Assembly: Communication

communication

This morning we did an assembly on the theme of Communication in our local junior school.

Ways of communication

Start the assembly by saying something like this. While you are all getting settled, I’ll just have time to phone my friend who lives in London, about 130 miles away’.  Speak on the phone/to the laptop, saying something like:  “Hello, Mum, how are you? Just a quick call to remind you to remember Daniel’s looking forward to ice creams with you this week! (Pause) You had remembered – fine! (Pause)I’m in school, just about to take an assembly. I’ll talk to you later. Bye!”

Continue by saying that if everyone can wait a little longer, you’d just like to email (or text) your friend Sarah, who lives in Chile in South America. Then tap away at the keyboard, speaking as you (pretend to) type. Hi, Sarah Hope you’re having a good week, and enjoying some sunshine. Weather here is chilly, but the summer was good.  Take care and talk to you soon. SEND!

Ask the children when your friend will get the message. He might even get back to you before the assembly finishes, unless of course she’s in bed. Suggest that this type of communication, although now commonplace, is amazing. We hear about things happening all over the world within minutes of their actually taking place:

Message in a bottle

Ask the children for examples of the way people send messages today, such as text messages, email, phone, etc. Discuss ways of sending messages through the ages: messengers, post, telegrams, pigeon post.

Have the four bottles displayed on a table in view of the children. Ask if anyone has sent a message in a bottle. Discuss with the children whether they think this is a good way to send a message?

Explain that it is impossible to predict the direction a bottle will take in the sea.  An experiment was carried out tracking two bottles dropped off the Brazilian coast. One drifted east for 30 days and was found on a beach in Africa; the other floated north-west for 190 days, reaching Nicaragua. (Track these on the world map if you have one.)

Explain that, fragile as it may seem, a well-sealed bottle is one of the world’s most seaworthy objects. It will bob safely through hurricanes that can sink great ships!  Glass also lasts for a very long time. In 1954, 18 bottles were salvaged from a ship sunk 250 years earlier off the English coast. The liquid in them was unrecognizable but the bottles were as good as new!

We are going to think about what kind of message might be sent in a bottle by looking at some actual messages which have been found. Volunteers can be chosen to come out and open a bottle and read the message. Track the journeys on the world map.

Bottle 1: Thrown in to the sea at Morecambe Bay by a four-year-old girl as part of a nursery school project on ‘Beside the Sea’. This bottle ended up in Australia. Message: ‘Hello. Please will you write to me?’

Bottle 2: Dropped overboard by a Swedish sailor called Ake Viking. Picked up in a fishing net by a Sicilian fisherman.
Message: ‘If any pretty girl finds this, please write!’ 
The fisherman gave it to his daughter, Paolina, who wrote back, and the couple subsequently married!

Bottle 3: Tied to the long line of a fishing net that was found by 88 refugees who had been abandoned in the seas off the coast of Ecuador. The boat had started to take in water and the men they had paid to take them to the USA had abandoned them three days earlier. As a result they were saved. Message: ‘Help, please, help us.’

Bottle 4: Picked up on a beach somewhere on the west coast of Africa, along with a New Testament of the Bible. Message: ‘God loves you very much.’ It had been sent by a charity called Bread on the Waters from the USA.

So you could put all sorts of messages in a bottle and who knows where it might end up and who might read it. It might be a cry for help, it might be a proposal of marriage, it might bring you a pen friend, or it might be good news for someone.

God is always there

Talk about the ways the children have already communicated today, e.g. talking, maybe a phone call, smiling, pulling a face, answering the register.

Show the children some of the forms of communication that you have brought. Ask what is good and bad about each one. For example, a mobile phone is a great way of communicating with people even when they are not at home; however, it can be easily lost, and there are times when it needs to be switched off, making the owner not contactable. An email is a good way to contact someone if you don’t want to disturb them at a busy time, but some people may not check their emails for days on end.

Explain that all forms of communication have their good and bad points but none of them gives immediate access to someone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Christians believe that God is available for us to talk to him at all times. They believe that there will never be a moment when God is not listening to us. This can bring people great comfort as they feel that they are never really alone.  Psalm 121 verse 4 tells us: ‘He who watches over you will never slumber or sleep.’

Misunderstandings

When we think about how we communicate it’s really important to take the time to understand the feelings of others and what those around you really mean. Otherwise we might upset them, start arguments or just get very embarrassed.

Show the letters WC and ask your audience if they know what these initials stand for. (Answers may include Winston Churchill, West Central, etc.). Hopefully, you should eventually get the answer ‘water closet’ – an old-fashioned term for a toilet.

Now tell them the following story: A lady from England, while visiting Switzerland, asked the local schoolmaster to help her find a place to stay where she could have a room for the summer. He was a very kind man and took her to see several rooms. When everything was settled, the lady returned to England to make final preparations to move. When she arrived back home, however, the thought occurred to her that she had not seen a WC in the apartment. So, she immediately wrote a note to the Swiss schoolmaster asking him if there was a ‘WC’ in the place.

