Following each of our recent Community Building Assemblies, in which students and teachers ashared inspiring and intimate personal stories with the Upper School, concern over the trend of standing ovations has been afoot. Should we sit or should we rise? Together or alone? And at which moments?
Speaking at these assemblies takes courage, and it is important that the community show support to help students and faculty feel comfortable sharing. But how and when to demonstrate support is an independent decision. Some stand for their friends or their favorite topics, some stand for a particularly impressive delivery, and still others stand when they hear an especially personal story. Then there are those who aren’t inclined to stand at all, even when moved.
These differences in audience support can impact the speaker, who is sharing something about him or herself and waiting for a community reaction. Of course, most speakers do not intend or expect to receive a standing ovation, but once the first occurs, it is something they—and the rest of us—notice for the remainder of the assembly.
If someone doesn’t stand when a majority of others do, it can look intentionally disapproving or disrespectful. Standing after every speech, on the other hand, can cause the gesture to lose meaning.
Of course the solution isn’t to mandate standing or sitting. People should feel free to express their feelings about the speeches during these assemblies however they wish.
But The Vanguard wants to remind the school that we can show our appreciation of speakers in other ways. Finding certain speakers during the school day and praising or congratulating them directly can be much more meaningful than rising with the rest of the audience. So can snaps during the speech or a short whoop afterward.
When Community Building Assemblies are designed to bring us closer, let’s be sure we’re coming together in ways that are as unique as they are positive and genuine.