One Parent’s Perspective on the Opening Day Assembly
Assembly is defined as a group of persons gathered together for a common reason. When Amelia Bedelia was told by her teacher that tomorrow would be an assembly, she excitedly replied, “ Great! What are we making?!”
As a relative newcomer to Waldorf Education and the ritual of assemblies, I was not sure what was in store for the first assembly of the year. My first child would be starting First Grade and a Rose Ceremony would mark the beginning of her entering “the grades.” It was a concept I had not yet considered. When I witnessed what was unfolding before me, I realized the bittersweet rite of passage that it was. A developmental milestone. “The glory of the desk” I was told, but this was something quite lyrical.
The entire school walked in to the serene sound of a live piano, each child dressed in preparation for the event. Boys in jackets, girls in dresses. Each student took their place with excited reverence. The last to proceed were the Seniors and the First Graders, holding hands. (I need to mention that holding hands seems to be part of The Waldorf School culture. I see children of all ages holding hands even when they are not asked to. This is how they accompany one another.) The Seniors would occasionally check on their small partner with a knowing glance or gentle smile. They felt comfortable to do this because they had just spent time together in the First Grade classroom being introduced and discussing one of the many projects they would work on together during the rest of the year.
Sabine Kully, Faculty Chair of the Waldorf School, explained the significance of the rose: a beautiful flower, inviting with 5 petals and 5 sepals, a symbol of love and compassion with thorns to protect itself. It is rooted to the Earth and hardy. Roses of many colors adorned a table, also holding candles. Each First Grader heard their name called and a white rose was presented to them on stage by their Senior mentor. They stood in pride, having captured the company of these big people, these new big friends.
This section of the assembly was followed by each teacher of each grade sharing their intention and wishes for their students in the year ahead as they lit a candle. The teachers talked of being leaders and contributing to the world; self-reflection and expanding one’s interests; reaching out to others and developing who they are as an individual and member of society. They spoke sincerely, with thought and investment.
And then we sang. Not individually. Together. Two parts, the music teacher explained. Did we understand? No we did not, but we sang. And the auditorium became filled with every voice. Each voice complemented one another. Some struggled, some listened to others, some carried others. Together it sounded not just good, but beautiful. And it was at this moment, in hearing everyone’s voice as one that you were swept up in the community of what just occurred and what would occur in the year to come, because we had spent this time together wishing and holding and being reverent. Our purpose here was complete and that is the beauty of this ritual and all rituals. You are grounded, like the rose and you are asked to grow and you are invited to be the best you can be in the presence of those that are cheering you on.
The ceremony was concluded with a story told by the First Grade teacher, Mrs. Thomas, of struggle, perseverance, and conscience. It would be continued in the First Grade, perhaps in the next week, but metaphorically in the year before them. The Seniors already knew how the story would end, as they bring their own stories here at Waldorf to an end.
And what did Amelia Bedelia’s teacher say to her when she asked what they would be making at the assembly?