• Wednesday, June 28, 2017

    Elementary School & Special Needs Graduation Ceremony

    Some parting gifts... :(
     At my last junior high school, my yearly schedule given to me by Interac was up about a week before the school year was over. This meant that I was gone around the time final exams were being taken (the scheduling was probably done this way to save the Board of Education a few bucks)… And I was gone long before graduation.

    So when I found out that I was scheduled to attend graduation this year, I was pretty excited. I had never been to a Japanese graduation before, and I was curious. Now, I was in an elementary school and a special needs school, so these differ greatly from junior high school ceremonies (from what I’ve heard).

    Though graduation only lasted a few hours, I was expected to arrive at my normal time. Of course, a full suit was necessary—this is an important day, after all! I didn’t do anything for most of the morning. I was ushered into the gym around 9:00, before the ceremony started. This time seems to be standard, because both ceremonies started around that time.

    Because my special needs school was first, I’ll start with that one. The school is small, and the graduating class was only two students. (You’d think that would make this ceremony fast, but it was the same length as my regular school’s one!)

    We started by applauding the two students as they entered. They were accompanied by their homeroom teachers, and the students sat in the front of the room. Then everyone rose and sang the school song. I don’t know the words to any of my school’s songs (they’re unique to each school) so I just stood politely.

    Then there were a lot of speeches. I can’t say for certain who all spoke. I know the head of the PTA gave one, as did the vice principal. I think the other speech was given by someone from either the city government or the Board of Education. The homeroom teacher of each student also made a short speech.

    Then, the diplomas were handed out. The vice principal handled this, and addressed each student with a few words. I thought it was very touching, because it was so personalized. After this, the rest of the elementary students (the fifth graders and below) prepared a song for the graduating students. Some of the older ones also said a few words.

    Then, the two graduating students got up, said a few words, and exited with their homeroom teachers again, to our applause. Then we filed out.

    My special needs school teaches students from kindergarten to high school seniors, so most students who attend end up staying throughout their entire school careers. However, one student who graduated was transferring to a special needs school in another city.

    Usually, when students leave the school, there’s a final send off at the school gates. However, because it was raining heavily that day, we ended up doing it indoors. The teachers all lined the hallways leading to the school entrance/exit doors and the student who was leaving walked down, shaking our hands and saying his goodbyes. Some teachers and parents were taking pictures and videos.

    I’m not going to lie: I was on the brink of tears. This was one of my favorite students, and I was never going to see him again… And neither were any of the other teachers there. The amount of emotions in the room was almost too much for me to handle.

    As for my main school, it’s a standard elementary school. There are about 110 students in the graduating class, so obviously they couldn’t personalize this one quite as much. However, it started out almost the exact same way. The parents and faculty were seated first. Then the students came out.

    The students came from behind the stage in pairs by homeroom. This entrance was significant because the students all had on the school uniforms that they would be wearing in junior high school. There’s a junior high right across the street from the elementary school. I was expecting all of the students to be wearing that uniform, but surprisingly less than a fourth of the students were going there! They all had uniforms from all over. (Some also were just wearing fancy dress. I’m not sure if that’s because their new schools don’t have uniforms, or if they’re dropping out or something…)

    Anyway, after that, they were all seated. The head of the PTA and the principal made a speech. There was also someone from either the city government or Board of Education that made a speech. I only know that because it was the exact same speech I heard at my special needs school! And it was too specific to be a coincidence… They talked about the magaka who wrote Astroboy. So I guess someone goes to every elementary school in the area and delivers a speech each year.

    Then, diplomas were handed out. This is the part that took the longest. The principal said some opening words, then each homeroom teacher called out the name of their students one by one and handed them each a diploma. The students then walked back with it carefully rolled up, stopping to bow to the PTA and faculty before being seated again. It was very well rehearsed.

    I should note that, because this took place in the gym, and the parents were present, there was no room for the lower grades. Only the fifth grade was there, seated on the ground. In my special needs school, everyone could fit because it’s a small school. At my other school, the students watched from their classrooms on a TV that broadcast the ceremony.

    After each student had a diploma, the fifth graders played them a song. Then, the students were excused and they left with their homeroom teachers with applause from everyone else. I went back to the teacher’s room because I wasn’t sure what was going on. I knew they were going to do the send off, but I didn’t know when (it wasn’t right after the ceremony). So I waited for about half an hour. People were coming in and out and a few were hanging out there, but I guess whoever else was there with me also missed the send off because no one ever told me anything about it. Oh well.

    After all that, we had lunch. I was asked if I wanted to buy a lunch box well beforehand. They’re kind of expensive (2,000-3,000 yen), but you should definitely buy one. It’s extremely awkward if you don’t have one, because you’re going to eat with all your teachers after the ceremony. All of them will have the same bento, so it’s very strange if you don’t have one too. Trust me.

    My special needs school’s lunch was seafood based, so it was worth the 2,000 yen. There was even a crab leg in it! The lunch also had a slide show of the students growing up when they were younger. It was really cute. The homeroom teachers talked again about the students and how much they missed them. The homeroom teacher of the student who was transferring schools started crying, which set off a chain of tears. I thankfully stayed strong.

    As for my second school, I actually didn’t attend the lunch. I had ordered a lunch and had every intention of going, but due to an unforeseen personal issue, I ended up leaving school early and missing the lunch.

    I hope this is helpful to anyone who has to go to graduation! I was pretty in the dark about it for most of the time leading up to it (and even a bit into the ceremony) but it’s not hard to figure out! I hope this helps to shed some light on things if you’re in that position and you’re asked to go to graduation!

    I haven't had the heart to eat them all yet!

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