Last night I found myself in my black Master's cap and gown and hood (Go Broncos!) for the seventh time (well, eighth if you count my own graduation from WMU). As the staff gathered in the Media Center I looked around me. There were faculty who were new to our school this year who were struggling to figure out how to attach the hood to their gown. There were also staff members who had been through this ritual over 30 times.
In the cafeteria was a sea of blue and white. Everyone straightening their caps, fixing their cords, questioning their tassel position. Each gown dotted with a tiny green ribbon reminding us all of the graduate who was missing.
Pomp and Circumstance.
A parade of black and blue and white.
As I sat down, I looked around the gym. So many happy faces. I see past students, parents, friends. I see balloons and flowers and cow bells. I see camera flashes and ecstatic mothers. I see tears.
Last week, my seniors in my Speech class gave farewell speeches. One student stood up and told the class he was going to be the first in his family to graduate from high school. This started a chain reaction of sharing. First graduates in families. First girl to not get pregnant in high school. First male to not go to jail. It was amazing. Last night I picked out all my students and saw their families just beaming for them.
It occurred to me last night that while every year it is mandatory for staff to show up at 6:30 and get cap and gown in tact, it is not every year that these parents watch their babies graduate. It's the first time for many of them. I knot formed in my throat.
The senior speeches were given. This year the theme was superheroes. Each speaker urged the class of 2010 to not let life happen to them, to not be the victim, but to make things happen for themselves. To take life and live it. They urged the graduates not to settle and to race toward their passions in life. The speeches struck a cord because looking around, I wonder how many of us are really doing this. How many of us adults are taking a stand against settling?
Part of my job as senior class adviser is to aid in the calling of the names. I help pace the students before their names are called. Each senior has to pass by me. A few hugged me--even though the whole gym was watching. Many smiled and told me, "I did it, Mrs. Sluiter." Some even showed their nerves, "I'm scared. I'm not ready for this."
I reassured each one. I listened as parents and friends cheered.
Each student was cheered for. The class of 2010 saw to that. They cheered for each other so no one went without a "WHOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!"
After the last graduate passed by me, I led my half of the staff to line the way for the recessional. Students shook our hands; many popped my personal bubble and gave me giant hugs. They promised to visit. Some even thanked me.
This is why I love my job. This is why I can't imagine not being part of the education system. This is why I will continue to rage against the broken machine.
Because I have to. For them.