This morning I read an article that, among other things, made me reflect on school assemblies and their relationship not just to the curriculum but also to the culture and the environment around them.

In my school, assemblies typically revolve around cultural enrichment, exposing students to experiences they wouldn’t otherwise be able to have, celebrating student achievements, character building, how to prevent bullying, and such.

The students at a middle school in the Gaza strip yesterday had an assembly about how to handle mortar shells and other dangerous materials if they find them lying about. One of  the English teachers at the school commented about the assembly: “They are not ready to learn yet. And I am not ready to teach.”

I think sometimes, in our drive to complete the book and cover all the content before the state test begins so that our school once again can be deemed adequate, we can lose sight of the fact that we may have students sitting in front of us who are not ready to learn. And sometimes we are not ready to teach. I realize that my realities and those of my students are not nearly as harsh as many others’ around the world. But they are still real, and they can still affect learning. The only way instruction can possibly be effective is if we deal with those impediments to learning before we get to the prescribed content.