Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Stop Everything and Clap

Yesterday my neighborhood elementary school had their 8th grade graduation. There's a new thing now in primary, middle, and even secondary education circles where they call the event a 'promotion' ceremony instead of a graduation. The thinking behind this is that some folks don't want children to think that 8th grade is an end-game accomplishment. So they try to downplay the significance of things like kindergarten 'graduation' or 8th grade 'graduation' by reducing the amount of pomp and circumstance around it. Our school has its share of edu-speak parents, administrators and teachers on this bandwagon. I'm decidedly not on that wagon.

So, as I do every year, I cried tears of joy as I watched the children march down the halls in their caps and gowns, uncomfortably trodding along in too-tight shoes and make-up they don't know how to apply yet, fresh hair-cuts and pressed shirts, all grins and pent-up emotions. I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with some other PTA moms, the building engineer, the cafeteria supervisor. I stood across from giggly, wriggly 1st graders, awed into jaw-slack as they watched their, now-former, classmates march away into the unknown nethers of life after Peterson. The little ones, like we did, clapped and cheered, along with their teachers and every single other person in the building - all of us lining the halls to bid the Class of 2013 adieu, farewell, and good luck.

That's because at Peterson it is a (fine, spectacular, heart-warming, inspiring, bittersweet) tradition to have everyone stand in celebration as the 8th grade graduates proceed to their 'promotion' ceremony. There's an announcement over the loudspeaker a few minutes before they leave. "It's time..." you can hear the school clerk grinning into the overhead, "teachers, please line up your students." And all throughout the building, some 800+ children and adults stop everything they are doing, head into the hallways, stand together and clap. We clap loudly, enthusiastically and with emotion. And it is awesome.

I hope that tradition lasts. I hope all the graduates at Peterson get to feel that joy, that pride and thrill that comes from having their community stop to notice them, appreciate them and cheer for them.  I think we ought to do more of that, not just there but in other places. Everyone should get that some time in their life, and everyone should get the joy that comes from giving that pleasure to someone else. Every once in a while, we all ought to stop everything and clap.


  1. That is a wonderful Peterson tradition. I am proud to say that my students and I started it by lining up in front of our lockers next to Room 210, next to the teachers' lounge. We were very quiet because we were really not allowed outside of our rooms before and during graduation, so we silently held up a long poster with "Congratulations Graduates," decorated by everyone on our class. The next year, more classes cme out, holding signs. The following year, there was a little, polite applause. The next year, we all cheered and teachers cried, watching "their little ones" pass by. After that, cheering was the norm and encouraged. That is one of the things I miss,in my retirement. Kudos Peterson and congratulations, Class of 2013!!!

    1. I have no idea about those random letters. This post is from Carol A, Greene, retired Peterson teacher.