Motivational Speakers Are Not Motivating Students to Say Hello

Imagine being at a new school, where there are hundreds of students moving in every direction, hurrying to grab their favorite tables to eat lunch. All of a sudden, the girl from your math class sees you in the hallway and asks if you want to come eat lunch with her and her friends. Relieved, you join her and start your school year off on a positive note. Students should be this welcoming to incoming freshmen and new students.  

Almost every year, WHS has school speakers that talk to the student body about important issues, usually about bullying. Early this year, speaker Brandon Rainey from the Sandy Hook Promise Organization informed students of the importance of saying hello to others, focusing on inclusion. He stressed the need for teenagers to talk to other students sitting alone at lunch and to invite people to join them in activities such as school clubs.

Most teenagers feel lonely or left out at at least one point in high school, so the “say hello” message is becoming more necessary for students to hear. TV shows such as 13 Reasons Why, convey the importance of including peers and to prevent bullying. However, school speakers are not as effective for high school students than they are for elementary and middle school students. Even after Rainey’s speech, there is still an inclusion problem on campus, with many WHS students not applying the “say hello” message their everyday lives.

In a poll of 65 WHS students, 95% said yes, that they have said hello to someone new this year that they had never met before. When asked if the school speaker impacted their decision, 89% of 57 students answered that the speaker’s message did not affect their choice.

 Any time students have to attend assemblies, they think of it as a free period. They sit next to their friends, go on their phones and crack jokes. Even the person sitting behind me was talking non-stop throughout Rainey’s speech, not caring if the students around him actually wanted to listen to what Rainey had to say. The bottom line is, many do not take the speaker’s message seriously.

It is true that there are clubs that focus on making new friends, but there are still kids that sit alone at lunch, too afraid of rejection to strike up a conversation or introduce themselves to new people. There are WHS students, especially those new to the school or district, who do not make friends until a few months after school starts, if at all.

Students tend to not listen to school speakers as much as staff believes. The longer the assembly, the more likely students will zone out. It would be more effective for speakers to talk to smaller groups, such as individual classrooms, instead of the student body crammed into one building. Instead of having the students sit and listen to speakers, there could be more effective exercises that require students to participate and experience real-life scenarios and situations.

There needs to be more follow up and more activities that continue to encourage students to “say hello.” Upperclassmen could be paired with underclassmen to act as “older siblings,” giving younger students advice and being supportive role models. According to ChicagoNow.com writer Kortney Peagram said, “Regardless of how great the speakers are, when they leave…it is over. There is rarely any follow up and it is up to the school to work on keeping the message alive.” 

What will you choose to do the next time you see someone sitting alone?

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