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Speaking of Speakers: Student Thoughts About Assemblies

Campbell Key

If you’re called out sometime in the future for sleeping during an assembly, know that two-thirds of your peers think you had it coming!

Here at Lovett we get to hear a lot of different speakers. They range from talking about how we should pursue STEM despite half of us not knowing what STEM even is, to drug and alcohol assemblies. Lots of drug and alcohol assemblies. 

Several weeks back (just after we started virtual school), we sent out a survey to get students’ opinions on assemblies: what makes for a good assembly, what makes for an effective speaker, whether or not the health and wellness surveys make an impact, and even how we feel about speakers who call out students who are sleeping.

First of all, 75% of students do like the number of assemblies we have at Lovett, so they must be doing something right at least. 

While not everyone has the same opinion on what the best assemblies are, there were a lot of votes in support of eccentric speakers (Mr. Fascinate included). 

Students said they wanted confident speakers who know what they’re talking about and get straight to the point. They like ones that are “fun,” “hands-on,” “relevant,” and “full of stories.”

A pet peeve for some students: speakers who acknowledge they are boring; it gets frustrating because, if you know you are boring, then fix it! Saying you are going to be boring only makes me try to fall asleep sooner. They also don’t like speakers who don’t seem to know what they’re doing, don’t come prepared, or go on for too long. And they definitely don’t like it when speakers make them say “good morning” louder.

A lot of kids really liked Phillip Lutzenkirchen's dad with Lutzie 43 foundation who talked about drinking and driving. Everyone could see how much this topic meant to him and it made an impact. 

I also think people liked this assembly so much because of who he was. Students could see him being one of their friend’s dads, and that really hit close to home. However, sadly, I don’t know how many people have changed their ways because of this assembly. 

Mary Priscilla, a sophomore, said that the STEM talk with Mr. Fascinate didn’t help her opinion on assemblies here at Lovett. She said that she didn’t really like this speaker because he was “so focused on money and travel” where she believes we should be encouraged to pursue what we enjoy right now. 

She has also talked about more controversial speakers that have spoken in the past. She said that she didn’t like these speakers, just because of how political they were. Politics is already a pretty touchy subject here at Lovett, so these assemblies don’t really help. She believes that we shouldn’t have all of these risky speakers and would prefer more interactive speakers. But hey, at least they give us something to talk about for the next couple of hours. 

Heyward, another sophomore, also agrees with Mary Priscilla, and she says the STEM assembly was bad. She said that she didn’t realize what STEM was until someone asked, and he was so focused on the money aspect. 

Of course, opinions varied. In the survey, several students said they enjoyed Mr. Fascinate. One student wrote about how "he was very engaging and knew how to captivate a crowd's attention, especially talking about something that he was passionate about." Another thought he was funny.

I also wanted to talk to a teacher about their opinions on assemblies here at Lovett. What do they prefer when it comes to speakers? 

Ms. Koningsmark believes that when speakers share their own personal stories, their message is more effective. She gave an example of a speaker a couple of years ago that talked about how he discovered his dad was black while his mom was white. This speaker talked about how this re-oriented his whole understanding of life. 

She thought that this really made an impact on students as everyone could see how much he wanted to talk about this subject, and how this really impacted his life, which made people want to listen. 

There were a lot of different responses to the survey though. 

And what about all those drug and alcohol assemblies at Lovett. Are they actually helpful?

Some kids think all of these drug and alcohol speeches aren’t very effective. They believe that the first couple talks they hear might be useful, but beyond that it gets too repetitive. 

The media also plays a part in educating us, as lots of kids have seen a lot of the consequences for vaping show up on the media, not just through speakers who think we have no idea what could happen. 

In the survey, 50% of the people that responded said that assemblies don’t really help the people who are already addicted. They believe that the people who have already tried some of these things just brush off the speakers. 

However, some students believe that for the kids not addicted, these assemblies do actually help, but, again, 20% of respondents said that they think that most people just forget about these assemblies. 

The remaining 30% of responses were scattered answers, but some people said that these assemblies do help them. One student wrote, “Even if some people think these assemblies are too repetitive, if it helps some people, I do think that they’re worth it.” 40% of people believe that these assemblies don’t affect their choices that much, but they do learn something. 14% of people also believe that these assemblies, along with other sources, do affect them.  

Some people, along with me, believe that there needs to be more assemblies on how to help people who are already addicted. It gets frustrating after a while to listen to someone talk for forty five minutes, and, at the very end, they just say “talk to a parent if you know someone struggling!”

So, I also talked to Ms. Greer about these assemblies that we have. She says that she realizes these large assemblies aren’t the best environment for teaching kids about these heavy topics, but she says that the schedule does not provide many opportunities for students to have small group conversations.  

She says that even if these assemblies don’t help everyone, if a few students walk away with good information they will use then it is worth it. 

When I asked Ms. Greer about what to do if you know someone is struggling, she said that you need to talk to them and ask the hard questions. She said you need to give them specific examples of what they are doing and talk to their other close friends about what’s been happening. But, she says you need to show that you do care about them. 

She also said that you should reach out to an adult that can help. She says reaching out to a parent is best, but, if that’s not an option, talk to another adult they’re close with. Maybe a teacher, coach, or a friend’s parent they’re close with. Their advisor should always be there for them, and their chaplain is another option. Rev Allen is a great person to talk to. 

Ms. Greer also said that the counseling department tries to cater these wellness assemblies specifically to each grade. For example, freshmen get Senior Pals to learn what they would have done differently, and to know that they always have someone to talk to. 

Sophomores get driving talks because everyone is getting their licence, even if the juniors might have needed that talk about how not to crash into people in a parking lot more than us this year. 

Juniors get college counseling, and how to prepare and apply for colleges. 

Seniors get talks about college and how to transition to this different lifestyle along with staying safe and healthy during this time. 

However, she says that many assemblies are planned in May and June for the next year, so not everything is perfect. There is always an effort to try and get smaller groups of students together to be able to talk to each other about important issues, and to create a safe space for students. 

Finally, I talked to Ms. Konigsmark again about what her opinion was on the health and wellness assemblies, and she believes that even though these assemblies seem redundant, they are still effective, especially for teenagers. 

However, she also wants Lovett to talk more about eating disorders and their symptoms and effects. Our last assembly on eating disorders, she believed, didn’t provide enough information on the consequences of having eating disorders. 

Oh, and as for how students feel about speakers calling out students who are sleeping? The responses were evenly divided. One-third said they should never do it. One-third said it depends, because sometimes the kid deserves it. And one-third said they should do it, and “it’s also kinda funny.” So if you’re called out sometime in the future, know that two-thirds of your peers think you had it coming!

Students were also pretty divided when it came to their peers (and teachers) asking questions during the Q and A period. Thirty-nine percent are OK with it as long as the questions are good, and thirty-two percent just want to get out of there and head to the cafe for snacks. Amazingly, two people said they wished more questions would get asked!

Of course, it’s going to be a while before you have the chance to snooze or ask a question in the Hendrix-Chenault. I hope everyone is staying safe at home. 
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