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Graduation: Another Opportunity for Learning

Posted in: Blog by amy on June 5, 2013

Last night was graduation at Central School: It was an exciting time for the students, the parents, the teachers and the faculty who all worked so hard for the past several years.

In the preceding days, the school sent home an email in which they reminded us of the atmosphere that they are hoping to maintain during this ceremony. The students, who are all so fortunate to be part of such a reputable school district, were encouraged to respect the evening by exhibiting characteristics that have been cultivated at school and at home … characteristics such as dignity and respect. (In other words, please no yelling names and no bull horns.)

I have to say, I was quite impressed with everyone on that stage. Each student appeared to be genuinely proud, humble and grateful. The principal shared encouraging and beautiful words, as did the school board president and the class president.

But, unfortunately, there was a take-away that I find worthy of discussion: At least half of the approximately 175 names that were read were followed by screams, yells, and, yes, even the sounding of bullhorns. Now, while I am a bit of a rule-follower, I certainly am not shy or opposed to silly, spur-of-the-moment behavior. But, really … Is it fun to scream out a student’s name when the faculty who has done so much for our children specifically asked us all NOT to do so? Is it that enjoyable to show disrespect to the very people who nurtured and taught our own children at this junior high for the last four years?

How many opportunities do we have to say thank you to that school’s principal? To the teachers? To the school board? To all of the graduates?

Possibly even more importantly, are we aware of the fact that we are models for our children and have the power to show them how we feel about authority? How we feel about rules? How we feel about dignity and respect?


The future lies before you
Like a field of driven snow,
Be careful how you tread it,
For every step will show.
– Author Unknown


Oftentimes, it was a sibling who screamed out a name, which is more acceptable than a parent doing so. But, I’ve already discussed this with my children to ensure that none of them would yell out their sibling’s name. They even said, “But everyone does it.” I then explained how that doesn’t make it right and told them that yelling out a name was unacceptable to me. Shouldn’t we teach our children to respect other’s rational, well-described wishes, rather than believe that our own needs, desires and impulses trump all of that?

For many people sitting in the auditorium, the shrieks were amusing. Even though we were instructed to suspend our applause until all names were read, I found myself with tears in my eyes when a breakout of applause accompanied the reading of a very special autistic boy’s name. The applause seemed uniquely appropriate in that situation as it was full of support, class and unity. But, I can’t think of any justification for sounding a bullhorn when your child or brother or sister or neighbor’s name is called. Besides the fact that it can scare and annoy the person in front of you, it just reeks of disrespect.

I wanted to say something to the school’s principal after the ceremony. I wanted to tell him how beautiful the ceremony still was. I wanted to thank him for all that he and his staff have done for our children. I wanted to apologize for my parent peers who did exactly what the school asked us not to do. While I did not have the opportunity to do so, I hope that I can show my appreciation by maybe making even just one parent re-consider his or her actions … by encouraging parents of future grads to instill lessons of respect and humility in their children.

Of course, it was still a special night. However, as we are there to celebrate LEARNING, let’s be aware of all of the lessons that our children are directly or indirectly learning along the way.


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5 Responses to “Graduation: Another Opportunity for Learning”

  1. Ann ross says:

    Congratulations on your first Central school graduate! Please send a copy of this to the superintendant so she can pass it along to the staff. Although I am sure that there were many at the ceremony who felt as you do, I doubt most could express their concerns as eloquently as you have.

  2. amy says:

    Thank you, Ann. I appreciate your kind words.

  3. Felicia says:

    You took the words right out of my mouth….Although my words were not nearly so eloquent. Until the presentation of the diplomas I was so impressed and moved by the ceremony. As the principal spoke I remember looking across all the students on the stage thinking “wow, they really can do anything they set their minds to do and really can make an impact on the world”. As the diplomas were handed out and the catcalling began my heart sank. My thoughts of great hope for the students started to be replaced by the notion that some of those kids will likely end up just like their entitled, narcissistic family & friends who were calling out to them despite every effort made to implore them not to do so.

    As a sensitive, insecure teenager I would have felt slightly diminished if some classmates received applause and my name was read in silence. I talked to a few students and they disagreed with me and said that no one would feel that way. I think that there must have been at least a few girls (I can’t speak for the boys) who were made to feel a little less significant when their name received no audible response. Shouldn’t the awarding of diplomas be an experience where every student can feel equal and proud?

    I was disgusted and appalled by the audience behavior. I have two more students yet to graduate middle school and I truly hope that there will be some way to convince the community that, “yes, the rules do apply to you too”.

  4. amy says:

    Felicia – That was actually quite eloquent! Thank you so much for all of the additional thoughts that you shared.

  5. Jenny says:

    Amy, I loved this. As you know, I have very little tolerance for entitlement in and out of my home, and although I was not at the ceremony, I am embarrassed for those people who felt they were above the rules. How unfortunate that the graduates who received cheers before they were requested are going to learn that they, too, can break the rules of decorum because it suits them. Such “lessons,” unfortunately reveal themselves in other areas of life, and in a community that already has so much, isn’t it better to show that less is sometimes more? I am sure that the majority of families adhered to the rules, but it is unfortunate that those who “behaved” have to carry the burden and embarrassment for those who did not. Alternately, I attended my daughter’s graduation last night where the same request was made of the parents and friends of the graduates. I counted THREE families who felt that they, too, were above the rules and yelled out. I actually felt bad for the graduates of those families, as it was so blatant and embarrassing that theirs were the only families who felt the need to disregard the request made by the principal. Hopefully, anyone who reads your blog will realize that it takes just a few to damper a wonderful experience, and will hopefully think twice before believing they are above it all. Congratulations to your graduate!!!!

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