Winsor Assemblies: Joint or Not?

By, Katherine Loose

Important societal issues do not suddenly present themselves when we reach high school, so why are younger Winsor grades often excluded from assemblies that address these issues? Last year, Dr. Becker came to Winsor to teach classes III through IV about eating disorders. Her assembly is an example of those occasionally planned for only older students due to their mature content. However, younger students could also have benefitted from Dr. Becker’s presentation. We are all surrounded by issues of body image and perfectionism, eating disorders being one, so younger students should also develop an intelligent approach to these issues.

Every week, the Upper School gathers once for an assembly with the Lower School and once for an Upper School meeting. Because assemblies are planned by the Winsor administration and Upper School meetings are planned by Collect, the difference in content between these two events is often coincidental. However, it remains indisputable that complicated topics are more frequently covered in Upper School meetings than assemblies. In a recent Upper School meeting, Michael Fosberg performed his one-man play, “Incognito”, which sparked important discussions about race. Unlike Dr. Becker’s presentation, Michael Fosberg’s performance was not directly exclusive of certain grades; it simply took place during an Upper School meeting. But since the Lower School again could have had meaningful takeaways from the performance, the following question arises: why do the Lower and Upper Schools separate in the first place?

Ms. Markenson, the head of the Upper School, addresses this separation by saying, “It’s about what we feel is developmentally appropriate. A fifth grader might be overwhelmed by information an older student can understand.” She continues that the recent assembly planned by Spectrum was great because it helped younger students understand information about sexual and gender identity that they had collected outside of school.

The Spectrum assembly included explanations of terms related to sexual and gender identity and a panel of students and teachers who discussed their identities and experiences. Until recently, Spectrum had been trying to produce their assembly for years, but the administration had considered it inappropriate for the Lower School. Iona G. ’18, a co-head of Spectrum, explains the importance of including the Lower School in the assembly by saying, “Normalizing LGBTQ+ issues at the difficult stage of adolescence is important. We want Lower Schoolers to know that their identities are okay and there are people who will support them.” The assembly received a very positive response from the entire school, including students wanting to learn more about LGBTQ+ issues. This response is an example of the benefits of meeting as the entire school for valuable discussions.

So how can Winsor expose younger students to important topics while ensuring that they are not overwhelmed by the content? A possible solution is to organize class discussions in the Lower School following assemblies that cover advanced topics. For example, if younger students had seen Dr. Becker’s presentation or “Incognito” without fully understanding them, they could have asked questions and discussed the topics afterwards. Every Winsor student should increase their understanding of issues relevant in our society, and gathering as the entire school more often would help Winsor achieve this goal.