Today was the graduation ceremony for all elementary schools in the school district I work in. I work at two elementary schools and I was torn between which of my two schools’ ceremony I would attend. Ultimately I decided that I owed it to this school’s students to attend their graduation as I had been there teacher since I first moved to Japan.
I did not take any pictures during the actual ceremony, but I will give you a general outline of how things went. The ceremony went very similar to that of the Jr. high school ceremony I attended last year. First, all the “honored guests” walk in (members of the board of education, city council members, and Jr. high school principals) and then the graduating students walk in. A few short speeches are given and then students are awarded their diplomas. The principle reads the diploma out loud to everyone before handing it to the first student. When the students name is called, they walk to the podium exchange bows with the principal, and step forward. The principle turns the open diploma around to face the student and offers it to the student. The student receives the diploma by using their left hand first, and then their right hand before pulling it towards them. The student steps back and exchanges bows with the principle. The student then slowly closes the diploma and folds it under their left hand before turning and walking away. On the way back to their seats, the students bow to the special guests and the teachers. Everything is very solemn and synchronized and the only applause allowed is as the students leave the gym. After everyone gets their diplomas and all the bowing is finished, there are some much longer speeches. After speeches are done, it is time for the 6th graders to address everyone and say their goodbyes. This is not done in speeches, but rather in a kind of call and response. Certain students were selected to say certain things, such as “We will continue to do our best” or “our best memory from 1st grade was coming to this school,” and after they sing a few songs. The first song is dedicated to the school and its faculty (I totally started to cry as it was the same song my other elementary school kids sang to me), followed by a song to the 5th and 4th graders who will become the new sempai next year. In return, the 5th and 6th graders sing to the 6th graders and there is a sort of call and response done between the groups. Then, there is one more song, a short speech, and then the 6th graders leave the gym ready to begin their life as a Jr. high school student.
After the ceremony, the 6th graders returned to their classroom for final words from their teacher (I walked around and signed a ridiculous amount of yearbooks) before it was time for them go on their way. The 4th and 5th graders made tissue paper flower arches for the graduates to walk under as they “left the school.” What then followed was an insane amount of picture taking.
And that’s that. The next school year starts April 8th and I will have no idea what schools I will be going to until probably the day before. If I get assigned the schools I think I will be (my request to be elementary school only has once again been denied by looks of the new school groupings) I am going to be going to a Jr. high school that is 6.6 km (a little over 4 miles) away from my apartment…I am not looking forward to that bike ride twice a week…