Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Wherein the Matron May Sound Like a Judgmental Half-Centenarian

Now, the Matron likes to think that her elliptical not only gives her a trim tummy but the pulse of America.  Quite nearly every morning, 6:30 am will find the Matron her previously mentioned machine watching Good Morning America!  Someday she plans to write a feminist critique of the show, which has a unique obsession with the female body.

So she takes this show with a grain of salt, seeing it as a daily Rorschach test of the American psyche:  warts, bumps, bruises, ideals, dreams and aspirations.  It was in this spirit that she watched the video about the two young men removed from a particularly grim graduation ceremony.  Their crime?  The dreaded:  "whooo!  Whoo!"  They gave a shout out, twice.

Removed!   This seemed, to the prim Matron, like the worst of sins:  Overreaction.   She also chided the glum, staid crowd whose demeanor makes the Stepford Wives seem like real independent-minded swingers.

Until she attended her own daughter's 8th grade graduation ceremony from an all-girls charter school in St. Paul.  Kicking people out seemed like a tepid and ineffective response.  Why, the Matron wanted to deputize her own fine self so she could pack off half that auditorium to jail.   Indeed, at one point her more diplomatic husband saw the fire in her eyes and shook his head, no.

Thank you, honey.

The ceremony was held in a pretty little Macalester College Chapel.   The charter school is tiny and the Matron guesses the girls graduating numbered around 40; each was allowed three guests.   Emotions ran high -- extremely, spiritedly, beautifully high-- among the graduates, who are the first to attend this class from its inception through graduation (it's a new 5 - 8 grade charter).

Being the first fifth-graders meant these young women had a hand in starting the school.  They wept and clung to one another.  There were videos and testimonials.  These girls were at the center of the school's first four years:  fifth through eighth grade.  Many of the girls can not only recite the school's charter and institutional philosophies by heart:  they helped write it.  All this, the Matron thinks marvelous and one of the reasons she picked this school for her daughter.

When each name was called, the girls screamed with joy and applauded.  This was love and it was genuine.

To the Matron, sitting in her hot pink mini-skirt and previously good attitude, if the applause had ended with the players involved the entire endeavor would have been 100% successful.

But the parents and guests?  Ruined the entire event.

Mayhem ensued for about a third of the names called.  A row of people would rise to their feet, screaming and jumping and cheering.   Two women grasped one another and jumped up and down, throwing programs in the air when one girl picked up her diploma.   People screamed, whooped, pounded walls, threw small children and danced -- at the sound of the name of the kid they were ostensibly there for.

Friends, the Matron is not doing justice.  The noise was so loud that screaming for each girl receiving the 'extra attention,' that the noise obliterated the entire announcement of the name for the next. If a third of the names stirred a tsunami, another third of the girls following walked up, unheard in the din.

General hoopla as a name was announced also meant that all eyes were on the celebrators.  Ironically, nobody noticed the girls whose names caused each commotion.  Nobody looked at the stage.  Indeed, the entire room turned their eyes toward the whooping, jumping, weeping and nearly fainting family members.

Which made the Matron wonder who was the (unconscious?) real center of attention.  Clearly, not any of the children: it was their parents.

At one point, Merrick covered his ears and said:  "That hurts!"

The middle-aged man next to the Matron appeared the definition of class-bound sedation: suit and tie, clearly from a job that required such attire.  He clapped politely until his daughter's name was called, then jumped to his feet: "WAY TO GO XXX YOUR DAD LOVES YOU."

Why, thank you, sir!   Just that very second before you rattled the room, the Matron was fretting that perhaps these young women were not receiving sufficient love.  Glad that got cleared up.

Now, the Matron realizes that she is being a fuddy-duddy.   She actually affirmed this by using that phrase.  There is nothing wrong with joy and celebration!   The Matron also wishes she were a little less tightly wound -- the type of woman who would whip off a flowered straw hat and scream:  "there goes my baby!"

But she's not.  She's the one sitting in judgment and that vein of thought gets the last word.

One woman yelled:  "This is your education!  Go get that education honey!"

Indeed.  Education is a good thing.  The Matron has devoted entire professional life to the cause.  Because she teaches at a community college she understands full well the sacrifices some students make.  Some of the Matron's students work two or three jobs, raise children, and go to school full time.  Others are new to this country and a college degree is a dream that has sustained them through hardships she herself has read about but can only imagine.

