This secondary SEAL assembly looks at the personal qualities of determination and perseverance

This assembly explores the ideas of determination and perseverance. It challenges listeners to examine how easily they give up, or how determined they are. It is linked to recent news stories about one of the stars of the Harry Potter movies


Four scenes at four locations in the assembly hall; as the listeners arrive each scene should be frozen, to be animated one by one as the dialogue unfolds. Scene re-freezes at end of its dialogue.

Scene 1 – Pupil at desk, teacher stops to have a look at this work.

Teacher: Not bad, not bad at all – but maybe you could add a little more detail here and there.
Pupil: Do I have to, sir?
Teacher: Well yes, I really do think that it would improve the overall effect of your work.
Pupil: But sir, I’ve been doing this for ages
Teacher: Actually, you’ve been doing it for fifteen minutes
Pupil: Seems like ages. sir, can we not watch a video instead?
Teacher: No, now come on, you can do better than that.
Pupil: I can’t be bothered sir…

Scene 2 – Pupil in PE setting engaged in physical activity – PE teacher trying to cheer him on.

Teacher: Come on – keep it up!
Pupil: Puffing and panting: I can’t sir, I’m exhausted.
Teacher: Exhausted? Now that’s hardly likely is it – you’ve only been going for a few minutes.
Pupil: Still sir, it’s really tiring – I’m sure it’s not doing me any good.
Teacher: Oh, I’m quite sure it is doing you good – in fact, you should do it more often – then you’d get used to it.
Pupil: I don’t think so sir – it’ll be the end of me…
Teacher: Could be the making of you – come on! Hup! Hup! You can do it!

Scene 3 – Teacher puts a notice up on notice board. Two girls are reading it.

Girl 1: ’New Drama Club…. All welcome.‘ Hey that looks quite good actually – fancy giving it a go?
Girl 2: Are you having a laugh or what? Drama club – can you just imagine the kids who’ll go to that?
Girl 1: What do you mean?
Girl 2: Look, it’ll either be the ones who don’t know what to do with themselves when school’s finished, or those who’re living in dreamy-dreamy world. Either that or they think they’ll be the next Keira Knightley or something and treat the rest of us like we’re not there
Girl 1: That’s a pretty negative view you’ve got about it – it might be a laugh – why not give it a try?
Girl 2: No chance at all – they’ll probably have you pretending to be a tree or something stupid like that.
Girl 1: Not want to even go along once? See what it’s like?
Girl 2: Nah – besides, I’ve got to colour my hair tonight.

Scene 4 – Pupil obviously sitting an exam, gets up to leave – conversation is had quite quietly.

Teacher: Eh, where are you going?
Pupil: I’m finished.
Teacher: It’s a two-hour exam, you’ve only been writing for forty-five minutes.
Pupil: I’ve done it all.
Teacher: Well maybe you should read it over again – maybe you’ve missed something out – maybe some new information will come into your head and it’ll be too late to write it after the exam.
Pupil: Not really bothered. It’s a nice sunny day outside, I want to go out with my mates
Teacher: Instead of finishing off this very important exam?
Pupil: Yeah.
Teacher: Your choice, but I think it’s the wrong one [takes exam script from pupil].

Leader: Determination and perseverance. Maybe they are old-fashioned words in some ways, but their meaning should still apply in all our lives today [can engage in question and answer session about the words – look for definitions and examples etc].

Determination and perseverance are all about keeping going even when the going gets tough. In show business there’s an old saying that the ‘show must go on’. This is the view that no matter what comes your way, you carry on and do what needs to be done and put on a good show no matter what.

You maybe not aware of it, but there are probably quite a few people in this room who live by the idea that ‘the show must go on’. There are probably times in your teachers’ lives when they are tired or irritated or frustrated, or just plain fed up. Just like you, your teachers have good days and bad days – but they should always do their job to the best of their ability – and not take their bad day out on you. Their show must go on!

In the news recently, Dame Maggie Smith, who plays Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter films, has been speaking about her battle with cancer. She revealed that during the making of the last Harry Potter film she really wasn’t very well and struggled through a lot of it. She has also stated that she will finish the Harry Potter series of movies – even if she has to ‘stagger though it’ .

Now, cancer is a difficult enough thing to fight against at the best of times, but to do so while being involved in the making of a major film shows real determination and courage. Not only that, but Dame Maggie is also seventy four years old and still giving great performances in these very difficult circumstances. She is showing true determination and a real sense of perseverance. She’s an example to us all of the importance of keeping going – even when the odds seem to be against us.

Perhaps Dame Maggie’s approach to her work reminds us that dealing with life when all is going well is one thing, but dealing with it when it’s not going so well is another. Perhaps that’s when we find out what we are really made of.

How determined are you? We probably all know someone who has pushed themselves on through difficulty [can discuss any local examples here] – maybe their achievements have been great, maybe small – but the fact that they kept going by determination is the key point.

So perhaps when you are sitting in class today and you feel like you just can’t be bothered doing any more – that you have done enough – you should think again and then push yourself just a little more. Perhaps when you think you should take the easy way out, you should ask yourself why you want to do that. Perhaps instead of just giving up you should persevere.

Are you going to give up too easily today, or will you make sure that the show goes on?

You can make this short reading a prayer if you like

When troubles loom and things seem difficultDon’t let me give upWhen the road ahead seems hard and challengingDon’t let me give upWhen it looks as if it’s all too much – even when it’s very littleDon’t let me give upWhen I’m tired or annoyed, or fed up or frustratedHelp me to persevereWhen I feel like giving up

Help me to make sure…. That the show goes on.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in October 2009

About the author: Joe Walker is Head of RE & Psychology at Liberton High School in Edinburgh. As well as being a well-known author he was winner of Secondary Teacher of the Year at the Scottish Education awards 2005.