Most of us probably attended some sort of graduation ceremony this past week. From a cute, little Pre-K ceremony all the way up to CSU’s formal presentation of degrees, someone in your circle graduated recently.
You probably heard an announcement to hold the hoots and hollers and applause until there was a break in the calling out of graduates’ names. To offer every student a moment of recognition, we were asked to keep our celebrations quiet…just for a bit.
Just for a few moments. Just for common courtesy. But that doesn’t always happen. Common courtesy isn’t so common sometimes.
Such a lack of courtesy occurred at a graduation ceremony I attended recently, and I was deeply affected by it. More so than I thought. Not because the outburst seemed to highlight a blatant disregard for mutual respect, but because of what the outburst taught me as a public educator.
After the announcement was made about upholding the school’s desire to make the ceremony formal and honorable for all the graduates, I admit I was immediately on the edge of the seat, biting my nails, hoping everyone listened and obeyed.
Then, the first outburst happened.
They knew the repercussions but seem undaunted. I guess to be escorted out was a small price to pay to scream and holler for their graduating senior. With no regard for the young man or woman whose name fell in ABC order after, they were undeterred by a simple announcement and a simple consequence.
They had such disregard that they made their scene as they rose from their seat and made their way down the steps towards their police escort. I prayed a little prayer that this was the first and last outburst.
But it wasn’t.
And with each disrespectful outburst, the next seemed more bold and courageous. I stopped praying. Then I heard a teacher at the school say to her coworker, “This is embarrassing.” And something shifted in my heart almost instantly.
I looked at the group of students sitting on the arena floor, and I saw a group of well-behaved, well-structured kids who were doing exactly as I’m sure they were instructed to do. I looked at some of their faces and imagined the struggles they had overcome to get to that very moment. I day-dreamed of them as little ninth graders acting a’ fool in the hallways, unable to control their mischievous, boisterous behavior.
Then, in my mind I went back over the speeches I had just heard some of them give before a huge crowd in a huge arena, unwavered by the enormity of the setting.
I remembered just listening to a second-year piano student tickle the ivories with utter beauty. I recalled the impressively long list of full-ride scholarships and military commitments made from this collection of well-behaved, well-structured kids sitting on the floor of this grand arena.
And I prayed again.
I prayed for their futures. I thanked God for what they had overcome. I asked God to deliver them from negative influences and pluck them out of their circumstances. I asked God to continue to work in the faculty and staff at their school – to give them the strength to stay the course even when their students’ real life encroaches into their structured environment.
Because graduation night wasn’t about the rowdy parents. It wasn’t about the moms and dads who couldn’t behave themselves. It was about the graduates who did the right thing - who, faced with a choice, chose to grant the request for common courtesy.
So, I don’t think the outbursts were embarrassing to the school or to the teachers or to the graduates. No, not at all. If anything, the disregard from parents stresses the true enormity of what those graduates overcame to walk across that stage.
So, don’t own what’s not yours. And most importantly, congrats, to all graduates – the ones with quiet parents and the ones without.