How Should GDS Improve Assemblies?

Taking place every Friday, assemblies are an integral part of GDS’s culture and mission. Assemblies present an opportunity for the community to both share experiences and exchange ideas without leaving the campus. While GDS offers a host of different assemblies each year, there are five core assemblies that occur annually: the Harvest assembly, the Christmas assembly, the Passover assembly, the MLK assembly, and the Pride assembly. The purpose of having an assembly is to expose students to different ideas. However, many students ditch assemblies because attendance is not taken. When a student misses an assembly, they could forego a potentially seminal learning experience.

A couple of years ago, teachers would consistently take attendance at the beginning of assemblies, encouraging more kids to attend. This process, however, took up the first ten minutes of every assembly period and left less time to listen to the people who had come in to speak.

While Quinn Killy agrees that assemblies are important because they provoke conversations about our community and students’ shared experiences, he acknowledges that having them be absolutely mandatory by taking attendance isn’t realistic. “In an ideal world,” he says, “everyone would just love to come to assemblies and it wouldn’t be a problem, and we’d appreciate the fact that a group of kids worked really hard to have this speaker come in, or somebody worked really hard to put together a performance.” Alas, he understands that there are always going to be kids who don’t go.

Even though the school no longer takes formal attendance for assemblies, some teachers will individually look around the forum to see if they can see that all of their advisees are attending. If not, they will have separate conversations with them to talk about the importance of assemblies and relay details about the assembly that they missed.

Other teachers take a different approach. Instead, they will incorporate the topics from assemblies into class discussions. This practice is most common in English and History classes, where the assembly material can be related to the class’s subject matter. Killy also thinks that this is an interesting approach. “I’d love if we could have conversations about our assemblies,” he says. “A lot of times it feels like we have the assembly and that’s it. There’s no buildup or no follow-up to it.”

While some assemblies are engaging, others can be boring. That said, attending the uninteresting assemblies is important because it builds the crucial life skill of being able to sit through an activity that doesn’t totally capture your attention.

Even though assemblies are technically mandatory, not everyone attends them. Often, kids will skip assemblies by using the period to study or sleep. However, assemblies are supposed to be a time where students can decompress by learning something new, rather than stressing about an exam. Assembly periods are times to listen to something that a student may not have heard before.

In an attempt to promote higher attendance, assembly periods are not as long as they used to be. Assemblies used to last an hour, but are now 45 minutes with a break afterward to give students time to study. Another reason that Killy cited for shortening assemblies is that “sitting in the crowded forum for an hour is uncomfortable.” This strategy has worked to some extent because the number of kids who attend assemblies has increased over the past couple years. Even so, the school would still love to see the entire student body attending assemblies every Friday.

By Sophie Leviss ’20