Monday, June 13, 2011

There's One In Every Crowd

It's graduation season again, have you had the pleasure of attending one? I have-- Actually I should say, one down, two to go.

The first had my beautiful brainiac niece all decked out in her blue and gold robe with ropes and tassels and metals and sashes galore for high school graduation. She rocked it and sat proudly in the very front row in the "Top 12" section of the class. She's a valedictorian (yes, I'm bragging) but it didn't go to her head one bit-- Her three other smart sisters saw to that.

This was the first graduation I'd ever been to where not only the school's Principal but also the Superintendent of the district lectured the audience of about a thousand people on "proper graduation etiquette". They made it crystal clear that the ceremony would stop dead in its tracks if there was any hooting, hollering, cheering, whistling or clapping at the announcement of a student's name-- "Not one peep" were the exact words the Principal bellowed into the microphone.

I immediately reverted to my teenage years and felt scolded. I sheepishly sat straight up in my chair so as not to look like the kind of person who would "irreparably damage the solemnness of the occasion". Gawd forbid.

As I started biting my nails, something I had not done since I was 12 years old, I wondered in my very quiet mind, afraid to move a muscle for fear of making noise and being called out-- sure an intense spotlight would shine brightly in my deer in the headlights eyes, but soon felt a bit peeved for being talked down to.

I assumed the audience, full of proud loved ones of soon to be high school graduates, wouldn't in any way try to disrupt the ceremony. This was a big deal! And of course we'd all act like respectable adults. Right?

Apparently not so much because as they saying goes-- "There's one in very crowd." only in this case there were about 14.

In fairness, it takes a long time for 357 names to be announced, diplomas handed out, and the obligatory posed photo shaking hands with the Principal, so folks got a little restless. But about half way through, the rowdiness started.

First it was the single, very loud, hand clapping after a student's name. The poor kid stopped frozen as if his idiot parent would get him bounced into detention one last time. It caused the ceremony to stop for a full 15 seconds before the diploma was handed over. The announcer calling names over the loud speaker let us know he meant business.

Then a dad, after his beautiful blond baby girl's name was announced, stood in the center of the auditorium and did a wild silent dance that closely resembled the funky chicken. The audience roared, the blond was visibly not happy, and the announcer deadpanned "Was that really necessary?"

Three more students in a row received standing ovations from their large, happy families, all sitting together on the right side of the auditorium, each one trying to out noise the other and cause a bigger scene than the last.

Those students were embarrassed and clearly mortified. Each were dressed in suits and ties grinning from ear to ear-- until their family turned the occasion into a free-for-all. Those three names took a full 10 minutes to get past.

I wondered (silently of course) if this sort of thing happened at really important ceremonies-- Like the swearing in of a President or Supreme Court Justice. Does some one lecture the crowd like they are first graders only to have some idiot make the event all about them rather then the person (s) being honored?

It all seemed pretty ridiculous to me, the rowdie parents, I mean. Weren't they the ones that raised their children to be respectful? Their kids were some of the best dressed of the day and seemed to take it all very seriously. Perhaps if the bull horn was sounded by the parents of the student wearing ratty flip flops or even the three kids who chose to go barefoot to their graduation, I'd understand the carefree attitude.

Oh well, to each his own. I'm sure the students will look back and remember dad-- with his beer belly hanging below his "Help, I've dropped the tv remote and can't reach it" tee shirt and recall what a gigantic fool he made of himself bellowing "That's my boy, now go get a job!".

Two more ceremonies are coming up. The next is my niece's graduation from college and on her way to Veterinarian School and Godson who (and I use this term loosely) "graduates" from eight grade to move on to high school. Eighth grade "graduation" make no sense to me, but that's another post.

The one thing I know for sure-- I guarantee you I will be too busy sobbing with pride to shout anything idiotic to embarrass our graduates.

Have you been to a graduation lately?
Welcome to - Joanna Jenkins


  1. I haven't been to a graduation since my boys graduated high school in 1991. At their graduation, each and every student got a big round of applause when handed his/her diploma. I'm sorry, I think it's an occasion to be celebrated, and I see no problem with that.

  2. Congrats to your niece!
    I went to my nephews graduation a few weeks ago and it went exactly like yours. We kept quiet as instructed and got pretty frustrated with the rowdiness that increased as each name was called.
    These graduations are long enough and this just makes them longer. If we hadn't been instructed to keep quiet till the end, it wouldn't be so bad. Oh well - we'll have to wait and see how your other graduations go!

