My school sets a termly theme for assemblies and my topic for this particular session was "mistakes". We have a lot of freedom to explore the subject matter in any way that we see fit, and I decided to take the opportunity to address the issue of body language.
Being an avid follower of Ted talks, I had recently watched a lecture given by Amy Cuddy, an associate professor at Harvard Business School (bit.lyAmyCuddyTalk). She says we usually look at body language in terms of the impact it has on other people, often forgetting the influence that our body language has on ourselves. Cuddy reveals that certain poses can increase testosterone levels and, interestingly, reduce levels of cortisol - one of the primary stress hormones. When cortisol levels drop, people are better able to handle stressful situations.
In my assembly, I outline Cuddy's research and ask the students to analyse their body language at that very moment. What is it saying to others and what is it saying to themselves?
Then I relate this to interviews for jobs and university. I show images of people in different positions and ask the class to decide whether each person is likely to be successful.
Finally, I outline some power poses. These include a Mick Jagger-esque double-arm raise (with gurn) to signal confidence and a seated pose that brings to mind the eager candidates on The Apprentice.
I also highlight poses that are less powerful, such as making yourself small by hunching over and crossing your limbs. I encourage the students to be mindful of their body language and to adjust it before they enter a stressful environment.
I first gave this assembly two years ago and a sixth-form student recently told me that they were planning to try a power pose before their interview at the University of Oxford. I will, of course, be taking all the credit if they get in.
Tim Parker teaches geography and PE at Yarm School in Stockton-on-Tees
To download resources for this assembly, visit bit.lyMyBestAssembly1May
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