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Starting the year with collective effervescence

In the early 20th century, French sociologist Emile Durkheim coined a concept to describe the energy and harmony people feel when they come together in a group around a shared purpose. He called it collective effervescence.

At Harpeth Hall, students and faculty channel that joy — that collective effervescence — through our mission and the time we spend together as a school community.

“We have a shared purpose — today and every day,” Head of School Jess Hill said in her words to students on the morning of Opening Convocation. “We want to lift up this community of girls and young women and engage you and all of us in the pursuit of learning and growing and becoming better.”

Under the magnolias on Souby Lawn, the energy of our campus radiated. For many students, Opening Convocation is their favorite

Harpeth Hall tradition — a chance to come together, led by the seniors, and adventure into the new unknown of the school year together.

“This pandemic has taken some things from us, but it also has given us a purpose in thinking about our broader community,” Ms. Hill said. “It is a visible opportunity to pull back from ourselves as individuals and to lean into our collective. Instead of asking what is right for me, we might ask ourselves what is right for our class, the school, the neighborhood, our city, and even the world.” 

“Moving forward from COVID-19 is one of the most discussed topics in the world currently,” 8th grade Convocation speaker Lily Hare said. “As we move forward, we have two choices. Either to return to the normal we once knew — or instead take the opportunity to better ourselves. I encourage all of us to maximize the benefits of this opportunity and become a better community.”

Together, as a collective, our students and faculty believe that we can create a stronger and better community. A community that can dream together, envision bold and bright ideas, and support one another as we work to achieve those goals.

“Dreaming, particularly in a pandemic, seems to me a kind of superpower that we all need to lean into, no matter our age,” Director of Upper School Armistead Lemon said in her speech to students on the first day of school. “A new school year for me always connotes a fresh start and a whole new world of possibilities. … Before you step foot into the classroom this morning, close your eyes, and dream with me. What are you hopeful about in this year ahead? What is a dream that you have that you are excited about?”

For the senior class, their dreams of leading the school and growing into strong, confident young women are becoming realities this year.

Clad in band T-shirts from the ‘80s and wielding inflated guitars, the senior class roared onto campus blasting classic rock — a very fitting way to amp up their peers as the senior theme this year is “We Will Rock You in 2022.”

Liz Allen, the Student Council president summed up their theme best with a challenge to the student body.

“This year, I want us to indulge in the moments we share with one another — the laughter, the dancing — because those are the moments that are cherished when we look back,” she said. “Fifth through 12 grades, I ask you all to seize the opportunity to cheer each other on at games and school events. I ask you all to choose to put yourselves out there or get up on stage and laugh off the embarrassment because that is what makes a true rockstar. Those are the moments that bond us as a class and make this school a sisterhood.”

The most important takeaway from this year’s Opening Convocation is that at Harpeth Hall, no one has to face challenges alone. Our students and faculty are here to help each other, to celebrate wins together, and offer trusted guidance as we start a new year.

“We can do hard things. Being together will make it better,” Ms. Hill concluded. “Never underestimate your grit and determination, and never underestimate what the power of the girls on this lawn can do when you put your heads together and support each other on the journey. I am so grateful to be starting this journey alongside you, as we experience our own version of collective effervesce right here, right now.”