Friday, June 8, 2012

No pictures, Miss

I used to teach 12th grade. This meant that the weeks leading up to graduation were hectic, trying to finish up curriculum while working around a marching practice schedule, chase down the graduation week speakers for speeches and rehearsal, and make sure all my grades were entered to ensure that everyone participating was actually graduating.  I even chased down students and called parents to have a student come back to make up work or do something to earn the last few points that would make the difference between a diploma or another year in high school. 

Not here.
They actually graduate BEFORE their final exams, and so at graduation, there are no diplomas issued, but laminated certificates. This is so everyone can participate in the celebration, and some girls have participated in more than one celebration.  The girls wear mortarboards and a cape (sort of like the hood you'd receive for your Master's degree). Underneath their hood, they wear evening dresses (think US prom).  Their hair is uncovered and face, so pictures are absolutely forbidden.

Instead of "Pomp and Circumstance" and the marching that I am familiar with, our girls walked out slowly to an Arabic song and then preceded to line up in a big circle, striking model poses in their evening gowns. It was like a scene from the Miss America pageant.

Then they proceeded to sit in their reserved chairs and the ceremony began. There were a lot of speeches in Arabic, gifts for their mothers and gifts from their mothers, sisters, and aunts. Food was served to all the teachers and female family members in attendance as younger schoolmates walked through our rows serving food and water.  There were slideshows of the girls as infants and in their more modest adult clothing, some dancing, and confetti cannons.  Grade 12 teachers were given a single rose, a small gift and a laminated certificate in Arabic.  And then, the teachers went to the social worker's office, shared a lunch and the day was done.
After graduation, I was invited back to a local family's home. The daughter was one of the highest achieving graduates (in the US she would have been valedictorian), but there was no party and indeed, outside of coming in briefly to greet her mother and welcome us to her home, she was absent from most of the visit. My coworker and I were served Arabic coffee and tea, and then were fed a meal in stages, starting with the chicken and rice with salad, then sweets, then fresh dates, followed by sliced watermelon and finished with cut fruit.  I had thought we were staying for just an hour, but the visit lasted for over five.  Her hospitality was incredible and upon departing, we were encouraged to visit her again, the next time bringing our whole family.

On Tuesday, our KG2 will graduate. I wonder if that will be different.


Erica Wilson said...

OK, now I really want to see pictures. I would SO not make it over there. Stop inviting me. I'd rather we not end up behind Arabic bars...

Jasmine said...

LOL - yes, jail over here would be no fun... The KG graduation was reminiscent of a toddler beauty pageant.