Thursday night, June 3rd was Daniel’s 5th Grade Graduation. Until 4 years ago, I had never heard of a fifth grade graduation. I was in home school until eighth grade so maybe I just didn’t notice. My husband celebrated the end of elementary school with a simple sleepover.
I do remember my step-daughter’s “promotion ceremony” two years ago. On one of the last days of school, a simple awards ceremony to recognize outstanding students and hand out promotion certificates was held in the school cafeteria. I expected something similar.
Daniel’s graduation was held in the sanctuary of the church across the street at 7 pm. I was glad for the later time, since it meant Scott could accompany me. The children were told they had dress up. No jeans, no shorts. Dressing up is rare in Florida and with the exception of Scott’s work attire, dressing up is rare for our family. However, we arrived complete in heels, slacks, dresses, button down shirts and a tie for Scott. I was going to make Daniel tuck in his shirt until I saw him walk out of his room. Daniel only feels comfortable with his pant’s waistband at his bellybutton. Once his shirt was tucked in, he looked like an 80 year old man from 1910.
We arrived and Daniel headed to a back room with the rest of his classmates. We headed into the sanctuary. We were a little early and found seats easily. As we settled in, more people began to arrive. About 80% of the people were dressed like us. However, there was the man with the old gray t-shirt, cut-off sleeves and man-boobs hanging out the side. Across the sanctuary, another man was sporting a red bandanna tied on his head to match his black sleeveless motorcycle shirt. Sitting next to us was a family with a baby and an eight year old girl. My girls were enjoying interacting with the baby while we waited for the ceremony to begin. The rotund eight year old was wearing high-heeled ankle boots and a turquoise mini skirt that barely covered her panty-line. She was sitting crossed legged in the aisle for everyone to see. I kept glancing over to see if her parents noticed. They looked at her several times, but never seemed in the least concerned.
“Pomp and Circumstance” marked the start of the ceremony as the children filed into the sanctuary. Daniel’s height and red hair drew my eye to him the second he came through the door. As he emerged into full view I realized they had made him tuck in his shirt and instructed him not to smile. His lips were purposely drawn over his protruding teeth as his belt hit slightly above the level of his elbow. I giggle bubbled up inside me. I shot a look at my husband who smiled and shook his head.
As the children took their seats, half of the parents started leaving their seats, walking towards the front to take photos. Daniel’s teacher stood at a podium to open the ceremony but I could hardly see her as a woman stood directly in front of me snapping photos.
The elementary school principal stood up to give a speech. At 5’5″ the principal has always made me think of a hobbit but standing next to Daniel’s nearly 6 foot teacher, he looked even shorter than usual.
“We call these, “Commencement Ceremonies,” and we often think of commencement as the end of something, the end of school. However, it can also mean the beginning of something. I will quote from one of the masters of the English language – William Shakespeare. In the play, “Julius Cesar” one of Cesar’s so called friends says….” 20 minutes later he concluded.
The children stood to sing. Daniel has to dance when he hears music. His attempt at staying in place made his head wiggle like a bobble head doll. I couldn’t stop smiling. By this point, the girls were getting antsy. Scott was quick to volunteer to take them outside. We sat through two more speeches.
Awards were handed out in nine categories. A teacher stood to explain the specific award then each child was called one by one to the front to receive their awards. Everyone clapped as each student was announced. Each award category had between 2 and 19 recipients. Once all the recipients for a specific award had come to the front and received the certificate there was a round of applause for the whole group.
There seemed to be a core of 6 children that received an award in almost every category. The group sitting immediately in front of us was related to or friends with all 6 of those children. As the names were announced and the rest of the parents clapped, this group pumped their fist in the air yelling like it was a sporting event, “WOOOO!!! WOOO!! GO! Ryan! Smart Boy!!”
We sat through a student from each class reading their essay entitled, “My Favorite Elementary School Memory.” Finally it was time for the promotion certificates. Each class was called then the individual student was named as they step forward to receive their certificate and shake the principal’s hand. Daniel was grinning broadly as he received his certificate. He gave me, his teacher and his ESE teacher a thumbs up. I snapped his photo.
I looked at my phone. We were over an hour into this event and I wasn’t surprised to see a message from Scott asking how close we were to being finished. I responded that we were 3/5 of the way through the certificate presentation. “The worship of children in our society is disgusting!” was his frustrated reply.
By this time, the auditorium had become quite loud. Despite the children still waiting in line to receive their certificates, nearly half of the parents were milling about, blocking the view of the stage while they took photos of their children. Some were even leaving. A young boy stood to give the closing but no one could hear him. Finally, a teacher got everyone’s attention and there was a brief silence while this child contributed his part.
Chaos ensued as everyone tried to get out of the sanctuary together. I was able to snap a picture of Daniel and his teacher as well as Daniel with his friend Libby. By the time we got outside, Scott was almost at the car. I was thankful to drive away.
Daniel has made huge strides during the last 5 and a half years spent at this Elementary School. He wasn’t recognized with an award. I never thought he would be. The awards recognize those that excel not those who come from behind to achieve slightly above average. However, I know. Daniel knows. His teachers and his family know. We know the hard work it took to get Daniel to the end of 5th grade. Daniel doesn’t notice the lack of an award. He seemed to have an enviable knack for taking only the pleasure from the event.