The Welcome Back Assembly

Ever wonder what happens in an all-school assembly when all students and faculty pre-k through 12th grade gather in the James Earl Jones Theater?

Along with all-school activities we we have these regularly scheduled throughout the year including Thanksgiving and the annual Peacemakers Assembly every winter.

The welcome back assembly last week did not include our very youngest children in the pre-k.They were still getting used to school and settling into their classroom. They will join the whole school later in the year as they gain in confidence and understand that their world is part of a bigger whole school universe.

There was a real buzz of excitement as students gathered and found their assigned seats. Old friends greeted each other, new friends were met and introduced and there was just so much to talk about and catch up on.

After welcoming everyone back to school we officially opened the new year with three topics. The first concerns the community wide effort to re-imagine spaces in Gilkeson to serve the needs of our students now and in the future. When PDS was on the Vassar campus at 39 New Hackensack Road there was the fabled “Big Room” where anything could happen and usually did. This is our chance to build such a space for our time.

The second topic was the painful news about middle school director George Swain. George was hit by a car while on the first leg of the 1000k Endless Mountains bike race in Pennsylvania in August. The good news is the progress. George is now out of hospital and in rehab closer to home. We surely do miss him. We also learned that 1000 kilometers is 621 miles and that’s a very long way to ride on your bike. In the video you can see students cheering him on and sending good wishes. You can also see 7th and 8th graders making “Get well George” cards.

And then the traditional opening year story. This year is was Mr. Gumpy’s Outing by John Burningham – a great story and introduction to linguistics for any age. And thank you older students for indulging the rest of us.

And so another year of adventure begins. I am looking forward to it. And I can’t wait to have George back with us again. So George – if you read this – please know you are very much missed by your PDS family and we are rooting for you.


  1. George Swain:

    Wow! What a great film about the first day of the year at a great school! I’m so very touched to have been mentioned and so sorry to have missed all of the excitement! I am feeling better each day and cannot wait to rejoin all of my friends at PDS (students, colleagues and parents) when my bones have done a bit more mending. I will be keeping my eyes out for news from PDS, so have a great year everyone! Thanks for all of the cards and well-wishes.

  2. admin:

    Hi George: So glad you were able to see the video. You should have heard those cheers for you on Wednesday!

    Next up will be scenes of the new lunch service in operation.

    We have a some work to do making sure the line moves efficiently but considering this was day one it was brilliant. The big crunch is when the high school is there at the same time as the lower school. And that is essentially a schedule issue. That said – it won’t be so easy to solve.

    And the food? Delicious, And the organic fair trade morning coffee got the day going right.

    More anon. It’s so great to get your updates. Thank you for taking the time.

    Speak to you soon,
    – Josie

  3. Kate:

    All Docs Kate comment
    Hi Josie,


    I love your welcome back video for George and it was very sweet. I cant wait till he comes back and I hope he got our cards. Your blog is very explanatory about our school and I think you explained it very well. I’m really looking forward to this year and mostly to the all school activities. I cant wait for the pumpkin carving and when we get to dress up the Seniors.

    We all miss you George!

    Thank you Josie!


    – Kate Mck.


  4. Kristi:

    Hello Josie,

    I really loved your video that you made for George. I think he will really like the video! I really can’t wait for George to come back and see how much we have changed just over the summer. I also can’t wait to see how he looks after he is well and healthy! 🙂 I REALLY MISS HAVING GEORGE AT SCHOOL AND SEEING HIM IN THE HALLWAYS!! 🙂


  5. Hi Josie:

    I like your post about George and I look forward to meeting him. I hope he gets well soon and recovers correctly. He sounds like a nice guy and I can’t wait to meet him.

    See you around PDS
    – Matt

  6. Hi Josie:

    I love what you wrote about our school assembly and the video. I really miss George not being here, at school. I like the beginning of the year book that you chose and the pictures were awesome!

    I can’t wait till George comes back.


  7. Hi Josie,

    I really like your post about George. I really miss him too. It’s strange being in school without him being here. By the way, I like the movie you have in this post. I hope that George comes back to PDS soon!


  8. admin:

    Hi Kate, Kristi, Matt, Alexandra and Elizabeth:
    Thanks for all those comments. Maybe George will see them and have a moment to respond. I spoke to him yesterday and he was very cheerful and sends all of you many good wishes for the school year. Believe me – he really wants those bones to heal and get back with us again.

    I am glad you liked the movie. I made it with a combination of Flip videos, still photos and Animoto. If anyone wants to know more then just ask. I would be happy to share what I learned from creating it.
    – Josie

  9. Charlie:

    Hi Josie,

    I liked the video that you took of us in the theater. I miss George too! I have never heard of Mr. Gumpy’s Outing! I think you should have also taken a video of the 6th grade making cards for George. I am wondering when did you have the time to put the video all together. Hope to see you in our class. Our blog is
    – Charlie

  10. George Swain:

    Hi everyone,

    Thank you so much for all of the kind words and well wishes. I miss you, too! In all of my 22 years in teaching and being an administrator I have never missed the first day of school, let alone the first several weeks. It is so weird! I was eager to begin the year with you all and share in your excitement about all of the wonderful changes put in place over the summer. I hear great things about school from everyone I talk to, so I am comforted to know that I will just have to be patient to experience it all myself.

    I am also grateful for the cards and messages that everyone has been sending, especially the large box of cards I received from the middle school students. Believe me, they are quite a conversation piece around here. Everyone who comes into my room is very aware that I work in a school filled with wonderfully creative and caring kids when they see the beautiful art all around me.

    So have a great few weeks until I see you all again.



  11. Michael:

    Love the idea of an opening day assembly story. Must be quite a challenge to find one for kids of a 13 year age range. Big fan of John Burningham. Also Raymond Briggs.

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