The schoolmaster only had a very limited knowledge of English and was not familiar with the term, so he asked the local priest if he could help in the matter. Together, they tried to find the meaning of the letters ‘WC’ and the only solution they agreed on was that the letters must be an abbreviation for ‘Wayside Chapel’ – a small church common in the Swiss countryside. The schoolmaster then wrote the following letter to the English lady:

My dear Madam, I am delighted to inform you that a ‘WC’ is situated nine miles from the house in the corner of a beautiful grove of pine trees, surrounded by lovely grounds. It is capable of holding 229 people, and it is open on Sundays and Thursdays only. As there are a great many people expected during the summer months, I would suggest that you come early, although there is usually plenty of standing room. This is an unfortunate situation, particularly if you are in the habit of going regularly. You will no doubt be glad to hear that a good many bring their lunch and make a day of it, while others, who are unable to go in their car, arrive just in time.

I would especially advise you to go on Thursdays when there is an organ accompaniment. The acoustics are excellent and even the most delicate sounds can be heard everywhere. The newest attraction is a bell, donated by a wealthy resident of the district, which rings every time a person enters.

It may interest you to know that my daughter was married in the ‘WC’ and indeed it was there that she first met her husband. I can remember the rush there was for seats. There were ten people to a seat usually reserved for one, and it was wonderful to see the expression on their faces.

Sadly my wife is rather delicate so she can’t go regularly: it is almost a year since she went last. Naturally it pains her not to be able to go more often. I shall be delighted to reserve the best seat for you, if you wish, where you will be seen by all.

Hoping to have been of some service to you, I remain, Yours truly, The Schoolmaster

Comment that, as you see, it is so easy to misunderstand those we come into contact with if we are not careful.

Obviously we hope to see you in the nearest WC – that’s Wayside Chapel, of course!

 

Reflection

Do you ever feel lonely? Do you ever feel scared and alone? Christians believe that God is always with us and that we can talk to him at any time.

Prayer

Dear God,

Thank you that you are always there for us to talk to.

Thank you that you understand me when other people don’t.

Amen.

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Assembly: Sharing and Working Together

Sharing

We did this assembly on sharing and working together last week in one of our local junior schools:

Preparation and Materials

  • Equipment: two spoons, sticky-taped onto long canes; some small sweets such as Smarties, or crisps; two shallow dishes; two bananas; two bags of cookies.
  • You will also need a travel bag and a couple of books. Put one book and one of the bags of cookies in the travel bag – along with other items to ‘hide’ the secreted bag of cookies.
  • Before the start of the assembly, place three chairs at the front of the assembly space with the travel bag on the middle chair and the other paper bag of five small cookies out of sight behind the travel bag. The three chairs are the airport departure lounge. Put two further chairs to one side of the ‘stage’: these will be the plane.

 

The Long Spoons

Ask for two volunteers to come out and eat some sweets. Tell them they must use your ‘Special Spoons’. The children try to eat the sweets, but fail as the spoons are too long.

 

Stop the children after a few attempts and tell them that the theme of the assembly is ‘sharing’. Give them a few clues if necessary, so that they get the idea of feeding each other with the spoons. Stop after a few successful attempts.

 

Ask the children for any examples of times when they have helped someone to do something, or needed someone to work with them. If appropriate, have some children act out their ideas, or use the ideas above.

 

Discuss the need for working together to make life better, for offering to help rather than waiting to be asked, for being open to help and ready to receive it.

 

Have a Banana

Explain that you are very hungry because you missed out on breakfast/break/lunch (whichever is appropriate to the time of day). Say you hope that, while you are talking, no one minds if you have a snack.

 

Produce a banana from your pocket or bag and say how much you like bananas and how healthy and delicious they are, etc. Begin to peel it.

 

Part way through peeling it, stop and say that perhaps you are being a little selfish, and maybe someone would like to share your banana with you. Ask for a volunteer who really likes bananas. Choose an older child who is emotionally robust(!) and say you will ‘go halves’ with him or her. Continue to peel the banana, and then give the skin to the child while you begin to eat the fruit, saying: Half for you and half for me.

 

Look disappointed that the child isn’t eating the banana-peel, and say something like, I thought you liked bananas – what’s the problem? Hopefully the child will say something along the lines that s/he can’t eat the skin, and so hasn’t really had half, etc.

 

Make the point that sometimes we think we are sharing and being generous, when really we are keeping the best for ourselves and giving away rubbish. Can the children think of any examples, such as sharing sweets but only giving away the ones we don’t like? Christians believe that everything we have really belongs to God, and we need to be responsible with it and not greedy. In the Bible we are called to be generous and ready to share (1 Timothy 6.18).

 

Finish by apologizing to the volunteer and giving him/her the second banana.

 

The Cookie Thief

Ask for two volunteers to act out the story that you are going to tell. Tell the volunteers to sit on the two outside chairs. Explain that they are passengers waiting in an airport departure lounge for their flights. They don’t know each other and are waiting for an announcement to board their planes. The man is reading a book (give one to the volunteer).

 

The lady is getting a bit bored. She decides that she will get her own book out to read (she gets it out of the travel bag).  An announcement comes over the speaker system that her flight is delayed. The lady is getting a bit peckish so decides she will have one of her cookies. Without looking up from her book, she reaches down by her bag and takes a cookie (the child reaches into the paper bag behind the travel bag).

 

To her astonishment, the man also reaches down and helps himself to a cookie and eats it all (child gets a cookie out of the same paper bag). The lady is shocked and thinks what an awful man he must be. She chooses to say nothing but gives him a look of disdain. She has a further cookie and again the man takes one and quickly eats it. (Lots can be made of this – how the lady must be feeling – her shock and surprise. Get the children to imagine how they would feel in her place.)

