Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Thank You ceremony

Today I started my day by attending a Thank You Celebration at the Inokura Elementary School. I had been invited last week and though I hesitated to attend, in the end I thought since the kids were preparing a program then I had better go. I'm glad I did, though they made quite a fuss over those of us who were being "honored".

There must have been about 10 of us who attended and we first gathered in the Principal's office (with the Principal) until two children came to get us and lined us up in the order they had arranged. Then we were led single file to the gymnasium where the whole school body sat (on their haunches) waiting for us. As we entered the gymnasium to rousing music, the whole student body stood and we walked down an aisle in the middle and were led to our seats at the front (complete with name cards).

Each time someone was ready to speak formally, the moderator would tell the kids "Adjust your posture" meaning sit up straight and show respect and the kids would straighten up a bit while the speaker gave his or her speech. First one of the sixth graders formally announced the beginning of the ceremony. Next, the Principal spoke and reminded the kids that they were supported by many volunteers who gave their time. Next, three children read their speeches thanking us for volunteering and making some mention of the reason for their gratitude. Then the whole school perfomed a song for us. Two of the volunteers gave simple speeches expressing their honor at being focused upon and finally each volunteer was given an envelope with a stack of letters from the children and then a lovely basket of flowers. One sixth grader announced the end of the ceremony and then we volunteers filed out down the middle aisle again amidst applause from the children. I felt like I was a bride at a wedding!

I only knew two of the other volunteers, the two other ladies who do crosswalk "duty" with me, but there was an older man who is a volunteer policeman and he stands in front of the school every day. The other ladies were part of a group that goes once a week and reads from story books to each class for 15 minutes. This is a very popular activity in Japanese schools these days. Parents and grandparents will volunteer to bring a story book and before the day begins will read it to the class.

Anyway, I will read my stack of letters this evening and already I have put my flowers in the entryway and they brighten up the spot beautifully!

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