On Saturday, my school celebrated the graduation of our 12th graders. Amy’s school celebrated two weeks ago.
Before getting into the festivities, lets take a step back and discuss why graduation is taking place now, one month before the official end of the school year and two weeks before the students learn whether or not they will actually graduate.
There is a concern that if the students find out that they are graduating now, they will skip any additional events at school. However, the greater fear (based on past experiences?) is that they will raise hell for the rest of the month while the 10th and 11th graders are still studying and testing. What does a seventeen and eighteen year old’s version of raising hell in Indonesia look like? Apparently a lot of riding their motorcycles through, and burning their school uniforms in, the schools parking lot drowning out any attempted end-of-the-year teaching. I, for one, would actually love to see this happen. But, alas, its not happening this year.
That brings us to Saturday morning when a class of 12th graders assembled with family as well as the 10th and 11th graders and teachers to celebrate their possible graduation. The ceremony began at 8:30am with several prayers and speeches. The speeches came from the chair of the school’s committee (like PTA, but with more power), the principal and a few students.
Following that, our principal symbolically removed the hat and epaulettes from two students, symbolizing their class leaving our school.
Next, balloons were released and all of the teachers lined up in front of the stage.The 200+ (potential) graduates then salim’ed us, bringing our hands to their lips, nose, cheek or forehead, demonstrating their respect and gratitude (the sincerity of the action varied).
After this, I was ushered into the teachers office where the teachers were served breakfast—rice and chicken, of course, for those of you keeping score at home. At this point, around 10am, I asked another teacher if the ceremony was finished.
“Finished? But its only 10am. School doesn’t end until 2pm.”
So, in the name of consistency, the graduation festivities were to last until the final bell rang at 2pm. But, this is where the fun began. The stage was then turned over to the students who entertained the crowd that stuck around with music, martial arts, traditional dancing, modern dancing, art displays and a professional dangdut band.
Despite the persistent out-of-tune guitars, incessant picture taking and lingering threat of being invited to dance on stage, it was one of my favorite days I’ve had at school. It is likely that it was the last time I’ll see many of the 12th graders, some who I’ve gotten to know over the past year. I had a few conversations with these students, learning that many plan to attend university in the fall. I got to see the (unfortunately rare in the classroom) creativity of students shine as they performed their arts and passions in front the school. And I got to spend some informal time with teachers in a different setting, rather than being confined to my usual corner of the teachers’ office, being asked if I’m happy and comfortable for the 1,000th time.
It was a great day and a great (near) end to the school year. And I managed to escape a few minutes early without being pulled onto stage and embarrassed in front of the school as has been known to happen.