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Graduation: “glad that is finally over”

“A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that ‘individuality’ is the key to success.” –Robert Orben

My son’s yearbook quote kind of summed up his time in high school. He wrote those words, “glad that is finally over,” unbeknownst to me. Yet, I smiled as I read them as the most truthful statement I’ve heard in a long time. He captured the essence of what high school is like for a lot of people, myself included.

In the movies and on television there is some kind of strange collusion going on to make high school seem like it is the best years of your life. I remember thinking that was an awfully strange amount of pressure to put on just 3 years. How could such a little slice of life possibly deliver on that kind of promise for everyone? It can’t, of course.

I suppose by keeping spirits high, teachers and administration are motivating students to give their studies a last big push towards the end. But, when I was going through it, the messages made me feel terrible. I had a tough time in high school and being told this was the best time of my life, robbed me of hope for a better future. I was left wondering, “is this as good as it gets?”

Some of us are a little quick on the draw to put too much weight on what didn’t go well, rather than focus everything else that did. In my case, I remember feeling like graduation was just a point in time, not representing such a massive accomplishment. Making it through all those classes, day by day, test after test, seemed rather straight forward. Surely life was going to become far more difficult as an adult?

We all know the answer to that, yes moving through the years as an adult can be very challenging at times. But, we get to use a calculator and all books are open to us. Nobody springs a quiz on us to find out if we were listening at the last 3 meetings. Google is our friend. Smart phones tell us where we need to be at every moment of the day. Taking an important call is pretty much standard operating procedure, albeit slightly annoying.

In contrast, at high school young adults are being wrangled all the time. Go to your next class when the bell rings, be aware the schedule is going to rotate every day, just to keep it interesting. No, you may not use your phone in class. Stop talking, sit up straight and pay attention, for-the-whole-time. We are going to call you parents as well as email them if you miss roll call. Starts to make the video for Pink Floyd’s, ‘The Wall’, seem a little closer to reality than when I went to high school.

Even so, my son made it through all of that. He got a nice ½ page write up in the yearbook where his goals for the future are clearly laid out. Nothing mentioned about high school, one way or the other, classy kid. Even though this level of education may have some peculiarities in delivery, it is still an amazing opportunity not afforded to everyone in this world. For that, I am extremely grateful.

It is easy to take some pot shots at the way things are, without ever considering what might be a better solution. I don’t claim to know how to make the transition from teenager to adulthood any smoother. I think it is inherently a bumpy ride. The teachers, administrators & support staff have committed themselves to a job which can be pretty thankless, for that they deserve far more than they receive.

Our teens spent a year travelling and trying to keep up with school work as we moved around from place to place. What we learned during that time, as a family and as citizens of the world, was more than we can expect from the standard classroom. There is no fair comparison. For our part as parents, I think we have given our son as well rounded an education as one could hope for, so far. What comes next is completely up to him and I think he feels ready for the challenge.

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