So, March 14th was graduation at my Jr. high school. If I could summarize the experience, I would say that it was a solemn version of the okurukai with more speeches. Speaking of those okurukai things, seeing as I have no idea where I will be teaching starting in April, each of my schools held a small one for me in the teacher’s room which meant I had to give a speech and got lots of pretty flowers:
So, in terms of my personal okurukai it happened at two different times of the day depending on the school. At the elementary schools I had my okurukai during the 20 minute break between 3rd and 4th period and during the morning meeting at my Jr. high school. So, what happens is first the school principal gets up and makes a short speech about me as a person and the impact I have had on that particular school. I had done the most at the Jr. high school I work at, so the principal listed off everything and, to my surprise, said I was the most active AET they had had at the school in awhile, if not ever. One of my elementary school principals described me as “someone who everyone talks to as if they have known forever, but just met.” After, the teachers that I worked with stood up and said something about me and I was given flowers (hence the picture). Then, it was my turn to give a speech (in Japanese for the most part, although one of my elementary schools requested I do it in English with gestures so they could understand) and that is the end of that. Some of my classes did special things for me. One of my first grade classes sang to me and several classes also wrote me letters. I received a lot of origami and a few girls made me coasters out of yarn.
So, that is that. Now, onto graduation. I arrived to school on a Saturday wearing a black suit and white collared shirt. Despite being in one of my best suits, I still felt underdressed. Ever one of the female teachers wore pearls and every teacher had some very fancy flowers pinned to their jackets. I was given the job of being a greeter with some of the second year students who were passing out programs and small paper gifts to the parents as they arrived. The graduation took place in the gym and it was deck out in all red and white as those are the colors for festive occasions (you always see them at Japanese festivals).
Now, the red carpet that you see in the picture is like holy ground for my Jr. high school. I was literally given the job of making sure that guests did not walk on the red carpet. What makes this carpet so magical? Not exactly sure. Every school uses a red carpet at their graduation, but few schools place so much emphasis on it. The carpet is meant for only the 3rd year students and their homeroom teachers to walk on, so if other people walk on it, it takes away some of the sparkle or holiness from it…or something like that. Anyway, much like before, the students are ushered in by the school band, but there is a lot more bowing involved.
After, there were a lot of speeches done by the school principal and some higher up figures from the Kawagoe Education Board and PTA. When it came time for the students to get their diplomas, myself and the teacher I was sitting next to began to cry. How it works is that the homeroom teacher goes up to the mic and calls out a student’s name. The student rises with a loud “HAI!” and walks up to the stage where the school principal gives them their diploma with a deep bow, they leave the stage and bow to us teachers, the audience, and the principals from all the elementary schools sitting on the other side of the stage opposite the teachers. Some songs were sung, but I did not feel it would be appropriate to take pictures or film during the ceremony. I did manage to take one quick picture as my favorite 3rd year class stood to exit the gym.
In the evening we had a party at a local hotel in Kawagoe. The party was not entirely what I had been expecting when I compare it to a previous party I had with my school. This party was called an Oreikai (お礼会) and it was a really nice dinner with the parents (read mothers) of the students who had graduated that day. I was originally assigned to sit at the table with my second year English teacher (who has amazing English and became like my big sister), but was moved to another table with 6 mothers. They were all really friendly and I had a great time talking with them. The food we had was a very elegant buffet and beer was served as a means to help people socialize. I took pictures of the food I ate that night, so I think that is a good place to move to next.
Of course, with any Japanese social gathering there must be speeches. Each third year teacher was given a lovely flower arrangement and then they had to give a speech about their experience with the students and their three years of teaching them. At the school I work at, the teachers stay with the same group of students during the students time at the school. So, they are with the students from when their first enter school until they graduate. A lot of the teachers cried during their speeches. After, they asked all the attending teachers (me included!!) to stand up and we also got flowers!
They wanted to have me give a short speech, but sadly I could not because we were running out of time. So we instead finished the evening with a song. The man playing the guitar in the video is the 3rd year English teacher and one of the kindest teachers I have met thus far. Not only that, but he can properly pronounce my name, “th” and all!
After the party ended, it was time to begin the “second party” which means karaoke and all you can drink. My Jr. high school teachers demanded that I be the first to sing and one of the second year teachers immediately inserted Sailor Moon’s opening song – a crowd favorite. Now, my teachers seem like entirely different people when we go to karaoke and here are two of the signature songs that the younger teachers always perform when we do go. Now, please note that they are performing the actual dances in these videos.
That second video needs to have the real video posted as well for good measure (the women in the video singing are really men, in case you could not figure it out). Embedding has been disabled so you need to click on the link to see it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tYi4cNhQZw
That about covers the events. Sorry I did not go into as much detail about things like I usually do…it happened a while ago so all the little things I was planning on mentioning in my post have long since vanished from my brain. Questions are, as always, welcomed. I won’t be going back to work at schools until mid-April, so I will try to find some interesting things to write about. Maybe I will bitch and complain about how horrible the new English system at elementary schools is…