Here are a couple of items that we often get feedback on from teachers (seen as a negative) that we actually do on purpose (as a positive result for the event for the children):
“The message of the show wasn’t understood / went over their heads / wasn’t able to be recalled.”
We actually get an overwhelming amount of feedback to the contrary – that the messages in the shows are amazing, really well integrated, and had a hugely positive impact on the students, especially when discussing the issues back in the classroom. But if younger children or other students don’t recall the ‘message’, this is ok too! In fact, this is PERFECT! This means they didn’t perceive it AS a message, as something they were supposed to ‘learn’! We have reached the unconscious realms of the student’s mind and soul, without their conscious mind getting in the way. Unless a child wasn’t actually in the room, there is no way the message of the show didn’t ‘get in there’ somewhere. The message of each show is actually very obvious and there is an entire section dedicated to focussing on it, often with specific wording that children are asked to repeat with emotion and passion. However, we would prefer that the values and life lessons in the show be only seen by the children as ‘assisting the character on stage’ so that their filters don’t prevent the learnings from automatically becoming part of their lives. Children (especially older children) are often very cynical and will filter out anything that feels lecturing or about what they ‘should’ do.
Sometimes a teacher may think what we’re teaching is ‘too advanced’ or uses language that is too ‘old’ and that’s the reason it went ‘over their heads’. All we say about this is that you are only judging this based on the current intellectual development of the child. However, as we have stated, we are not trying to reach the intellect. The heart and soul has intelligence beyond the mind, and it’s that real part of a child we are directly communicating with. Emotions live in the soul, not the mind, and the message is primarily emotion based. So do not expect that the mind will recall what was presented as it just isn’t designed to ‘stick’ in the mind without further intervention or focus in the classroom with language (which is a mind based skill we must develop intellectually).
So the message of the show in many cases, should remain non-recallable by the conscious intellect – especially in younger children. This is what we aim for – meaning, we don’t want to instead drill the message into their intellect in an obvious way, as it’ll never get past their mind filters. By going for the soul, the message will affect a child’s conduct and understandings about themselves and emotions automatically. The result of this method is that children of any age could even appear to be ‘unengaged’ during this portion of the show. Even if this is the case for some, we will never cut it out or dumb down the show for younger students or older students because of this. We have to have faith that there’s a reason for everything and we should continue to deliver the message at its full intensity and impact.
However, that said, if you want to bring the message of the show into the conscious mind so it can be a proactive and purposeful decision making process for them in the future (which is also very useful), then that’s YOUR job in the classroom. We start this process a little bit in Question Time (at least so they are aware the life skills we teach are actually REAL things we can all do, not just what the characters did in a made up story), but we have limited time, so it’s up to teachers to follow up on the message if you want to make it a more conscious thing. Whether or not you do, trust us – the message is going in because of how intense and over the top the whole experience is, which leads us to something else we sometimes get told…
“Too much hype”
This is done very much on purpose, as it helps to avoid, again, the filters the mind uses to block the direct experience of life. By doing whatever we can to pump up the audience and engage them in a highly passionate and emotional state, means that the message and comedy and whole experience reaches their REAL selves – and doens’t just get blocked by the mind. That’s why we also keep the sound loud and the lights moving fast, which leads us to another piece of common feedback we get…
Again, we keep it loud not only so people can hear clearly even when the audience is yelling or screaming (which happens a lot as they’re so excited to engage with the story and characters), but mainly so that the atmosphere of a rock concert is created. There is a reason why young people like going to concerts and allowing themselves to feel fully the experience. Because the rest of their lives are often muted and forced to be ‘dulled down’ by society. We purposefully keep the show loud and pumping to keep the experience one that moves past the judgement and cynicism of the mind. Remember, we said up front in the material we sent you – the sound levels are safe as we test them before each show with a dB meter. We know, however, that some young children are overwhelmed and even scared by the loud sound levels, and this is something else we sometimes get told…
“Younger students were ‘too’ scared”
It seems that fear is an experience in life that is always, at all costs, attempted to be avoided. Is this wise? We as a society over-emphasise fear and justify it til the cows come home. We justify and make REAL fear. Fear actually stands for False Expectations Appearing Real. Fear isn’t real. The only time fear is something we may need to act on is when we are in actual physical danger. However, how often does that really happen in modern day society? An Alpha Show is certainly not an experience that anybody need FEAR. It’s a wonderful experience of love, truth, laughter and fun. So why is a child having an illogical fear response to the show? For whatever reason, whether it sound, lights, suit characters, being confronted with live actors – there’s a reason BEHIND the fear.
