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Opening Convocation encourages girls to be the captains of their own ships

Opening Convocation encourages girls to be the captains of their own ships
Opening Convocation encourages girls to be the captains of their own ships

By MC Claverie '20
Harpeth Hall Communications Intern 

The Class of 2023 rushed into the Frances Bond David Theatre this week decked out in pirate hats and bandanas to the swashbuckling Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack, the perfect choice for this year’s senior theme — “Brave the Sea in 2023.”

A beloved Harpeth Hall tradition led by the senior class, Opening Convocation marks the start of a new school year and the exciting adventures that lie ahead. For the senior class, their enthusiasm and love of Harpeth Hall manifests in their bravery to take on their role as leaders of the school.

While the senior theme encapsulates the idea of courage and confidence, Student Council President Sarah Martin Sachtleben reminded her fellow Honeybears that bravery exists in many different forms, and at Harpeth Hall, students can create their own definition of what it means to be brave.

“In my experience, Harpeth Hall has done a great job of providing such a space, a space where we can all voice our thoughts and express our feelings without shame or judgment to be brave,” she said. “Now, your version of being brave may look very different than the student next to you or even your teacher. So this year, I encourage all of us to push ourselves to a point of vulnerability where we learn not only about ourselves, but also our fears.”

After two years of COVID causing rocky seas, Harpeth Hall’s Opening Convocation returned to the Francis Bond Davis Theatre for the first time since 2019. Students scurried to find their classmates and settled into their cushioned seats as they absorbed the electric energy and anticipation permeating through the theatre.

From her place behind the podium as a Convocation speaker, 8th grade student Aza Scheele encouraged her classmates to carry that energy and excitement with them every day.

“When the new year loses its mystery and freshness, we forget that we still have goals, opportunities, and excitement ahead,” she said. “Taking the time to savor the ideas we have and remember the novelty of 2022-23 is important. … In my life, I’ve always needed something to look forward to to remind me of what I’m working towards and to regain zeal when it's declining.”

Along with the excitement of the new year comes challenges that each student must learn to overcome, but by embracing these challenges, Harpeth Hall girls increase their own sense of self.

“While joy and an enthusiasm for learning seem to permeate the Harpeth Hall experience, we also need to prepare for and anticipate the inevitable setbacks and challenges that will arise,” Director of the Middle School Judi O’Brien said in her speech to students on the first day of school. “Let’s embrace challenges as part of the journey, rather than as unwelcome surprises, by adopting and cultivating a ‘growth mindset’ to build resilience and self-awareness.”

That call for resilience resonated among the students. At Harpeth Hall, girls learn to face their fears and embrace the courage to be brave. Whether it’s in the classroom, on the field, or up on stage, each day provides new opportunities to grow in strength and confidence with the support of fellow students and faculty.

“This year, I encourage you to think about real-world examples of brave people around you.  When you see someone do something brave, tell her. When you read a book and there is a brave character, pull it apart and break it down to understand: ‘How do we know this is an example of real courage at play?’” Director of Upper School Frances Fondren-Bales said in her speech to students on the first day of school.

For this year’s Opening Convocation, the most important takeaway is that at Harpeth Hall, no one has to be brave alone. Together, our students and faculty are here to help each other, and lift one another up on the journey to becoming brave young women.

“So, for anyone who may be wondering who we are today, let’s don’t just tell them we are a community of caring, thinking, involved, bold, and brave girls and young women, let’s show them,” Head of School Jess Hill said in her words to students on the morning of Opening Convocation. “Show them with the laughter overheard with friends, the admiration and respect in your eyes when your teachers are around, and the spark of curiosity ignited by that light of learning, inquiry, and understanding in the classroom. That spark of curiosity illuminates all that is around us at this school—reflecting the abundance of all that remains for us to learn about the world.”