6-7s Building Study: Progressive Education

Thanksgiving Assembly 2019 Reflections

Thanksgiving Assembly 2019 Reflections

Sunday, December 8, 2019

MCS gathers for all school assemblies four times a year. The assemblies have become thematic multicultural celebrations of community, anchored in music and singing. A recent visitor to MCS asked the Student Council what was something special about MCS and something they would remember after graduation. I was not surprised when they answered, “assemblies.”

Within the tradition, however, it might be surprising to learn how much opportunity they provide for change. Like a theme and variations in music, assemblies introduce new songs, incorporate parent and faculty musicians and occasionally include student performances or invited speakers. As MCS grows larger, I expect assemblies to remain part of the community repertoire while being reinvented to acknowledge the change in scale. The first all school assembly of the year is the Thanksgiving Assembly.

Click here to see photos from the Thanksgiving Assembly.

Click here to watch the live stream of the Thanksgiving Assembly. 

A few weeks ago I asked Jay to recommend a few books in the library that might spark reflection on thankfulness, changes in the seasons and any particular books on those themes written by Native American authors. He obliged, sending me a pile of seven or eight, of which I chose three to encourage teachers to read and capture student reflections: "Thanks a Million" (Poems by Nikki Grimes; Pictures by Cozbi A. Cabera), "We are Grateful: OTSALIHELIGA" by Traci Sorrell with illustrations by Frane Lessac and "Every Child A Song: A Celebration of Children’s Rights" by Nicola Davies.

Those reflections, student writing, PowerPoints and posters on the walls around the school become the substance for a choral reading by the student class reps.

A poem by Nikki Grimes inspired a long list of things MCS students are thankful for.

“Thank you”
is a seed I plant
in the garden
of your heart.

The Cherokee people’s saying, OTSALIHELIGA, pronounced oh-ja-LEE-hai-lee-ga, contrasting blessings and struggles, turned out to be an anchor for this year’s choral reading. 

To say thank you, we are grateful.
It’s a reminder to celebrate our blessings.
And reflect on struggles.
Every day, every season.
You can imagine the list generated by young children when asked what they feel grateful for.
For going to park
To have Trowby in our class
For our whole family
For seeing Frozen 2
For my little dog, and for my kitten.
and many more.

Older students read another poem at the Farm, “tired farmers” thinking about the contagious impact of saying ‘thank you’ out loud. Saying thank you for what you have:

It's like a seed. It starts off small and then after you say thank you, it grows.
Everyone likes it when someone says thank you to you. When you hear thank you, you smile.
It reminds me of dominoes, in a positive way. If you say thank you to someone, they smile and then they make someone else happy.
It's about giving. If you give someone a thank you, they give you a smile.
Don't spread negativity. 
Be someone's reason to smile. 
You shouldn't keep your thank you in, you should spread it.
Don't spread just a little love, spread love from the seed of your heart so everyone can get some.

6-7s teachers brought me two stacks of writing and drawing inspired by Every Child a Song and their own discussion about a community’s needs and what kinds of rights it should guarantee. 

Shelter. My home.
Food.
Taking care of animals.
Family. 
Family helps me survive.
Holy days are important for my family.
A clean planet.
Water. Everybody needs water.
Education. Nice teachers.
This school, because I love MCS.
I have the right to read. So I can get smarter.

Fun is important.
Play. And great friends that play with me.
Every kid has the right to be loved. Because everyone is special.
Every kid has the right to be lazy.
Kids have the right to imagination, so they have a good life.
Every kid needs freedom for life!

If OTSALIHELIGA is a reminder to reflect on our struggles, the curriculum’s attention to social and emotional learning shows in what teachers send me too. “What’s enjoyable about being a child, even if it’s not easy sometimes?” 

Not having to work all the time. 
Being able to run free.
Having time to prepare for your college degree.
Not having to sit down and be on the computer all the time.
Your actions. Being kind.
If you’re mean, you won’t be enjoyable. 
And kids won’t want to be with you.
This is what makes good friends.
Energy and Patience
Laughter and Fun
Compassion And Love
Working together and separately
Setting goals together
Giving each other second chances.

Examples of collaboration, confederation and coming together from Native American communities were on maps and posters on display around the 8-9s rooms.

Haudenosaunee: Six Nations in New York State & Canada
Iroquois, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, Seneca
An Iroquois Confederacy is a way of saying, “we’re friends.”

