卒業式:Comparing Japan and the USA’s High School Graduation Ceremonies (Part 3)

Stairs. My high school graduation is a vague memory. When I looked at The US Graduation Program, I misremembered the salutatorian and forgot the student council president. The mayor attended? Who stood behind me as we waited for the principal to call our names?

Weeks and months before the end of high school, I cherished each day, because I would not be with my three best friends in college. I received a full scholarship to attend the best school in the city. My best friend and ex-boyfriend, Fungus, occasionally took days off to attend open campus events at Ivy League schools. I felt either jolts of joy in his presence or depression’s enervation upon spying his empty chair. My future college also offered Fungus a full scholarship and I wanted to ask him to come with me, but I did not want to interfere with his decision. I did not share these feelings with my other best friends: MaIchi, who chose an excellent state school 4 to 6 hours away and DaIchi, who decided to work at FedEx while he took classes at a local community college.

In the US, graduation was waiting. I quietly sat, program in lap. Waiting to hear Fungus’ speech. I listened to my best friend’s speech: “We must not ______. We must not _______.” It was a bit dry and reminded me of a dictator or a Dalek. Waiting to stand. Waiting for its end.  Afterwards, I met my friends, but we did not eat together. I went to Macaroni Grill.

In Japan, the weeks before graduation are calm and pleasant. I and many other teachers enjoyed a lighter class schedule due to the third year students’ absence. There is more time to prepare for the first and second year students’ classes and the incoming class. The mood of the graduation depends on the bond with students and my personal life.

My first graduation was like spring. I did not know the ceremony’s details. I had only taught the third year students for one semester. It was exciting to see the head of office in a tuxedo as he raised a platter holding the principal’s speech. The second was more like 梅雨 (tsuyu, rainy season [early June to mid-July). I adored those kids. In our first class, I used a famous Japanese idol group to engage them. One said: “No, please not them!” Another Philippine girl said, “We hate them!” Our mutual disdain created a bond. I was melancholic after they left.

Many teachers probably felt like the third graduation was more like summer vacation. I liked a lot of those students, including the rowdy ones. One student did not attend graduation because it was orientation day at her new job. She wanted to be an auto mechanic. One student refused to attend an earlier speech presentation. They had aplomb. I sobbed against the wall as the fourth graduating class exited the gym. They were the first class I taught from the beginning. When the bell rang, ending our final class, I said, “Wait! There is so much more I wanted to teach you!” One boy said with a smile, “I am sorry, but time is up!” I expected to cry a lot last year, but I did not. I would leave in a few months and 7 was visiting. Though I liked this group of students, I had too much to think about. Winter set in.

 

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