Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Middle School Graduation in Ra'anana

Hativat Hasharon Graduation - First Part
I wrote last week about an important high school graduation that I attended in Israel.  Many people sent me notes indicating that they found it quite interesting to read about the differences between this type of Israeli graduation and one that might take place in many places in North America - or certainly, at least, in Toronto.  So I thought I would add a blog article about another graduation that I attended yesterday - a middle school graduation.  It was actually quite similar to the high school graduation and as a parent, I was, of course, equally proud!

This middle school graduation was for Hativat HaSharon, a junior high school that runs from grade 7 to grade 9. (7th to 9th grade, if you prefer...).  Like the high school graduation that we attended earlier in the month, the evening began in an outdoor setting with individual areas set up for each classroom.  The setting was the school field and the weather was simply perfect for it.  We started somewhere around 6:30 p.m.  We had a few speeches - the home room teacher, the student class representative  and the parent representative (someone many of you know quite well).  The teachers then presented the students with gifts - a wonderful book about famous historic sites in Israel and some portable speakers.  After that it was time for some food.  The parents had all prepared some food items in advance and this was all set up on a table.  It was a chance for the students, parents and teachers to mill around and speak about the three years that the students had spent in middle school.  As with the high school graduation, it was an intimate gathering with the feeling of a family event.  All of the students were there with parents or other family members.

Once the first part of the evening was over, we made our way over the school auditorium/gym for the main event of the evening.  Like with the high school graduation - this was divided into two parts.  First the speeches and awards.  Then the student "show" - the main event of the evening.

The first part of the evening featured speeches presented by the school principal, the "coordinator" (something similar to a head guidance counselor role), the mayor of Ra'anana and the head of the Parent Teacher Association (here called "Va'ad Hahorim" - the parent association).  I have to say that this was quite long.  Many  school staff were recognized and provided with flowers or other tokens of appreciation.  While it is wonderful to see that the teachers and support staff were so appreciated, it was a lengthy process. 

Magen Manof Award
The principal and the mayor of Ra'anana also presented a number of awards to the students.  There were the acadamic awards for excellence - presented to students with averages above 93% - about 10-15 of them in a graduating class of approximately 240 and an award for the student with the highest overall average (she clocked in at just over 97%).  There were also some other really nice awards.  The school provided "certificates of appreciation for volunteerism and leadership" to students who had made special contributions in these areas.  Perhaps 20 or 25 students received these awards.  As well, the school selected 7 or 8 students for a special award of "excellence in volunteerism and leadership" ("Magen Manof Award").  I am proud to say that many of you know one of the winners of this award quite well.

Hativat Hasharon Graduation - Main Event
Once the formal part of the ceremony was completed, the show began.  The students had worked very had on this part of the evening for many months.  It featured singing, dancing, short skits and pre-taped video shorts and ran for about an hour and a half.   The school had retained a production company to work with the students.  The students took many well known songs (mostly english/american pop songs) and rewrote the lyrics.  They worked with a choreographer to come up with appropriate dances.  Among the music selections were numbers from Grease, a song by Abba, Gangnam Style (with a large group of male students trying to pull off the famous dance) and quite a number of others.  There was very little in the way of Israeli music - though there was a "Mizrachi Medley" of songs by Israeli singer Moshe Peretz. Overall, the event was fun and entertaining and very colourful, at times.

The evening also featured a number of skits that were pre-taped and shown on large screens.  Some included the teachers who were happy to make fun of themselves.  Some of the skits were quite funny.  The principal mentioned after the show that she had asked the production crew to make every effort to ensure that each and every student was somehow involved in the production and this came through. 

Couples Dance Number
One of my favourite pieces was the second last number, featuring couples of students dancing together.  The boys lifted the girls into the air - some with acrobatic flair - and put together some really fancy moves.  It had obviously taken a great deal of rehearsal time but many of the students seemed quite proud, and deservedly so, of the final product.

Hativat Hasharon is a secular Israeli middle school.  There was almost nothing included in the evening that could be described as "yiddishkeit."  But the prinicipal's message to the students and parents lauded the importance of teaching the kids values of volunteerism, dedication to community, kindness and tolerance towards others as well as striving for academic excellence.  The message was heartfelt and sincere.  Judging from the students' obvious dedication and effort in putting together this show, it was a message that had been received.

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