Sorry those of you looking for inspiration for Monday p1 because strictly I’m at Monday period 0. Assembly time
Most teachers get to do an assembly, as a volunteer or a conscript. If you are a Head of year or Head of a key stage you might get to do lots. Facing up to your first one is a very scarey moment a bit like the first ever lesson you teach – really it’s just a question of scale – if you can ‘perform’ for a class of 30, you can for a year group of say 180 and hence the whole school of 1000+. Oh Ok then maybe not! Leading an assembly demands a disproportionate time of preparation:
- planning time – dreaming up the ideas
- resourcing time – youtube clips, quotes, images, drama
- fine tuning time – that point needs clarifying, that picture is lost, we need some humour
- practice time – if you use children or music, or frankly any ICT kit in a different room to normal, you need practice
- rewording time – when you realise you have been worrying what colleagues might think of your assembly more than the big message to pupils
- worrying time – probably Sunday night, possibly in the bath as you rehearse your assembly
All this and it’s over in 5 – 10 minutes!
And why? Because the law says we should have an act of worship? Because we have always had assemblies? Because I sat through a few hundred of them and it never did me any harm?
Or because it sets up the week, it shows pupils (and staff) what we think is actually important. It brings us together and can set out aspects of life “we agree” are of mutual concern, encouragement and challenge. It can inspire, it can underline what the school is about. It’s great if pupils begin to own what happens.
Once, many years ago, I did despair, and learnt a salutary lesson. Having volunteered to do assembly and resourced with OHP (remember them), CD player, dressing up outfits etc the pupils duly gathered, the deputy did the introduction – a full 20 minutes of notices and ‘tellings off’ – important? Of course? Of course! Concluding with the words …and now Mr Dexter will talk to you about the importance of friendship and love…..and the 9.15 bell rang out, agh. I have tried hard never to recreate that atmosphere as a deputy or use up valuable assembly time with fullsome ‘tellings off” and creating an impossible atmosphere to try and give any moral, spiritual, cultural let alone profound message.
At my school we have great assemblies, they are to such a high standard through preparation and also I fear through competition – yes the assembly ‘capitalist market place’ has driven up standards. Everyone understands how important our brief occasions together as a whole school, or an upper school, or a year, really are to the life of our community. As a faith school we might have simplified Monday morning to a Bible reading, a prayer, a song and a few words and on our way, but not so. We do have those important readings, prayers and some singing on a Monday but the theme is brought alive by our staff, through humour, through personal story. Also through direct relevance to school, maybe from the news but primarily by thinking about our children and our world. I think we can build further on this though:
- By expressing continuous gratitude for those who take assembly recognising the time consumed
- By keeping a record on our learning platform of the assembly story
By reminding class groups in tutor groups later in the week of what was said and how it was said, and managing a discussion with a few set questions.
- By more staff reinforcing what was said, which underpins the importance of assembly messages
- By getting even more children involved.
- By looking at how assembly fits in more closely with our liturgical life and pastoral work
Our sixth formers get a slightly different diet, but that’s on a different day, Tuesday period 1 hey ho another post for that.
So that’s it 9.15 and my assembly is over, my 10 minutes done and I am relieved, and I am an emotional wreck, agh and now to that small matter – Monday period 1, hey ho and the rest of periods 2 to 5.
Some questions to consider
Q1 Is a school assembly an old outmoded form of information sharing in the 21st Century?
Q2 Assemblies can be inspirational and can be boring, are they worth the perspiration?
Q3 Are assemblies just for faith schools?
For those in a church school or faith community
Think those of us in faith schools can take heart:
Exodus 12:16 On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat
Hebrews 10:25 Do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another
Acts 14:27 On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith.
Here are a few twitter accounts which I have found to spark an idea – not to do the lot that’s much more time consuming. Anyone who has other useful ones to follow, let me know and I’ll add them here.