Diary of an NQT: My first assembly

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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Delivering his first assembly proved to be a nerve-wracking yet positive experience for our NQT diarist…

I have recently delivered my first assembly, which I found to be a very satisfying experience.

I was asked by the school’s deputy head if I would be interested in designing an assembly focusing on Holocaust Memorial Day, as I am running the school’s residential trip to Krakow and Auschwitz in July. As a history teacher, I am passionate about promoting awareness of the Holocaust and ensuring that its horrors are never forgotten.

I began the assembly with an overview of the Holocaust, discussing the genocide that took place throughout Europe during the Second World War and how these events came about. I then segued into a broader discussion of genocide, highlighting other examples of ethnic cleansing around the world. I also went into detail about how genocide happens, making it clear that such mass killings do not happen by accident – they are planned and carried out with the goal of wiping out a specific group of people.

I also explained to the students that genocide is not something that is consigned to history, but a problem that still exists today. I highlighted the on-going situation in Darfur as an example of a genocide that is happening right now.

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust publishes resources each year for teachers to use in either the classroom or in assemblies. I highly recommend visiting their website if you are thinking of exploring the Holocaust with your students.

While I created the assembly from scratch rather than using the HMDT’s available version, having access to these resources was very useful. One such resource was the story of a young Jewish man named Henry Wermuth, who attempted to assassinate Hitler after losing his family in the Holocaust. This is a fascinating, moving story, and I asked one of my year 9 students to read it out in the assembly. It had a powerful affect on those listening.

The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day was “The Power of Words”, and this formed the backbone of my assembly. I asked the students to consider how their words and actions can have an impact, both positively and negatively, on others, encouraging them to examine their own prejudices and treat others with respect.

The HMDT website also drew my attention to a beautiful but heart-breaking poem called The Butterfly, written by Holocaust victim Pavel Friedmann while imprisoned in a concentration camp. I read out the poem at the end of the assembly as the students quietly reflected on what they had just heard.

The way that the students responded to the assembly was heartening. Every year group listened attentively, and I hope that the assembly will have a lasting impact upon them.
The feedback I have received from both students and colleagues since has been uniformly positive.

Several students have since approached me to ask more about the events of the Holocaust, and it instigated a lively discussion with my year 8 English class immediately following the assembly. We have recently been studying the young adult novel Once by Morris Gleitzman, which deals with the Holocaust, so the focus of the assembly was especially relevant to them.

I have never shied away from public speaking, yet was still a little nervous prior to delivering the assembly. However, the sensitive response of the students soon put me at ease and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

I would like to make this assembly an annual event so that I can continue to raise awareness among the student body about the horrors of genocide and the importance of standing up against prejudice.

  • Our NQT diarist this year is a teacher of history at a comprehensive school in the North of England.


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