It’s pretty common, especially in a larger school, that there will be someone in the audience at an assembly that doesn’t want to pay attention. Usually, a dramatic pause or a carefully placed moment of direct eye contact (aka the “Teacher Look”) will remind the student that they can still be respectful whilst uninterested. More rare is the reoccurring pain in the butt - the student who makes an assembly a venue for their attention-seeking rather than a shared experience for everyone. The student who at some point I will call out, gently, and remind them that even if they don’t want to pay attention, they aren't just distracting themselves or their friends, but everyone else in the audience who wants to listen (let alone me, trying to tell a story to two sides of a gym and maintain 1,000 high schoolers interest while sharing what I’m passionate about). Oftentimes, students applaud because they are dying for someone to hold these kids accountable. Most kids want to listen.
After the assembly, I’ll usually get a few kids say they appreciated that moment or a teacher who says, “thank you! Those kids can be real turds sometimes!”
But my favorite and unfortunately less common, moments are when a staff member or principal pulls that student aside after the assembly or out of class later in the day to meet with me one on one so they can issue an in-person apology. I don’t like this because I need my feelings healed - I like it because it is an excellent lesson in the humbling nature of accountability. To discipline the student for acting out does not solve the problem! To teach them the nature of forgiveness and to humanize an apology by letting us have a conversation out of the context of the giant assembly hall allows for them to understand why what they did had an impact. It connects them to me as a real person (and not just forced respect because I’m a “guest” in their building). It teaches them that being truly sorry is more than just saying it - it is understanding it.
Are there moments when you discipline students for doing something wrong without showing them how to do it right?
Houston Kraft is the co-founder of CharacterStrong. He is a professional speaker and kindness advocate who has spoken at over 600 events internationally. Student Body President in High School, Class President at Bowdoin College, Leadership Camp Staff for 14 years in Washington - he is a lifelong learner of character, culture, kindness, and leadership. He was featured in 2019 on BBQ Lays Potato Chips and his mom's lasting life lesson is "Hug like you mean it."