The deep sound of drums signals the call to assemble.
The young ladies of Shri Shikshayatan School in Kolkata have a morning assembly every day of the week. On Mondays, the entire school lines up according to class, facing the stage and ready to start the day. On other days, specific classes gather in the outdoor assembly space while others have simpler morning meetings in their respective classrooms. Student must check the outdoor chalk board to see when and where their morning meetings take place.
Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning, education, dance, music and other talents, watches over the proceedings from her shrine on the outdoor stage as music students, accompanied by their teacher on harmonium, sing an inspirational song which can come from many traditions and languages. (The video clip features “We Shall Overcome” in Hindi.)
The students are greeted by their Principal Ma’am, the inspirational Sangeeta Tandon, who is always at morning assembly. She considers it a high priority, and during our week with her, she insisted we attend each and every assembly.
After announcements by Principal Ma’am, which can include celebration of awards or announcements on the importance of keeping backpack’s lightly loaded so as not to overtax one’s back, a group of students comes forth to give a presentation on the theme of the day.
The themes were wide and varied during our week at Shri Shikshayatan School: personal safety, current events and magic. Groups of grade specific students presented in front the assembly students every morning, introducing the topic, explaining its value, then presenting information or giving a performance before concluding with a song and a summary of the presentation. Each girl in the assembly listened closely and carefully, mindful that not only was the topic important, but they would also have to be in the position of presenting one day and were watching for details, ideas and tips for success.
Every girl at Shri Shikshayatan School will be up on that stage at least one time during each school year, and when they are, their Principal Ma’am is up there with them to support and celebrate. You can see the empowerment in each girl’s face after she has presented and glance at their principal and teachers My favorite moment was when a young lady performing a magic act had a mishap and part of her trick was accidentally revealed. Nervously, she immediately looked at Principal Ma’am, who had a beautiful smile on her face and eyes that told the student all was well. Then the student smiled herself, recognizing that she had tried her best and had now learned something new.
Then Principal Ma’am gives a small speech on the theme of the day. For the Magic theme, she told the girls how magical it was that they were all gathered there that day, and how each one of them was capable of creating magic by helping other people in their lives. Magic is when one person needs helps and someone else gives that help. We are all, she observed, capable of being magical.
After reminders for the day, students are dismissed to their classes.
I’m not certain the young ladies of Shri Shikshayatan School realize the incredible value of these morning assemblies, though their Principal Ma’am and teachers obviously do.
Not only are they building community by celebrating each other’s accomplishments, singing beautiful songs together and being a good audience for each other. They are strengthening each other and gaining confidence in their fellow students and themselves. They are learning the importance of being responsible and supporting each other. They are feeling the love from educators and fellow students who are always there for them.
It’s a beautiful way to start any day.