In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future.
The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.
I remember it like yesterday. It was my first ever interview for a deputy headship and I braced myself for the first question. It certainly wasn’t what I expected: ‘A hymn, a prayer and a telling off is this an accurate description of a school assembly?’ I can’t remember how I answered but it certainly made me think, and over thirty years later I am still thinking
If a school assembly lasts twenty minutes then a child spends 63 hours a year in assembly and that equates to over ten school days of six hours each. This means that during their primary school years a child will spend 443 hours or 70 days in assembly and possibly a further 316 hours or 52 days during the secondary years. This can be either time that is simply lost and forgotten or hours that can be used to make a difference to create confident individuals and responsible, deep-thinking citizens for the future.
Growing up in the twenty-first century can seem very complex and there are many things that seriously worry young people global warming, depleted natural resources and how we can all live together harmoniously in a rapidly changing world. The generation of children currently passing through our schools will be the ones to resolve these issues for us. This will be achieved partly through the skills and knowledge they gather and partly through the development of an emotional and spiritual intelligence that will enable them to become good citizens who do the right things at the right time. This is what I have aimed to do in this book. The materials are aimed predominantly at school leaders
and teachers in Key Stages 2 and 3 (ages 714). The photographs and activities suggested can be used to enhance learning in classrooms.
Eric Hoffer’s comment speaks of a time of ‘drastic change’, and the twenty-first century has already brought considerable change with certainly
more to come. Therefore, the premise behind this book is that more than ever children need to be equipped to think deeply and make appropriate choices about what is right and wrong, good and evil, beautiful and ugly.
Many of the assemblies build from ideas in my previous book, Inspirational
Teachers Inspirational Learners (2011). In turn, I hope the suggestions equip you to lead inspirational assemblies that pass the three generations test: the children remember them in the short term; they still remember them when they become parents; and finally they are able to tell their grandchildren about them.
The book is laid out in two parts:
¦¦ Part I: Our World in the Twenty-First Century aims to help children to become responsible global citizens who will help to change the world for the better.
¦¦ Part II: Creating Responsible Citizens in Our Schools and Communities aims to promote a sense of aspiration and ambition within learners and also provide ideas for how they can make a positive difference to the school and the locality.
The book also recognizes the pressures school leaders and teachers are
under. Therefore the materials for each theme are presented in three
¦¦ Three Star Assemblies : These are for those moments when you think: ‘Help, I’ve hardly any time to plan an assembly!’ For these assemblies, you can simply pick up the book and read the story or account and follow the activities planned.
¦¦ Four Star Assemblies : These are for the occasions when you’ve got a bit longer to prepare. They might involve groups of children, music or film footage. Many of the themes and resources provided open up opportunities for Philosophy for Children activities in the classroom. Sometimes these could be
highly worthwhile learning activities that may not be incorporated into an assembly. On other occasions the children’s thinking can enhance the assemblies. Sometimes the materials could lead to a follow-up assembly (which means that many of the assemblies develop into two assemblies).
¦¦ Five Star Assemblies : These are for the occasions when you need the ‘Rolls Royce’ model of deep, rich and meaningful assemblies. Perhaps it is because Ofsted are about to arrive. Again there are suggestions for how you can involve the children as described in the section above. On some occasions the Five Star Assembly can become a further follow-up assembly, and so on these occasions each assembly grows into three assemblies!
One of the concepts I have become increasingly interested in over recent
years is the power of the six word story. Many of the world’s largest and
most successful businesses use six word stories as an advertising technique.
Here are a couple of examples: ‘Engineered to move the human spirit’ (Mercedes Benz)’ and ‘We’re number two. We try harder’ (Avis Rent a Car).
Six words are deemed to be the smallest number of words you can use to write a complete story. Some of the assemblies and activities urge the children to use six really powerful words to describe an image or capture part of the assembly. The six word story can also be a brilliant method of introducing reflection at the end of the assembly.
Many of the assemblies are designed to incorporate a Team of Experts model. Often when you view a live factual programme on television you see a research team in the background working away on computers providing up-to-the-minute information. This approach is built into many of the assemblies. All you need to do is create a team of four or five experts who set out to find additional information relating to the assembly whilst it is taking place. This ethodology increases pupil participation and also demonstrates the speed at which we can gain information, adding to the twenty-first century feel of the assembly. However, the group may need the guidance of an adult until it becomes
an accepted part of the routine.
It should be stressed that the contents of this book and Jane Hewitt’s stunning images on CD Rom are designed for wide useage. They have not just been produced with the school assembly in mind. The stories, articles and pictures can be used in a variety of ways by the teacher in his or her own classroom. As suggested, they can promote deep and rich activities within ‘Philosophy for Children’ or promote an area of research for a small group of pupils. This in turn could lead to high quality writing opportunities across a range of genres. Equally the ideas promoted could be used to introduce a class or group to those projects which have the big emotional hook, such as:
¦¦ Is slavery confined to the past?
¦¦ How can we live harmoniously in rapidly changing communities?
¦¦ Why should we recycle?
¦¦ Who are the real super heroes who have changed our community, or changed our country or changed our world?
Eric Hoffer is correct to tell us that we live in a time of drastic change.
I hope that this book does help to create learners who inherit the future
and help to make the world a better place, but I also hope that you enjoy
exploring the themes with the children and young people in your care.