Assemblies, we all have to do them and most often than not a teacher’s first reaction is not a positive one.
Why is that?
Before we start to unpack that question, let’s look at the purpose and role of what an assembly is and why we do it:
What is an assembly? An Assembly is a real-world opportunity and experience for a school or a class to express themselves. It serves as a way to communicate and express student talent (and non-talent) and provides an authentic experience. Essential, an Assembly is a way to provide students with a real experience to communicate.
Why do we do them? It is very much part of Language. PYP or not, look at the strands contained within it. It is an opportunity for students to speak and present when they are on stage. It is also an opportunity for students to view and listen when they are part of an audience. This helps students know how to behave and act when they are in an audience outside of school. Messages and important information can be shared. Parents, teachers and students get another ‘window’ into the things students are learning at school. Students grow and develop their confidence, especially in front of a large audience. And on and on and on….
Why are teacher’s (typically) first reaction a negative one? Time: We find ourselves having to create extra time at the expense of something else already happening. We all know what this means. Something gets pushed aside, while the assembly moves in as a priority. There is a sense of pressure and stress added to the ‘healthy competition’ of what other classes do. This adds another layer of pressure when doing something meaningful and interesting, even though your strengths may not lie in this very niche field. We sometimes force things upon our students or ourselves because of this added responsibility. And on and on and on…
What can we do about it? Look at the schedule. Does anyone have better ideas to move things around and not to have them during those ‘extra peak’ times of the year? Does the SRC lead them? Does the staff sit down and agree on the essential things that must be part of an assembly? Bring in more specialist teachers such as art and music? An idea I have been thinking a lot about is having the speech and drama teacher co-lead the assemblies. Give it to people who are naturally good at them, where there an already-made real audience to showcase learning and talent and just general sharing. How many times do students not know where to stand, or how to speak into the microphone with a clear and loud voice? What about how to applaud respectfully if you are in the audience? All these things need to be taught as skills and as attitudes.
I am not saying that Assemblies are a burden. Personally, the students and I have done some really good assemblies. We have also done some very average ones too. The reasons why always comes back to time and what is already going on during the week inside and outside of the classroom.
I am sure there are many other good ideas out there. I would be very interested in hearing about how your school runs assemblies. Assemblies are important and they do give students experiences that are real and meaningful. Maybe I just need to admit I am not good at them and need help.