Winnipeg mother Jennifer Whidden spent most of her daughter’s high-school choir performance last week trying to look around the digital camera being held by the proud parent in front of her.
“I wanted to tap him on the shoulder and say, ‘It’s not even in focus. The sound is going to suck. Can you just turn it off? Nobody is going to watch it anyway.’ ”
The annual holiday concerts that schools across Canada will be staging over the next few days are, for many parents, one of the most adorable spectacles of the season. They are also, for many parents, a source of bitter frustration as they cram into too hot auditoriums with too few seats, trying to see and be seen by their children from the stage.
Before the performances start, a principal or other administrator will likely give a mildly scolding speech prior to the concert, reminding parents about these basic points of good behaviour, and yet still they are routinely ignored.
“The key is to make the experience enjoyable. The focus is on the students and the celebration and the cultural part that the concerts or celebrations bring to a school community. That’s what we want to foster,” says David Dyck, an education director at the Calgary Board of Education.
Start by being mindful of your cellphone or other device. At Roméo Dallaire Public School in Vaughan, a city north of Toronto, parents were told to shut their cellphones off and not take pictures or video during the holiday concert this year. Other schools have similar policies or stage photo shoots before the show. And yet there is almost always someone in the audience who ignores the rules.
“Every year there seems to be at least one parent who stands up right in the front and centre row with a big iPad recording the entire concert and basically obstructs the view of everybody,” Kim Swartz says of her son’s school holiday concert in Ottawa.
She records a few parts of the show so that her parents can see their grandson perform. “I try to be discreet,” she says. “But it’s always the iPad person who’s right in the middle.”
Susan Fox, a former music teacher in Calgary, led more than 35 holiday concerts before retiring in 2017. She’s experienced the highs and lows of the annual school tradition. Audience chatter tops her list of complaints.
“People talking was always very annoying, even when I would turn around and give them dirty looks,” she says.
Crowding was also a nuisance for Ms. Fox.
“There would be toddlers and preschoolers all sitting up at the front because that’s where Mommy and Daddy would tell them to go sit, and I would step on them. Sometimes, I stepped on them on purpose, which is nasty, but you know what, I would always say, if you’re going to put your kid right under my foot when I’m trying to conduct 100 kids in a song, they’re going to get stepped on once in a while.”
No one at the concerts likes the crowding or the cellphones, or the heat for that matter.
But as tempting as it might be to leave the moment your child’s part of the show is over, it’s simply good manners to stick around. If you must leave early, choose your seat accordingly, Mr. Dyck says.
“We don’t know why people need to leave. We’re glad they’re here and they’re there to celebrate along with us. They may have other commitments or other reasons that they need to leave. Knowing that, we would ask them to maybe strategically sit closer to the door if possible so that that intrusion is minimal,” he says.
The behaviour parents show during these concerts is a model for how their children should behave, Mr. Dyck points out, even if you think they’re too busy to notice.
“We want to pass along those values in a thoughtful way. They’re always watching,” he says.
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