 

Then to her disbelief, the man reaches down and takes the last cookie in the bag, looks at her, breaks it in half, offers her half of it and he eats the other half. The lady snatches it off him and with a scowl eats it. Another announcement is made and it is the lady’s flight that is being called. She pushes her book in to her travel bag, puts the bag over her shoulder, grabs the cookie bag, screws it up in anger, throws it in the bin and with an angry look at the man, storms off to the departure gate and her plane (child moves and sits on one of the other two seats: the plane), leaving the man behind to wait for his own flight.

 

Settling in to her plane seat, the lady prepares for the flight. She reaches into her travel bag to get her book. (Give a gasp of astonishment and shocked disbelief.) To the lady’s horror, she discovers her bag of cookies! (She pulls out of her travel bag an identical paper bag to the one just screwed up and thrown away. Hold this up.)

 

Depending upon the age of the children, remind them of what has happened and point out that the man had offered the lady half of the last cookie even though they were his cookies.

 

Time for reflection

What a terrible situation to be in! But reflect upon what the man did. Even though the lady was eating his cookies, he graciously let her have half of his last one.

 

Would we have done the same?

 

Just as that lady did, do we think bad thoughts about people when they act strangely? Perhaps we should sometimes turn around how we think and respond with kindness even when we feel we are wronged.

 

In a moment of silence, ask the children to think especially of someone they might share things with, choose to work with, play with or help in some way today.

 

Dear God,

Please bless our school,

that by working together and playing together

we may learn to serve you

and to serve one another.

Amen.

 

Assembly: We are all special to God

You are special

We did this assembly in one of our local Infant schools this afternoon:

 

Start by looking through the binoculars as if bird-watching, with a bird book at hand. Pretend to follow a bird’s flight path. Every now and then say, ‘Wow, did you see that?’ Take out the bird book and pretend to search for the bird.

 

Notice the children and tell them that you are a keen bird-watcher and you have heard that there are some rare birds about. They have been blown off course in a recent storm. Suggest that the children help you. When you spot a bird you will try to describe it to them. If they think they have identified the bird they may put up their hand. 

‘Here comes one now.’ Pretend to follow its path. ‘Now this one is quite big. It is all white and has big wings. I think it is looking for fish.’ Take the first reasonable answer you hear and thank the children.

 

‘Look, here we go again.’ This one is making for the school bird table. It is quite small. I see a bit of blue on it. Oh, it is eating the nuts.’ Again accept an answer from the children.

 

Then choose an unusual bird, maybe an osprey, a kingfisher, or a bird from another continent if any class has been studying such a topic. Be very excited about this one. Lots of exclamation! ‘Imagine us seeing an osprey! Do you know how rare that is?’

At that moment another bird flies quickly past and you immediately stop talking to the children to follow its imaginary flight as before. ‘What is this one? Do you see it go? It’s brown and it’s small. Oh, quick, it’s landed on that gate.’ Keep looking. ‘I think it’s a … Oh, it’s a sparrow!’ Put the binoculars down.

 

Explain to the children that sparrows were once very ordinary in this country, one of the most common birds around, in fact. They are not very colourful. They don’t do anything very spectacular. But God speaks about them in the Bible. There is no mention of a seagull in the Bible. There is no mention of a blue tit in the Bible. Nor is an osprey even mentioned. But an ordinary, little sparrow. Yes, in fact it was Jesus who had something to say about sparrows. In Matthew 10.29, Jesus says that his Father knows when a sparrow anywhere falls to the ground. He cares about each common little sparrow. Christians believe that this means that God cares for everyone, not just the ‘special’ or unusual people.

 

Point out that recently the number of sparrows in the UK has dropped off so that in some areas they are not very common at all – they’ve become special and unusual!

 

Ask: how many of us feel very ordinary like the sparrows? Maybe we are very ordinary to look at. Maybe the things we are able to do seem very ordinary. Maybe we don’t think we particularly shine at anything. But just like the sparrow, the only bird that Jesus talked about, we are special. Each one of us is unique. Ask if anyone knows what unique means: we are the only one just like us.

 

Lewis Carroll

Ask the children if any have heard of someone called Lewis Carroll. Hopefully an older child will have read Alice in Wonderland and know that he was the author of the book. Spend a few minutes allowing the children to share what they know of the story.

Say that Lewis Carroll lived during the reign of Queen Victoria and is well known as an author. But probably not many people know that he was also a lecturer in mathematics. He invented something called the Carroll Diagram. We are going to find out what this is and maybe we will discover that the older children have been using these diagrams already as they have gathered and sorted information in mathematics.

 

Put the large pieces of white paper on the floor. To the left side of the squares place the labels Brown and Blond. At the foot of the squares place the labels Boy and Girl.

 

Choose a class or group with the smallest number of children in it, or the reception class. Explain that you are going to sort this class by their sex and by their hair colour. Bring each child out one at a time and see if they can work out in which square they should stand.

Ask the older children questions from the information on display. For example, how many boys have blond hair? How many more girls have brown hair than boys?

 

Explain that as we start the new school year many children have moved into a new class with a new teacher. In some classes there are new pupils. Some classes may even have been joined in with another class. There is a lot to learn about one another!

