Usually, I hate assemblies.
I dislike the noise and the smell and the chaos.
I hate how disrespectful all that talking feels to me.
So, I was pleasantly surprised the other day.
Testing means we have an extra "block" of 90 minutes at the end of the second day.
Others years, we have sent students home early.
Not this year. I don't know why.
Instead, during our first extra chunk of time today, there were assemblies for the different classes.
I don't what the Juniors were up to in the gym.
I know the Seniors had a class meeting.
The Freshmen and Sophomores crammed into the auditorium.
Before we went down there, I wasn't sure what to expect.
The only information I had was a comment from an administrator about "inspirational speakers."
We filled every single seat in that auditorium.
As students filed in, they were faced with a stage containing a semi-circle of about eight comfy chairs.
In each chair, an adult.
Our building principal was on the far right.
Three teachers, two strangers, and a counselor filled the other seats.
At first, the natives were restless. Really, who could blame them?
Our principal briefly spoke about the purpose of the day and the expectations of respect, then he handed the stage to the teacher on the far left of the stage.
This teacher is a young black man with enormous presence. He was dressed in a cap and gown.
It took a few minutes, but he established almost complete silence. It was impressive to watch.
He talked about being a young adult criminal and almost failing to graduate. Then he talked about his subsequent successes including completing his Ed.S degree...yesterday.
The kids loved it.
The next couple of people told personal stories and gave inspirational pep talks.
A young white woman took the mic next and spoke about the devastating harassment and bullying she suffered through in middle and high school.
Her ultimate message was simple: we have all been there and it does get better.
The counselor who spoke eloquently about greatness and got the whole room chanting their own greatness came near the end.
A brief question and answer period wrapped up the afternoon.
It was incredible to see six hundred restless teenagers sit quietly, responsively for so long.
I enjoyed seeing their reactions even more than I appreciated the speakers. It made it possible to overlook my own personal concerns about some of the messaging.
It was a really good thing.