Assembly: Tolerance

Assembly: Tolerance

This was the assembly I gave this morning at one of our local Junior schools, on the theme of tolerance:

The past few hundred years have been marked by ethnic and racial conflict, as the Holocaust, the Rwanda genocide and the ongoing war in Syria demonstrate. There have also been individuals who have stood above the hatred and violence, however, and called for peace and cooperation. One of the most famous fighters for peace was Rev. Dr Martin Luther King.

Can you imagine a time when black people were only allowed to sit on certain seats at the back of a bus? When black people were not allowed to vote in elections? Can you imagine a town where black and white children had to attend separate schools? Where black and white young people were separated at dances by a line down the middle of the room?

Sixty years ago, in the southern states in America, this was how it was. Let’s hear about three ordinary people who had the courage to speak out.

An ordinary clergyman, with a minister for a father and a teacher for a mother, organized peaceful protests and boycotts against discrimination. Here was an ordinary black man who spoke out against the injustice that he saw. This ordinary black man delivered extraordinary speeches with memorable lines like ‘I have a dream that one day down in Alabama … little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.’

This man was Martin Luther King, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1964, assassinated in 1968, at just 39 years old.

In the town of Montgomery, like most places in the deep south, buses were segregated. On 1 December 1955, Rosa Parks left Montgomery Fair, the department store where she worked, and got on the same bus as she did every night. As always, she sat in the ‘black section’ at the back of the bus. However, when the bus became full, the driver instructed Rosa to give up her seat to a white person. When she refused, she was arrested by the police.

In protest against bus segregation, it was decided that from 5 December, black people in Montgomery would refuse to use the buses until passengers were completely integrated. For 382 days, the 17,000 black people in Montgomery walked to work. Eventually, the loss of revenue and a decision by the Supreme Court forced the Montgomery Bus Company to accept integration.

An ordinary woman showed extraordinary courage. This ordinary woman became known as the ‘Mother of the Civil Rights Movement’.

On 28 August 1963, two to three hundred thousand Americans converged on Washington DC. This was the ‘March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom’. The organizers had many aims, but what unified the march was a call for greater freedoms for African-Americans. The date chosen for the march fell on the one-hundredth anniversary of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which ended slavery in the United States of America. Racial inequality was still rampant, however, and African-Americans were treated as second-class citizens in many states.

President Kennedy was attempting to pass the Civil Rights Act at the time, which would provide greater freedoms for African-Americans. While many marched as a show of support for the President, others marched to criticize the Act for not going far enough.

Dr King was tasked with giving the final speech and he captured both the anger and the optimism of the march. ‘America has given the Negro people a bad cheque’, he said, referring to the centuries of slavery and racial injustice, but ‘we’ve come to cash this cheque’ by marching together. The civil rights leaders had come together to the nation’s capital to demand a fair deal for all.

Yet it is the ‘I have a dream  . . .’ segment of his speech that has passed into history. Dr King called not for acts of revenge against oppressors but understanding and cooperation. The most famous line of the speech – ‘I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!’ – carries a promise of peace, reconciliation and an end to racial conflict.

Those two examples are completely true. This one is not. It is taken from the 2007 hit movie Hairspray. It’s Baltimore, 1962, and Tracy Turnblad, an ordinary young girl, is obsessed with the Corny Collins Show. Tracy auditions for the show and gets to appear – a dream come true! However, she becomes aware of the way that her black dancer friends are being treated and realizes that she has to do something. As she tells her father, ‘I think I’ve kind of been in a bubble … thinking that fairness was gonna just happen. It’s not. People like me are gonna have to get up off their fathers’ laps and go out and fight for it.’ This ordinary young girl brings about an extraordinary integration.

This, too, was the power of Mahatma Gandhi – the humble little man in peasant’s clothes who, armed only with the weapons of love, peace and justice, brought the mighty British Empire to its knees. Gandhi believed passionately that if his cause was a just one he would win – no matter how powerful the forces against him. He famously said: ‘Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.’ Gandhi was ‘one man come in the name of love’.