It is easy to be able to say what colour of hair we each have, whether we are tall or small, whether we are quiet or noisy. But there is so much we have yet to find out about one another, so many interests and talents that are developing in each of us. 

Very few people, including your teachers, perhaps knew that Lewis Carroll was not only a famous author but a famous mathematician.

Time for reflection

 

Reflection

Lewis Carroll was good at writing stories and at mathematics. Choose two things that you are good at. Maybe you could share these with your teacher when you go back to class.

 

Prayer

Invite the children quietly to look around at one another as you say this prayer:

 

Dear Father God,
Thank you that I am me!

Thank you that I am special, that there is no one else quite like me.

Thank you that you have made me in your image, which means that I am able to think and do and make and create and learn and enjoy.

Help me as I grow and change this school year, to become all that you made me to be.

Amen.

A’ Level Results – how to help your child

Exam results

Here are some top tips on dealing with disappointing results:

For parents:

  • Don’t be afraid to talk about the results, either before or after.
  • Don’t shy away from the disappointment your child is feeling. Encourage him or her to talk about it.
  • Keep talking about the many possible future paths available.
  • Emphasise how hard they’ve tried and the work they’ve put in – and why this shows they have qualities that can take them far.
  • Explain – preferably with real examples – that many successful people have taken “a zig-zag route” to reach their goals.

For students:

  • If you’re worried, don’t wait till the last minute. Ring up and ask for an appointment with your tutor or careers adviser to look at options in case you drop a grade, so you have a real plan B. Find out too if there’s someone you can talk to at school or college in the days and weeks after results.
  • Be aware of the hype around A-levels day – TV images of ecstatic students, for example – which can inflate the importance of the results beyond the reality.
  • Develop a broader perspective on your future – talk to your friends, your family and especially your teachers or tutors, who may be well placed to help you think about alternative but equally rewarding ways forward.
  • Plan to do something positive on results day, whatever your grades. And stay in touch with people, to remind yourself that there is more to life than A-levels.

Clearing 2014 – A step-by-step guide

Ucas

Around 300,000 students will receive their A-level results on Thursday, and like every year, thousands of students will suddenly find themselves thrown into the Clearing system.

If you are among them, remember – ending up in Clearing is no reason to panic. University Clearing is there for anyone who has applied through Ucas but is without a place after receiving their results, whatever the reason.  Last year almost 52,000 people obtained a university place this way, so there is a good chance you will too, provided you are flexible and get your research right.

Here is a simple, step-by-step guide to Clearing should you need to get involved on results day:

1. Check Track

On the morning of results day, log in to Track on the Ucas website to see if you are eligible for Clearing. It’s a myth that Track is updated at midnight on results day. Only the Clearing 2014 Vacancy Search goes live at midnight; Track opens at around 8am.

2. Browse courses

You can browse Clearing 2014 vacancies at any time on results day, but you can’t make a formal choice until around 5.00pm when, if you’re eligible, an “add Clearing choice” button appears on your Track “choices” screen. However, you should call universities or colleges much earlier in the day to secure a provisional offer. Discuss your options with those who know your academic background and have been advising you up to this point. You might also find it helpful to talk to careers advisers on the Exam Results Helpline (0808 100 8000).

3. Be ready to act fast

Vacancies can be filled extremely quickly, and if you’re not around at the start of Clearing places on your chosen courses may have gone by the time you call the universities or colleges. Admissions staff will want to speak to you, not your parents or advisers.

4. Prepare to contact admissions staff

When you have found a course you like, call the university’s admissions office to confirm that places are still available and discuss the course demands. You should prepare for that phone call as seriously as for a job interview. Be ready to ask tutors intelligent questions about the course requirements, and make sure you are a good fit for them. You might want to ask how the course is taught, what assessment model is used, what materials you’ll need to supply, and about the accommodation arrangements. Admissions staff will ask for your personal ID and Clearing number to confirm they can consider you in Clearing (you’ll find these on the “welcome” and “choices” pages in Track). They can then view your complete application immediately on Ucas’s secure online system.

5. Add a Clearing choice in Track

If an admissions tutor offers you a provisional place, you’ll probably be given a deadline for making a formal commitment to the course by adding a Clearing choice on Track. You can only make one choice at a time. Before accepting an offer, research the course requirements and university carefully. You are committing to years of study and should feel confident that you’re doing the right thing.

6. Confirm or pick another course

Ucas tells the institution that you have entered its details on Track. If you are successful, you will see the acceptance in the “choices” section and Ucas will send you a letter confirming your place and giving further guidance. If you aren’t successful the “add Clearing choice” button will be reactivated so you can add another choice, and still more if necessary up until October 22. Vacancies in Clearing are a shifting landscape as people turn down offers and places are filled, so keep looking at the lists.

7. Consider applying again next year

If you can’t find a course in Clearing that matches your aspirations you can always apply again for next year. Courses for 2014 are already available to browse on the Ucas website. You can start work on your new application right now, although you won’t be able to submit it until mid-September.

