Saturday, May 24, 2008

May Ritual

When May comes around, those of us in education don our robes and make the obligatory trek down the aisle to the sound of the band playing "Pomp and Circumstance." This is not an inherently "fun" activity. In seven years of teaching I have attended six graduations. (Last year I was getting a CT scan on graduation Saturday, an activity that prevented me from paying my respects to the class of 2007, and one that is also on the relatively short list of things I would rather not do than attend graduation -- attending a funeral is one, fighting a war is another). I have heard commencement addresses -- at least two per year -- and I have heard nothing new. I have listened to my colleagues read the first, middle, and last names of hundreds of children in that slow, ta, tata, ta, rhythm (followed by a single hand clap) -- a meter I am sure is dedicated only to graduation ceremonies. And of course we all love the students and of course we are all so pleased to see them succeed and go on to what we hope will be productive lives far away, but let's face it, sitting in the broiling sun in a black, polyester gown while representing with dignity your school and your profession is no one's idea of a good time. So you have to make it fun.

I am convinced that the master's robe is the most useful robe for having fun at a graduation. You have the hood, of course, which makes things even hotter than if you had just stopped with a bachelor's, but then you have the massive sleeves, in which, one of my colleagues insists, can be hidden a full pack of cigarettes. Not a smoker, I have tended to use my sleeves for a makeup bag. Though this year I had the idea to hide my iPod in them, along with my cell phone, so that during the ceremony I could run the cord up beneath my blouse, put one of the buds in my ear, share the other with the colleague sitting next to me, and listen to music and text to my heart's content. Not wishing to be meanspirited by mimicking the former students' whose day this was, I chose not to do the iPod/text thing. Instead, I sat with my ponytailed colleague J and he pointed out to me the birds by species as they flew through the amphitheater. We watched some falcons for some time.

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