Sequoyah’s graduation is an extremely long and tiring event. You sit for three whole hours, most of which seems to be spent hearing how difficult it has been for our graduates to write their speeches. And please, just thank your grandma in person–no need to write that into your speech. Why does reflecting on the Sequoyah journey seem to amount, so often, to musing on the same things over and over?
Last year, it was cold and dark by the end, and the audience was quite done by the end. Now that class sizes have become bigger (last year’s had 28 graduates), it is even harder for Sequoyah to fit the ceremony as it stands into a reasonable amount of time. More kids means more lengthy speeches – not to mention more odes, which Kristen touchingly writes for each kid and then the teachers read aloud. The result is that graduation, however heartfelt, is getting a little taxing.
Graduation, of course, is not only for the entertainment of the audience. “I think the audience would like graduation to be shorter,” said Junior High lead teacher Kristen Moore. “The 8th graders never seem to have that complaint – I suppose they are basking in the glory of it.” 8th grader Mia Carrillo confirmed that interpretation in thinking about her own upcoming graduation: “It was kinda long as someone watching it, but I’m guessing when you are the one graduating, it’ll be fun.”
None of the speakers, predictably, wants their section cut, and more and more of them want to talk. “So many graduates would like to speak,” Moore noted. “Years ago, very few of our 8th graders chose to give a speech. I am in favor of making the evening shorter.” She noted that “back when we had a class of 12 students graduating, our graduation format did not lead to such a long evening. If you can believe it, graduation used to be so short, that up until eight years ago it was on the same night as the Jr. High play.”
If you ask the 8th graders, it is everyone else who should be cut back to make room for the big classes. Quinn Neubert told me that in her opinion, “the alumni talk for a really long time. They should just get, like, two alumni to give speeches.” Another 8th grader, Nathaniel Lee-Fleischman, had another idea. “They should get rid of the video, ‘cause [the 8th graders] don’t even get to see it.”
These are good ideas, but if we are going to make graduation the joyous celebration it should be, or even a survivable event, we are going to have to limit the graduating speakers as well. While some kids may want a very long time to give their speech (which is hopefully not about how long it took for you to write your speech), graduate’s speeches should be limited to at least five minutes, after which the music, or someone, should cut them off. If it is good enough for the Oscars, it is good enough for graduation.