If utilised properly, school assemblies can serve as powerful motivators for the entire school community. In this article, TRC speaks to various schools to find out how they conduct effective morning assemblies and why they continue with the tradition.
Imagine a large stream of students entering a big school in the morning. The children pour in through various gates of the school and head off to their classes. Some children may dawdle on their way to class; others may bump into each other, while still others may become rowdy. The beginning of a school day can become chaotic and this is where morning assemblies serve an important purpose. By assembling students and teachers in one space before the start of the school day, morning assemblies are a powerful way to instill discipline and also to set a joyful and focused tone for the day.
“I think assemblies are a wonderful way to stay in touch with children,” says Rabeea Minai, Principal of the AMI School, “for instance when the Army Public School tragedy occurred in Peshawar and the children and staff were very upset and scared, the morning assembly provided me with the right forum to talk to them, alleviate their fears and to motivate them. If used in the right way I think assemblies are great tools.”
Sajida Abdullah, Headmistress of a government school in Lyari (GGPS Kumharwara School) conducts short, but effective morning assemblies everyday, “I think morning assemblies are very important, because I can convey a lot of information including assigning duties to the monitors and prefects. I also use the 5-10 minute assembly that we have every day, to talk about topics such as cleanliness and good manners which I strongly feel need to be reinforced everyday.”
At the PECHS Girls’ School, they have discontinued daily morning assemblies, opting instead for a grand assembly once a week. Madiha Afzal Khan, who is the Senior Academic Coordinator at the PECHS Girls’ School says “Daily assemblies have been an ongoing debate in our school. Our staff is divided on the issue of assembly as some teachers believe that assemblies instill a sense of discipline and are important for checking children’s grooming, while others feel that we shouldn’t have assembly every day because they don’t remain effective. The result is that we now have a grand assembly every Friday. We use our Friday assemblies very effectively to share important information, stage students’ performances, and to give out certificates. We also sing the school anthem every Friday. We have assemblies on special days too, such as Independence Day or Earth Day.”
Creating a community culture
Whether schools have assemblies once or twice a week or every day, a well planned assembly can contribute greatly to the community culture of any school. Sajida found that the morning assembly provided her with the right platform to stress on cleanliness in her school. “It is through repeated messages conveyed during morning assemblies that the children in my school –many of whom do not have educated parents –started throwing litter in dustbins and also started using the toilet properly.” She also found that the morning assembly instilled some sense of discipline in her school which is situated in a low-income neighborhood and where arriving to school on time was not the norm. “Ever since I started the morning assembly, a large percentage of children actually turn up to school on time. Fifty percent of the children arrive on time in my school and attend the morning assembly. That may seem like a low figure, but it is very high for a government school and I believe that it is due to the importance we give to the morning assembly.”
To enhance the morning experience Sajida introduced ‘Thought of the Day’ in the assemblies. “Through this I encourage children to come up to the front and share a good thought about a certain topic.” She also encourages students to display their talents during assembly, by reciting ‘naats’ on Friday morning.
With its strong tradition of performing arts, students at the PECHS Girls’ School are routinely encouraged to display their talents during the Friday Assembly.
Rabeea has also used the forum of morning assemblies to make significant changes in her school, through consensus. “We used the morning assembly to conduct surveys and take votes on various subjects. In fact we managed to get rid of soft drinks and junk food in our school through a vote that we took during assembly.”
Morning assemblies: The challenges
“The challenge is to keep the morning proceedings during assembly interesting and engaging for the children” says Madiha. “I think assemblies can be improved in terms of themes and they should be more interactive. However I feel that the main challenge faced while preparing for an assembly is to find a theme that can be understood across the board by all students, right from grade one to grade ten.”
Some schools have found a way around this challenge by conducting separate assemblies for the different sections of a school. But this may not be possible to do for every school, in terms of logistics.
Another challenge that Rabeea faced at her school was that at any one point during the assembly, only about half the children were able to listen to what was going on. ” We found that it was mostly those children who were standing in the back, who were not able to see what was happening. We solved that issue by spacing out the lines and making some of the children sit in the front. This helped them stay involved and also to interact.”
A shared experience
When they are planned and thought through morning assemblies can be used very effectively to foster a sense of community and to pass on positive values. The forum can be used to instill values such as punctuality, self respect, perseverance, honesty and cooperation. They can be used to motivate students to strive for excellence, to create awareness of social issues, showcase students’ talents, and celebrate school achievements in the presence of the entire school.
By regularly reconnecting the entire school community, at the beginning of the day, an effective and well thought-out agenda sets a positive tone for the entire day and provides a shared experience for the entire school. This experience is especially unique because it is the only time when all the students, many of whom may not see each other at all during the school day are present. By bringing together the entire school and providing a motivating and joyful start, morning assemblies can create an orderly initiation and also build a strong sense of community.
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School assemblies: Sharing, motivating and bonding
By Rabeea Minai, The AMI School
Assemblies are just about the only time when the whole school is together. Well-planned assemblies, are one of the most enjoyable and effective ways of sharing, motivating and bonding. A daily feature in many schools’ agendas, assemblies provide the perfect opportunity for bringing about improvements through collective decision-making and delivering meaningful messages and lessons.
In our experience, children enjoy assemblies when they are short and interactive. Seating or standing arrangements also have a very important role during assembly time. When standing in long queues, it is not only difficult to be attentive, but rather boring when one has to listen to speeches and instructions. When children are seated in a way that all can see and participate in the proceedings, the mood and ambience rapidly changes into one of enjoyment and anticipation.
Some of the things that have been successfully achieved through assemblies at our school are delivering of powerful lessons of acceptance and tolerance of diversity, sharing of grief in times of disasters and terrorist attacks in addition to decision-making about the issues which affect everyone’s health: both physical and emotional. An example of this was the Peshawar tragedy in December last year. While all were very upset and anxious, the children seemed scared to be in school. Sharing of feelings and emotions in the assembly that day not only gave words to the anguish, but also ended with the message that life goes on.
The sharing of hobbies and interests is a regular at assemblies in our school. This serves as an example for children, staff and parents and stresses on the importance of developing these. Another example of using assembly time wisely is when students unanimously voted fizzy drinks off the school canteen menu after a few assembly sessions highlighting the harmful effects of these drinks.