Graduation Day!

Our youngest carrying the flag for his graduating teenage siblings.

The procession begins with the typical pomp and circumstance.  However, the first group through the door is the flag bearers carrying flags from each country represented by our graduates.  Tradition maintains that siblings or very close friends carry the flag.  A short gap and then the graduates begin their march into the gymnasium, around the attendees, down the center aisle and up onto the stage. 

A short introduction by the head of school followed by the staff choir singing “Home” by Phillip Phillips.  I was part of that choir.  We met every Friday for several months preparing ourselves and, in the end, if I do say so, we actually sounded pretty good!  Next up the high school orchestra played a rendition of Ave Maria. 

The faculty address by the IB Coordinator and TOK teacher is directed personally towards our 12 graduates.  He has worked intimately with them for the past two years and knows each of them well.  His comments on their weaknesses and strengths give credence to the sage advice he offers them.

Following awards and scholarships, the students present their addresses.  Each graduate has prepared a 2-5 minute speech.  They speak of their educational journey, their hopes for the future, offering up a piece of advice they have gleaned and found useful, and finally thanking everyone who has brought them to this point.  It’s touching and I’m brought nearly to tears by several of the speeches.  This is one of my favorite parts of graduation because it is evidence of the personal experience that a small school has to offer.

My son giving his speech.

The graduates, on stage.

A number by the high school band leads into the commencement address by a former IB History and TOK teacher from the school.  She also knows most of these graduating seniors personally and frames a very clever speech within the context of a TOK essay yielding smiles and laughter in the audience and amongst our graduates. 

Another favorite part of the program is the senior slideshow.  Each graduate has put together about 25 pictures of their childhood.  These sweet and tender images from each graduate are accompanied by music of the graduate’s choice and offer a peek into the past of each individual honored this day.  Everyone smiles as they see familiar expressions or gestures that were present in toddlers that clearly still reside in the grown teenagers sitting in caps and gowns on the stage today. 

Finally, the reason we have gathered together arrives.  The graduates receive their diplomas and stand before us proud with broad smiles.  They present their senior class gift, the mug wall I wrote about previously.  Finally, they transfer their tassel from right to left and are presented to the crowd as the graduating class of 2014!

Cheers accompany them as they exit the stage once again in step with Pomp and Circumstance. And wow, are they happy!  

We all gather in the lobby for the traditional cake cutting.  Then, we mingle there and in the courtyard and enjoy food, drinks, and cake.  We congratulate the graduates and parents.  The graduates share their plans for the future.  We rejoice together.

I always enjoy graduation, especially since I have taught a majority of the graduates for at least two years as IB Biology students.  Somehow I feel a bit personally invested in each graduate.  It fills me with pride and excitement for them as they embark of the journey of life.  Today, however, is extra special because two of the twelve graduates are my own children.  I’m bursting with happiness for them and I’m thrilled to celebrate this rite of passage with two of my own.  My best wishes extend to all graduate around the globe and my hope for a bright and joyful future for all is sincere. Congratulations to the class of 2014! 

My husband and I with our graduated seniors.

Graduation Traditions - The Senior Class Gift

The seniors have commenced on the final leg of their journey towards graduation.  Last week they gathered on the SS Rotterdam for their senior group picture.  When there are only 12 graduates you can do things like that.  Just before departing, in their caps and gowns, for the photo shoot on the ship, two representatives appeared in our staff meeting to announce the senior class gift, a long-held tradition at our school.  The seniors, each year, select a gift to give to the school by which they will be remembered. Past gifts have included a large clock engraved with “For all the Good Times” in the entryway of the school and a tree planted in the playground.

On this day, two young representatives stand before us, flushed with excitement and glowing with pride.  With animated gesticulations they describe how they participated in the school’s garbage audit this year and that the audit experience prompted their senior gift.  They proceed to describe the purpose and results of the audit.

An accounting of the plastic cups accumulated in just two days in the teacher’s lounge yields exclamations of shock and disbelief.  For the staff of 70 (some of whom are part-time), it is a bit embarrassing to consider that the paper cups from the teachers’ lounge alone represented 1.5% of the entire waste of the school (including cafeteria, classroom, and science waste). 

Mug wall designed by Christian Ward for the ready made 100 contest.  Link to the site.

The seniors then announce that their senior gift would be to build a mug wall in the teachers' lounge, eliminating the use of plastic cups.  They are planning a “mug drive” to load the wall with donated mugs (rather than increase carbon footprint by purchasing new mugs).  Their gift, as it turns out, additionally includes an act of service.  Nods of approval and smiles of encouragement are seen sweeping across our group of teachers.  Clearly, this is a good idea. 

With confidence and purpose our vibrant seniors depart through the library doors; their shiny, blue, freshly pressed graduation gowns flowing behind. 

Moments like these make the teachers proud and leave evidence of how ready these young people are to go out and conquer the world.

What special senior gifts or traditions are common in your area, at your school or at the school your children attend?