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That New Exercise Book Feeling . . .

An assembly for the start of the new school year

by Claire Law

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To explore new beginnings and the opportunities they offer to dream, envision and set goals.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (That New Exercise Book Feeling...) and the means to display them.

  • Have available the YouTube video ‘The Simpsons – Bart wants to be a model student’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 9.57 minutes long (although you will only need to show it from 0.59 to 3.41 minutes) and is available at:

  • Optional: have available your new teacher’s planner to show the students.


  1. Have Slide 1 showing as the students enter the room. Show Slide 2 when you are ready to begin.

    Ask how many students have been looking forward to getting their new exercise books in lessons. Explain that many students enjoy getting a new book and writing on the first page. Often, students try to make their writing as neat as possible. Sadly, four or five pages in and much to the teacher’s annoyance, standards slip and sometimes the scruffy presentation reappears.

  2. If appropriate, point out that even teachers look forward to a new teacher’s planner, diary or notebook. If possible, show the students your own new planner.

    (Note: this section may need adapting to make it authentic for your own experience. The focus needs to be on the desire to make a positive impact at the beginning of term.)

  3. Point out that the desire for a fresh start often extends beyond getting a new exercise book at the start of a new year. Often, students have a fresh desire to do well, to make a new start or to commit to doing their best at the start of a new term or especially at the start of a new school year.

    Explain that the next video shows Bart Simpson experiencing something similar.
  4. Show the YouTube video ‘The Simpsons – Bart wants to be a model student’ from 0.59 to 3.41 minutes. This can be found at:

  5. Bart was determined to get on the school trip. It would have been his dream come true. This meant making some changes to his behaviour. No pranks, tricks or joking around. It called for him to commit to being a model student. It needed some drastic action.

  6. Ask the students to consider what their dreams are for this academic year. What do they want to achieve?

    - Maybe, like Bart, they want to make sure that they qualify for the end-of-term reward trip. 
    - Maybe they want to pass their assessments, end-of-year exams, GCSEs or A Levels with flying colours.
    - Maybe they want to qualify for one of our sports teams.
    - Maybe they want to strengthen friendships and make new friends.

  7. Point out that September is always a good time to consider what our dreams and hopes are for the coming academic year. It is a chance for a fresh start, a new beginning, with exciting possibilities and opportunities.

  8. Explain that you want to consider three questions.

    - What is it that helps turn a dream or hope into reality?
    - How do we make sure that we don’t just entertain a vague daydream that never becomes reality?
    - How do we make sure that our dream is a vision that we move towards and achieve?

  9. Show Slide 3.

    Read out the quotation from Dr David Jackson: ‘The difference between a dream and a vision is a clearly defined path of pursuit.’

    Ask the students to consider what these words mean.

    Pause to allow time for thought.

  10. Show Slide 4.  

    Explain that the saying means that a dream is just a big idea - something that we would like to achieve. However, a vision is something more – it is the idea of where we want to get to alongside a plan as to how to get there. The ‘path of pursuit’ contains the steps that we need to take to achieve our vision. A vision includes asking ourselves the questions, ‘HOW will I get there?’ as well as ‘WHAT does it look like when I achieve it?’

  11. Ask the students to consider the Bart Simpson example. Bart’s dream was to qualify for the school trip. If he had left it at that, his dream would likely have fizzled out a few days into term. However, in the short clip that we saw, Bart was already thinking in terms of vision. His vision was to get on the school trip and his path of pursuit meant asking himself ‘HOW’ he could achieve it. Part of the answer to that question led to him realizing that he needed to take action and get rid of all his prank and joke props.

  12. Show Slide 5.

    Someone who spoke in terms of dreams, but thought and acted in terms of vision, was Martin Luther King. In his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech, he set out his vision for a world where there was justice, fairness and equality. A world where hate and racism did not exist.

    In fact, Martin Luther King’s dream was a vision because he had a path of pursuit to help him take action towards it. He spoke out and demonstrated tirelessly to work towards this vision. He took steps and actions that would make his vision a reality.

  13. Show Slide 6.

    Explain that Christians believe that the idea of having a vision and setting goals to help us work towards achievements is something the Bible supports. The Bible verse Psalm 20.4 says, ‘May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.’ In other words, we may have a dream or desire in our hearts, but we need to plan towards its fulfilment.

Time for reflection

As we think about today’s assembly, let’s reflect on our dreams and visions for this academic year, and on the steps that we can take to achieve them. Let’s think about our own ‘path of pursuit’.

Let us pause for a moment to dream, to think and to consider the WHAT: what do we hope to achieve today, this week, this term and this year?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Now let’s pause to consider the HOW: how can we move from a dream to a vision? What things do we need to do to make the vision a reality? What is the one next step we need to take towards this vision?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Let’s also consider what steps we plan to take to help us get back on track when setbacks happen, as they inevitably do. Whose help can we enlist? What actions will help us to focus again and keep persevering?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Hopefully, we all now have a vision that is bigger and more challenging than simply aiming for neat writing on page two of our exercise books!

Let’s remember that to make visions happen, and to plan out our path of pursuit, we need to reflect regularly on what we want to achieve and how we can make that happen. Let’s build honest times of reflection into our busy schedules.

Dear God,
We recall the Bible verse: ‘May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.’
We ask that you help us to understand better our vision and what we want to achieve.
We ask for wisdom and clarity of thought to help us to see the steps that we need to take towards this.
We pray for strength and patience to keep our eyes focused on moving forwards even when we face setbacks.
Please help us in this academic year to grow and develop in our characters and our relationships.

Publication date: September 2018   (Vol.20 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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