Yesterday a Holocaust survivor spoke to about 500 10th and 11th graders at my school in our theater. In the seven years that I have organized this event, the audience has never been so disrespectful. Students had their cell phones out, talked, slept, ate lunch, wrote notes, and I’m sure committed numerous other acts of disrespect. The survivor actually addressed a couple individuals that she noticed – imagine being called out by an 85-year-old woman in front of 500 people. Luckily the lights and her own absorption into her story distracted her from the dozens of other students. Apparently, my frustration was obvious, as numerous students said they knew I was upset by the end of the two-hour event.
Then, to top it off, I received an e-mail a couple hours after I had driven the woman home outlining the mess the students had left in our theater (which is actually a very nice facility). Soda bottles, candy wrappers, and even gum were found on the chairs and floor.
Needless to say, I was/am upset. I expressed my dissatisfaction with my classes, who showed genuine shock and embarrassment. A couple other teachers and myself agreed we have to examine how we do this in the future. 500 students are probably too many. Making it during the school day encourages students to go just to get out of a couple classes.
What is usually a very positive experience for the students and me has been tainted this year. Bummer.