Every morning between 8:10 and 8:15am (we run on Thai time) Jake and I walk over to the courtyard of our school to attend morning assembly.
Before we begin, all of the students line up around the courtyard first by grade, and then with boys and girls separately in height order. They form a square around the courtyard, with one student who will lead today’s assembly standing at the front.
We begin with all of the students and teachers standing at attention and singing the national anthem, while 2 students raise the flag. Next, all of the teachers go to the middle of the courtyard and the students wai and greet their teachers. The teachers then return back to their spots on the outside of the square, and the students wai again.
The student in charge of the music this morning then plays the school song “Lok Nayoo” which is about “our beautiful world”. The students (with the help of one of their teachers–a monk turned musician turned teacher, and an extremely kind man) wrote, produced, and recorded this song all on their own last year. It’s extremely catchy.
During Lok Nayoo the students put their hands behind their backs, sway from side to side, and sing along with the recording (although as expected, the younger the student, the louder they sing).
When the song ends we applaud and the student leader says “Teacher, please”. At this point either Jake or I (we alternate) go up to the front of the assembly area to tell the students a “3 minute story”.
The “3 minute story” is not exactly a story, but more an opportunity for the students to hear some English and practice speaking (we do a lot of questions and answers) first thing in the morning.
Each morning we talk about anything at all, but we come up with a new topic every day. Some of our 3 minute stories are a big hit (jobs and what the students want to be when they grow up was very popular, although so was a 3 minute story about watermelon). Others kind of crash and burn.
We have learned that props definitely help the 3 minute story, or at the very least, actions and motions. Silliness is also encouraged. And we’ve discovered it’s better to make the story too easy and keep it simple, than to have it be too hard where we are left hearing crickets and seeing a bunch of confused faces.
After the 3 minute story, the students line up and head into the library where the activities that follow vary depending on the day of the week. However, they always start with prayer, which includes third level wais to the Buddha statue and chanting, followed by quiet meditation.
After meditation there are usually some songs (“itsy bitsy spider” is one we recognize) and then we finish with the students all laying on their backs in a savasana-like pose with arms and legs straight and their eyes closed, for more meditation.
After anywhere from 1-10 minutes of lying down meditation, the students are dismissed one grade at a time to go back to their classrooms and start the day.
How does this compare to how you used to start your school day? If you are teacher, in Thailand or elsewhere, how does your school’s morning assembly and rituals compare? Let me know in the comments. And I’m always looking for new 3-minute story ideas!