John Orchard a friend who is the Education Outreach Officer at the University of Essex, wrote some comments from his perspective as someone who works at a university and will be answering clearing phone calls this week:

  • It is SO important to read up on courses and universities BEFORE making any phone calls. We don’t mind answering specific questions but it’s really important that students have a good idea of what they’re applying for before they ring.
  • If you’re applying to a university through clearing find out if they have a clearing open day or tours running and make it a priority to go if at all possible.
  • Please be patient with us. We will process applications and get a response to you as soon as we can Sometimes taking time out to reflect and re-applying the following year is the best thing. Rushed decisions are more likely to be wrong decisions.
  • Please be patient with us. We will process applications and get a response to you as soon as we can”

Mental health schemes to give early help to teenagers

Funding mental health

New mental health projects across England will help school pupils to deal with their problems and worries after receiving almost £5m of development funding from the Big Lottery Fund.

The funding means that pupils in a number of areas across the country will take part in pilot projects in the new school year. The area partnerships will use this pilot to work up long term plans that could then benefit from a multi-million pound share of HeadStart funding.

The areas receiving grants of £500,000 are Middlesbrough, Cumbria, Blackpool, Knowsley, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Southampton, Kent, Cornwall and the London Borough of Lewisham. The partnerships in these areas will bring together a key mix of young people, youth workers, charities, health commissioners, parents, teachers, GPs and local authorities to address the various factors that influence a young person’s mental and emotional wellbeing.

The statistics on child mental health make stark reading. Among teenagers, rates of depression and anxiety have increased by 70% in the past 25 years while  one in 10 young people – so approximately three in every classroom – has a clinically diagnosable mental health problem.

A previous YouGov survey for the Big Lottery Fund revealed that 45 per cent of children aged 10-14 have reported being unable to sleep because of stress or worry, with fifty nine per cent saying they feel worried or sad at least once a week. However, only around 25 per cent of young people needing treatment for mental health problems actually receive it and usually only once they reach 18.

The HeadStart programme aims to develop ways of dealing with mental health issues before they become deep-rooted problems. Focussing primarily on schools, the HeadStart partners will offer a range of approaches, including peer mentoring, mental health ‘first aid’ training, online portals and special resilience lessons helping pupils aged 10-14 feel they have support at in the classroom as well as at home and tackling the stigma that can often surround the issues of mental health.

Angie Hart, Professor of Child, Family and Community Health at the University of Brighton, co-Director of Boingboing Social Enterprise and HeadStart advisor, said:

“Good mental and emotional health is as important to a child’s development as good physical health. Too often this can be neglected until problems and worries have become much more serious. The key to ensuring a strong emotional resilience among young people is early intervention. This involves tackling the root of the causes, including poverty and discrimination. The importance of prevention rather than the cure cannot be underestimated. The HeadStart programme will help to develop ways of supporting young people’s mental and emotional resilience in a world that only seems to subject them to more and more pressures.”

Junior school assembly on Leadership

I recently led an assembly on the theme of Leadership for one of our local junior schools:

servant leadership

Preparation:

  • A bowl of warm water, towel and flannel.
  • Some feet to wash! This could be a real person (a colleague not a child as this could lead to a misunderstanding, and you could also wash hands instead of feet if that’s more appropriate), but perhaps it would be more fun to use a doll/action man.

Assembly:

Explain that we will be thinking about leaders today – lots of different kinds of leaders in our communities and world. They are people who help shape our lives, give guidance and are meant to be examples to us.

 

Play a short guessing game. Give the initial letters of jobs that involve being a leader and a clue to help the children guess.

 

For example:

  • HT – someone who leads a school? – Head Teacher
  • 
C – someone who is the leading player in a team? – Captain
  • PM – someone who leads our country? – Prime Minister
  • 
C – Someone who directs an orchestra? – Conductor

 

Explain briefly the kinds of things these leaders do. If the school has a school council, talk about the role of school councillors.

 

Democratic countries have elections in order to try to change their countries for the better. We live in one of the world’s oldest democracies. Some historians argue that the first moves towards democracy in this country took place with the signing of a treaty called the Magna Carta in 1215. The treaty required the king of England at the time, King John, to have a duty to protect certain rights of his subjects, and restricted his powers under the law.

 

At the start of this new school year, we want you to think about your likes and dislikes in this school environment. We would like you to have your say. Do you feel that it is an attractive place to be in? Do you have enough computers? Do you have any ideas for improving this school? They will be presented to our school governors and you will have an opportunity to vote on which idea could be put into practice in the future.

 

‘It is the duty of government to make it difficult for people to do wrong, easy to do right,’ William Gladstone, Liberal prime minister of the 19th century.

 

We need good leaders in every area of our society. Without good political leaders, laws would be passed that would make it easier for people to do wrong things and get away with them. Gladstone was right about what governments exist to do – good leaders make it harder to do wrong and easier to do right. Without good political leaders, the country would descend into a very unstable place where the poorest and most vulnerable in society were not being looked after. Many believe a society should be judged on how well it looks after its most needy and vulnerable. Good government frees up people to take responsibility to do good and confront things when they are bad.

 

Explain that Christians believe that Jesus was a very special leader and that he showed his friends very powerfully what it meant to lead. Explain that in hot countries it was a custom that when a visitor arrived at someone’s house they would have their feet washed, because they would be hot and dusty, and this would be done by servants.

 

Tell the children about Jesus’ special meal with his friends, where he, though he was their leader, chose to wash their feet. His friends were not happy about him doing this, because he was taking on the role of a servant. As you talk, demonstrate by washing feet in your chosen way (see Preparation and materials).

