Monday, March 15, 2010


Graduation was on March 1. I started writing a blog entry a long time ago about it, but then lost the passion to do so. I thought I should probably just finish this entry before I go to Seoul this week or I will never do so.

Graduation here is different and the same, and rather than the traditional post, I thought I would post a list of the differences and the similarities.

  • No caps and gowns. Students wear the same school uniform they have worn for the last 3 years. In a few weeks is a ceremony for teachers who will be transferring to other schools or retiring, and at that ceremony the students come back and will wear their suits...and many will don recently acquired piercings and dyed hair to show they have broken free of the high school conformity.
  • All the students names are called and stand up as the roll is called, but only one student from each homeroom goes onto the stage to receive the stack of certificates. See the picture below.
  • The ceremony is in the morning on a school day, so all underclassmen have to go. The section for parents is smaller than in America; it appeared that each student probably only had one parent there to watch them and no brothers, sisters, grandmothers, etc.
  • The ceremony isn't really run by the students as it often is in America. There aren't speeches from students, picture slide shows, etc. Of course, being from such a small school in America, that's bound to be different in a larger school.

  • The school song, graduation song (a different one than Pomp and Circumstance), and the national anthem is played. But, everyone has to sing along which is a bit different.
  • Students are recognized by the calling out of their name and the top students and students with perfect attendance are recognized.
  • The ceremony is long and a little bit boring unless you're directly involved.

Highlights for the ALT:
  • Being asked to sign yearbooks.
  • An amazing lunch bento box.
  • Seeing the happy look in each student's eye and remembering what it was like to feel that way.
Watching the practice and the real event really made me think back to my own high school graduation. I thought back to the speech I gave with the theme of Oh, the Places You'll Go! and the disappointment in being second in the class instead of valedictorian. I thought about the accomplishments that I made in high school and how all of those things just don't matter so much anymore, both the great accomplishments and that disappointment. I thought about how I never in a million years would have seen myself visiting the countries I have now, especially living in Japan. How I had never considered so many possibilities and how little I had known was missing from my dreams. The more places I go, the more people I meet and the more experiences I have, the more the ceiling to my dreams grows. I hope the same happens for this new group of students that move on to the next chapter in their lives!


Smiles said...

Hey Ashley! I just started reading your blog the other day. I really love it!

This post was really interesting to me because it highlighted how different graduation can be from school to school.

One of the big things that really surprised me is that your kids didn't get handed their diplomas individually. At Kanaya HS, they did. As roll was called, each student stepped up onto the stage & the principal handed him/her the diploma & said congratulations, occasionally with a very brief personal message to the student. "You've really improved these 3 years, haven't you?" "Good luck at ___ University!"

I also had 2 student speeches at mine. I don't know if the senior who spoke was the valedictorian or what, but she spoke about how her teachers & friends helped her through tough times & celebrated with her during happy times. She talked about the transition from jr. high to hs & her favorite events in hs.

Then there was a "response" speech by a ninensei student, thanking the seniors for their support & guidance, & talking about how they're ready to take on the responsibility as the sempais of the school next year.

AND we had a picture slide show at the end! It had photos from all 3 years of their high school experience. They laughed & cheered when certain teachers' photos came up, or certain students.

Jessie in Fujieda tells me that my school is locally famous for having a very "wetty" ceremony. & yeah, there were lots & lots of tears shed.

Sounds like it was a completely different experience than yours. :)

ash said...

Hey Sally, thanks for sharing! It's always good to highlight the variance and differences among schools here in Japan. Sometimes I start to generalize all of my experiences as "typical" Japanese life. A good reminder for me and good info for others!