Every year, 8th graders in our district are sent off into the world of high school with a promotion ceremony that takes place on the last day of school. For the last 23 years, I’ve only been involved in these promotion ceremonies as a teacher, escorting students up to the microphone where I would read off their names for all to hear, never even considering all that went on in the background to put on the event.
This year, my first year as administrator, I was asked to organize my school’s promotion ceremony.
I was surprised with all the details that were involved in putting on this ceremony. It only lasts for about an hour, but the preparation involved was more than what I expected.
It turned out to be a great success. What I mean is that there were no major glitches or mistakes with the ceremony. The students all promoted; the parents were happy, and the teachers and administrators were pleased with the way it turned out. I was especially proud and relieved with the outcome of the event.
I learned a lot while planning this event. I wanted to share some of the lessons I learned, just in case I have to do this again next year.
Putting on a Promotion Ceremony – What to Remember for Next Year
1. Walk the Field.
Our ceremony took place on the football field of the high school next door. The first thing I did was walk the field to see how the students would be entering the field, where they would be sitting, how the stage would be set up, etc.
2. Diagram the Event.
I created a diagram of the event – how students would gather and line up, how and where they would enter, the locations of the chairs, the stage, the bleachers, etc. I included captions describing the various landmarks.
3. Ask Questions about Previous Years’ Events.
I asked about what worked and what didn’t work. How were the teachers involved? Who do I need to contact at the high school for the ceremony? I needed to get as much information about previous events, so I’m not reiventing the wheel or creating new mistakes.
4. Communicate with the Participating Teachers Often.
I emailed the teachers with the plans, letting them know what their responsibilities will be during the ceremony.
5. Make a To-Do List.
I created a checklist of all the details that needed to be addressed to pull of the event. Here’s a short list:
Name cards for each student – divided by team, in two piles (row A and row B), and alphabetized. These cards were distributed to the students on the day of the event, so students would know where to line up before entering the field.
Plants – We needed to get plants to decorate the stage. We ended up borrowing the artificial plants from the front office to place on the stage to make it more attractive.
Name Callers – I needed to know which teachers would be reading off the names of the students as they crossed the stage. It’s important to use teachers who actually have the students, because they will know how to correctly say the names – especially the more difficult-to-pronounce names.
Music – Our district wanted the intermediate schools to use different music than the high schools did. High school usually use “Pomp and Circumstance.” We had to find another piece of music to play as the students walked into the ceremony. This turned out to be a bit more difficult than I thought. I ended up composing something on my little recording studio at home. Yes, I composed the walk-into-the-ceremony music. It didn’t have to be too elaborate. It just needed to be about 6 minutes of marching music that sounded regal. I think I was the only one actually listening to it. Here’s a link if you want to hear a clip of the song. I called it, “The March of the Young Scholars.”
Program distributors – I had to get some seventh grade students to help pass out programs to the family and friends who were going to be sitting in the bleachers. I also needed to find a teacher to monitor these students.
Sound man – I had to find someone who could be in the sound booth with a walkie-talkie to play the entrance and exit music. This turned out to be more difficult than I expected. I wanted to use a custodian, but his supervisor didn’t want to let him go. He eventually relented, and I was able to borrow the custodian for an hour.
Chairs – I needed to make sure there was going to be enough chairs for the students and on the stage. In previous years, some administrators had to stand during the event. I was going to make sure that everybody had a comfortable seat this year.
Microphones – There had to be three microphones for the event – two for the teachers and one for the stage.
Signs – I had to place signs in prominent locations to help students line up in the right place.
Students participants – We had three student participating in the ceremony – a student singing the National Anthem, another leading in the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Student Body President who gave the welcome. I needed to make sure that they knew where they fit in the program.
I’m sure there were more items on my to-do list, but these are the more important ones.
What I’ll Change for Next Year
1. Keep the front office staff informed.
I forgot to let the front office ladies know the details of the event, and when parents called to get information, they didn’t have the answers.
2. Don’t micro-manage teacher so much.
I’m a perfectionist – a detail-oriented person, so I wanted to be involved in every aspect of the project. I had to back off a little when dealing with the teachers, however. I realized that they are quite capable of following through with their responsibilities. I just had to communicate to them what they need to do. This was a tough lesson to learn.
I actually enjoyed the role of “Project Manager” for this event. It was pretty stressful, but there is something about making a plan and seeing it through to completion that is kind of fun for me.
Like I said, it was a great success, and I received a lot of pats on the back for pulling it off. It never would have gone so smoothly, however, without the help of so many people. I made it a point to thank them all as often as I could.
I don’t know if next year, I’ll be asked to organize the event again, but if I am, I’ll be ready for it – I hope.
I don’t know how helpful this post has been to you, since it was written basically to remind me of what I need to do for next year, but if you took the time to read my ramblings, I thank you.
Until next time,