 

Time for reflection

Reflection:

Explain that this story does not mean we should all go around washing each other’s feet literally, but that we should have the attitude of Jesus towards other people, serving them, respecting them, not bossing them about; treating each other as special people. Encourage the children to think how they could serve others today, in simple ways such as caring for a younger child in the playground, helping clear the table at home, and so on.

 

Prayer:

Thank you, Lord, for all the leaders in our communities, 
for our teachers, policemen and women, and so many others. 
We thank you for all those who serve with the same attitude as Jesus. 
Help us to serve each other with gentleness and respect.

 

We think of our leaders – whether those with political power or those that volunteer their time as school governors to help run our school. Thank you for democracy which provides a way for us to have our say.

 

Assembly: The Bible is a library

Bible

Today’s assembly was for one of our local Infants school’s and themed around the Bible is a library:

Aims

To help the children understand the variety of material in the Bible.

 

Preparation and Materials

  • A large Bible (you could borrow a lectern Bible from church).
  • Two benches or equivalent, one on either side of you.
  • A4 cards showing the following words, one on each: Stories, Songs, Poems, History, Wise sayings, Laws, and four road signs.

 

Assembly

If I asked you what your favourite book in all the world is – hands up if you would be able to name one straight away? Books are fantastic and the great thing about them is that there are books to suit everyone. Hands up if you like books about cars, wizards, pirates, detectives, cook books?

 

What book am I thinking about now? It’s in two main parts. One part is a special book for Jewish people, Christians and others. The second part is the Christians’ special book. But the whole thing is not just one book but lots of books – it’s the Bible.

 

Does anyone know how many books are in the Bible? The two parts are the Old Testament (39 books) and the New Testament (27 books). So it’s a bit more like a library of books than just one book.

 

Ask the children about going to the library – if there’s a school library you could talk about how we choose different books.   I expect your teachers really like you to choose a wide variety of different books, not always the same kind. That helps us to learn about lots of different things.
So I thought we would create a human library today. I am going to need some volunteers.  Invite a number of children up to represent the different types of books that we find in the Bible library. Don’t go into too much detail – you just want to give them the idea that the Bible is a rich and varied collection. Give them the A4 cards to hold. Put some volunteers on the OT ‘shelf’ (bench) and some on the NT.

 

Christians believe that as we read the Bible we get to know God better. There are lots of great children’s books and Bible stories (you could show some or mention where they are in the school library). Even if we find it hard to read the Bible ourselves at the moment we can listen to others tell us the stories and get to know God that way. Above all, Christians believe that God’s great book, the Bible, is meant to be enjoyed by everyone.

 

Ask the children what each road sign stands for:

  • No entry
  • Stop
  • One way
  • Danger from falling rocks.

 

Show a Bible and point out that Christians and people of other faiths believe that it is a book that contains much wisdom that can help us to live a better life.

 

Show the ‘No entry’ sign. Sometimes the Bible tells us that it is better for us not to follow certain ways of living (such as being selfish and holding on to our possessions). You may wish to draw attention to the Ten Commandments. Christians believe that this is not because God is a ‘spoil sport’ but because God loves and cares for us.

 

Show the ‘Stop’ sign. Explain that sometimes in the Bible there are stories and laws that tell us to stop doing something we are already doing. It may be that we are hurting other people or doing something that we know is wrong. The Bible shows us that we should stop doing wrong and follow a life that is good and helps and cares for others.

 

Show the ‘One way’ sign. The Bible shows us a way to live that encourages us to think of others before ourselves. It asks us to not always put ourselves first and make demands, but to consider other people’s ideas and preferences. We will be happier when we live like this.

 

Show the ‘Danger’ sign. Explain that Christians believe that the Bible is not there to make our lives boring or miserable but to show us a good way to live that makes those around us happy. It shows us that there is a danger of living lives so caught up with ourselves that we end up making ourselves and those around us unhappy too.

 

Recap that the Bible is not just a rule book for Christians to follow; it is full of examples of how we can live our lives for others. Many people find that it gives them direction and provides them with peace and comfort. Some people believe that God speaks directly to them through the Bible and others find it a good source of interesting stories and wisdom from the earliest civilizations. It tells the stories of Jesus and his followers in the New Testament, and of the Jewish people in the Old Testament.

 

Time for reflection

Think about books. What kind of books do you like? Do you have a favourite book and a favourite writer?  Do you know any very old stories such as those you might read in the Bible or from ancient legends?

 

Dear God, thank you for all the different types of books.  Thank you for the joy of reading.  Thank you for the Bible, for the stories, letters, poems and songs, history and more that we find between its pages.  Amen.

Job opportunity at schoolswork.co.uk

Schoolswork.co.uk are advertising a great role to go and work with them:

Job Opportunity - schoolswork.co.uk

Are you passionate about work in schools?
Are you interested in professional development?
Would you like to work within a creative, growing team that works nationally but is rooted locally?

We have an exciting new opportunity at schoolswork.co.uk for someone to join the team and take the work of the Enable Schools Work course to the next level. The job is part time and is available from May/June. You can download the relevant documents below, which should include all you need to know. Please also pass on the word to anyone you know who might be interested in joining us.

