This is NOT Part 4 of my grading series.
It is, however, an appropriate blog for this time of year.
We'll get back to grading next time.
I mean it.
The recording of Edward Elgar directing Pomp and Circumstance Marche No.1 is the “go to” music for just about any school graduation. I don’t know why?
The rest of this blog has nothing to do with marching. I will reference P&C again.
I started teaching high school in 1973. Protesting was a national pastime for many students. Graduation ceremonies, even high school graduation ceremonies, were targets. While many of the protests were ideological in theory, many were times for people to do things they “had the right to do”—even if they didn’t have that right.
I’m not a fan of graduation ceremonies.
I remember my 8th-grade graduation (1964) more from photographs than from RNA pathways. It’s probably because I got an award.
I remember my high school graduation (1968). I was the closer on a 5-part valedictory address.
I remember my college graduation from San Diego State (1972) in Aztec Bowl—now a parking structure—for two reasons.
- First, Pauline Frederick was the speaker. Her speech was anti-Vietnam War biased and did not go over well at a university in San Diego, California.
- Second, my wife came down to the field after the ceremony. I split as fast as I could because there was nobody between me and my car. Since cell phones were sci-fi then, she didn’t know I’d left, and I didn’t know she’d come down. Forty minutes later, my parents pulled into our driveway and asked where Leanne was. I hot-footed it back to SDSU and found her waiting on the sidewalk with a kind passerby who waited with her.
I remember the graduation ceremony for my Ph.D., only because I got to wear a snazzy outfit known as regalia.
Faculty attendance at Monte Vista High School graduations was optional in 1974, 75, and 76. We did have a nude motorcyclist speed around the track at one of those, but nothing else of consequence happened that I remember.
Then beach balls and tortillas began to fill the air during the ceremony. The administration requested that all faculty members sit with the students to, “emphasize the academic nature of the event.”
“You mean, you want us to be police,” I said.
They held to the party line.
“When you admit that we’re police, I’ll go down on the field.”
For the next 18-years stood at the top of the stairs next to what was then “the wrestling room” during graduation ceremonies. I was the “door monitor.” Students had to return the robes because the school had rented them for the occasion. My job was to keep students from entering the wrestling room with the robes on because, once inside the room, they had to throw the robe in a cardboard box and pick up their diploma. Disrobing in the room would have seriously disrupted the flow.
I enjoyed doing that for two reasons.
First, when Pat Carroll was principal, his goal was to finish the entire graduation ceremony—from the time Pomp and Circumstance ended until mortarboards were tossed—in 30-minutes.
MV averaged around 500 graduates each year.
There was an invocation, the Pledge of Allegiance, acknowledging the Honor Graduates, and a student speaker each year.
After all that, every student’s name was called over the P.A. system as they walked across their half of the stage and received their diploma from one of two dignitaries.
Two dignitaries were required because one side of the graduates entered from stage left and the other from stage right.
It was a quick-moving sight to behold.
After two 40-minute ceremonies, he managed a 35-minute one.
Those of us on “robe recovery detail” anxiously awaited his final graduation—the year he retired.
Thirty minutes and forty seconds after Pomp and Circumstance, mortarboards flew like Frisbees.
He’d done it!
The second reason I enjoyed being “door monitor” was my “position” at graduations, I got to see every graduate. I am proud to say that more than a few took photos with me.
I was on the field for one MVHS graduation ceremony after my “police” boycott. Because my son was a graduate, they allowed me—in my regalia—to hand him his diploma in 1998, two years after I’d left to take a faculty position at Point Loma Nazarene University.
I was on the field for two graduation ceremonies at Great Oak High. The first is the only time I broke tradition and asked if I could sit with a student for her graduation. Her name is Baharak Tavafifard. I’m working on a blog about her, so I’ll leave it with this anecdote:
As a sophomore, I asked her why she never—and I mean NEVER—displayed any outlook except positivity. She looked befuddled, but only for a moment. “Why, Dr. Downing. Being happy is a choice. I make that choice every morning when I get up.”
The second GOHS graduation was because a specific student asked me to attend. I was ready to storm the podium when one of the speakers went off-script and needed to be shut down. I took admission tickets or was part of security for the remainder of my GOHS graduations.
Graduations at PLNU were mostly painless. Once you got past the students who wanted to wait until the last minute to line-up, things went smoothly. I opted to supervise one of the first two rows because we got down to the floor of the Greek Amphitheater early and my charges had little room to do much beyond wiggle.
I attended my daughter-in-laws Ph.D. ceremony on May 20, 2017. I was hot, but they did have a huge video screen so you could see each graduate receive the diploma . . . and a VERY long repetition of Pomp and Circumstance (20+ minutes).
The next high school graduation I will attend will by my granddaughter, Hadley’s . . . 13-years from now.
In one of my first three years of teaching at Monte Vista, one of my students asked to talk with me. She was very nervous. I waited for her to begin.
She talked with significant emotion about how, as far as anyone knew, she was the first person in their extended family to graduate from high school.
“People are coming from Oklahoma and Arkansas. This is very important to my family. I hope I don’t mess up.”
After I choked back a tear, I assured her that she would do a fine job.
It was then that it hit me.
This graduation ceremony is the major event in this young lady’s life. No one has the right to take that away from her and her family.
That was the first year I gave “the speech” to every one of my classes on the day of the second semester final exam.
I told them about the young lady I described above. Then I added,
“For many of you, this graduation is just a bump in your educational road. You’ll graduate at least once more, and some of you will graduate two or three more times. It’s tempting to blow off this graduation ceremony.”
I paused and put on my best “serious teacher face” at this point. My students all knew that “the look” that accompanied the serious face meant they’d better not only pay attention but do what I told them to do.
“You might be planning some prank or goofy act for the ceremony. If you, or any of your friends, do that, you will ruin what might be the biggest day in someone’s life. Your fun is not important compared to being the first in a family’s entire history to graduate from high school."
To the best of my knowledge, none of my students were ever involved in any disruptive acts. I did have several thank me on their way out of class after “the speech,” because they were going to use it on people they knew were planning something.
My sincere congratulations to all those graduating this year!
My sincere congratulations to all those graduating this year!
Next Almanac: Part 4 of the Grading Series
This will discuss how you can grade high-level content in class.