Thursday, May 21, 2009

I survived the public school system

Or rather I survived my children's time in the public school system.

Yesterday my youngest son graduated. There is still a month and a half left in the school year so technically he hasn't graduated (I looked at the "diploma" he got yesterday and it only acknowledges he was a member of the graduating class of 2009).

I only have two children. At some point we agreed we only would have 2 children (my wife's family fires off twins and 3 could become 4) and I got a vasectomy. My wife said to me last night words to the effect that we should have had another, I'm not ready for this by which she meant I'm not ready to be a mother with two children out of school.

Not me however, this was a moment I have been waiting for for years.

I hated elementary, junior high and high school. I liked university but I think that was because I liked the drinking and partying. Between my two kids I have just finished 15 straight years of school. I have had to go to parent teacher interviews, Christmas and year end concerts, band concerts, open houses and sports events. I have had to "help" my kids do homework, nag them to practise, phone teachers and principals. I am so ready to finally graduate.

High school graduation has become a much bigger event than I remember. My kids have fortunately been fairly low key and aside from buying the graduation suit that they will only wear twice in their life, we haven't had to spring for limos and the accessories people now believe is necessary. The big fuss is despite that fact that high school graduation has become the minimum ante for entry into mainstream society. Most kids, at least in our socio-economic group have not seen their last classroom.

It was a very pleasant if somewhat long graduation ceremony. There were something like 500 graduates. The band cycled thru "Hope and Glory" I don't know how many times as they all filed in. You could see the conductor frequently looking to his side, thinking when is this over. The grads received their diplomas in three batches with entertainment between each group. It was an elaborately choreographed ceremony. Most of the presenters and the valedictorian were extremely poised individuals. The quality of the entertainment all by graduating students was surprisingly good.

All the grads wore gowns. I of course graduated from university and have never completely approved of gowns for high school graduations. I realized that the one of advantage was that it leveled everything off. All the grads walked across the stage wearing the same black baggy gown. (It also allowed some of the girls to wear fairly risque dresses that they might not have wanted to parade across the stage in.)

The most interesting thing in high school graduation ceremonies is seeing how kids and parents you knew years ago have changed. Many of the kids the graduation class, we knew from elementary school or from hockey but haven't seen them or their parents for years. It was a big of a shock seeing the bratty kid you knew from hockey as a grown man. More impressive was how much some of their parents had aged or expanded in girth. That made me feel pretty good about how I look.

I thought back to my own high school graduation. My parents always expected me to go to university so high school graduation was a minor formality for them. Graduation at our high school was unfortunately to most students about the drunken party afterwards rather than any solemn sense of life progression. We sat in bleachers in the gymnasium on a Friday night for a fairly brief ceremony with minimal speeches. We didn't wear gowns so the men wore a medley of suits, sports jackets or rented tuxes. This was of course in the 1970s so you can imagine just how ghastly everybody looked.

Our student council seemed more preoccupied on the drunken party to be held afterwards than having a ceremony that people might remember, something to send everybody off into world. While I went on to university, many of my circle didn't and the end of grade 12 was the last time I saw certain people until the 10th reunion and some I have never seen since.

Anyway after the tame Friday night dance sponsored by the school, there was the after grad held on Saturday night. The student council was even able to get a liquor licence until the principal found out and got it cancelled. My friends and I arrived to find the curling rink where the party was held surrounded by a phalanx of policemen. Somebody decided we should try to hide the beer we naively thought we could smuggle in, outside the rink so we could at least go outside for a beer. A cop saw us headed off and followed us to relieve us of our beer. He didn't dump it out in front of us so I assume he and his buddies drank it later. The whole thing was pretty boring and I walked home at 2 in the morning.

All in all I think I preferred my son's graduation.

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