If you have any questions not answered in the documents below, please email or call on 01582 748964. We can also send you all of the documents in an email if it is tricky for you to download them here, or even post them out to you. Just get in touch and we’ll be happy to help. The closing date has been updated to Friday, 27th June 2014.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Amy

Read me first: Introduction letter
The Job Description: Download
Background information: Download
Application Form: Download

How to cope with exams

Under Pressure

Tonight we did a session for our 11-18 year olds on how to cope with exams and stress, the PowerPoint can be downloaded and here are some tips that we handed out for revision and the exam itself

IF I WERE …

Ask the group to sit in a circle. Ask each person in turn what animal best describes them and why. Make sure the leaders join in as well!

WOULD YOU RATHER?

Ask the group the following questions.  Indicate a side of the room for each answer and ask members to move to one side or the other depending on their answer.

Would you rather:

  • Eat a worm or drink the washing up water
  • Listen to an hour of Justin Bieber or never listen to music again
  • Watch Neighbours or watch paint dry
  • Clean the toilets at school or wash all the windows in Buckingham Palace
  • Hold a snake or hold a spider
  • Play rugby or straighten your hair
  • Eat prunes or eat porridge
  • Sing in front of the whole school or dance on TV
  • Walk up a mountain or knit a jumper
  • Take the dog for a walk (knowing what you have to pick up when you do) or clean out the cat’s litter tray

FUNNY ANSWERS TO EXAMS

Watch the funny answers to exams video.

HOW DO YOU FEEL?

Show the picture of an Exam Room to the group.  Discuss: How do exams make you feel?  Explain that today we are going to be looking at how we choose and cope with exams.

CHOICES

Ask the group to reflect on all the different ways they can make choices e.g:

  • The people we might ask for advice – teachers, parents, friends
  • Randomly
  • Thinking through pros and cons
  • Pray

Explain that today we are thinking about exams, and how we choose our subjects and cope with the exams we have to take.

RED OR BLUE

Neo has been seeing lots of strange things recently. He wants to find out about The Matrix although he has no idea what it is. He meets Trinity, who takes him to meet Morpheus.  Neo first meets Morpheus, and is given the choice of whether to pursue his curiosity about the matrix or not.

Neo has a choice to make; to take the blue pill and give up his quest, never knowing what the matrix is, or to take the red pill and find out all he’s been wanting to know.

Discuss with the group:

  • Do you think it’s an easy choice? Why/ why not?
  • Would it have been better for Neo if Morpheus had just offered him one pill as the answer to his quest so Neo didn’t have to make a choice? Why/ why not?
  • What do you think made Neo choose to take the red pill?
  • Do you like making choices? Why/ why not?
  • When it comes to choosing what subjects to take at school, what kind of things influence your choice?
  • Would you rather someone chose for you? Why/ why not?

WHO CARES?

Ask the group what people worry about when it comes to doing exams. Ask them to think not just about what they might worry about but what they think others worry about too.

Write their answers on a flip chart (or get one of the group to write them up).  Discuss:

  • Does God care about any of the things they’ve listed? Why/ why not?
  • Which things does God think are important? Why?

Ask the young people to find Philippians 4:6-7. Ask one of the group to read through the two verses.

Discuss:

  • Look back at the list. Have you changed your mind – does God care about any of the things we’ve listed? How do you know?
  • What do you think we should do if we’re getting stressed about our exams?
  • Why should we thank God when we are praying? What could we thank Him for?
  • What does God promise us when we pray?

If you are coming up to a period of exams, why not organise an exam timetable for the group. This could be a grid showing everyone’s exams. You could distribute it around the group (and throughout the church family) so that people can pray for each other.

If members of the group complain that they find it hard to get down to revision, you could also organise some revision sessions. You, or other leaders, could offer to supervise the sessions (to make sure they don’t just chat!).

CAN YOU TAKE THE PRESSURE?

Exams are important, but they are not the most important things in the world.  I have taken a few exams in my life, some I have passed, some I failed, but I always aimed to give it my best and achieve my potential.

So what pressures do we feel:

From Parents

They want you to succeed but sometimes their “enthusiasm”/help can make you feel under too much pressure.  Often they don’t want you to waste opportunities, but you also need space to make your own decisions.  Communication is key in this area, so talk about it.

From teachers

Teachers want the best for you.  If you are concerned then take the initiative and talk about your worries.  Don’t bottle it up.  Don’t feel you are the only one who doesn’t understand or is struggling – there will probably be others who aren’t brave enough to admit it – so just ask.

From friends

This can be a positive and a negative.  Working together when you are studying the same subjects can mean you help one another.  But it can be negative – trying to live up to someone else’s achievements can be daunting.  It is important you focus on achieving your potential.  Also don’t be put off by the few who think it is cool not to work, to be disruptive – it can seem like fun at the time but you will probably regret it later.

From Ourselves

It is good to have dreams and ambitions, but make sure they are yours and not what someone else wants you to do.  Set yourself realistic goals – not so high that you don’t stand a chance of achieving them.  I wanted to be a lawyer – that didn’t happen!

So what can you do?

Pray

Most people pray at some point in life, and at exam time it is usually “HELP!”.  Pray for peace and calm in the exam.  Pray for discipline to study and ability to achieve your potential.

Prepare

As Benjamin Franklin said: “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.”

