Friday, March 20, 2009
It's graduation time which means no class for me because all the kids are too busy practicing various things for the graduation. All the non-graduating kiddos work on songs to sing and gifts to present to the leaving 6th graders and the 6th graders have to practice for the ceremony over and over and over again. And not just the ceremony either. They also practice bowing, how to properly receive the diploma, various songs, and various speeches too. I got to sit in on the 'final' practice while at Yamanashi-sho, my Monday/Friday school and took a few pictures. The giant sakura tree is an art project that all the students worked on together and one of the many graduation activities that classes were canceled for. However, it is a very nice sakura tree.

The actual day of graduation I spent at Kanoiwa, my base school. The day before graduation was spent prepping the gym for the big event. That means cleaning the gym floor, setting up the massive flower displays, putting up the big red and white stripped curtains along all the walls, setting up the memory music boxes that all the 6th graders made, getting the stage ready, and putting out all the chairs. This massive setup is done by teachers and students alike and is crazy. There are kids and teachers running around everywhere. Seems to take way to long given the number of helpers, but the kids lose focus rather quickly.

The day of graduation is pretty straight forward. There is music and walking and sitting down and bowing and singing and more bowing and getting the diploma, and more singing, and then more bowing, and maybe some more singing after that. Then there are speeches from about 10 or so community members who are deemed important enough to give speeches, and because they are such important people and all, spend about 30 min a piece saying the same thing as the person before them in really formal Japanese that I can't understand and that have the teachers later confessed that they didn't understand either. I was not the only one who almost fell asleep!

After that comes the fun(er) part. Pictures! First each 6th grade takes a picture with their homeroom teacher and parents. One of the graduation 6th grade boys is a special ed student and he kept making the infamous japan 'bunny ears' and they had to keep retaking the picture. It was pretty funny. After than, the kids willing have their parents take pictures of them with their friends and teachers, including me! I really wish I could get my hands on some of those pictures. One of the was me with about, oh, 25 or so of my boys. Most were too shy to ask me for a picture, so they made one boy come up and ask and we all took several pictures together. Normally these things are a sad occasion and you'll get a bunch of people crying. Teachers and students alike. For me however, it wasn't really all that sad as I knew I would be teaching at the junior high school where all the 6th graders would be attending.

After the photo taking and goodbyes, it was time for the final goodbye. All the teachers get in two lines and form a sort of tunnel. The 6th graders, along with their parents, walked down the tunnel while the teachers wish them well and say goodbye. All of the teachers also have potted plants and pass them out to the students as they walk by. One potted plant per kid.

After the tunnel, the kids head home with their parents. If I was in the US I would add 'never to return again' to the end of that sentence, but the old 6th graders will probably be making return visits to the elementary school within a week. That is, if they are anything like the last group of graduation 6th graders. The teachers then head to the office for some well earned dessert and to finish up any work they have to do. I just ate my cake, finished cleaning out my desk, and went home. Looking forward to my Spring Break in Kobe/Hong Kong and to working at junior high school once school starts up in April. Yay!

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