Harvard-Westlake (HW) Middle School English teacher Michael Chavez gave a speech at the Monday assembly, the first speech in a series of teacher speakers.
Jon Wimbish, head of the HW Middle School, expressed what sparked the new development to middle school assemblies.
“I had seen a trend in students, and even faculty, asking why assemblies were even necessary, and so we wanted to make sure our assemblies were purposeful, not as transactional,” Wimbish said.
There are around 7 other speeches planned for the rest of the school year, each not exceeding 7 minutes. Wimbish expressed the value of sharing these experiences as a community, while acknowledging the time it takes up during assemblies throughout the year.
“I think as a greater group we need some shared experiences, where the whole community comes together and appreciates a shared message,” Wimbish said.
During the first speech, Chavez discussed the role of technology in our lives, calling his topic “look up.”
“I had a number of topics that I was thinking about and then this one just came to mind,” Chavez said. “It’s so prevalent in today’s world.”
He was inspired to speak on this topic through his experiences and observations. Chavez noticed that technology can sometimes put people in dangerous situations, such as texting while driving. At family gatherings, he felt that the younger generation of his family was frequently on their phones.
“It made me a little bit sad to see that happening,” Chavez said. “I’d prefer that they would be engaging the adults to ask us questions, to be involved in conversation.”
He said that HW has a “robust” cell phone policy, but outside the school’s influence, he encourages students “to use these as the incredible tools that they are, but to use them in balance and to not forget about human interaction and what it means to have a good conversation with another human being.”
His speech received mixed reactions from the students.
“Although the intent was well-founded, I don’t think it really appealed to the audience because the whole “get off your phones” when directed at a large group of teenagers felt more like a reprimand then a realization or understanding people should come to,” Yoshimi Kimura ’23 said.
She said speakers should try to foster thinking in their audience rather than directly telling their audience what they should do.
“Mr. Chavez’s speech made me think about all of the advancements the world has made and how people are being torn apart because of it,” Cade Goldstein said.
Jon Wimbish, head of the HW Middle School, asked Chavez to speak at the assembly. Chavez wasn’t given a specific topic, only a time frame for how long his speech should be.
“Our students are wonderful, reflective, kind-hearted human beings,” Chavez said.
“And so I know that if they, with the respect that they tend to have for [teachers], are willing to listen, that they can maybe take a little nugget here and there and think a little bit more about their lives.”
Another topic Chavez considered was “when.” Chavez believes many people look forward to future events in their life instead of focusing on the present. He referenced the Latin aphorism “carpe diem,” which is usually translated to “seize the day.”
“I think sometimes having that almighty question of “when”- that’s when life begins, having that as sort of the answer – can lead us astray,” Chavez said.