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February 5, 2019

By Joe McCauley, Fieldston Lower Principal

Fieldston Lower assemblies have easily become one of my favorite traditions. Each assembly typically revolves around a theme, and music teachers Blake and Bárbara help to coordinate sing-alongs or songs led by various grades. There is a buzz and excitement at each assembly that is evident the minute each class arrives. Students find their friends, siblings, and former teachers and wave gleefully as their eyes meet. Our students love to connect, be seen, and let others know they are valued. After each assembly, I often think to myself, “That is the best assembly I have ever been a part of.”

Our assembly last week was no exception. On Thursday, we gathered for our yearly Martin Luther King Jr. assembly. During the assembly, we sang classic songs of the civil rights movement: “If I Had a Hammer” and “We Shall Overcome.” We sang “Sister Rosa” by the Neville Brothers, while some fifth graders accompanied on recorder. Naomi, our Assistant Principal for Student Life, led the Fieldston Lower faculty chorus in a rousing rendition of “Long Walk to D.C.” by the legendary Staple Singers. We closed the assembly with Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday,” which was written to champion the creation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a national holiday. Everyone loves to sing at Fieldston Lower, and there is no better way to bring people together as a community.

The 5th Graders connected the message of Dr. King for all of us and inspired us with their voices. In between songs, they read pieces from their writing that lifted up the lesser-known heroes of the civil rights movement. They spoke from the point of view of those who integrated lunch counters and buses, often risking their lives. They described the sacrifices and experiences of those who boycotted the buses in Birmingham. They gave a voice to the Loving children, whose white father and African-American mother had to go to the Supreme Court to allow their interracial marriage to be declared legal. The 5th Graders taught us that while Dr. King and Rosa Parks were truly leaders and heroes, there were countless others, often unnamed, who fought for freedom and shaped history.

Our 5th Graders, as leaders and role models, were shining examples of our school culture. Their writing and powerful readings transfixed the audience. After each 5th Grader read or performed on the recorder, it was the 5th Grade class that cheered the loudest for their classmates. They have a genuine pride in one another and their role as Fieldston Lower leaders.

The tradition of the Martin Luther King Jr. assembly improves each year because our students have been participating throughout their years at FL and look forward to how they can contribute to the legacy. Giving our students a voice and the opportunity to lead also strengthens the message of the assembly: we all can play a part in making the world more inclusive, just, and fair.