Saturday, 29 March 2014

What will it be this time around?

Two years ago it was Phineas and Ferb.  I enjoyed that one.  Many of them were intermingled with some Tom and Jerry, but on the whole it was the brothers of fearless innovation, and the semi-aquatic egg laying mammal of action, who took centre stage.  The reason?  I used it as a shining beacon, an example based upon respect, trust, fondness, and good old fashioned fun.

Last year it was Dungeons and Dragons.  We examined each character in depth, then discussed how they made a valuable (or, indeed, negative) contribution.  We considered how each member of this group made it greater than the sum of its parts, how they would each step up - albeit reluctantly - when required.  We talked about Hank's courage and leadership, Diana's dynamism, and Eric's stupidity.  We evaluated how they had to - sometimes subconsciously; often unwillingly, consistently successfully - overcome unbearable adversity, regularly manipulated by a one horned, skirt wearing sorcerer or a 5 headed female dragon.

Isn't that always just how it goes?

Naturally (and I can see all you D&D fanatics getting closer and closer to your monitors in anticipation) I chose as my finale the episode entitled "Dragon's Graveyard".  I can still recall the Thursday afternoon, sat in my Nan's lounge, when I first saw it, and was struck in fear of mortal peril whilst being unable to turn away.  I watched the faces of the collected audience as they had their first experience of the graveyard, and the powerful lessons it delivers of humility, forgiveness and caring.

(I've only just thought of it, but I could use Flash Gordon.  There's a brilliant bit in the film where Flash helps Lord Barin instead of sending him to his doom, and Vultan asks what madness is this.  "Humanity" enthuses Zarkov.  Now there's an assembly for the future...)

Anyway, you may well be asking what on earth I'm going on about.  (That's if, and it's a big if, you've made it this far.)  Of course, I'm talking about my last two term 5 assemblies.  Followers of the SEAL structure will know that Term 5 assemblies are based on "Relationships", and I have used the cartoons and images mentioned above to give children tangible images and examples of how effective relationships work, and , more tellingly, what factors are present when they don't.

I have no problem confessing that my original motivation for this was simple: it was often the theme / topic I looked forward to the least, and as we all know from our teacher training days: if you can't get enthusiastic about it, how can you make others enthusiastic?  Over the course of the terms, around 6 or 7 weeks, I have used lots of examples and scenes from these two cartoons, as I have been able to talk to children about making relationships work, the sacrifices that have to be made, the consideration and time successful relationships often need.  We also talked about negative relationships, and what makes them so bad.  Tom and Jerry serves as an extreme starting point, but the lessons don't lurk too far beneath the surface.

So, having already completed all the prezis for this week's assemblies, my thoughts turn to term 5.  In which direction shall we go this year?  Who will serve as our examples this time around?  Who will be our paragons of relationship virtue, and who shall be our poor relations?   Far from thinking about fictional boys in a fictional city in America, and even further than a group of high school children thrust into another realm (and a whole world away from an American footballer on another planet -literally), I'm thinking of a group of people a little closer to home.

Indeed, I'm thinking of a group of people who have made a competition out of how many books they can put on my desk whilst I'm out.  The same group of people who had issues with one another in term 3, especially of a racist nature, but who have worked hard - collaboratively and collectively - to improve this situation.  The same group of people who have worked tirelessly to improve our dining hall, our playgrounds, our corridors and our lunchtimes.

I'm thinking of our children.

I have been utterly spellbound during recent weeks about how much energy, effort and - seems so small but is oh so important - care our children, right from the inquisitive nursery newbies to the seen-it-all year 6 gang have put into school.  One Thursday morning, things weren't quite right: one of the toilets was broken and there was someone not from our school bring disrespectful in breakfast club.  Who put these things right?  Our children.  With sensitivity, diplomacy and (I'll say it again) care, they did what needed to be done to sort out these issues.  The day began more peacefully.  Relationships carried us through.

I was returning from one of my trips to the Children's centre recently when I noticed a group of children - in our colours - on the wrong side of the road.  They also had a load of adults with them I didn't recognize.  Furthermore, they looked like they were having a party.  When I got closer, I was reassured when I saw emerge from the park their teacher with (one of our local celebrities) Mark the Park keeper.  Our reception children, and a large group of parents, had been invited into the park to plant lots of trees and bulbs in the community.

Two days later, upon hearing the sad news that our new park had been vandalised, instantly the thoughts turned not to retribution, but to reconciliation, and as to how we could make these people our friends, hopefully becoming a part of the group who enjoys it, as opposed to an outsider who will not.  One of our year 6 boys was quoted in the Evening Post about what should be done.

Upon announcing the illness of a member of staff recently, I was humbled by the reaction of the class.  "Is she okay?" they asked.  "Can we talk to her?".  "Shall we send her a message on twitter?".  One of our more mature friends made sure it was a quiet moment when she said to me "you will tell us how she is, won't you?"  I felt extremely humbled, and very proud, to be a part of such a web of intricate yet such strong relationships.  It was all driven home when one of our bigger lads, never famed for his sensitivity, came back in after school with his Mum and asked "Is she going to be okay?".

In times when children all too often get accused of not being able to care less, I could not conceive how they could care more.

So the stars of term 5 assemblies may well be the very people in the room.  And, for once, I will really look forward to such a topic.

That is all.