Recently while speaking to Juniors and Seniors at a high school, we had a group of males who were being disruptive. Each time it occurred during my program, I stopped and personally addressed the individual being rude. I’ve always believed, “You can’t tell students to stand up against ‘wrongful’ actions of others (such as teaching Bystander Intervention) and then NOT stand up to someone acting out inappropriately in your audience.” When you have to do this, it can change the “feel” and “tone” of a presentation. Once in a really rare situation, the room will get quieter for the remainder of the program (you won’t necessarily feel the same outward energy from the students).
Afterward, a few teachers commented, “Wow! You handled those guys incredibly well. I just wonder how that effected the rest of the room in getting the message.” Well, here is what happened. My e-mail box was inundated with an overwhelming number of e-mails saying, “Thanks for a great program. I learned soo much. We apologize for those few guys. And THANK YOU for standing up to them.” As it went into the night, the e-mails just kept coming in. The e-mails were coming from both males and females.
Ironically, these few guys brought the rest of the student body together as one voice. One of the biggest mistakes we can make as facilitators or educators is to think, “They got really quiet for a lot of that program. We must not have got through to them.” Actually, it can be the opposite. You connected with their hearts so strongly that you got them thinking deeply and passionately. You got them sooo out of their comfort zone that change was taking place right before your eyes.
Never fear holding your audience accountable. If you don’t, who will? When yo do hold individuals accountable, you might just get the rest of the students to completely agree with you and REALLY get them thinking in a new light!!