School Assemblies – Look How Far We’ve Come!

Granted I’m not old enough to remember practicing “duck and cover” under the school desk when the threat of “the bomb” was part of every day life. But an episode of “Mad Men” can trigger many memories of growing up in a time where a child’s entertainment was markedly different from how things are today. I clearly remember the Davey Crockett hat that my parents brought home from their vacation supplied me with hours of imagination and fun. I remember playing “army” with my friends or simply “putting on a show” with my brother and sister. These antiquated activities would satisfy the entertainment needs for just about any elementary school-age child 30 or 40 years ago.

During my Spirit of America school assembly program, I tell the kids a quick story about how people used to see most of their entertainment “live on stage.” I say — “there were no iPods,” (they shriek), “there were no computers.” (another shriek) “…and there were NO VIDEO GAMES!” (this time – a scream of pain!).

This little exercise is a good illustration of how our kids perceive and what they expect from their entertainment. Make no mistake, I’m not promoting going back to the old days by any means. Quite the contrary. I feel that although creative opportunities have shifted for school age children, the advances in technology have made the experience so much more satisfying.

How do we relate these experiences to school assemblies? Let’s look back at where the school assemblies have been in recent history. I can only speak from personal experience, but I only remember having maybe two or three assemblies during the my entire six year stay at Samuel Everitt Elementary school in Levittown, PA.

One assembly featured a local dentist, who gave us all a lesson on brushing our teeth the “correct” way. (I’m pretty sure there are still guys out there doing these assemblies.) What I remember most about this program was getting those red dye pills to chew after brushing to see what parts of my mouth were missed. Do you remember those?? They were actually called Dental Disclosing Tablets (I just looked it up on Wikipedia).

Then I remember, a policeman who showed pictures of the local jailhouse and gave us a chance to put on handcuffs. (Which I believe a few classmates took the opportunity to repeat after high school.) Finally, the fireman who showed us how things burned.

Yes, it was cool. But today’s school-age children expect so much more. It’s simply the time that we live in. Most (I can’t say every) children either own or use an iPod. Most are technologically advanced and adept at using a computer and most watch at least a few of the approximately 800 channels of television available to them (as opposed to the three or four that were available to my generation). One of the reasons that I added a multimedia component to our school assemblies was to compete with and hopefully exceed what the kids see every day in the classroom and at home. There are no more filmstrips in school, even a blackboard has become obsolete. The assemblies booked today should be exciting, informative, technologically up-to-date, participatory and exceed the standard fare of entertainment our kids see on a daily basis. Finally, depending on the school and it’s particular needs, most shows should be able to add educational value to the students school day. After all, it is — school.