Tuesday night I attended a Christmas program at Southwest R-5 in Washburn, MO and unfortunately I have to report that it sucked. The program featured K-6 grade and in theory was very cute. All about Santa, Mrs. Claus, the reindeer and his elves going to Branson and performing in a theatre to make some extra money so that he doesn't have to close his toy shop. Okay, well it was kinda cute, but not really.
Anyway, none of that mattered at all because of the absolutely irritating way the whole program was handled. First of all, that's a lot of kids to feature in just one night. They should have seperated them K-3 and 4-6 or something and had two concerts on two separate nights. But they didn't. So the first problem that was encountered was the traffic and parking, both of which was a total nightmare. I don't know exactly how many students there are in K-6, but it sure did make for an outrageous number of parents and grandparents.
The second problem was the fact that the event took place inside a full-sized basketball gym and the kids were placed on their knees on the floor in front of the stage at the north end of the building, while the viewers were seated in the bleachers (and some limited folding-chair floor seating) around the gym floor - but not past the half-court line. So, picture yourself sitting at half court and trying to see a tiny 4 foot person among hundreds of other little people sitting underneath the far basket. Now that you can see how difficult it would be to spot your child, imagine you are not one of the lucky few who got the closest seats. Now picture yourself underneath one of the baskets trying to see the little people seated on their knees under the opposite basket.
Most annoyingly of all, the only lights on in the entire gymnasium were the two lights directly above the kids. I guess they thought this would focus more attention on the kids, but what it really did was make all cameras and videocameras ineffective. Even though I got there 30 minutes early, I was already stuck at the far end of the bleachers and even though my digital camera could zoom in on the kids good enough to actually recognize them, the surrounding darkness sucked up my flash so quickly that I couldn't even get a good picture of the back of the head in front of me. Before the show started I even walked down onto the floor and stood at the closest point they would let me go and tried to snap a picture. It looked like I was shooting through lake water. I was so pissed off at this point I could have screamed. So, I stumbled back through the darkness to my seat and mumbled to myself through the entire program that it sure would be nice to be able to see or hear anything.
A lot of the older people had trouble with the darkness too. The gym was over-crowded, with people lining the walls and cramming the entrances because all available seats were full, and the older people were having trouble watching where they were stepping or even seeing where they were going. It was kind of a safety hazard in my opinion. But not as much of a safety hazard as what occurred after the program was over. See, when the students first arrived at the gym they had to meet up with their classes on the floor and get into the proper position. This, of course, meant that none of them were with their parents when the parents picked a place to sit. Are you following me here? The kids had no idea where their parents were sitting. And it's dark. Real dark. And they are way far away from the audience.
After all the singing was done, the elementary principle made a few announcements, thanked several people for helping and then told the kids to go find their parents. Without turning the lights on first. Picture hundreds of small children surging forward into the darkness not having any idea where they are going. Now picture hundreds of parents trying to descend down onto the floor from 3 different directions, trying not to trip and die in the darkness. Can you see what havoc this might create? I was there to watch my neice Jessica (4th grade), my nephew Charlie (1st grade) and Cordell (3rd grade). My mom and my brother & sister-in-law were right beside me. We were at the top of the bleachers near the entrance. I guess I should tell you that it is a gym you step down into. When you walk in the doors you are at the top of the bleachers and the floor is sunken. So, we stayed at the top in our spots so we could watch the doors and the floor for the kids. Cordell and Jessica, being in 3rd & 4th grade had been seated near each other and were smart enough to stick together and calmly look for us. I spotted Jessica first and got her attention. Her and Cordell came right to us.
But we can't find our little first grader, Charlie. About that time, my brother spots Charlie getting pushed out the doors in a wave of people. I'm not even joking when I say that. If anyone had fallen, they would have been trampled to death for sure. I guess because of the traffic congestion problems and the fact that people were already pissed about the whole thing, parents were grabbing their kids and just pushing and running towards the doors. I've never seen such chaos. I was closest to the entrance so I had to jump in there and try to find Charlie. I'm a pretty big girl, so I was able to bully my way through the crowd and discovered Charlie in the lobby pressed up against a wall. I grabbed his hand and put him behind me as I turned against the tide and shoved my way back through a wall of people. It was the most retarded thing I have ever seen. I cannot believe the principle didn't know better than to release the kids on their own all at once like that. What she should have done is had their teachers just take them back to their classrooms and after they were all out of the gym, release the parents to go to their classrooms and get them. Now I'm mad all over again just thinking about it. I normally love this school, but this is one time where I am ashamed of the way things were handled.