Thursday, February 13, 2014

Graduation Day 2014

While today is the official day, its been coming for some time now. The Korean school year hasnt officially ended yet despite the conclusion of the second semester exams, and winter classes. All three of those things happened in January. The semester itself ended after Christmas. Moreover, the third grade HS students took their CSATs for college in November. Theyve been done for some time now.

The schools buzzing with activity. Students of every grade are conferring with the faculty. Many final preparations are underway. Meanwhile, Im watching everything from my desk because all I have to do is show up for the ceremony. Being the guest teacher has its peculiaritiesthese fly-on-the-wall scenes especially.

Todays the third graduation I will have witnessed. Its the one dearest to me because these students are the 1st graders I met in August in 2011. Theyre the group I had the pleasure of knowing for almost all of their HS careers. True, next years group will be the first group Ive known for all three years, but todays thrilling nonetheless. They were great to have in class because they took English seriously and they were the first group I got to know. Among them is a shy girl who came to me when shed been bullied. I had done a lesson on bullying around that time; maybe it spurred her to act. Another girl had been spreading rumors about her. She was beside herself. We talked for a while. Id advised her as best I could and told her ignore the other girl and to call the Korean helpline.

That was eighteen months ago. Today shes going to graduate and go on to a university in another province. Shes less shy, she speaks more confidently, and she walks straighter. Shell do well.

Id better go now. The fun starts in 20 minutes or so.

Additional notes:

Korean high school graduation ceremonies differ from their American counterparts in many ways:

  • No caps and gowns. The students received their diplomas their their uniforms, suits, or dresses. The suits and dresses aren't common in my experience, though.
  • It's short: This year's ceremony barely lasted 45 minutes, and it was, according to a co-teacher, a long ceremony!
  • The students receive their diplomas in groups. They also tend to receive any awards or scholarships when they're given their diplomas.
  • The students bow after receiving their diplomas, but unlike the Western fashion of bowing while facing the audience, the students bow toward their elders on the stage.
  • The students also receive their diplomas while facing away from the audience.
  • I can't speak to other schools, but my high school and girls middle school combined their ceremonies into one because they're on the same campus.

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