Monday, June 6, 2022

Graduation Day Rituals: Pomp, Circumstance, Highs and Lows

At graduation, I make a point of extending congratulations to every student, parent and grandparent I see. This year, I found myself saying those very words to my colleagues too.

I would argue, graduation is an important day in the life of every educator. While we may grumble about our assigned duties and the early arrival time, the pomp and circumstance affirm what we do. The joy and smiles I give and receive from graduates confirm this job is a vocation. 

After handing out sheepskins to students with last names N-P, I departed from campus in my robe and hood on a natural high. I thought about the many students I would miss and the impact they had on me and in the classroom. I love seeing them dressed up replete with robe and regalia. It is important to formally gather to bless, recognize, award and call the name of every student before we send them into the world. 

At the conclusion of each year, I partake in my own graduation ritual: I share my highs and lows of the year with a trusted colleague. My friend Kerrie and I sat down for Mimosas and I unpacked those I had as an athletic director and a teacher.

In the Classroom
Returning to school with all 30+ fully masked students was not easy. Even though I offer varied instruction and many ways to participate in group work, the 80-minute class proved to be very difficult for my seniors. I knew something needed to change.

Based on some past evaluations, I decided to create a final project called "Living Sports and Spirituality." In short, this assignment asks students to undertake a sports discipline and a spiritual one. For one month, my seniors practice a physical or health discipline related and a spiritual one of their choosing. Some are religious, emotional, mindful or holistic in nature. They research what they are drawn to and track their progress. They must report on the graces and fruits of each practice. Was it challenging? Would they recommend it to others? Why or why not? 

Part of why this project was a high for the year is because we practiced a number of sports and spiritual disciplines as a class. For example, we watched a video on how to complete a pull-up and then went outside to the track where there are 3 sets of pull-up bars. I enjoyed going to the Wrestling room to practice climbing the rope (not that I did it). Not sure how many others did, though. We meditated for 3 minutes with Depak Chopra; we prayed with an icon of Christ. Everyday brought something new.

The journey and the destination were equally enjoyable. Not only are the final projects fun to watch, they reveal much more about each student than one might expect. For any teacher who is interested in assignment please let me know and I will share it with you.

Second, it's never just the curriculum that accounts for highs and lows—relationships with students and other colleagues always find an in. Once again the San Francisco Giants found themselves in the post-season, finishing the season one game ahead of those pesky Dodgers to win the National League West title. Go Giants!

One of my more spirited and outgoing seniors is a huge Dodger fan. He came to class ready to taunt me with his Dodger blue, Pantone 294. When we realized our respective teams would battle each other in the NL Division Series, he said "game on."

I came to class on Monday after the National League Division Series resulted in a tie: 1-1. Giants took Game one and lost Game two—the one I attended. 

One of my favorite aspects of going to a game is when the big screen captures who is in the audience. At the conclusion of the third inning, the song "Danger Zone" filled Oracle Park. Then the camera zoomed in on Tom Cruise, call sign Maverick. He smiled and was met with clapping and cheers. Cruise is a great many things these days both disparaging and highly questionable....but he's also beloved. He's Pete Mitchell. He's Top Gun. He's Maverick.

The spiritual life invites us to pay attention and notice. Other times it calls us to sit and be still. If I been in the beer line or the bathroom, I would have missed this moment. I'm so grateful I had it.

My students walked in on Monday morning to the song "Danger Zone." I shared the story from the weekend and invited them of this truth. It probably was lost on them, but it was personal high for the school year. My student, the Dodger fan reminded me we lost the game. I said "it's a 5 game series." Smiles all around.

In Athletics
Working in Athletics means that I supervise a number of games. This duty means I work at number of late nights and Saturdays, which can make for long days and full weeks. However, I never felt like I was working when I was on call for varsity boys' volleyball. It's easy for me to say this team who won the WCAL, CCS and Nor Cal championships was dominant. Yes, they were incredibly talented but what appealed to me most is that they played with joy. 

Joy in sports is not a quality to be taken for granted. I will probably write more about this as it pertains to the Golden State Warriors, too. When you see it, you know it. It's contagious, it's infectious. Simply put, I watching their games. If that's work...not bad.

Graduation day is an important day, no doubt. We didn't need the loss of public gatherings, ceremonies or shared rituals in the past few years to reveal how important they are. We got that message nonetheless. With that reminder in our hearts and short term memories, I want to encourage students and teachers to take a moment to reflect upon the past year....every year. Acknowledge the challenges They always lead to lessons and naming them through this annual ritual helps me to let them. Celebrate the graces and ask others to do the same

Photo Credits
Rope Climb

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