Whether it be with my family, friends, or peers, ever since I was a little girl, tradition has always been something I value. I remember counting down the days till my Kindergarten graduation, waiting for the afternoon I got to sing on stage with my friends. I remember waking up each Christmas morning and sitting on the last step of the staircase, waiting for the moment I got to see all of the presents from Santa. I remember watching my dad on Sunday mornings while he cooked breakfast in his blue pajama pants and slippers.
Then, I remember moving to Singapore, losing those traditions, and feeling a little uncomfortable. My school was bigger, our Christmas tree was smaller, and my dad threw out his slippers and pajama pants, unfit for Singapore’s tropical weather. I had to restart. Traditions were being born, but they were just ideas, events that had no successors quite yet. My first Thanksgiving in Singapore, my Mum made butternut squash soup, and it was finally something that made this country feel like home. Since then, we’ve made butternut squash soup every Thanksgiving, and as my first tradition created in Singapore, it means everything to me.
My journey from New Hampshire to Singapore
Since those first few years of reconstructing our traditions, many have fallen into place. My Mum and I have a dance party at least once a month when we’re feeling energetic and silly. My older brother Jack and I go downstairs for a snack before bed and end up talking for hours. My dad and I take bike rides and explore the best coffee shops that we can find. Traditions makes my world feel instantly smaller.
One thing that has always made this country feel like home is the traditions at Singapore American School. In intermediate school, you get the red and blue music shirt. It shows your superiority as a fifth grader, a symbol of your growth into your teens. In middle school, you have your first CWW trip away from mom and dad to a worn down camp in the middle of Malaysia, but you love it because it means you’re growing up. And then comes high school, you get your first class shirt with your graduation year sewn on it. You go to your first pep rally, and as a freshman, you mumble your chant in the embarrassment of being the underdogs while you gaze across at the seniors, covered in red, screaming chants and waving flags, a symbol of their survival. You fail your first test, you get your first green slip, you have your first dress code violation, and you pass it on. As you enter your Sophomore year, you take your first AP and experience the added responsibilities of a high schooler. Junior year is tainted by copious amounts of work and SAT prep. Every student coming in below you will go through the same steps of transitioning from middle school to high school, and each will take part in these traditions as a right of passage. You go through all of this, the hard work and the pressure to enjoy your last year at SAS: your much-anticipated senior year.
Freshman pride in the Singapore American School Senior Video 2012
Now as far as traditions at this school go, the seniors of SAS have always valued their privileges the most. You sit in the Senior Section of the cafeteria, you vote for a sweatshirt design, you take part in the senior video, you leave assemblies first, you have senior privilege, and second semester you start to experience a series of “lasts.” As one senior put it in an anonymous survey sent out to the Junior and Senior class, “It’s the things that come along after having worked for them, after having survived high school, now having earned those privileges.” You fill the spots of the Seniors who took part in these traditions before you, following their footsteps towards College life.
Screamin’ Seniors in the Singapore American School Senior Video 2014
As the years have gone by and SAS administration has transitioned, many of the moments that high school students waited for have vanished. Change has been implemented so rapidly the past few years, that it’s left students confused and lonely, or (as professed in the survey) feeling “like the teachers and admin have tried to push too much on us.” No longer do students get to bear their graduation class year on their chest, or sit with their grade level on bleachers painted in their class colors. No longer do they feel like have a sense of community among their year.
Although the majority of the student body is on defense against newly implemented systems, what they don’t realize is that these were put in place for their well being. One of the main changes that has lead to the decrease of traditions is the implementation of the house system and advisory. Support Teacher and Student Council leader Lauren Murphy discussed the beginning and execution of these ideas. Several years ago, the Research and Development [R&D] board sent out a survey that asked students if they felt connected to the school, and whether or not they had an adult they felt they could talk to. “Surprisingly, about 60% of the students answered “no,’ which came as a total surprise to faculty. They [R&D] began to create a system that they thought would bring students together and help them to connect with the people around them.” Murphy added: “Whatever changes that the school is making, it is with […] the student body’s best interests in mind…. We are not stoic; we want to take feedback and make things better for students.”
Despite our belief that admin wants to take every tradition from us, that clearly isn’t the case. Students fail to recognize that the very reason these changes were made is because of their own feedback, and that these systems are for them.
Central Admin of Singapore American School
Ms. Murphy acknowledged that the pushback against change, especially this year, has been predominantly from the senior class. As seniors, we feel as if our traditions, held so dearly by the students of the past years at SAS, have been disregarded. No more class unity at rallies. No more sitting with our fellow seniors. No more wearing college sweatshirts until May 1st. We may walk across the same stage at graduation, but we can no longer follow in the footsteps of our predecessors. As a senior class, that has left us feeling frustrated and at a loss, craving that feeling of community. We no longer have the spirit that once pumped deep in the veins of an SAS graduate, and we are fearful that as we move on into the next part of our lives, we will look back at high school not as a loving community, but rather a disconnected one.
Singapore American School Graduation 2016, That Camera Guy photography
Although I often feel lost in the adjustment of the traditions at SAS, I have to keep in mind that, even though it’s cliche, change is a part of life. Robert Kiyosaki, author and motivational speaker suggests that “The hardest part about change is going through the unknown.” It’s hard to be caught in these waves of change at SAS, because the system that we were all used to is suddenly different. With each school event or advisory meeting, we’re not sure what is coming. With each step towards graduation, we’re not sure what changes will be implemented, or what traditions will fade. It may feel scary, like a challenge or a betrayal, but what we have to remember is that traditions have to start somewhere.