Graduation ceremonies are meaningful.
They represent a combination of closure and celebration for students who have worked diligently during three years of middle school or four years of high school to achieve a goal.
The “Pomp and Circumstance March” plays, students proceed into the gymnasium and proud family and friends position themselves to capture the moment on camera.
A few meaningful speeches are delivered, the chorus sings and then it’s time for diplomas to be distributed. But at some point before students proceed across the stage, the assembled are asked to hold cheering and applause until the presentation of diplomas ends.
Waste of words. Waste of time.
I’ve attended three graduation ceremonies at Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School as well as last week’s ceremony at Oak Lawn Community High School and in each case; the request falls on deaf ears for far too many families.
When the name of their loved one is called, they stand up and scream his or her name or simply shout as though they’re at a Blackhawks game.
“Way to go, Jessie!” “Whoo-hoo!”
I sat near a group of girls at last week’s Oak Lawn Community High School ceremony who stood up, shouted and waved glow red glow sticks when the name of their friend or family member was announced.
I’d be embarrassed to do something like that, but it’s become commonplace. And the thing is, there’s nothing school administrators can do to stop it. I’d love to see a principal or superintendent stop a ceremony, step to the microphone and says, “Knock it off.”
I often wonder what’s goes through the minds of these folks when the request is made to hold applause until the end. I’m guessing they figure it’s an instruction meant for others. No one tells them what to do. I’m also convinced that the hooting and hollering is more about them than the graduate.
It’s especially amusing to look at these folks immediately after they make fools of themselves. They’re so proud, looking around to see who noticed their silly performance. I get the sense the screaming and shouting is more about them than a salute to the graduate.
Don’t misunderstand. You have every right to be proud of your son, daughter, brother, sister when they walk across the stage to receive their diploma. They worked hard for their sheepskin and are ready to take the next step in their young lives. It’s an achievement to be sure.
For some, the graduate may be the first in the family to finish high school. There’s good reason to be excited. But again, you’re not at a pep rally. Go out to dinner, have a party, raise the roof. There’s plenty of time for revelry and partying. But not during the ceremony. It’s inappropriate.
The Class of 2014 is graduating. It’s their moment, not yours. Don’t embarrass yourself.
Props to Mike Riordan
Mike Riordan, principal and superintendent of Oak Lawn Community High School, told me that each year he praises graduates for their community service during his commencement speech. This year, that remark was greeted with a hearty round of applause.
There’s no doubt in my mind that most people think Riordan did the right thing when he stood by school policy and prevented more than 40 students from participating in the ceremonies because they never performed the voluntary hours and submitted falsified documents indicating that they had.
He sent the message that the school takes its community service requirement seriously and actions have consequences even if means telling a young man or woman that they will not don a cap and gown and graduate with their peers.
Riordan has taken some heat and criticism for his action, but he understands the importance of integrity and teaching it to students even if a hard lesson is needed to do it.
On a personal note…
I saw my son in his cap and gown last week and could not have been more proud. He’s not college bound, but has a made a career choice and is making strides to flourish in the field. He connected with several teachers and counselors at Oak Lawn Community High School that helped point the way, though he probably didn’t know it at the time.
My thanks to them.