At the heart of the Christian faith there is also ‘one man come in the name of love’. Jesus enters Jerusalem knowing that it is there that he will come into conflict with the might of the Roman Empire and face the fury of the Jewish religious establishment. And so he comes armed – armed with the weapons of love, forgiveness and peace – and he comes riding the humble donkey.

Into a world of division and barbarism and violence – a world, in other words, not unlike our own – comes the Prince of Peace, whose power lies not in military might but in selfless love. And here’s the thing: his kingdom, established by the power of love, rather than bullets, has lasted far longer and been far more influential than the kingdom of any military conqueror?

Time for reflection

What are you and I prepared to do in the name of love?
Do we have even a fraction of the courage of the Tank Man
or Rosa Parks
or Martin Luther King
or Gandhi?
Can we walk with Jesus on the way of the cross?

In the face of a world of greed, violence and oppression;
here at school in the face of the bully and the aggressor
or in the face of those who simply do not care –
what will you and I do in the name of love?
Prayer
Lord,
give us vision that we may see a better world,
and give us courage that we may act to make it happen.
Amen.

Easter Egg Surprise assembly

Fish Fingers

Yesterday I did an Easter assembly at our local Infant school focussed on different foods:

Aims

To explain the ‘surprise’ of the Easter story and encourage openness to being surprised.

Preparation and Materials

  • You will need some hot cross buns, a large Easter egg, an empty packet of fish fingers and four eggs – two fresh and two hard-boiled (don’t forget to mark them so you can tell which is which!).
  • Bible reading: John 21:1–14 – I used a Bob Hartman story version. You could ask a child to read this.
  • A large bowl to break the fresh eggs into.
  • A damp cloth to clean up any mess!
  • Apron (optional depending on how messy you’re prepared to get – don’t wear your best clothes!).

Assembly

Explain that this morning you have with you some different types of Easter food. Get the children to consider quietly what food they think you have brought.

 

Bring out the hot cross buns. Explain that buns like these have been eaten for hundreds of years, and were particularly popular during holidays like Christmas and Easter. The cross marked on them is a reminder of Jesus’ death on a cross, so eventually they became associated with Good Friday.

 

Bring out the big Easter egg. Talk about how much we all enjoy eating chocolate at Easter. Explain that in the past, eggs were considered a luxury food, so during Lent people used to give up eating them. (Remind the children, particularly if you have spoken to them about this during Lent, that on Shrove Tuesday eggs would have been used up in the pancakes.) Eggs also remind us of new life, and spring. Some people also say that the inside of a chocolate egg reminds us of Jesus’ empty tomb.

 

Ask if anyone expects to receive (or has already received) any eggs this Easter? Ask if anyone knows why eggs have come to be associated with Easter? Then say you want to use some eggs to demonstrate something about the story of Easter. Put on your apron if you have one.

 

Pick up the fresh eggs and make a show of ‘accidentally’ breaking them in your hand (be prepared for the egg to go everywhere, which will add to the effect). Hopefully the children will laugh, at which point say, ‘If you think that’s funny, you do better – catch!’ and throw one of the hard-boiled eggs to one of the older children. For added fun you can throw another before the children have time to register that they are hard-boiled. (The usual health and safety warnings apply here: throw low and gently and preferably to a good catcher if you know one.)

 

Explain that you threw the eggs to demonstrate something about the Easter story. The Easter story is all about the unexpected, about a surprise.

 

Read or tell the story of how the women, Jesus’ friends, went to the tomb and found it open and empty. They were shocked and surprised to find the body not there.

 

Say that we have all been expecting Easter (we may have been looking at eggs in the shops). But the first Christians were not expecting Easter at all. They didn’t expect to see Jesus again. Ask the children to imagine that they were friends of Jesus.

 

Jesus was their friend, they loved him. Then they saw him get into trouble with the Roman authorities, and they saw him die. They were so sad that they cried and cried. They thought he had left them for ever. After a couple of days they decided to go to visit his grave. But the tomb was empty! What a huge, amazing, exciting surprise! More surprising and exciting than 100 Easter eggs, or 100 eggs thrown about in an assembly!

 

The last Easter food you have brought is … fish fingers! Bring out the empty fish finger packet. A strange choice – do we normally eat fish fingers on Easter Day?