Thanksgiving Address: Greetings to the Natural World
Three Sisters: corn, beans, and squash 
Words Before All Else

In the Upper School, OTSALIHELIGA became a prompt to reflect on our rights and our community values. 

People who commit crimes should not be treated like they are inhuman.
The right to live. Solitary confinement has a drastic effect on prisoners. 
The right to health care. 
Immigrants have a right to get into other countries when bad things are happening in their home country, like war and more.
The right to choose what we want to do for a living. 
Women should be paid the same amount of money as men.
All people should be treated like they want to be treated themselves.
Girls should have the right to play sports with men, and not be separated.
People should not be treated badly based on their skin color, ethnicity, or where they were born.
LGBTQ people are entitled to their own thoughts and feelings. They should be able to love whoever they want.
Everybody should have the right to education.
People should have the right to peaceful protest. 

The titles of the books on display in the library are a reflection of those rights too.

"M is for Movement"
"Stonewall: A Building, An Uprising, A Revolution"
"A Story of Hijab & Family"
"I Love My Colorful Nails"
"Ho’Onan: Hula Warrior"
"The Proudest Blues"
"I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark"

Sixth grade is asking provocative questions and reading provocative literature that strains the easy and shallow interpretation of central questions about democracy. Impressive PowerPoints were created as group projects.

“What types of equality are important in a society?”
Racial equality 
Gender equality
Educational equality
Medical equality

What types of equality are not important in society?
Personality. 
“Insiders” & “Outsiders” -- Like the Greasers and the Socs.
Harrison Bergeron. In the year 2081, amendments to the Constitution say, “All Americans are equal.” They are not allowed to be smarter, better-looking, or more physically able than anyone else. 14-year-old Harrison Bergeron, an intelligent, athletic, and good-looking teenager, is taken away from his parents by the government.

That’s not right! 
That’s too equal!
Is there such a thing as “too equal?”
There isn’t!
There is!
There can’t be!

What role should the government play in establishing equality?
When they notice that something is wrong, they should fix it.
They should put citizens before themselves.
They should not try to take over with their own ideas.
What roles should individuals play in establishing equality?

It’s good to think about ourselves and what we need but we also need to think about others. 
Individuals should notice and help if a group of people is being targeted.
We should team up against the government if it has gone corrupt.
People should always keep in mind that other people matter. 

Farm essays are a standard fall assignment in eighth grade. 

We love the Earth! It is our planet. The Farm! We’ve got our Farm.
The Farm is for work, care, fun, and best of all making a stronger connection with peers.

We’re going to make the wrong choices sometimes. 
I never really understood how the animals got there.
I assumed that chickens had babies and those were the chicks.
You can imagine how I felt when we were getting chicks in the Mail!

I learned to appreciate stargazing at night. The first time we tried it we were so unprepared. No blankets, no towels, no food. It was a mess. The last time made me realize how lucky I am.
I don’t actually like Nature all the time. I hate bugs. I hate all the flowers that I’m allergic to. And I hate all the sticky things all over the trees when I climb them.

But this was a whole different experience. All I could see was the navy blue sky, with a bunch of little lights stuck to it. It was like I was asleep and I was dreaming. It was just a perfect moment in my life.

Activism is another organizing theme throughout MCS, culminating with the seventh and eighth grade.
There is still so much work to be done.
I’m discouraged by the boldness of White supremacists.
I am encouraged by Generation Z
People are taking to the streets to protest.
You have this great tool: technology.
Use it to expose the truth.

I use my art to show people about the issues.
You can use art, dance, math, science, and more 
To prove your point.

I split up the most powerful oil company 
using the same tools that I’m using to write this letter.

Don’t let what’s going on in the world get you down.
Make changes, speak out 
And don’t be afraid of the rules if you think they are wrong.

Cherokee people say OTSALIHELIGA
We say thank you, we are grateful.
It’s a reminder to celebrate our blessings.
And reflect on struggles.
Every day, every season.

Researchers investigating the ingredients of success in education are increasingly noticing the importance of inspired teachers, mentors and adults. As I contemplate what it takes to gather in our first assembly, I am grateful for the ways that plays out among the community of educators making children’s intellectual, social and emotional maturation. Children’s voices remain at the center and we listen and recommit to the ongoing work it takes to hold in tension our blessings and our struggles.

OTSALIHELIGA.