“Each diploma is a lighted match… Each one of you is a fuse.” – Edward Koch
I’ve been thinking a lot about graduation. My brother is graduating from college this year. My other brother graduated from college last January. This got me thinking about how we view graduation in the education world.
Is it a beginning? An end? A meaningless ritual? A solemn occasion? A Celebration?
Looking back, I was very bored with my high school graduation. To me, it was a meaningless ritual. I wasn’t excited about graduation. I had to keep myself awake during the ceremony. None of the speakers shared anything interesting or useful. I don’t even know where my diploma is right now. I’m assuming in a box somewhere, but which box, I don’t know. I viewed it as something I had to do to get to college. I was more interested in getting to college. By graduation, I knew where I was going (Ball State University), what I was going to major in (Secondary Education – Math), and which dorm I was going to reside in (Schmidt-Wilson 7th floor). I wanted to get to the next step.
I asked a friend about her experience. *Disclaimer: She and I attended the same high school, graduated at the same time, were in many of the same classes, both went on to college, and keep in touch. In fact, she’s sitting across from my as a write this.* She thinks there are two different views of graduation depending on what the student is going to do. For college bound students, high school graduation is just a step to the next level. Freshman year of college was just our 13th year of schooling. For the kids who aren’t going to college, graduation is really an ending. A huge accomplishment, but one that is viewed as an end of a era.
As a high school teacher, I had a slightly different experience. Our school really put emphasis on graduation as an event. It was a solemn occasion punctuated by pomp and circumstance, marching in a line, somber speeches, and tears. I hated it. I felt like we were emphasizing graduation as a huge accomplishment. I hoped that my graduating seniors would have higher aspirations than a high school diploma, but maybe I was mistaken.
Overall, I think we have a interesting view of graduation. Every school seems to place a different importance on the ceremony itself. Whatever the view or emphasis, I think we need to remember that while high school graduation is an obstacle to overcome, it shouldn’t be the only thing we strive to accomplish. It should be a “congratulations! Now what is your next goal?” We should focus on the next step.