In our continuing series, a Mobile Ed Guide to School Assemblies, we offer assistance to you, the parent, who has been given the unsung task of selecting and arranging shows for the children at your school. And, in this series, we attempt to answer all the questions you may have or may not have even considered yet as you approach this job.
Today we will take a look at teachers. (Now, if the reader happens to be a teacher, understand we have to mention a few negatives but we will make up for it in the end. We promise.)
The first thing to remember about teachers is that they are people, just like anyone else. They have lives outside of schools, and they have wants and needs of their own, quite beyond whether or not your little Suzy or Johnny does well. They have good days and bad days. They eat, sleep (when they have time) and have needs just like yours. And they are under a lot of pressure these days. A lot. Moreover, just like everyone else, there are good teachers and bad, and there are those that care about their students, those that care way more than anyone has a right to expect, and those that don't much care at all. Usually the latter are a very small minority but they can be a challenge.
Knowing this is important for all parents, but it is especially important for you, the school assembly coordinator to remember.
Well, because you will likely need them. And it is best that they be on your side.
A conscientious parent, approaching the task of selecting school assemblies, will likely want to canvass the teachers for some ideas on what they would like to see, and on what they think would be of benefit to the students.
When you do this, be prepared for a variety of reactions.
Some teachers will offer absolutely no opinion at all. On the other hand, some will positively bombard you with suggestions. Some suggestions will be really good. Other suggestions will be terrible (or may just seem so). Just like principals, about whom we spoke in the last installment, some teachers will not like or want assemblies at all, feeling that assemblies and shows are a pure waste of valuable time they should have with their class in the classroom. Be understanding in such cases. First, teachers are under tremendous pressure to make sure their students perform, and they guard their time jealously. There is a lot to teach and barely enough time to do so, even under the best of circumstances. Also, it is good to recall that many teachers, especially veterans, will likely have already seen a vast number of assemblies (sometimes having seen the same one on multiple occasions) and, of those, undoubtedly, a positively huge number were worthless at best and tragically terrible at worst. There are, after all, a lot of truly bad school shows on the market. No one needs to pass a test to stand up and do a school show. And far too many performers are much better at selling themselves than they are at doing their shows. Teachers can, understandably, sometimes lose hope of ever seeing anything worthwhile at all. Sitting through yet another really bad clown act can put anyone off their game. Not to mention bad magicians. Trust me, many times we have visited schools and been practically mobbed by teachers who were just so grateful and relieved that our show, unlike the past sixteen, was actually really good!
But then, sadly, there are those teachers who just never like anything, regardless of whether it is good, great or bad. Some people just cannot be pleased. Ever.
As a result, even leaving aside those who may be against school shows on principle, there will always be others who will offer no help because they have just given up and resigned themselves to wasting 45 minutes every now and then on a show in which they have no interest at all.
But there is another group entirely to consider. There are those teachers who love assemblies, but for the wrong reason. For these individuals, there is never enough time to get all their extra work done. The grading and the classroom preparations and so on. For them, assemblies are greeted with joy not because of the show (they will not even pay attention to it in the slightest), but because they can, for that 45 minutes while the show is playing, sit and grade papers, or prepare the next assignment. The sad aspect to this group is that their lack of interest can be infectious. Talk to any performer and they will tell you that some audiences are good while others are bad. In a school situation, the "bad" audience is sometimes that way as a result of school staff who do not view assemblies as worth their attention. Kids are perceptive. If the adults are not paying attention why should they?
Your job, or part of it at least, is to get them to pay attention. To pick shows that are so "over the top" wonderful that they cannot be ignored. Your job is to demonstrate to these hard working and calloused teachers that there are, indeed, some very good, often excellent and sometimes positively brilliant school enrichment programs that they will like, even love, and from which their students will receive extraordinary, awesome benefit.
Oh, there is another type as well. Beware. These are the teachers who will feel that you, as a parent, are never going to do as good a job at picking shows as they could. There is always someone in every crowd who just knows they can do a better job than whatever person is actually doing that job. These individuals will either shower you with too much of both wanted and unwanted advice, or, worse still, remain silent when you need their help, and then proceed to criticize everything you do behind your back. All I can say is be prepared, and have a tough skin.
In some schools, parents have even relinquished all of their interest in picking enrichment programs, and simply allocated funding to the teachers to allow them to pick programs themselves. Actually, this is frequently the case. Sometimes it works well. Really well. But at other times the result is a little sad as some schools in this boat find that, once the teachers are in charge, they lose interest in doing anything at all. Sad.
But, if this is not the case at your school, and you are still responsible as a parent for arranging the shows yourself, it is wise to at least try to find out what the teachers might like.
Despite all that we have said so far, thankfully, there will be many, many really nice, smart, caring teachers. In fact, joyously, and despite all odds considering the long hours, low pay and extreme pressure, in most schools, these teachers will be the majority. They are saints. They will understand what you are doing, want you to succeed, and will try to help in positive and non-judgmental ways. The vast majority of teachers with whom we have dealt over the years are extremely caring and hardworking people who put in excessively long and often thankless hours just trying to make sure your child has the chance to excel. Make sure you thank them! They earn it every day.
Try to seek out their input on areas where their students may need assistance or some kind of boost. Are math scores down? What about social studies? Could science or writing use a boost? Maybe something purely fun to give a treat as a reward for a job well done? Whatever it is, take notes. Speak to as many as you can personally. Take their opinions seriously. Get a feel for the overall trend. Get a consensus. They are on the front line, right there in the trenches every day, and their experience and knowledge can and will be invaluable as you try to get a feel for what kind of shows to look for, and to piece together the very best programs you can for your school and your kids.
After all, that is the goal, right?
Next time we will start to look at how to search out the shows you want.
Geoff Beauchamp is the Regional Manager of Mobile Ed Productions where "Education Through Entertainment" has been the guiding principal since 1979. Mobile Ed Productions produces and markets quality educational school assembly programs in the fields of science, history, writing, astronomy, natural science, mathematics, character issues and a variety of other curriculum based areas. In addition, Mr. Beauchamp is a professional actor with 30 years of experience in film, television and on stage. He created and still performs occasionally in Mobile Ed's THE LIVING LINCOLN. He also spent ten years coordinating assembly programs for the elementary school where his own children went to school.