  3. Yes!

  4. No, at my age there are no people around me graduating from anything other than heading to the nursing home, and nobody seems to celebrate that turning point. :-)

  5. My son graduated from college in May and my husband had to turn and glare at the people behind us to stop their (full-voiced) conversation during the key-note speaker's speech. sigh.

  6. i would have totally got thrown riduculous...solemn? this is a celebration...people are not dying, but escaping, ha...yeah i went to a graduation this year...they are long but it was great to see the hope on their faces...

  7. I went to my niece's graduation a few years ago and everyone applauded after each kid's name was called but they just kept on going, reading names off full speed ahead. I didn't know it was a "thing" now to try and put the kybosh on joy. Besides, as you said, the moment the parents were lectured they felt chastened and then I'm sure they felt rebellious. I'm well-behaved until someone tells me what to do. Har.

  8. I can understand how some people can get out of control but for the most part, they should've let them cheer or at least wave their posters....they worked for it and why not have the family support?

    Godson is graduating??? He's growing up so fast!!!

  9. Yeah, last year when my son 'graduated' from 5th grade to go to Middle School...I question why kids 'graduate' from pre-school and Kindergarten and yes, fifth grade; what do they have to look forward to if they've been there-done that!
    oh well, glad you survived and congrats to all your graduates!

  10. Over here, the cheering and clapping is a part of the process. There are still families who take it to an unnecessary level though.

    On a side note, the middle school where I work calls 8th grade ceremony a "promotion." To discourage anyone from using it as a replacement for the real deal ; -)

  11. So you're not wearing a people of walmart t shirt to any graduations, then?


  12. I'm going to guess that there were 1,500 to 2,000 graduates at my daughter's college ceremony a couple of weeks ago. They went as fast as they could, but seriously... stopping the ceremony every time someone showed some excitement or pride in their child's achievement. That's too much. Everyone cheered for their kids at this one and it was terrific. A real celebration. I wouldn't change a moment.



  13. It's been a while since I've been to a graduation, but since it is a celebration I feel like a little, well, celebrating is not such a bad thing. The principal saying "not one peep" would have made it a little harder for me to control myself :)

  14. congrats to your niece! I went to my daughter's last year but it seems like such a long time ago already!

  15. I'm a little torn on all of this. I get the need to keep a good pace by saving all the clapping until the end, but inevitably the rowdy starts happening toward the end regardless as time where's on and people get restless.
    Then the hoot and holler seems out of place or something.. And I think some people are generally just way more bold than I ever imagine. It's entertaining at least :)

  16. I suspect the administration has been running these for awhile and tries to control things to keep it moving along. It wasn't a military academy was it?
    I don't see a big problem with a quick hoot or holler but I guess they want to get on to the next name.
    Some day in the future they will just tweet the names out over twitter.

  17. We are not very big on that graduation thing over here, it tends to only happen when our little cherubs leave University, clutching their degree's, at around age 23..! Oh, we have Proms and parties and all that sort of stuff along the way too, though (grin).. I think the kids find it much less stuffy and far more fun!!

  18. Oh, come ON, there has GOT to be a middle ground!! Parents should at least be able to clap for their kids. But it seems there's no ability to self-moderate any more.

    If only there weren't so many morons out there with airhorns and speeches to're right, it should be all about the grads. They're the ones to be making speeches. The whole scenario makes me glad I don't have any graduations to attend this year.

  19. I've never been to a graduation I enjoyed. Ever. Which is why I skip them whenever possible. Even my own.

  20. I think a little hooting and woot wooting is exactable! Come on if I could whistle really loud I would! Congrats to all your grads!

  21. Congrats to your neice. She's off to an awesome start in life. What a huge class she graduated with. No wonder they wanted it to be quiet and quick. Poor kids with their parents doing crazy stuff, but on the parents part, it might have been a bit of pay back for all their teenagers have done to embarrass them? I wouldn't have done that, but to each his own.

  22. what an amazing scholar you have there in your niece. I'm in awe!

    I am generally appalled at public behavior these days. Solemnity is out of fashion, I guess.

    Graduations are horrible, boring events that must be endured to show support and give recognition to those we love. I sure wish there were a better way!

  23. Yes, I've seen my two boys graduate this past year. The difference between the two events was like night and day between formal and casual.

    My older boy graduated from military college and was commissioned as an officer in our Canadian military - a two day event. It was very formal but nobody needed to be told to behave.

    My younger boy graduated from an education facility where he learned all about the business of live stage production. That was almost as comfortable and casual as going to a rock concert. We were practically encouraged to be silly.

    Both events made me extremely proud.

    Congrats to your niece. :)

  24. Doesn't it just make you wonder about people... I mean bringing down their child like that in front of so many people.

