Every year, our high school faculty must don robes and parade down the center of the gym to sit behind the podium and watch the graduation ceremonies. We are none too thrilled with this duty. Not because we don't want to see the kids graduate, but because we don't like wearing the robes and participating in the spectacle.
We used to fear for our safety. Until three years ago, we had to march back through the rows of graduates to make our exit. In case you haven't been to a high school graduation in the last fifteen years, I have two words for you: Silly String. Sometimes, Silly String is a weapon. Most times, Silly String is but an effervescent ejaculation of good will bestowed upon an object of scholarly affection. In either case, Silly String can land you in the hospital with a fractured hip, or blow out your retina at close range. Silly String is not the teacher's friend.
Because Val is all about helping her fellow faculty, she presents this timely advice:
10 Ways to Survive High School Graduation
1. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. You should not feel pressure to risk a head rush while bent over in the principal's office digging through the four boxes of graduation robes until you find the one with your name on it. Robes that have not been picked up three days before graduation will be hand-delivered by a student office worker. Teachers who remove their robes from the bag thirty minutes before the ceremony will enjoy the same status as those who hang their robes by the shower for two weeks to steam out wrinkles, or those who have their husband press it for them. Plan to arrive around 5:45 for the 7:00 ceremony. That way, you will have parking. If your colorful hood represents a university which you did not attend, don't worry. The audience will never know. Only you will know. And perhaps other educators who attended your college.Traitor.
2. Go to the Bathroom before Lining up in the Corridor. Nothing is worse than sitting by a faculty-mate who has neglected the call of nature. The moaning, the indecision, the escape plan, the debate of whether or not to disrupt the ceremony to use the facilities. Okay. The only worse thing is to be that waterlogged faculty member.
3. Get a Master's Degree. Did you know that graduation robes are different for faculty with B.S. or B.A. degrees and those with Master's Degrees? It's true. Every time a teacher gets a Master's Degree, a graduation robe gets its wings. Instead of three-quarter-length bell-shaped sleeves, the Master has a thin, baglike appendage on each sleeve. They are great for wiping brow sweat, flapping other faculty across the face, and stuffing with graduation ceremony contraband. Plus, you can lord it over the younger faculty who have not yet bilked the Professional Development coffers for tuition money for Master's classes, and who may have twenty-nine years to go before retirement.
4. Bring Sustenance. You don't know how long the ceremony will last. Stuff your sleeves with Life Savers, Mentos, fruity hard candy, cough drops, Sprees, Werthers, and Starbursts. Cake and brownies should be consumed in the staging room before lining up. Likewise, it would be considered unprofessional to pull out a sandwich. You're not George Costanza making love between bites of pastrami on rye with mustard.
5. Gossip away the Jitters while Waiting in Line. There's no pressure. All you have to do is walk in line at the precise time when the couple in front of you hits the half-court line. Nobody has ever fallen on the way in. Or passed out from the heat. Or run off the court in a panic attack. Or vomited in front of the entire audience. Even if you happen to mess up the whole graduation ceremony, being recorded by hundreds of parents and step-parents and grandparents for propriety, nobody is going to arrest you or shoot you or call you an idiot who can't even walk in a straight line at the exact instant that you are supposed to.
6. Mouth the Words to the School Song. You can actually sing it if you know the words. And if you can carry a tune in a bucket. Otherwise, silently say apples and bananas over and over. It will look like you're singing, and the choir on stage behind you will do an admirable job of projecting the vocals. You'll know, because the speaker on a stand twelve inches behind your head will make it obvious. If you simply stand with your lips together, you may be perceived as a malcontent, jealous of the choir director who wrote both words and music to this facility-praising ditty.
7. Scan the Crowd for Rabble-Rousers. You never know which disenfranchised former students, parents, or faculty might be standing along the rail behind the bleachers. Pass the word down to the P.E. teacher on the end, the official Bouncer of Ceremonies. Forewarned is forearmed.
8. Bask in the Achievements of the Graduates. Seems like only yesterday, doesn't it, that you had them in fourth grade, or in special class, or in your club, or on your sports team. Remember them, the Einstein, the prankster, the gofer, the silent, the clown, the do-gooder, the average, the troubled. Here they are. They've all made it. Some may be the first person in the family to ever graduate from high school. Listen to the cheers as the diplomas are handed out. They made it.
9. Tear up a Little Bit. What a great group of kids. Look into their faces. The clown in the front row wiping away tears, whispering to his alphabetical seatmate, "I'm not crying. There's something in my eye." The kid who declared himself your favorite for the past four years while you denied it every day. The girl sitting next to the special needs student, chatting with her, explaining what to do, patiently reattaching her tassel. The ones who have overcome adversity to earn their credits off campus, to graduate with the class, when few thought they could succeed. Propose a silent, nonalcoholic toast to the Class of 2011.
10. Prepare for a Quick Getaway. Scan the seats of the graduates. Note which ones have a larger stockpile of Silly String. As soon as the band strikes up the recessional, aptly titled Recessional (quite the genius, James D. Ployhar), stand and bunch up the line with your fellow faculty. GO! Walk like there's no tomorrow. The school board members will partially shield you from the first rush of Silly Stringers as you make your exit up the side steps. Take off that hood and robe as you're trucking down the mezzanine toward the office, dodging well-wishers and groupies. Toss the rented togs into their respective boxes, sidle through the bottleneck of incoming, disrobing cronies, and hot-foot it out the back door. Because you've cleverly parked facing out, on the end of the row where you won't be at the mercy of somebody letting you in line, you can cruise out of the upper parking lot before the crowd knows you've left. You have an amazing 364 days before you have to endure this ordeal again.
There you have it. Val's tips on surviving graduation. Next year, an update will be required, due to the teacher on Val's left, who, halfway through the awarding of diplomas, pulled a bottle of water out of her sleeve and took a big swig.