  • Have a revision timetable but make sure it is realistic!
  • You need a balance of revision and relaxation.  Always take one day off a week from school work, no matter how much pressure you feel, God designed us to have one day’s rest per week.
  • Split the day into three: morning, afternoon and evening – use two of the three for focussed study and revision – the other is for relaxing and exercise.
  • Revise for an hour and then stop.  Have a break, have a kit kat!  Then come back to it.  Take time to switch off and do something completely different.

 

  • Organise your place of revision – make sure you have your notes, text books, writing implements, computer, drink and nibbles etc. all in easy reach.
  • Create a playlist of motivational music to get you going.

 

  • Ensure that you have regular food and drink, and exercise breaks – exercise helps to release endorphins – the feel good feeling and is an important stress factor.

 

  • Different ways to learn include:
    • Going through past papers (and model answers) is often very helpful.
    • Read it, doodle it, hear it, write it, speak it, etc, the more different ways you find to express it the more you will remember – also be aware that your teacher’s favourite teaching style may not be your best learning style.
    • Use different colours so you can quickly scan the really important stuff.
    • Make short notes, revise them the following day, then a week later. Repetition transfers info from short to longer term memory. Cramming not productive.

 

  • Stop all electronics at least half hour before bed.
  • Make sure you still make time for the one thing you love, the thing that fuels your energy rather than just saps it.
  • Get your parents to chill a bit!

Perform

  • Get a good night’s sleep, set your alarm, have a good breakfast and give yourself plenty of time, allowing for traffic hold ups, etc.
  • Check you have all your necessary stationary and equipment, including a watch!
  • Know exactly where the exam is going to be held – I still have nightmares about not being able to find the right room and I left school a long time ago!
  • Go to the toilet before the exam.
  • Avoid talking to people about the exam, what you have revised etc., while waiting to go in as it can make you feel nervous that you haven’t revised enough – instead make plans for fun things to do after the exams or chat about last night’s TV!
  • Listen carefully to any instructions, read the top sheet and complete it properly.
  • Know your candidate number.
  • Always take a deep breath before you start and know that people are praying for you
  • Go for it – if you don’t know the answer go onto the next one – don’t sit there panicking.
  • Read all the questions and make sure you know what you are being asked.  Possibly start with stuff you are comfortable with, which may not necessarily be the first question.
  • Know how much time to spend on each question.  Time is crucial in exams – don’t waste it.  If a question is only worth a few marks don’t spend ages on it.  Always answer multiple choice questions even if it’s only a guess.
  • If something is not clear then ask (just not the person sat next to you!)
  • Check all sides of the paper – don’t miss a back page!
  • Label all answers clearly and be as neat as you can.  Show all working out and attach any notes made on questions you fail to complete.
  • Leave 5 minutes at the end to go through and tidy up.

What about the exam results?

If the results are not what you expected – don’t panic – get advice.  It needn’t be the end of the world.  If they are what you hope for – well done!  Congratulations!

PRAYER – WE’RE IN IT TOGETHER

Ask the young people to stand in a circle. Ask them to turn to their right and place their hand on the shoulder of the person in front.  Then ask everyone to pray for the person they are touching – that they would know God’s peace in their worries, and His guidance as they make decisions. You can either ask everyone to pray out loud at the same time, or quietly in their heads.  Then ask everyone to turn around and pray for the person standing to the other side of them.

DON’T WORRY …

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

Encourage them to look up the verse above in the Bible and copy it out.  If possible, laminate the cards to increase their lifespan! Encourage the young people to try learning the verse as they write it, testing each other, and to keep it in their purse or wallet to remind them to pray.

The education admission system is broken

School Admissions

Today was one of the two big dates for parents in the education calendar.  Today is national offer day for primary school places.  Parents around the country having been receiving emails notifying them of their child’s place of education for the next few years.  Earlier in the Spring, on 3rd March, parents received notification for secondary school places.

The news has a big impact on the family’s day to day life, and if we believe the media the decision will have long lasting effects on our children’s life chances.  These days, even for primary or infant and junior schools parents do incredible amounts of research.  When I was a child everyone just went to their local school – choice only kicked in for secondary school and beyond.

Now everyone scours league tables, reads OFSTED reports, goes to several open days/evenings, and look very carefully at the class sizes, specialisms and facilities.  Today’s report from the National Audit Office is official confirmation of what many parents have known – or feared – for the last few years: the shortage of school places is reaching alarming levels. The report said one-in-five primary schools was full or near capacity with London accounting for more than a third of all extra places needed.

The current education admission system is broken.  We see families buying that house in the ever-shrinking catchment area to make sure their children get in?  Others employ tutors so their children can pass entrance exams or the 11+?  Others sign in at church every Sunday when they have no sense of faith.

Every parent wants the best for their children.  Whilst most schools within the UK will provide a good education to all children it is hard to avoid the facts – we know that public school educated people dominate the upper echelons of UK society; politics, sport and the arts (The Guardian).  Then there’s selective state schools. 29% of Labour MPs went to grammar schools (The Sutton Trust).

As a children’s and youth worker, and a school governor, I still believe that education is more than just pure academics.  We need to develop well rounded adults, and whilst it is now near impossible to find employment without a GCSE grade C in English and Maths it is important that the education system supports children’s interests, support friendships between different social, economic and religious backgrounds.

Today for me is a reminder that education has become too focussed on a narrow band of results and league tables that cause stress both for parents and teachers.  We need an education system that truly values and encourages children rather than allowing economically affluent parents to in effect gain priority over other parents.