 

No, but we do hear a lot about fish in the stories about Jesus, and one famous story about fish tells of something that happened after Jesus came back to life.

Read, or paraphrase, John 21.1–14. Jesus appeared to his disciples and cooked them a breakfast of fish on a barbecue. This was the third time he appeared to his friends after he had died. They were so excited that he was alive again.

 

End by talking about how at Easter, Jesus died and came back to life. Christians believe that Jesus is with us now as our friend, even though we can’t see him.

 

Explain that the Easter story shows us how when things seem at their worst, when everything has gone wrong, we can often find signs of new life and new hope – if we are open to being surprised.

Time for reflection

Close your eyes and think of a time when you were unhappy…

Remember what got you through that time…

If there is anything troubling you at the moment try to think of a way forward…

Think of a place where you may find new life and hope…

And think how you could bring new life and hope to someone else who is in need…

Prayer

Loving God, give us open hearts and minds to be surprised by new life and new hope. Help us to bring Easter joy to others, especially to those who are sad or in need. Amen.

Egg on your head – Easter assembly

Egg on head

Here’s my favourite assembly that I do each year – feel free to use and adapt:

 

PREPARATION: One egg, towel, plastic sheeting/black sacks, a large chocolate Easter egg. You also need a willing teacher who is prepared to look like they will have an egg cracked on their head – the more senior or precious they are about their hair the better!

 

This assembly works best when done by two people, where one of you is prepared to be the volunteer who does actually have an egg cracked on their head. It can be done as a one-person assembly but you will need another teacher or trusted pupil to crack the egg on your head at the end.

 

INTRODUCTION

If possible as the pupils are coming into assembly give a class worth of pupils a piece of paper with the question “What is love?” on it, and pens or pencils to scribble down their thoughts.

 

Welcome the students and explain that this assembly will be exploring the idea of love at Easter. Ask: ‘I wonder if anyone can tell me what love is?’ Field the various responses and if you have given out the question to a class prior to the assembly share some of their answers.

 

Say, sometimes love is giving up something so that you can help someone else. For example, you may give up watching a TV programme so you can help your mum with the housework or dinner, to show her you love her. Or, you give some of your time and effort to raise money for people less fortunate than yourself because you care for them, for example with Comic Relief Red Nose Day.

 

Now, this kind of giving we call sacrifice which means ‘giving up something valuable for something else that’s really important.’

 

ILLUSTRATION

Now to explain a bit more about sacrifice we’ve got a little quiz with a big Easter egg as a prize for the winner and a nasty forfeit for the loser. The winner gets a lovely chocolate egg, while the loser will get an egg on their head – they will get egged!

 

Don’t use pupils for this, but instead prepare a teacher and another adult volunteer to be your partners in crime.

 

Ask them three questions each, easy ones to your volunteer – they of course get the questions right. The teacher is given the impossibly difficult questions – they of course get the answers wrong!

 

Questions:

For the volunteer

  1. What are Easter eggs made of?                                        Chocolate
  2. What colour is chocolate?                                                 Brown
  3. What day of the week is Easter Sunday on?                              Sunday

 

For teacher

  1. When was the first mass produced Easter egg made?            1873
  2. What is the volunteer’s favourite kind of chocolate?
  3. What was the date of Easter Sunday in the 2000?                    23rd April

 

(Ask questions alternatively)

 

As the questioning progresses it is likely that the students will get quite noisy as they see that one of their teachers will get egged. It is important that you ensure that they are listening.

 

At the end, say you are going to egg the teacher as they clearly got all their questions wrong. Make a big thing of giving the large Easter egg to your volunteer and then standing the teacher on the plastic sheeting/black sacks and getting ready to egg them. Encourage the assembly to count down from three for you to break the egg on the teacher’s head.

 

As you go to bring the egg down on their head your volunteer moves the teacher out of the way and steps in to take the egging in the teacher’s place. You carry on oblivious and break the egg on your volunteer’s head.

 

Once this has happened thank the teacher, and give them the large Easter egg, and allow your volunteer to go and get cleaned up.

