Celebrating 2018-19 Opening of School
There is something special about the first day of school. The Harpeth Hall Honeybear, faculty, and administrators gathered outside the Middle and Upper Schools and welcomed the excited new and returning students on Wednesday morning.
The 2018-19 school year kicked off in the Frances Bond Davis Theatre with the annual all-school Opening Convocation exercises. After faculty and staff helped students find their new assembly seats, music began to play and the Seniors danced, ran, skated, skipped, and twirled their way down the aisles. They were the last grade to make their entrance and reveal the theme of their graduating year, "The Dancing Queens of 20-19." As the music played, energy flooded the room, and everyone cheered along.
Harpeth Hall's Interim Head of School, Jess Hill, was at the podium to welcome all 698 students, including 126 new students. She began by noting the excitement and energy in the room and also the significance of the moment. "This is a moment when we are all aware we are part of something larger than ourselves," Ms. Hill said."Today is a day of hope," she said. "My first hope is that in some way we are able to help you and all of us in this room remain humble in respecting the vastness of the world around us and the possibility of new ideas and different points of view."
Drawing on the commitment to life-long learning that is part of Harpeth Hall's mission statement, Ms. Hill encouraged students to go out and make "excellent mistakes," knowing that is how we learn. She reminded students to claim those mistakes and learn from them; to listen and to be inspired by everyone; and to "shed any cynicism that may creep in and release your excitement and wonder at how much we all have yet to learn."
Ms. Hill added, "I hope you will be confident in your voice and your worthiness in the world. I hope you will bring your authentic self to this place because that will make us stronger as a community." She cited a famous quotation of President Theodore Roosevelt as a reminder to students to support each other and not feel competitive with each other, "Comparison is the thief of joy." She shared that she says that to herself "almost every day."
She concluded her remarks with a concept she is known for sharing, one she calls the "Yet Pencil."
"When you are in this act of learning, it is easy to declare that we are not good at something. Remember to always end those sentences with, 'I am not good at fractions or at graphing...YET. I am not good at research papers... YET. I am not good at tennis... YET. I am not good at dancing... YET.'"
Her inspiring remarks and advice were followed by Middle School speaker Caroline Ford '23 who enthusiastically welcomed students and shared her excitement for the coming year, her final year in the Middle School. She compared her middle school journey to the four hundred meter race in track.
"The start of the race and middle are essential, but the finish is what makes the race so powerful. Sure, you can fall in a race, or you might even have some hurdles to overcome, but when you reach the final one hundred meter stretch, all that matters then is that you give your all, because that is what counts in the end," Ford said.
"No matter what grade you are currently beginning, lets make this year special, lets make this year count!" She concluded.
Senior Charlotte Taylor, President of the Upper School Student Council, addressed each class in her entertaining speech and assigned each grade a song that she said "will complement your boogie this year." She ended with her own class and ABBA's "Dancing Queen" classic. She shared this wish with her classmates and incorporates some of the song's lyrics, "May we strive to be the best versions of ourselves everyday. After all, you're young and sweet, only 17 once, right?"
She closed, "We're here to learn at an incredible school where we recognize learning as a process, we're here to strive for personal growth rather than perfection, and we're here to be our authentic selves. Because when you're your authentic self, you can dance, you can jive, and you'll have the time of your life!" Read full text of speech here.
Directors of the Middle and Upper Schools, Judi O'Brien and Armistead Lemon, shared more inspiring words of wisdom and wishes for the year ahead and ended the assembly on a jubilant note.
As is tradition, convocation concluded with the senior class taking the stage and leading the audience in the singing of the Harpeth Hall alma mater.
Good luck Honeybears! We hope you have a great 2018-19 school year!!
The Dancing Queens of 2019 take to the stage!