A typical audience at a school assembly (photo used under creative commons licence)
At our school the students run the weekly assembly. Having sat through the first few, to be honest I had come to dread the hour I spent in the school hall each week and I knew I wasn’t the only one. The kids weren’t all that enthused about our weekly school gatherings which reminded me a lot of the assemblies I used to endure at school. Sit down, be quiet and listen to the important people up the front saying important things. The kids were in general compliant of the demands but were they engaged?
Not so much.
Although the hall had a big data projector and a decent sound system, they weren’t being used to full effect. I knew assemblies could be fun. Talking with my tutor teacher, who was also new to school, we decided that the assembly our syndicate was responsible for would be different. It would be a celebration of all the awesome stuff happening in our syndicate with lots of music, colour, movement and have some interaction with the audience. And then my tutor teacher said ‘off you go’ and I had the responsibility for turning that vision into a reality.
So our class brainstormed what we liked and didn’t like about assembly, took some inspiration from youtube and other schools, and then got to work on producing a whole bunch of content. We had a movie to demonstrate kindness, a news show, a photo slideshow set to music and even a commercial for a business a group of kids in my class decided to start up. Our presenters were decked out in our pink syndicate colours, another class in our syndicate made a large banner, the other class in our syndicate also had a movie to show and most importantly we had questions for the audience to answer. In short we took a crazy idea to take a traditional assembly and turn it into a What Now show and made it a reality and it was fantastic to see the energy level in the hall rise from silent compliance to kids smiling and participating in the event.
Yet even though my class produced an amazing assembly, I felt like a bit of a failure.
I thanked every known deity that this wasn’t a week when I had a classroom observation by a senior member of staff. Because if anyone had happened to step into my classroom during the first half of the week, I fear they would have negatively judged me as a teacher because was so much stuff going on in the room. As it was my principal stopped off with a visitor to the school, and again lady luck smiled on me as it happened to be at a time when the kids and I were watching a final product rather than during production.
Because those days of producing a huge amount of content in a short space of time were absolutely manic. There were kids filming and practising outside both the front and back of my classroom, me flying between groups and a few students doing independent study. It was loud and at times felt a little chaotic and so not like what a classroom *should* be like. Our learning intention was to produce an awesome assembly and instead of ordered rotations and people sitting in desks with worksheets to complete, my kids were working out how to tweet the national anthem (an exercise in maths as well as literacy) and watching old episodes of Billy T for inspiration to prepare our news show.
Yet when all is said and done, in 20 years time my kids will not remember me teaching them how to add fractions or reading comprehension strategies. But there’s a chance they might remember the feeling of making a small change in their world. As one of the kids in her reflection on producing our assembly noted, “this was our class’s way to say ‘bring it’ to the rest of the school.”
My proudest moment as a teacher wasn’t from the applause or praise we received from others but came from the knowledge that every single child in my class at some point over the first part of this week made a contribution to that assembly. It might have been something as simple as making a sign to hold up in one of our videos through to a presenting role at the actual event. Were the kids I needed to push to make a bigger contribution? Absolutely. Were things we need to work on in our execution of the event? Definitely. But this week was one of those moments when our class came together as one for a common goal and the result was inspiring if nothing else.
Nevertheless, the insanity of running a school assembly on the same week as learning conferences is not something I wish to repeat any time soon. I was so unbelievably tired on Friday afternoon and am aware I still have another three weeks of teaching and not much gas in the tank to get me there.