By: Will Rende
At Gilman, assemblies offer a unique opportunity to “raise awareness, increase empathy, and strengthen community,” as Mr. Brian Ledyard puts it. Taking up roughly two hours of school time each week, assemblies create a time for the whole school to be together in one place and learn outside the classroom through meaningful speakers, senior speeches, and other important presentations from both students and teachers. Although assemblies make up such a large portion of time throughout the year, little is known about the process of planning and organizing the assembly schedule.
To begin with, there are certain assemblies that happen each year that are put on the assembly schedule first, including convocations and long assemblies, which are coordinated with Bryn Mawr and RPCS. Much of the responsibility that comes with the creative element of planning assemblies is given to Mr. Ledyard, who likes to think of the twenty five minute time slot between 10:45 to 11:10 as another class. Referring to the period as, “community time,” rather than simply “assembly time,” Mr. Ledyard strategically plans assemblies according to what he believes is appropriate for that month or time period. “We try to have at least one advisory and one form meeting per cycle,” he explains. Another important question that comes up while organizing the schedule is when to fit in long lunches. This year, School President, Matt Tomaselli, and the Administration agreed to try to schedule one long lunch per cycle.
Student input is another essential aspect that yields Gilman’s successful assembly program. This input, for the most part, is provided by Matt and other student leaders. Beginning in early August, the student body president meets several times with Mr. Ledyard and Mr. Robert Heubeck to offer student perspective and recommend certain speakers for the year’s assemblies. During these meetings, a rough scaffolding is planned out for the year, however, Matt clarified that he, Mr. Ledyard, and Mr. Heubeck need to be spontaneous and “stay on our toes as things come up.”
Additional faculty are consulted according to the genre of assembly. Mr. John Schmick, for example, is involved in planning assemblies regarding student life. Faculty leaders of various extracurricular groups are also contacted for their assemblies, such as Mr. Kevin Hudson’s Honor presentation.
Guest speakers are mostly brought to Gilman through connections with members of the community. “[Students and faculty] are regularly emailing me with ideas,” explained Mr. Ledyard. For this reason, he is forced to be proactive in allocating slots to these inevitable requests.
All of these speakers contribute to Gilman’s efforts to “strive for a coherent program, one that's relevant, engaging, and diverse,” in Mr. Ledyard’s words. He later elaborated, “we are, in my opinion, often at our best, individually and as a community, when we gather in the Auditorium. It's a place where we can be comfortably vulnerable, and that's something to truly cherish.”