in black gowns and caps (with the tassels sewn down so that they wouldn't move around...kinda sad, what with them not being able to move the tassel to the right side of the cap to signal that they graduated). They came and took their seats front and center, with Big Boss's A Home in the front, The Gida's B Home in the middle, and Hiroshi Numero Uno's C Home bringing up the rear. They sit, and commencement, um, well...commences.

I don't remember all of the ceremony, because it was dang hot under the lights stage right, and some of the speeches were a little long, so I zoned out for a while. Here's what I do remember.

A passage from the Bible (Catholic school). If I remember correctly it was The Sermon On The Mount from the Book of Matthew. Good choice. Then a song of praise, followed by the school song. Then the Home Room teachers read off the names of their students, and each student came up one by one to receive their diploma (this happens before the speeches). Some students were already starting to lose control of their tear ducts.

This is one thing that I don't understand about Japanese graduation ceremonies: the need to pluck so strongly at the emotional strings of the audience. Sure, everybody's heading off to different schools and won't be able to hang out with each other very much (if at all). It's the same way back in the States, but nobody seems overly sad at graduation. Most people seem to be thrilled to be getting out of there. I remember heat (Graduation ceremony outside in June in purple robes in the middle of Edgar Brown Stadium? You bet it's hot!) and a couple of entertaining speeches by classmates (and one yawner), but I don't remember any tears. Maybe it's because school is the be all and end all of life for these kids. It's all they know, between clubs and studying. I guess one would be a little sad.

After the students got their diplomas, some awards were handed out. Scholastic Excellence, Perfect Attendance, The Director's Award, The Principal's Award, etc. Then the speeches started. Principal Takada made a (slightly long) speech that played with the concept of graduation from an interesting angle: graduation as "commencement", the beginning of something new, not the end of something. Well played, sir. Well played indeed.

Another couple of speeches, followed by a song from the students. The song was actually written by one of the graduating students, and it was really sweet and touching. The graduates sang part of it, the first- and second-years sang part of it, and then they all sang the last part together. Sniff. Aww shucks, I'm a big softy.

Then three students said a prayer, and all of the students sang another song of praise.

Then, with a "Thus concludes the Graduation Ceremony for Starfish High School, 2006." from the vice principal, the ceremony finished. I headed back to the office to clear my head and relax for a few while the Big Three held a final Home Room meeting and then let the students go back to the auditorium for a massive photo shoot.

I went back to the auditorium, said some congratulatory words to some of my favorite students and hopped in to a few photos.

But in all honesty, the ceremony had just worn me out, and I was ready to go. Eisaku and I ended up cruising over to Choice for some sushi, after which I went back home.

I had some plans, you see.

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