Graduation: The Truly Silent Sacred Tradition.

Hello everyone!

It’s your friendly Neighborhood Gaijin here, come to discuss the recent graduation ceremony in which I had the pleasure of taking part in last week. My students graduated in their black jacket school uniforms, pink flowers and diplomas all during the day.

This is an example of what graduation attire would look like. Unfortunately, this was the only picture I could find. The 2 graduating students are the boy receiving his degree and the boy sitting, third from the left. He has his regular uniform and a flower under his name plate. This ceremony has an extremely low amount of graduates as it is a Junior High School located in the Fukushima Prefecture, where the Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant crisis occured. Taken from the Japan Times:

I do have pictures of my own graduation, however I do not quite wish to release my workplace information publicly. Nonetheless, it was time for me to take another step into adulthood and realize that time is continuously moving. I am no longer 15 or even 20, there are younger generations graduating around me everyday. My students were born AFTER the Gamecube controller! I couldn’t believe my mind when I realized that. Today, I will speak about the graduation ceremony, and my experience sitting through it as a teacher.

The Ceremony

1 hour and 52 minutes was how long the ceremony took to celebrate the graduation of my 56, 3rd year Junior High School students. Each one very different and just as magical as the next. The ceremony started out with the procession of the graduates into the entrance hall, lead by their well-dressed homeroom teachers. The male teacher with his slim-fitted suit, well-shaped for his Japanese body. Followed by the female teacher with a bright yellow kimono, which was more stunning than any outfit I had seen her wear before. Each one was followed by their respective classes, the flower on their classic Junior High School uniforms. As we proceeded, we listened to the Junior High School’s and Japan’s national anthems. Then, the distributions of the diplomas occurred. Being as meticulous as the Japanese are, they had already started practicing this ceremony from a week before.

Yes, you heard me correctly. They practice this ceremony a lot before this big day, I believe my school practiced 6 times. So it is very serious. As a result, I had previously sat through about half of the official ceremony before the day of Graduation. One of my fellow ALTs said the expression best, they practice graduation so much that they are already tired of graduating before the ceremony.

We had to prepare this whole entire gym ourselves for the graduating class. This was a huge contrast to the graduation I had in Canada where the most I had to prepare was my instrument as a member of the concert band. I was happy to prepare it for my graduating 3rd years. However, I wonder if my 1st and 2nd year students,who also had to help, felt the same. (This is my workplace)

Furthermore, this ceremony is one of the most quiet events I have ever been to in my life.   No one – parents or child – can speak during the distribution of the degrees, which resulted in waiting silently and patiently for 30 minutes. Followed by about an hour to an hour and a half of speeches. Apparently, you’re not supposed to allow your feeling or tears through because it would distract from the sacred ceremony. Thank goodness one of my students cried, so they could convey the emotions of my inner self. I too empathize with the student in tears. Nevertheless, I did my best to maintain concentration for my students’ sake. It may have been long, but it was an extremely enlightening feeling when my 3rd years received their diplomas as they prepare for the next step in their journeys.

Dress Code

The attire that we had to wear to graduation was a black suit, with a white (and only white) necktie. I decided to accessorize and go for a white pocket square, but it wasn’t completely necessary. I got my haircut a week before, put in my contacts in the morning and sparingly sprayed some cologne on my wrists. If there is one day you do not want to look a complete hot mess, graduation is the day! Out of respect for my students, I tried to appear the best that I could because they had worked so hard throughout the whole year.

Setting up Graduation

Japan is definitely a place of hard-working youngsters. They don’t have janitors to clean the halls with disinfectant blooms every day (Once the flu starts going around we are doomed). Graduation is no different. As the 3rd years were graduating, it was life up to the teacher’s who lead the 1st and 2nd years in cleaning up the gymnasium so that the graduation ceremony could be held. We had to tape down the carpet floors similar to what you see in the picture. They may not really realize it at their age, but doing this sort of action is quite inspirational. Flowers were every where,

My responsibility

So, being an ALT who sometimes does not receive a lot of opportunities, sometimes I feel that I need to help my worth to them by being English. However, before the graduation ceremony I was asked to do a job. That was – BUM! BUM! BUM! BUM! The Mic guy. I had to take and give the Mic  to those who had to make a speech before they were leaving. As I did not want to mess up any part of this ceremony (especially, while being recorded), I did my best to follow instructions and queues the best I could. Hopefully nothing went wrong and  that my kids were happy graduating. Just seeing their smiles and laughs as they were laughing, made me feel like my short 7 month period here has been at least a little worth it. I hope they all grow up to be responsible adults, though I’m not sure if they will all be the next Bill Gates.

Being on the Other Side of the Ceremony (Being a Teacher)

So, that day I sat through the graduation ceremony looking on my students’ faces which represented this world’s hope for the future.  I sat there sitting with my special white tie (which is a special colour that can only be worn at special ceremonies in Japan), waiting for each of their names to be called. I am glad I get to experience these things in Japan, it helps me grow as a person while seeing the next generation grow as well. I guess that is one of the benefits of choosing teaching as a career path. The way my fellow teachers work in school is very valiant as it seems they sacrifice quite a lot of their time for their students. To be frank, sometimes the time they voluntary/ may be forced to put into their work (12 hours a day) seems extremely overworking and unnecessary, nonetheless when it comes to Graduation Day. At the end of it all, I’m sure each teacher is more than proud of the hard work and effort they spent to allow each of their children to graduate. For that I am truly grateful to have such hard working teacher comrades at my school.

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