 

TALK

Explain that sacrifice is a really important part of love. And (name the egged person) suffered a little there, they gave up their nice hairdo so your teacher didn’t have to take the punishment for getting all those questions wrong.

 

Now it’s easy to say you love someone, it’s easy to give someone a hug, and hugging is a part of showing someone you love him or her. But are we prepared to suffer to help others?

 

We’re coming up to Easter, a time when Christians remember the death of Jesus and celebrate His resurrection.

 

Just as, name your egged volunteer, stepped in to take the punishment for the wrong answers from your teacher, we believe that Jesus stepped in and was crucified to take the punishment for all the wrong we do, so that if we chose to follow Him we can be forgiven and one day have eternal life with him.

 

There is a verse in the Bible that says: For God loved the world so much that he gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him may not be lost but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

 

Christians believe that this was the greatest sacrifice anyone has ever made, to lay down his life for the whole world.

 

You will hopefully never be in the place of having to give up your life for someone, but maybe you might think about some sacrifices you could make, to show someone you care or love them.

 

And when eating your chocolate Easter eggs, perhaps you might remember the Christian message behind Easter, that of Jesus giving up His life for us all.

The dog ate my homework

Dog ate my homework

An Englewood, Colorado, student named Payton built a volcano as a school project. It was made of chocolate sweets pinned to a foam base. Her dog Reggie couldn’t resist, and ate the whole thing. Reggie was taken to a veterinary hospital, where x-rays showed 50 pins in the dog’s gut! Many were retrieved endoscopically, but Reggie underwent surgery to remove the last few pins. Reggie has since recovered completely. Payton showed her teacher the x-ray to explain why her assignment wasn’t done on time.

The science assignment has been redone and handed in for credit.

“I completely redid the project with glue the second time.”

Reggie and Payton received high praise for their first scientific endeavor.

“I got an ‘A.’ “

This just goes to show that no matter how old and cliched an excuse is, sometimes it might turn out to be true.

Questions for choosing a school for your child

first day at school

Loved the post Questions for choosing a school for your child that Hannah wrote.  Here’s a snippet:

Daniel started back at pre-school last week and continues to love it.  I have been very aware over the last few weeks that this time next year Daniel will be starting school.  Believe it or not, it will soon be time to start thinking about applying for his school place.  Like many parents up and down the country, over the next few weeks Chris and I will be visiting some of our local schools to make a decision as to which school we put as our first choice for Daniel.  In preparation for this, I have made a list of things to consider and questions to ask to help us make our decision.

  1. How near is it?  We will aim to walk to school as much as possible and there’s only so much walking Daniel’s legs can manage!  If you intend to drive to the school then you may want to consider how easy it will be to park nearby during peak times at the beginning and end of the school day.
  2. What catchment area are you in?  Just because you live near to a particular school doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily in the catchment area for it.  In many places, not being in the catchment area can be a real hindrance when trying to get a place at the school of your choice.
  3. What is the school’s admissions criteria?  As with the above question, living near a particular school does not guarantee you a place there.  Different schools have different admissions criteria.  For example, some give preference to children from particular religious denominations.
  4. How did they do in their Ofsted report?  To me, an Ofsted report does not represent the sum total of how good a school is.  However, it is a good starting point.  Reading through an Ofsted report can give you a good indication of some of the school’s strengths and weaknesses.  Do bear in mind, though, that an Ofsted can only give a narrow snapshot of a school.
  5. Where are they in the league tables?  If there is a limit to what an Ofsted report can tell you, then this is even more the case with a league table.  However, it’s worth a look nevertheless.
  6. What do other people say about the school?  You will find a parent from every school who says their child is bullied there.  In the same way, you will always find some parents who like the headteacher and some who don’t.  By asking around you will be able to get a good feel for what the school’s general reputation is like.

I think you can tell a lot from your gut feeling when you look around a school.  Do the children look happy and is it a bright, colourful and inspiring environment?  Can you imagine your child there?  Hopefully most schools should tick all of these boxes.  Despite this, though, I find it hard to imagine my little boy going to school and, to be honest, I hope this next year goes by very slowly!

Do go and check out the full post to see all 15 questions.