The Last Commencement

Commencement tonight for three combined charter schools: Coronado High School, Island Park High School, and North Nicholas High School. I was at the first commencement exercises each of these schools ever had, since I was the School District’s charter school liaison when each of them came into being. Then they were novel, but now they’ve been around long enough to have traditions.

I’ll be wearing my academic regalia for the last time: I have a basic doctoral gown that’s pretty worn out and held together mostly with safety pins and good intentions. I’ve got a hood, tam, and tassel that have survived dozens and dozens of ceremonies. I still wear an honor cord from Cypress Lake High School, where decades ago I was both an honors graduate. Later, I was a senior class co-sponsor there with graduation experts like Connie Maher and Jean Campbell. They taught me how to wear all these symbols of the ancient art of teaching.

The first time I wore my high school regalia, I was thrilled and excited. The first time I wore my bachelor’s regalia for my college commencement, I was too exhausted to be excited since I had been up all night packing up my dorm room and getting all my stuff ready for the ride home. The first time I wore my doctoral regalia, I have to admit I felt a little bit of pride. That turned to merriment when a student lined up for the processional saw my tam and exclaimed “Oh, wow, it’s Dumbledore.”

So tonight’s my last time dressing up like Dumbledore, the last time feeling the bustle and energy generated by seniors fiddling with unfamiliar neckties and bobby pins and hairspray, the last time listening to quivering but courageous voices deliver their graduation speeches, the last time I’ll watch parents weep as their babies stroll across the stage, crossing over from childhood to adulthood in a few steps.

I’ll miss this. Oh, how I will miss this.