Some Assembly Required
Towards the end of my first year at the request of the “Spoken Word Club,” I composed and then recited a piece in assembly called “Some Assembly Required.” Roughly speaking (and roughly spoken), it was about how getting together in groups over time can have positive human effects. Here it is:
People in time and place
A scheming, teeming, pimped up meeting
The face to face encounter
To face the faces that face you facing the day
8:12 am. Tired. Distracted. But. Present. Here.
Acrobats, Laundromats, backwards facing hats…
…are not part of assembly.
Creaky mikes, blender bikes,
Garricks and Mikes
LaChance, Colton, MPF, Kunateh
Freso, Haque and KJ Dav-ay
To be in the same place at the same time
To be a people
To laugh… when we need to
To be silent…when we need to
Multiply that by two
Then multiply that by 30
Then multiply that by 4
That’s almost 250
And what is that?
250 times to be together in 4 years.
Seniors-- down to single digits.
Thoughts and breaths and seated fidgets.
But multiply that 250 by almost 1000.
And that’s the number of times times the number of people over time
in your now-ticking-down-time spent here.
And multiply all that by space, stretching from these four walls beyond.
And now you are assembled…
Connected, gathered, collected, put together
In life…there is some assembly required.
At Lawrence Academy, we literally have “some” assembly required: a 15-minute segment at the beginning and end of the week. The piece above was basically a celebration and defense of the 30 minutes we take each week to meet together. The idea, of course, extends to the daily, yearly phenomenon of growing up in a gathered educational community.
To deepen the point somewhat here is a quotation from an article I had read the day before the spoken word assembly in a New York Times editorial:
“You must experience what can only be imagined as real, and you must also experience it as good…I want to suggest that this is a skill and that it can be learned. We can call it absorption: the capacity to be caught up in your imagination, in a way you enjoy.”
Over my professional life I’ve wondered and worried a lot about the personal effects of intentional communities and the quality of experiences that such communities deliver. Schools are my kind of intentional community, and I find the above quotation particularly helpful in thinking about Lawrence Academy because it uses some of our own pedagogical patois.
Put perhaps too simply, understanding “the good” and turning it into something that increase one’s appreciation (“enjoyment”) of life must first be an actual experience (as in “experiential education”). No abstract expression of goodness and happiness or any other valuable thing will do what an actual experience of the same can do. And those experiences do not happen at random. They can be induced through practice and discipline. They correspond to the development of skills (“skill-based curriculum”).
We assemble and gather and care for our skills and our experiences over a lifetime, but the foundation is built during these crucial years of development that we experience most strongly in high school. Another article I had read around the time suggested that the most “real” moments in life, the moments that define your identity, occur in high school.
So, we had better attend carefully to the way that we shape those moments together, and we had better use our imaginations and sense of right and wrong, and we had better develop our capacity to experience joy as crucial touchstones in the path to maturity. Community is the place where it all happens. Lawrence Academy is our place.
It is my hope that we will identify, gathered amongst each other, ready sources of wisdom and inspiration. It is my naïve dream that our assemblies will accomplish more than just attendance—that they will contribute towards forming each of us and all of us into something bigger than we can be only by ourselves.