  25. Hadn't been
    invited to one
    in years and then
    this year, we've
    been invited to
    SEVEN! I'm glad
    you minded your
    P's&Q's and didn't
    get into trouble!
    xx Suzanne

  26. My son graduated from high school on May 26. We were not asked to maintain our enthusiasm in any way so I clapped for every single graduate (except my own son, ironically, I was video taping his walk across the stage). I think it's asking an awful lot of parents to restrain themselves from a little polite applause as their child receives his/her diploma. Just my two cents.

  27. Graduation are so very different from country to country. Having lived in so many, I can see even differences between the neighboring Scandinavian countries. The last graduation I went to was my own.;) But hoping soon to get to see my nieces and nephews to graduate. And my step-children.;))

  28. Good description of a graduation ceremony. When my nephew and my older daughter graduated high school the same rules applied and were eventually ignored. Which meant it took hours to get through handing out the diplomas. Hot, tired, cranky family members squeezed into one large room is not a pleasant place to be after a few hours. Congrats to your niece.

  29. Congrats to your grad., and double congrats. to your niece going off to vet school. I know it's tough just to get accepted at a vet school; so good for her; I hope she enjoys the experience.

  30. OMG! I last attended a graduation ceremony a couple of years ago (and the three years previous to that) and every time it is the same....holy cow! I would have killed my parents if they had acted that wonder some young adults choose not to goodness.....smiles.

  31. Funny post, Joanna Jenkins. I felt like I was there. I'll be attending my nephew's 8th grade graduation next year, as well as his younger brother's 5th grade grad. I have yet to make it to anyone's preschool or kindergarten graduation though--that's taking it a bit too far?

    Thanks for sending so much traffic my way--your blog alone is responsible for sending over 200 readers this past month. I'm impressed with your following of almost 500. How did you do it (besides the great posts, of course)?

  32. At my older son's HS graduation this year, the principal sent home a letter in advance warning us not to be disruptive, yell, have cowbells, or chew gum. It did not seem to work.

  33. The last one was 2yrs ago for my niece. She was the last one in the family. Those ticket are hotter than a chili pepper. How exciting for your godson to be going to HS.xo

  34. My daughter just graduated from high school. There was some hooting, hollering, and clapping. It made it slightly fun, and some levity was needed because there were 625 in the graduating class. They just kept ticking off the names. The ceremony was decorous but joyous - it was in the football stadium, so how serious could it possibly be?

  35. The last graduation I attended was my youngest son from Cal Poly. It was outdoors in their stadium and it was all quite orderly, with each school receiving their diplomas, then the students cheered in unison, throwing up their caps at the end. I, honestly, don't remember much screaming or yelling from the bleachers when each student's name was called. I think there was a choice, for Jeremy, of attending graduation in an auditorium or outdoors at the stadium - or both -
    he opted for outdoors on the beautiful sunny day. I did share a tear or two!!

    Just got out of the hospital yesteday, Joanna. It was a long five days!

  36. I imagine those parents were trying to celebrate rather than be all serious and solemn. How ridiculous not to allow clapping! (I definitely would have been sent out...)

  37. Anytime you get a crowd together for a big to do, good or bad, there's always someone who can't behave....blazing the trail for others who had just been holding on to their decorum by their fingernails.

    I haven't been to a graduation in years, but this doesn't surprise me at all. How sad a commentary is that??

  38. Enjoyed your post today. It brought back memories of my son's graduations in 2008 and 2011 ... such a milestone for kids and their families! We're getting ready to see my son's girlfriend's graduation (MA) from Northwestern.

    I've never witnessed a display such as the one you wrote about. My goodness!

  39. I consider a graduation a joyful occasion for the student and maybe more so for the parents who have worked so hard to put their children on the right path that they have reached this point. Hell, yes, I clapped when my daughters walked across the stage and I can't imagine not being allowed to.

  40. Kind of a bummer to start out a ceremony start with a lecture, though! Sounds sort of like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Jackasses will act like jackasses regardless of being lectured, whereas all the other people that would behave themselves regardless have to be scolded for no reason.

  41. Yes, my daughters, last month. One more for me (my son next year). WooHoo! lol

  42. At Kyle's graduation last year, the principal announced the same type of stuff, but it did absolutely no good. The thing that really irritated me was the number of AIRHORNS used. Seriously! SO RUDE! This year, I watched it on-line (just to see former students). Same routine, but the airhorns were much less annoying from this distance :) And I agree--those are self-absorbed parents who steal the show from their kids AND embarrass them.


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