We have found in almost 100% of cases that once you let the child experience the fear that may be triggered towards the start of the show, they soon settle in and ‘don’t want to miss out’. They themselves work it out that the fear was unreasonable and realise there are consequences (for themselves!) for letting their fear be real. All our shows are about letting children experience fully their emotions – and this includes fear. In fact, fear is one of the most important emotions to fully feel and release.
So let the children who have fear shake and cry, they will soon process the emotion and be able to return to the show. We usually only desire to shut down the processing of fear in others, when we ourselves have a lot of fear or avoidance of our own emotional experience.
As we said, the sound level is safe (we test this) so there is no real danger. And you’ll notice it’s only a few specific children who react this way. Of course, the greater good prevails and we keep the show at a level that is as engaging as possible for the majority. If you just let the fearful children have their experience, they will soon come back to the show and enjoy it. Remember, the fear is about something DEEPER, and they are blocking their ears or telling you it’s the ‘noise’ because they think it’s that, but it would be a fear the child will have adopted from their parents, or an experience they’ve had earlier in life, and the sound is simply a trigger for that deeper fear and grief. Also remember, the children in the audience yelling is much louder than our sound system (and we can’t control that nor do we want to) so turning down the volume of the show wouldn’t help the children who are scared of the ‘noise’ because it’s the children making the most noise around them. That’s why we suggest to have those children not seated in the middle of the audience. And if we turned down the volume, it would also not make the show be able to be heard over the audience responses.
I’ve personally experienced hundreds of thousands of children watch and engage with our shows, including hundreds of autistic children who have been told to me are normally ‘too sensitive’ to any loud sound to ever contemplate going to one of our shows. And I’ve had hundreds of teachers tell me after the show about their autistic students who were able to (after the initial shock) actually sit and pay attention for longer than they’ve ever seen them do so. This means we’re doing the right thing. The reason they are able to do this (the autistic children) is because the Alpha Show allows the full expression of emotion and does not shut them down in any way. Autistic children are simply very sensitive children and do not respond to our highly emotionally suppressive society and the requirements on them to not express themselves in the way they need to. So we simply do whatever we can to keep children expressive and engaged, which also includes a lot of comedy. But not all the comedy is written and added just for children, we also like to keep older students and adults entertained too, which leads us to the last common piece of feedback we get…
“The jokes were ‘above’ younger students”
This is the point! An Alpha Show, like a Shrek movie or something similar, does this on purpose to make sure adults are enjoying it on their level too. Older students (year 6-10) also enjoy feeling like they’ve ‘gotten’ something that younger year levels haven’t. If we dumbed everything down to prep level then the older students and adults would feel bored and unengaged. So we cater for a broader age range on purpose. It doesn’t negatively affect the younger student’s enjoyment (I don’t think any grade 1 student has ever said, ‘I loved it, but I didn’t appreciate the humour that I didn’t understand’). They don’t even notice. They’re just enjoying the crazy characters, the colours, the sounds. And in the next moment, there’s a joke for them too, or a physical gag – whatever it is. It’s not long before we do something for them too.
This is also true in reverse, VERY occassionaly someone thinks the show was ‘too young’ for their older students. Well, these shows go to high schools and we get the Year 7’s, 8’s, even up to Year 12 in some schools, all having fun, dancing, yelling out, laughing and enjoying the show. Just remember, emotional suppression is rampant everywhere and especially gets going in high school. We do our best to get student’s out of this, but it takes years of self-reflection and emotional work before we can finally feel free to be expressive and engage our passions in life again.