Assemblies are large gatherings. They are meetings held to address issues that affect everyone. It is the school’s most important tool to build an effectively collective environment.
At be-Living, assemblies are a crucial element of the Elementary School learning process. Through them, children actively engage in decisions related to the school’s procedures and spaces. Arguments are presented to discuss different topics, brainstorming and presenting projects and solutions so that everyone can work together towards a common goal.
We see the school setting as its own world. Not an ideal world, granted, but rather a world that is permeated by the real world, with everything the outside world brings along with it. Therefore, as we return to the school environment full time, still amidst the pandemic, we must take a close look at health issues, not to promote social distancing, but rather as a way to reconnect to each other, building safer relationships for everyone, under the greater goal of remaining together, living and learning in this space.
That is why on the first Monday of August, as soon as the children returned from summer break, the whole school gathered in an assembly, as Gabriela Fernandes, Elementary School coordinator at be.Living, recalls:
“When we planned this process of returning to the school, having all of the children here at the same time – which was something they hadn’t experienced since March 2020 –, we had to come up with solid strategies to make this a safe space, a warm space where they felt welcome – in other words, their own space! Studying and knowledge are the core values of any school, but that is not restricted to conceptual knowledge. There is another kind of knowledge that unfolds in the practical field, which is knowing how to be and exist in the world, understanding the world around us.”
Gabi explains that school assemblies help children develop careful thought towards the collective good, focusing on caring for each other. “Through this practice, the children understand that individual actions generate reactions in others and that, within our world, we are more than individuals, we are subjects: we are subject to the actions of others, just as others are subject to our own actions.”
Gabi recalls that during the first meeting – held in a hybrid manner, with each class participating through their own computers from home –, they introduced the new protocols regarding bathroom use, playtime and meal time, circulation and cleanup breaks. “After this first meeting, we started hosting assemblies every Friday in August to review and maintain collective protocols and procedures to determine the safest way for us all to be together. Assemblies are bilingual to make sure all of the children can express themselves in the language they feel more comfortable with. The children have been speaking up, addressing the points that need to be changed, and those that don’t, what is working and what’s not, and what has ensured a safe and co-responsible collective space,” said the coordinator.
Another very positive aspect of the assemblies is that, even in hybrid mode, the children have had the opportunity to interact with other children of the school, from different classes and age groups, regardless of their clusters. “The smaller ones really need to look up to the bigger ones and see what they do, how they speak, to have them as a role model. Similarly, the bigger ones also benefit from that look of admiration and enchantment coming from the little ones; it helps build their self-esteem and power. So, these assemblies have also helped bring back this healthy exchange. Both the younger and older children have been actively engaged. For example, we have noticed how the younger children’s bathroom is more organized than the older children’s bathroom, which has sparked great debates and insights. These assemblies have especially helped turn the school back into their own place, a place of growth, of autonomy, of safety, of exchange and welcoming.”