I’ve experienced three ceremonies in the last few weeks: – our Awards Evening, for last year’s sixth formers collecting their A-level certificates; Speech Day, where last year’s Year 11 collect GCSE certificates, and most recently, I was helping on the Students’ Association stand selling mementoes at an OU graduation.
When I was younger, I had a massive hatred of that kind of thing. Obviously I had to go to Speech Day at my own school (we didn’t get a choice) – though I detested it. I did go back for our Sixth Form presentations – I wanted to see my contemporaries and my teachers again after a term away at university anyway, and the presentations bit was quite short. But I actually didn’t go to my graduation – I couldn’t think of anything worse than dressing up formally and spending ages in the ceremony.
For some reason, I’d assumed other people felt the same. But clearly they don’t! Our Lower Sixth were spending ages deciding exactly what they were going to wear for Speech Day so they’d look their best going up on stage, and they were coming out afterwards with big smiles on their faces. The former Upper Sixth were also dressed up to the nines for their ceremony, and whilst, like my experience, I think seeing everyone again was the major attraction for them, I felt the actual formal part was important for them too. That went double (or quadruple, or more!) for the OU graduation. So many really happy-looking people who found the formal ceremony a fitting end to their years of hard work. Some friends of mine were among the graduates to be presented, and it was clear they’d had a really enjoyable time, and their friends and relatives were feeling very proud of them.
As a teacher, I like the fact that we celebrate the achievements of our pupils, and though I am not going to pretend I ever find the formal Speech Day particularly fun (the informal chats afterwards in the dining hall over a delicious tea buffet are much better), I am glad we have it. It’s another one of those fixed points that help structure the year, and it’s good to set some time aside for reflecting on successes – we so often concentrate on what could be better, rather than all the things that have gone well. I do enjoy the sixth form Awards Evening (good job, as it’s on a Friday evening!) – usually we have an interesting speech from an eminent former pupil of the school, and it’s lovely to see all the kids again and hear what they’re up to.
Despite my own feelings about such proceedings in the past, I will be going to my OU graduation next summer – largely because several people have told me in no uncertain terms that I have to! But I will be interested to see whether I enjoy the actual occasion, or just the opportunity to have a few celebratory beverages afterwards!