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‘Life Is Like a Jar’

29 October 2015

This week, I’d like to give you an insight into an assembly that I delivered to our Year 8 students.  As parents, I am sure that you remember storytelling with your children when they were younger.  

I know from my conversations with many of you who also have children in the primary school, stories are often a fundamental part of the ‘bedtime’ routine; most of those I’ve discussed this topic with have joked about trying not to drop off to sleep yourself whilst delivering them.

I find that stories are very useful in assemblies as they help me to express a point and deliver messages; they are great ways of ensuring that key themes are understood.  This is because they can transport the listener into a completely unique context, with twists, with humour and suspense.  Listeners become engaged very quickly, they experience different emotions and they are more readily able to appreciate different perspectives.

I’ve been unable to source the writer of this story, but here it is with a few tweaks of my own:

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with unanimously “Yes!”

The professor then produced two cups of juice from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the space between the grains of sand.

 “Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things–your family, your health, your friends, your education and passions – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your house and other material goods. The sand is everything else - the small stuff.

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small things, like the latest computer game, gadget, or party, you will never have room for the things that are really important to you.  Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your family, enjoy spending time with good friends and invest in your education.

There will always be time to watch TV. “Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.” One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the juice represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of juice with a friend.”

We ended by reflecting upon some quotes from Maya Angelou:

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

“If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don't be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning 'Good morning' at total strangers.”

“If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.”

Our assemblies are an important way of supporting the emotional well-being of our students and of helping them to appreciate the friends and opportunities we are lucky to have at BISS Puxi.  They provide a time for personal reflection before pupils begin another busy day of learning in their lessons, ECAs and homework activities. I do hope that you enjoyed this story too!

Andrew Lancaster, Head of Secondary


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