Sunday, May 27, 2012

St. Aidan's Graduation

Hello everyone!

As I write this, I can't stop thinking about how my parents and sister will be here in 6 days - where did the time go??

Anyways, this week was pretty hectic at school. It was the students last week at school, as their summer exams (finals) begin this upcoming week. Much learning didn't occur - students were very antsy for summer! Which, I can safely safe, was felt by the teachers as well!

On Monday, one of the younger teachers at St. Aidans, Aine (who is 24 years old) invited me to get ice-cream with her and her room mates. We went to Blessington, a beautiful village with a lake about 20 minutes from where I am staying. I was hoping to get there before I left so I was glad I got to go. I am so glad Aine has been so welcoming! She is always inviting me places - it is so nice!

Aine and I at Blessington Lake

Blessington Lake - beautiful!

The most memorable thing from this week was St. Aidan's Graduation.

This past Thursday, St. Aidan’s had its graduation night for 6th years (11th grade). There are about 100 students in 6th year, and approximately 70 or 80 of them graduated. The drop out rate at St. Aidan’s is very high; most students drop out sometime during 5th year (10th grade), some as low as 3rd year (9th grade). With that being said, graduating at St. Aidan’s is something that students, staff, and community members find to be a huge accomplishment. Graduating from secondary school, allows students to continue schooling at universities, go to technical school, and overall just obtain a better job, than those who drop out. Attending St. Aidan’s graduation was a very memorable evening for me; the atmosphere was full of pride!

Before attending the event, I was really excited to go. I was eager to see how a graduation commencement is handled in a school where the graduation class is small, let alone in another country. After attending, I could see that the graduation commencement is very different than how we handle the ceremony in the United States. Students at St. Aidan’s do not wear graduation gowns; they wear their usual school uniforms. Also, they sit in the audience with everyone else, just off to the side. There also isn’t a valedictorian, or even students who give speeches.

During the beginning of the ceremony, a student-singing group started off with an opening song. Then, there was a symbolic piece, in which 6 students carried different objects to the stage. For instance, a football to represent all of the hard work in sports, a jumper to symbolize that although students are graduating, they should never forget their memories and friends at St. Aidan’s. Other items included a book, French book, exam papers, candle, and class registration; each holding some meaning to the class.

After this introduction was completed, a prayer was done and then there was a reading from part of the Bible. I expected something like this, since all schools in Ireland are Catholic (even public ones like St. Aidan’s). After this, there was a candle ceremony. Then, the Principal and Vice Principal gave speeches. One of my favorite parts was when the 6th year’s tutor (advisor), read a poem she wrote for the class. It included every single of one the student’s names that graduated in it. It was amazing how she was able to include all students, showing that the class really was very close, and that they all knew each other by their first names.

The longest part of the ceremony was the prize-giving portion. What I found fascinating was that because it was such a small group of students, students could be recognized for their achievements. For instance, students received awards for “Most Improved,” or “Most Caring”. My favorite award was giving to a girl who was the first traveler to graduate following the traditional route of attending all 5 years of school. Travelers are a group of people in Ireland who move from town to town, not staying in one place long. With that said, most travelers don’t stay in school long enough to complete all classes and graduate. The traveler that graduated looked so proud – it was so inspiring!

After the graduation was over, and students received their medals (instead of diplomas), the community all celebrated together. There was food in the hall after the ceremony where all of the families came together and celebrated the students graduating. It was such a nice evening and I was really glad I got to attend!

The stage

The 6th year class(standing in black)

The 6th year's tutor (advisor) reading her poem

The 6th year students who presented the symbolic gifts

The celebration after the ceremony

I know I have said this time and time again, but I have continued to be impressed by the sense of community that is evident at St. Aidan's. All through the graduation, you could feel the strong sense of community. I love that teachers are also always getting together to do things outside of school. For instance, on Friday the women teachers all went out to lunch. It is so nice being a part of this community, and I hope I get this opportunity when I get my own teaching job in the U.S.

I will most likely be blogging my last entry this Friday, as it will be my last day at St. Aidan's and my parents and sister come the following day. When my parents and sister get here we are off on a week-long tour of Ireland! I am SO excited! I have missed them SO much - I can't believe I haven't seem them in nearly 7 weeks!!

Thanks for reading!

Until next time,

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