Retreat lacks respect

Anna duSaire

When I signed up to volunteer at the Respect Retreat, I thought I was signing up for a fun, stress-free day away from school. The day started how I expected. I was excited to be in the basement of the church, where the retreat is held, remembering how I felt when I was a scared little freshman attending the retreat. The day was going well until the freshmen arrived. They all came in scared and confused by what was happening and some immediately resolved to hiding in the corners and along the walls of the room. I wasn’t surprised by their initial reactions but I noticed students’ persistence to isolate themselves from the group.

At the beginning of the day, I sat in the middle of a group of girls who talked through most of the presenter’s story. At the time I felt a little nervous and couldn’t think of many ways to get the students to pay attention, so I kept repeating the same three lines. One of the girls in the group had gotten annoyed with my repeated nagging, so the next time her friend began talking, she turned to her friend and told them to stop talking by mocking one of the lines I had been repeating. I was surprised and a little hurt by her remark.

Throughout the day I spent much of my time telling students to stop talking, to pay attention to the presenters or to sit up. When the high school leaders met with one of the presenters during the lunch break, everyone shared similar observations of the rude behaviors and attitudes. After listening to what had been observed, one of the speakers made an announcement to the students before we started again, asking them to show basic signs of respect. To my dismay, I didn’t see much of a change in the students.

Later in the day I asked two girls to sit up and listen to the speaker. When I asked them to stop talking a second time one of the girls told me to shut up. I was frustrated with her and other students’ refusal to show basic signs of respect to the speakers.

The retreat ended with a campfire where students, leaders and teachers were invited to share any goals regarding respecting themselves, others or standing up for others. Although there was an impressive number of students who shared, I felt disappointed by how loosely many students took the practice. In one case a student walked up to the microphone laughing and looking back to her friends, treating the activity like a joke for their enjoyment. Her and others’ actions frustrated me because I feel many students disregarded the importance of the ideas shared by students who took the situation seriously.

Once most of the freshmen left, I talked to one of the speakers about how the day went. To my surprise she said the group was not difficult. On some occasions with other groups, students had refused to participate in the games and activities the speakers had organized for the day.

My experience with the Respect Retreat has given me a new appreciation and respect for teachers and other adults who work with rude high school students and are able to remain calm and return to work everyday. My freshman self thought the Respect Retreat was a rewarding day. I was shocked to see how the retreat was not taken seriously by many of the students. What resulted in a stressful day could have been a gratifying learning experience.

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