Sunday, March 13, 2005

Sotsugyou shiki

Graduation Ceremonies

Last friday was the grad for the sannensei (third year= grade nine) students. This year's class was only nine students and it was an introverted class on the whole. We did the practice run-through of the whole ceremony on the day before. Nonetheless, on friday morning the intense charge of high emotions in the very air itself was making everyone nervous, even the teachers who had nothing to do in the ceremony but sit quietly and watch (like me).

Everyone arrives early in the morning to make last adjustments, last practices of songs, and to get the sandlot school grounds ready for cars to park on. The ceremony itself started at 10:00 sharp. As usual the teacher sat at a row of desks on the left, the 30 or so guests at two rows on the right, and the students in the middle with the parents separated and behind them.

After the national anthem (called "Kimi Ga Yo") and the school anthem came the speeches. There was the opening address by the principal, and then the head of the board of education, and then the mayor of the town, and then the head of the town council, and then the head of the PTA. The PTA head is always a parent of one of the graduating sannensei. His was the best speech: the only casual feeling one, the only one where you could feel that he knew the students (or the boys at least: his son and his son's best friends), and that he really meant what he said. The others (though good in the case of the principal) were all 5-10 minutes apiece or more and were in formal formal formal japanese, which takes longer to say and is more boring. Then came the student speeches, where the head of the student council (never a sannensei) gives a farewell address, and then the head of the sannensei class makes a speach and a lot of personal thankyous, in the midst of which they inevitably cry.

In fact, there is a lot of crying at the grad ceremonies.

After the speeches, there are the student songs. The ichi- and ni-nensei (first- and second-year students) sing a song to the graduating students. They have practiced the song for about a month. Then the sannensei sing a song back. When practicing, the sannensei girls knew the song better and sang the song much louder than the boys. On the day of, however, the girls were unsuccessfully doing their best to sing over their tears while the boys finally got it together and carried the song.

Last year you could barely hear any of the sannensei singing because they were crying so much.

The last thing in the ceremony is a clapping send-off as the sannensei all exit the room. The ceremony and the cleaning away of chairs et al from the gym was done before noon.

Then there is one last send-off where all the teachers, students, and parents line up on both sides of the main hallway and the sannensei walk through. Music plays, everyone applauds, and the ichi- and ninensei give them some gifts as the grads walk through. These are signed softballs, volleyballs, and ping-pong raquets, depending on which club the student had been part of. (need I mention that of course the signatures all belong to the other club members?)

Around 1:00 there was a special lunch with light snacks for the teachers and grads. Each of the teachers said something to the class and each of the students also said something. Then we munched and chatted for a good while, ending with photos. That's one of the nice things that happens in a small town's little school. It's a great way to end, in my opinon.

Then the third years hang around and bind the yearbooks they have made and clear out their lockers and take everything home.

On the one hand it ends up being a very very emotionally tiring day, but on the other hand it does tie up their time at junior high well and give them the closure they need. I think its fantastic.

Little involvement though I had, I was nonetheless dead tired by the end, and had no energy to do anything that evening.


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