Character Education at Hyde begins on Night #1 with a time-honored tradition that began in the mid-70s called “Introductions.” The entire student body assembles in our Student Union and each individual takes his or her turn on stage, steps forward, faces the community, and delivers five pieces of information: name, age, class, number of years experience at Hyde, and hometown.
The student is expected to offer these five pieces of information audibly, coherently, and with volume sufficient to carry the auditorium. (We urge them to speak to the person in the audience sitting in the furthest seat from the stage.) A student who looks down at his feet, shuffles, mumbles, and/or does not carry past the first row is challenged to fight through his or her anxiety. It is not uncommon for a student to offer his or her rendition three or four times as he or she stands uncomfortably on stage. (It is also not uncommon for such students to end up receiving spontaneous and respectful school-wide applause from their peers.) A strong night of Introductions invariably contributes to an inspiring bond of solidarity within the student body. That’s one reason we do it.
Over 25 years ago, I wrote a brief story about auditions. Last night I took a bunch of pictures of this year’s Introductions. So, for this post, I figured I’d put the two together.
“My name is…” 10:45 AM – The Student Union
A new student trudges up the three steps to the front of the stage to face the entire faculty and student body. After a gulp or two, he begins, “My name is Johnny Jones. I’m 15-“
Johnny quizzically looks around, feeling like the linguist who has decided to try to learn French by parachuting into an unfamiliar Normandy village. The Dean of Students explains, “Johnny, ‘bing’ means you are not speaking loud enough; so just relax, start over, and tell us again.” After receiving the piece of advice that nearly all new Hyde students seem to require – “speak abnormally loud; speak abnormally slow” – Johnny makes another attempt:
“My name is Johnny Jones. I’m 15 years old. I’m a soph-“
“BING!!!” The one-word refrain echoes through the Union.
Johnny’s quizzical expression begins to show traces of anger. He looks to the Dean with a face imploring, “C’mon, give me a break here.” The Dean says, “Johnny, it’s important that you do this properly. It may seem that we’re picking on you but every student out there had to do what you’re doing now. Go ahead and do it right.”
Johnny steels himself and defiantly bellows with what he is sure is a disrespectfully loud volume (Note: It never is!), “My name is Johnny Jones! I’m 15 years old! I’m a sophomore! And I’m from Cambridge, Massachusetts!” The room then erupts into applause as the dean motions Johnny to return to his seat. Johnny wasn’t sure what had transpired but he did have a smile on his face by the time he returned to his seat.
Some might regard the above scene as harsh. It is certainly rigorous. However, consider the notion that one who can go through the motions of stating one’s identity will eventually develop a genuine pride in the same. Johnny does not know that he is capable of standing up in front of a crowd and stating who he is and where he’s from. When the Dean demands this of him, he gets through it by adopting a rebellious demeanor. However, he departs the stage knowing something about himself that he didn’t know only a few moments before. He will hopefully soon discover that this introduction is merely the beginning of his discovery of many hidden potentials.
Onward, Malcolm Gauld
*To those not familiar with Hydespeak, “bing” is a code expression calling upon someone to speak louder. Also, over the years we have eased up on it use during Introductions, opting for perhaps a “kinder, gentler” experience than Old School Hyde folks might remember.