This past Friday was graduation at my school. It was very interesting to watch and experience. Less than a year ago, I was a graduate, but now I am on the opposite side experiencing the event as one of the teachers who taught some members of the graduating class. However, my time was too short for this class. I only had the chance to teach and get to know them in less than half a year. On top of that, they were very busy throughout most of my time here over their worries of life after high school whether that be going to university or working. I tried to get to know them, but it was too hard. I’m glad that I was able to get to know a few students. Some of them took the initiative to come to me, which made me really glad, and I was able to get to know others as I helped some students with practice interviews or speeches. In many ways, I wish I was able to start in the beginning of the academic year in Japan, which is April.
One of the cons of the JET Program is that the AETs start their contract with the 2nd trimester. There are many other companies that provide AETs to schools from the beginning to the end of the Japanese academic year. However, this con is also a good point of the JET Program, especially for countries where the academic year ends in May or June like America. It allowed me to apply for the program during my senior year of university with a quick transition to departing for Japan. If I had to wait almost a year so that I could start in April, I think it would have been difficult. I would have had to look for a job with the knowledge of quitting before completing a full year.
Another reason why this can be a good point is that new JETs have the time to adjust to the time difference and culture all the while having the time to plan some lessons considering JETs arrive in the middle of summer, the longest break for Japanese students. For AETs coming to Japan to start in the beginning of the academic year, they only have about two weeks to go through what JETs have a month at their disposal.
Now that I have finished that information sharing about the program, here’s some information on the graduation day itself. Although my school had the ceremony on Friday, not all schools have it on the same day. Some schools have it on Thursday and others on Saturday. The dress code for all guests and teachers is formal. Supposedly, formal here means STRICTLY black and white. Yes, you read that correctly. The caps do not represent anger or a mistake. Of course in many countries, black and white attire is considered formalwear, but a formal dress code is by no means only black and white. The men wore a black suit, a white shirt, and a white tie. The women wore a black suit or dress, and many women were also wearing a big corsage. I was told of the formal dress code, but there was no mention of the full monochrome attire. So, I wore a black suit, white shirt, and my purple and blue striped tie. I think it was perfectly fine, because I am an AET. It’s good that I wasn’t completely off wearing a green suit, plaid shirt, and flowery tie. Then again, that kind of outfit would be completely off in most societies.
There was a lot of bowing involved in the ceremony. Whenever there was a speaker, we had to bow before and after the speech. Sometimes I wasn’t sure why we were bowing. There were numerous times when we had to bow toward the empty stage. My only guess is that it was the beginning or end of a program section, and so we had to bow at the flag for national pride. As opposed to the American tradition of the acceptance of the diploma for each student during the ceremony, Japanese students enter the event space (the gym in my school), and there’s a model giving and receiving of the diploma as one student represents the class by accepting the diploma from the principal. There are a bunch of speeches for most of the ceremony similar to American graduations. If I remember correctly, my school had speeches from the principal, government officials, head of the PTA, student council president, and a representative of the graduating class. In the ceremony, the students also sang a special song that is used for graduations followed by the school song. At the end of the graduation, the homeroom teachers and teachers only involved with the graduating class stood in two lines to send off the class walking between the lines to head back to the classrooms. It is in the classroom where students hear a speech given by their homeroom teacher as well as receive their diplomas.
The audience in the graduation ceremony included parents and all the students of the school. Similar to American graduations, there isn’t a set format for all Japanese schools. There might be some variations, for example, some schools have all the teachers other than the homeroom teachers of the graduating class stand in the two lines as the graduates are escorted out by the homeroom teachers. All of the students including the graduating class wore their uniforms. A fellow AET in another school mentioned that the graduating class wore white socks (usually they wear black or navy socks). I didn’t pay attention to my students’ socks, but I can understand the meaning behind it. The rest of the day focused on graduates finding teachers to sign their yearbooks. A few students came to ask me even those whom I haven’t taught. I hope my presence in the school gave inspiration or an increased sense of fun. If only I could’ve gotten to know the graduates more and vice versa.
Stay tuned next week for another update!
今週の聖書の詩: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
- Philippians 4:4 (NIV)
今週の写真: When I was in Tokyo (Harajuku), I witnessed a part of a wedding at the Meiji Shrine. The bride and groom as well as their families were marching to the garden to take pictures. I think the march has some kind of symbolism involved, but I’m not sure. About ten minutes later, there was another wedding party marching. I wonder how many weddings are held at the Meiji Shrine. The last two pictures were also taken in the Harajuku area. They are of a free art gallery called “Design Festa.” It was very interesting to walk through. However, my time was brief, so I hope to go again to see new artwork.