The Thanksgiving assembly has a long history at MCS. Marty Trowbridge shared this memory with Donavon and Susan recently: “The feeling of togetherness and common purpose is what made this celebration a tradition, and it became the foundation for all MCS assemblies and all-school gatherings. There is nothing so powerful as the whole school being together.” Marty has that right.
Getting ready for this year’s assembly, we are making adjustments to the new assembly space in our gym to achieve the same powerful purpose of bringing a community together. Doing that seems especially important on the heels of an election where the values that define MCS were questioned or attacked. Hearing statistics on rising incidents of hate crimes in schools across the country magnifies our appreciation for a place like MCS.
I never tire of pulling together, and then hearing students perform, a choral reading at the assembly. It is a medley of children’s thoughts that are a combination of funny, heartfelt, and reflective of the many family and school rituals embedded in a diverse community. The choral reading hints at conversations in morning meetings and what children are thinking from excerpts of their letters, poetry or essays. Deeper insight into the holiday connects to curriculum like the 6-7s’ study of community, the 8-9s study of Native peoples, time spent at the Farm or sixth-graders’ answers to questions about what matters in the U.S. constitution and whether individuals or groups have more power to make change. The choral reading doesn’t last long, but its power only strengthens as the assembly bursts into song.
I learned of a posting on Facebook by a graduate from the Class of 2000 as I was pulling together the choral reading that will open our Thanksgiving assembly on Wednesday. Tommy Williams is now an assistant public defender in Shelby County, Tennessee. He wrote: “At the heart of who I am is my experience at Manhattan Country School. The lessons of tolerance, emotional intelligence, and empathy have been the guide stones that have directed my life and it is my sincere prayer that as a nation we can rededicate ourselves to fighting till justice will rain down like water.”
The whole school being together will unite the newest 4-5s with the eighth-graders who will be singing at their final Thanksgiving assembly at MCS. Faculty, staff and families will experience this moving 50-year-old ritual in a new place. MCS alumni in neighborhoods of NYC, across the country and the world will be glad we carry on.