Many of you I am sure have attended graduation ceremonies this month. I have been to two though really wanted to go to three. I attended the graduation of the classical tutorial where I am a tutor and I was asked to speak to the graduation class. It is an honor when the class picks you to speak to them. This was the smallest class I had ever taught and that created a special bond. I spoke to each student individually, telling stories and encouraging them to continue to grow in their faith. Graduations can encourage us and challenge us to continue growing.
I had taught all but one of the students for two years and one of those classes is a two-hour class. I had also done things outside of school with a number of the girls – a beach trip with some, dinner and a play with others, a summer reading group with others. Knowing them so well made it easier. I ended by reminding them of two things I often said to them in class and which they cleverly put on my car windows for Senior Prank day. ‘Get your ducks in a row’ and ‘Is that the hill you want to die on?’ They need to make sure they have their priorities straight, to know where they were headed and to know which battles are worth fighting. Graduations encourage students to remember who they are as they go out into the world.
I so wanted to go to another graduation – in South Carolina but my schedule would not allow it. That group I had taught in third grade, the year I found out I had cancer and missed the first 3 weeks of school. I had a mastectomy the week before school and so did go see them on that first day. Those parents sent meals and were very supportive. The group got their pictures in the paper when I had someone cut my hair in front of the school because it was falling out from chemo. They were a special group. They made hats for me to wear as I didn’t want a wig. They always looked out for me. Always supportive and always honest. One day when I in math when I was talking about symmetry I said we are symmetrical and held out my arms. After class, one of the boys came up to me and said, “Miss Hidey, you aren’t symmetrical now.” Innocent, and yet private, like it was our secret. “Yes, you are right Nick.” I later laughingly told his mother and she was horrified. “That sounds like he was disrespectful”, she said. But I said, “No, it was just an innocent statement of fact and it made me laugh.” That was that class. You can read more about that class and my cancer journey at You’re Still Beautiful. I was disappointed I couldn’t be there but glad that I got to see so many pictures on Facebook and talk with them there. Graduations today can be experienced by many more people due to social media.
Last week, I attended my nephew’s high school graduation. It was held at the nearby college and had all kinds of cameras going with big screens set up through out the auditorium. There were several speakers, the high school president a very confident and well-spoken girl, and a beloved teacher who you saw loved her students as much as they loved her. There were many awards and recognitions, most of which students just stood in their spots. That made it a little longer but I felt it was very appropriate. We need to give honor to those who excel. This county school is ranked in the top 6% of the nation and this particular group of over 200 has left their mark. My nephew stood as part of the National Honor Society and was recognized for completing not just one but dual Academy Certificates: Business and Information Management and also Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. He also had perfect attendance not just for his senior year but for 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade. He has received a scholarship to my Alma mater, which all of my siblings also attended. Graduations make you proud of your loved ones.
The first graduation I attended, there was no yelling. It would have seemed out-of-place with such a small group. But at my nephew’s there was yelling and though I usually don’t like it, it seemed to fit. There were no announcements not to, and no one was obnoxious. The school community is a mixture of suburban and rural communities. Developments right next to farms. Farms that have been there for generations, while high-end homes have been built in the last 20 years. In addition to farms there is some business but it is mostly a bedroom community. You saw at the graduation, the business man and behind us I was sure it was an older farmer and his wife. I like that mix, and here they were all encouraging other kids. Yelling for the fellow who was going to Harvard, standing for the students in the ROTC program and clapping for those who had perfect attendance. Graduations build communities.
Afterwards, even though it was dark families were standing outside hugging, taking pictures. It brought back memories of my graduations: the emotions of high school graduation the year after my dad died, and the pride of the college one being the first in the family to complete college. Graduations are bittersweet: for parents proud of the accomplishment but realizing their child is going off to college, to the military, or starting a career and for students, who though excited they have finished, saying good-bye is hard and the next step is exciting but also scary. Graduations are special as they cause us to reminiscence and reflect, to be thankful and hug our loved ones even more.
What are your special graduation memories?