One of these students, a woman from Sierra Leone, was 13 years old when she was raped at gunpoint by a soldier, one of hundreds of thousands of women suffering a similar fate.  That was the day she decided that -- no matter what -- she would get out of that country.  Her story still staggers the Matron who can barely type remembering the harrowing journey, true poverty and loss this young woman endured.   The day she picked up her college diploma marked a decade of sacrifice, toil and death.

Nobody screamed for this woman when she walked to the stage and received her diploma.  She got a nice round of applause instead and a few heartfelt sniffles from yours truly.

Graduating from 8th grade isn't a miracle or an Olympian achievement. Jesus is not passing out that diploma.  It's sort of the law:  children are required to remain in school until they are 16.  Moving up a grade every year (or so) is the natural consequence of that legal requirement.

Hearty clapping, eyes on the stage and big hugs afterward will due.

The Matron has two years before her oldest graduates from high school, a rite of passage whose excesses are accepted as the norm.   The Matron has two full years to acquire that Deputy License or a better attitude.   Hmmm . . . which way to swing?!

John has already informed her that he plans to sit by himself.



*m* said...

Ick. My son just graduated from high school, in a ceremony that was mercifully prefaced by a pointed announcement meant to derail this sort of thing. Definitely something that should be addressed in future years.

I am no fan of 8th grade graduations in general. At our middle school, maintaining a pulse was pretty much the only requirement for promotion to high school. It really does devalue the real deal four years later.

Minnesota Matron said...

Maintaining a pulse, indeed. Seems to be middle school standard, generally.

~annie said...

I'm with you and I'll take it a step further - only high school and college should merit a graduation ceremony. By way of trying to understand these parents, though: Any chance that for some of them it truly IS a miraculous event that the child made it this far?

Ann in NJ said...

We also just attended an 8th grade graduation, with seven hundred students "graduating". I am grateful that most of the parents obeyed the announcement before the names were read to "please hold your applause until all students have received their diplomas." It would have been intolerably long otherwise. But I agree that 8th grade graduation is a bit much - we gave no gift nor held a party. I think High School and College are plenty to celebrate, and we'll do that with glee!

kellyg said...

Clearly you are not alone, MM.

The preschool my son attended held a "graduation" for the four year olds who had aged out of their program. At first I was horrified at the thought and considered not having son participate. Then I decided I had to see what they would do for a preschool graduation. I think I may have been the only person who found the whole thing absurd. So many other moms gushed about the ceremony. Not only did they announce the kids and have them walk across a stage, they gave them trophies instead of diplomas. The woman in charge of the graduation was especially proud of the trophies. I think she was hurt by my lukewarm reaction.

And yes, there was much shouting and carrying on.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

The Matron and I are kindred spirits.

The part of the whole thing that makes me most frustrated/angry is that the screamers don't share that they are depriving the next grad/family of the chance to hear that student's name called. It's so selfish and rude.

I don't terribly mind promotion ceremonies for preschool, fifth or sixth, and eight grades as long as everyone understands it's a promotion and not a graduation and that is not actually an "accomplishment."

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Don't get me started. I feel SO strongly about graduations and I totally agree with your analysis of the ridiculous reaction, pomp and circumstance.
Thank God we don't do "graduations" here until 12th grade--and even that is a reasonably low key event because we're a stoic, Germanic bunch not given to public displays of idiocy;)

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

If you get that deputy badge, please let the rest of us know where to get one, too.

MJ said...

Move aside, John. I want to sit next to Matron with a firm look on my face at the next graduation. These things are for pomp and ceremony with a hug and photo afterwards.

Anonymous said...

LOL - so funny - at my sons graduations, we were told to "hold all clapping, wooping, etc. till the LAST child received their diploma" right that happened. But no one was told to leave! Mary in NY

Jamie said...

I thought this only happened in my town! Idid not get to hear either one of my kids names announced when the graduated from high school . . . . or see it for that matter. I had the great fortune of sitting directly behind the family of a kid whose name was called four or five names before my kids and their families were still standing, jumping and screaming. I was appalled at both ceremonies. I'm glad to know that I am not the only one. I also just attended my nephew's preschool graduation. The only comment that I can really make is O.M.G.