In a Knot!
How do we approach problems?
by Revd Alan M. Barker (revised, originally published in 2010)
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To encourage a positive approach to difficulties and problems.
Preparation and materials
You will need a pair of trainers with the laces badly knotted together.
You may wish to use some quiet music for the ‘Time for reflection’ part of the assembly. An example is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hh5toDqjFb8 (11.36 minutes long)
Show the pair of trainers to the children.
Ask the children whether any of them have ever found themselves in this predicament!
Listen to a range of responses.
Explain that sometimes, people talk about finding themselves ‘tangled up in knots’. Ask the children what they think that could mean.
Listen to a range of responses.
Explain that feeling tangled up in knots means feeling caught up in something that you are unsure how to escape from.
Ask the children if they have ever felt tangled up in knots. Expand further by providing some possible instances.
- Maybe they’ve been stuck with a piece of work and couldn’t see how to make any progress.
- Maybe something has worried them and they haven’t known how to put it into words. People describe this as feeling tongue-tied.
- Maybe they’ve become nervous about coming to school and their tummy has felt like these laces, all knotted together.
- Maybe they’ve fallen out with friends and not known how to sort out the problem.
Reflect that there are times when everyone feels like this – even teachers and leaders in the school community!
Observe that it takes time and care to undo knotted laces, and the same is true of some of our fears and worries. We may need to share the problem with someone else and ask for some help.
Ask if anyone is good at undoing knots. Welcome any offers and allow a couple of children and a colleague to quietly and unobtrusively work at untying the laces.
In the meantime, reflect that you are pleased that some people have offered to help because there are ‘nots’ of a different kind that often hold us back.
Point out that the words ‘knot’ and ‘not’ sound the same, but have a different spelling. If possible, display the words for the children to see.
Explain that when we are faced by a difficult problem:
- we may be afraid and say to ourselves, ‘I cannot do it’ or ‘I will not succeed’
- we may become angry about a personal situation, thinking, ‘It should not have happened’
- we might make a mistake or do something wrong and think, ‘I wish I had not done that!’
- worst of all, we may sometimes say to ourselves, ‘I am not good enough’
Reflect that, although these ‘nots’ are spelt differently, ‘cannot’, ‘will not’, ‘should not’ and ‘am not’ are patterns of thinking that – like knotted laces – can prevent us from moving forward. The first step to solving a knotty problem may involve untangling some of our mental ‘knots’. Positive attitudes and perseverance are vital!
Refer back to the trainers. How are the helpers getting on? Offer congratulations or further encouragement, as appropriate. Affirm how a positive attitude has been demonstrated.
Invite the children to review the unhelpful, negative phrases that you have previously highlighted. Conclude by encouraging everyone to think positively when struggling with different kinds of knots.
Time for reflection
Invite the children to relax while some quiet music is played.
Let’s loosen any knots of worry that entangle us and hold us back . . .
Let’s get rid of the ‘nots’ and say to ourselves, ‘I can . . . I will . . . I should . . .’
Let’s remember that we are special, and each of us has something valuable to contribute to the life of our school community - help and friendship, ideas and energy.
Let’s get rid of the ‘nots’ as we remember how each one of us will learn something new today . . . about ourselves, about each other, about life and about God.
We affirm a positive Christian prayer that says:
‘I can do all things through God who strengthens me.’
What can we do, and what should we do today?
What will we all aim to achieve?
Please help us to be positive in life.
Help us to concentrate on the good.
Help us to try hard in all situations.
Helps us to see good things in other people.
Help us to live lives that encourage others.
‘Living and learning’ or ‘Give it all you’ve got’ (Songs for Every Assembly, Out of the Ark Music)
‘Rejoice in the Lord always’ (Come and Praise, 95)