Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Graduation glee and groans

As a student, I gloried in the black robe and anticipation of walking across the stage. I had the giddy glee of knowing a long journey was coming to a successful close.

 As a faculty member, I eagerly await the announcement of the graduation speaker knowing that the ceremonies can seem long if you don't have an energetic or engaging speaker. I may bemoan the loss of a Saturday wearing hot robes in Louisiana weather, but what a big day for the students! Some of my colleagues responded to the requirement to attend graduation with outright groans, "not again" and "why should I be there?"
Magazine reading at graduation
or "I don't think I will attend" were mumbled around. I have heard similar comments every spring semester and every spring I notice that some faculty members simply don't attend, others attend and complain, and some mirror the smiling faces of their students. There are about half of us who attend and seem to really love to see the excitement of the students and their families. This year I noticed something new from both the students and the faculty. People were NOT PRESENT. Physically they were there, but mentally they were checked out with their cell phones in their laps and their heads looking down. I was so surprised! I've seen professors pull out grading, magazines, novels, crossword puzzles, and even playing games on cell phones during graduation ceremonies which has me cringing. It might not always be the most exciting afternoon, but I love to scan the students and smile and cheer for those who cross the stage. I love the exuberant hugs people throw at you and the introductions to glowing family members. I can't imagine reading a magazine or book through it all...
...but if the STUDENTS seemed also to be only partially present, then why should we expect anything different from the faculty members? 

Because we should lead by example. Because even though I love texting, social networking, blogging and working via my mobile devices I should stay in the moment---especially such a powerful moment! It made me sad to see so many folks absorbed in texting about graduation and updating social media status boxes without (seemingly) being fully present in what was going on. I realize some of us can process fully while texting and navigating mobile devices, but it just wouldn't seem or feel the same to me---and I felt bad, as a fellow communicator at public events, for our speaker to look out and see heads down! So, I kept my hands off my cell phone, I tucked myself into the extremely uncomfortable folding chair in my sweltering black robe and settled in for a nice, long procession of names while marveling in the family cheers, the fist pumps of graduates as they walked across the stage and the amazing feeling that I was lucky enough to be a very small part of that student's academic journey.

1 comment:

  1. It is indeed important for every graduation to have a very good and enthusiastic motivational speaker to wake up the crowd. Motivational speakers also give a lot of inspirational thoughts that can be used by the graduates to reach their dreams.