Schnellinger: MCHS graduation: Celebration or ceremony? |

Schnellinger: MCHS graduation: Celebration or ceremony?

Thom Schnellinger

During the last week-and-a-half, concerned parents, community members and others expressed a range of written and verbal emotions regarding the 2010 MCHS graduation.

Some folks were angry, some amazed, others were understanding and very kind. But, as I reflected on people's criticism of our work, whether I agree or disagree, there is always some truth in the constructively critical words so generously shared by others who care enough to confront issues important to them and our community.

I wish to respectfully offer my thoughts to the general public.

I have only been here for five years and can only comment on that experience. People have told me that graduations over the years have been better and sometimes worse due to a variety of issues.

With that said, I can say that I do not believe the 2010 graduation ceremony met the expectations we hold for our students. I would much prefer that our students complete their education in an atmosphere that represents the prevailing expectations we hold for them throughout their time with us.

I know maintaining high standards during their final event with us will bring equal happiness to them, their families and the community. As I expressed to the Class of 2010 and I repeat it here, I wish the very best in their future endeavors.

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However, I am interested and optimistic about striking a balance between respectful celebration and unbridled jubilation. I would like to appeal to the students, parents and community for their understanding and support for changes that afford our students the degree of respect and dignity richly deserved after their completion of such an important milestone.

I am raising this issue now in light of our most recent experience. But, please do not mistake our intentions — we cannot and will not measure MCHS graduation successes by student/community behaviors now compared to the worst memorable behaviors in the past. We can do better, and should, as a school and community.

So, I offer this for your consideration.

Graduation is a mixture of ceremony and celebration. The ceremony is called a commencement. The commencement honors completion of this portion of the young person's education and the commencing or start of this next chapter of the graduate's life. We have a right to be proud and excited. But, with this pride and excitement come an equal responsibility for respectful acknowledgement of their ample accomplishment.

For the ceremony to occur, it requires the audience and the participants to play their part. They need to be quietly attending to the speeches, the recognitions and the honors. I know that is hard given the pride and excitement in the air.

But, it is not an NBA basketball game, not a competition, but rather a moment of honoring the graduates, the teachers, staff, parents and community that worked tirelessly to bring the students to this point.

I know that parents, relatives, community members and onlookers would appreciate being able to focus on the graduates and not the air horns, beach balls, silly string and other distractions that are brought into the gym by a broad variety of people (including some of my seniors and other students).

Graduates worked hard on speeches, and staff have worked hard on the ceremony. Please allow the ceremony of the occasion to happen. We know that most audience members come to see a graduation and they expect to be a part of a ceremony to honor the accomplishments of the graduates. We merely ask that all audience members respect and listen to the ceremony.

Regarding the celebratory aspects of the graduation.

That is up to the graduates and that occurs in applause for accomplishments and as the class is presented to the public by the principal.

This occurs once again, as they are asked to rise with the class song and during their departure processional. This is a great time to cheer and I expect our graduates to be jubilant.

But, please understand that there is little room or place for a celebration that overtakes the ceremony and respectful nature of the event. The way I figure it, the noisy aspects of the celebration should be left for your backyard or at the family's barbecue, not disrupting the commencement ceremony.

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