It's funny how I get so worked up about something before it happens... envisioning worst-case scenarios, getting my clenched-chest syndrome, etc. etc. And then, when the actual event happens, I'm ... fine. Everything is ... fine.
Such was the case with graduation day. I realize now, looking back, that I had been worked up about this for much longer than I first realized. It had taken on great meaning for me. Even though I would continue for two weeks at Minami Chu after the big event, it came to signify "good-bye" for me in many ways. And rightly so, I guess. The school is definitely a lot more lonely without the 200 3rd years around. At the same time, it's a hell of a lot more peaceful too.
Here's some highlights. It was a wonderful wonderful day. This is the gym right before the "dignitaries" and graduates came in. The graduates sat at the one end, facing the 1st and 2nd years. The "dignitaries" sat on the right side, and the teachers on the left. I was in the second row. You can see my light blue lap blanket on the chair. The heaters were on, but the gym was still a little chilly.
This is Abe, Takuya accepting his diploma, the first of the 200 or so students. Junior high grad is a very big deal in Japan because it's the last stage of compulsory education. Working in a "troubled" school, quite a few of my kids are not going on to high school. Instead, at 15, they're starting work. Not necessarily promising work, but work.
The ceremony is very detailed, very ordered. I am not kidding when I tell you that the students spent two days practicing accepting their diplomas and bowing. They bow every step of the way. To the dignitaries, to the principal, and here, to the teachers. And we lightly bow our heads back. Oh, and accepting the diploma... walk onto stage; turn to face principal; right foot steps forward; left foot steps to align with right; right arm raises straight and right hand grips diploma; left hand follows to do the same; right and left feet step back again; arms still straight, holding the diploma out in front of the body; deep bow to the principal, from the waist; lightly fold diploma into the right hand; turn and walk off stage.
Crazy ceremony. Funny thing is, I love it. I love the steps; I love the details. I find it beautiful.
This is Ichikawa, Sumire leading the graduates in their song to the 1st and 2nd years. At the end of the ceremony, the school sang a beautiful song. The 1st and 2nd years sang the first verse, graduates sang the second, and then they sang the third verse together.
I got a very nice surprise at the end of the ceremony. Each homeroom class was led out of the gym at the end by their homeroom teacher and one other teacher. Takagi sensei suddenly scooched over to me at the end of the ceremony and asked me if I would walk out with Kakinuma sensei and the 3-5 class. This was a very nice honour. I got to do my own bow! haha. We walked to the class, were met by two of the students who presented us each with a bouquet, bowed to them, and then led the class out. Very nice end to the ceremony.