By: Abigail Sun

Since the start of the 2018-2019 school year, Mills has hosted 3,486 assemblies.

Okay, so not really. But there has been a hefty amount already: the Mental Health Awareness assembly, sexual consent assembly, Challenge Success for freshman, sexual abuse awareness for seniors; you get the picture. Although these assemblies are educational and bring awareness to world-wide problems, especially relevant at Mills, the pure number of them is starting to become excessive. After 11 weeks at school, class periods have already been cut short 5 times. This is a concerning aspect of any assembly day, especially for teachers who fear essential class time is being cut.

Of course, assemblies are still beneficial. They tackle real-world problems and students have a chance to look up from their glowing, 5 inch screens and engage in conversations about sensitive topics that are not talked enough, especially within peer groups. They raise the sensitivity meter in our students and allow peers to connect on a deeper, more personal level that is not usually reached in a relationship nowadays. Or, possibly this is what we have been led to believe: that the purpose behind these assemblies is to help us understand these problems and tackle them. But the question is, do students really walk away from these assemblies feeling like it had an effect on their life? 11th grader Michael Furon describes his take on how an assembly leaves him feeling afterwards. “I feel like I’ve already heard what they’ve talked about at these assemblies and they are a waste of in-class time.” 9th grader Ione Thompson, explained how “…most of the time [assemblies] don’t really affect me. I feel like they don’t really tell us how to solve the problems.” Some assemblies in particular stand out to certain people. For example the most recent one, the sexual consent assembly, got a lot of positive feedback from students. Nikki Won, a sophomore, recalls very strong feelings after hearing the statistics of rape and sexual assault. “I do think that I can walk away from an assembly feeling educated. The recent [sexual consent assembly] really had an impact on me. My mom always educated me on these things that are happening in the world, for example, rape, and how it’s not easy to come out and tell someone if it happens to me. When she told those stories about those girls, I felt scared and I wish I could do something to help them or take their pain away because no one should go through what they’ve experienced ever in their lives. ” In some cases, these assemblies hit close to home for a lot of students and staff. The sexual consent assembly raised awareness from young women and men alike. Some assemblies like these have a large impact on a student’s life, but others do not.

Teachers, on the other hand, have very different views on these assemblies. Some teachers believe too many assemblies are cutting crucial class time from students that they could be used to study.  Math teacher Mr. Headley tells us his opinions on the assemblies cutting class time.  “Yes, the are cutting in to class time but everything cuts into class time. The question is whether it’s worth it or not? Some are required by the district. Some are just for fun and that’s okay, too.” Another question raised by these assemblies is if they actually impact/change students’ specific behavior. Ms. Leung describes her observations on student behavior after the assemblies. “I personally haven’t noticed any changes in student behavior, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been any.” Students are not absorbing the ideal amount of information that they are supposed to walk away with. Although Leadership does a fantastic job of organizing and preparing for the assemblies, kids are not taking it in, therefore it does not really affect them, mentally, or even physically.

There’s no doubt that a lot of work goes into planning these assemblies. Leadership students often have to miss class to prepare for them and lose valuable instruction time. However, organizing these assemblies also look good on college applications. They give you an advantage for having leadership and organization skills, two qualities colleges are desperate to have in their students. Although for many leadership students, this is not the main reason they will organize an assembly. Many students genuinely care about the issues discussed in these assemblies and want to help raise awareness. Sophomore Anjuli Niyogi, a first year resident of the leadership class, says that the “Mills’ Leadership class is designed to carry those who genuinely care about the events we plan… specific leadership students choose to get involved in the events because they are passionate about the topics discussed. For me personally, planning the mental health assembly was not easy…There were endless meetings for months, with phycologists, wellness counselors, and students to revise scripts and more. Not only that, but there was a lot of pressure resting on a few leadership kids to plan an interactive yet, educational assembly. At the end of the day however, I knew that what I was planning was an essential discussion topic in Mills’ high-stress community and that the conversation had to start somewhere.” The Mental Health Assembly was a conversation starter for many students, and helped students gain insight towards on-campus resources relating to mental health.

Although, others will say that assemblies give students a break from instructional time. Sitting in a classroom for 51 minutes ⅗ school days can easily make students squirmy. As a result, kids can start to lose interest in school and learning in general. Some students, including myself, enjoy the occasional break from class to learn about real-world issues, but when it is time for midterms, I do wish that I had just a little more time in class to review whichever topic I’m struggling with. Many teachers can agree on the same thing. They wish their students had more time to study and engage in the material so they can get good marks which in return, benefits them as well.

Overall, in this school year alone, there have been a bit too many assemblies for my comfort. Although these assemblies give us a much needed break at certain times, students are not absorbing enough information from them to make these assemblies worth the while. If these assemblies were more spread out, they might be more valuable to students, benefiting both teachers and students.