Opening Day All School Assembly – Remarks by Head of School Wanda M. Holland Greene

Opening Day All-School Assembly
Remarks by Head of School Wanda M. Holland Greene
Thursday, September 6, 2012

A First Day of School Story for Hamlin Girls
(This story, which is based on a Korean folktale about a tiger whisker and a disgruntled wife, has been adapted for Hamlin storytelling.)

A young Hamlin girl came one day to the house of a mountain hermit to seek his help. The hermit was a sage of great renown and a maker of charms and magic potions. When the young Hamlin girl entered his house, the hermit said, without raising his eyes from the fireplace: "Why are you here?"

She said: "Oh, Famous Sage, I am so sad! My friends at school, who have just returned from summer vacation, are hardly speaking to me! They are as cold as ice. They are not living the Hamlin Creed. If they do speak to me, it is with the most explosive fire in their voices! They no longer enjoy the sitting with me at the lunc table. They don’t seem to want to play with me at recess. I want a potion to give to my friends so that they will be loving, kind, and welcoming, as they used to be."
"Ha, so simple is it? Can we cure these girls with a potion?" the hermit said.
"Master," said the Hamlin girl, if you do not help me, I am truly lost! School has started!"

Resigned at last, the mountain hermit said, "Very well; I will help you to make a potion. But it requires an ingredient which I do not possess. The most essential ingredient is a the whisker of a living lion."

"The whisker of a living lion!" She exclaimed. "How will I possibly get that?"
"If the potion is important enough to you, you will succeed," the hermit said. He turned his head away, not wishing to talk anymore.

The young Hamlin girl went home. She thought a great deal about how she would get the lion’s whisker. Then one night she crept from her house with the most delicious morsels she had cooked especially for her task. She went to the place on the mountainside where the lion was known to live. Standing far off from the lion's cave, she held out the food, calling the lion to come and eat. The lion did not come.
The next night she went again to the mountainside with some well-prepared food, this time a bit closer. Again she offered the food to the lion.

Every night she went to the mountain, each time a few steps nearer to its cave and even though fear caused her knees to shake she took these footsteps forward.
Little did the young girl know, but the lion was becoming accustomed to her presence, and every night the lion was also creeping closer in her direction. Eventually, one night, the two could see each other in the moonlight just a stone's throw apart.

It happened again the next night, and they were so close she could feel the warmth of the great feline's breath. As the lion knelt to eat the food she had given him, she reached out her hand very quickly and plucked a whisker from the Lion’s face--
And the lion
not to notice....

Clutching the whisker tightly in her hand, she backed away slowly, thanking the lion softly and then went down the path, running towards the mountain mountain hermit's house.

"Oh, Mountain Hermit!" She cried, " I have it! I have the lion’s whisker! Now you can make me the potion you promised so that my friends will be kind and welcoming again!"

The hermit took the lion’s whisker and examined it. The hermit’s face was lit by the flames of his fire pit. After he was satisfied that the whisker had really come from a lion, he leaned forward and dropped it into the fire. It vanished immediately in the smoke.

"What have you done!" the young Hamlin girls cried in anguish. "What have you done! The whisker is gone! I need my friends to be kind! School has started, and I am miserable!” She proceeded to tell the mountain hermit the story of how patiently she had approached the lion. "Why have you thrown the lion’s whisker in the fire! I did all that work for nothing."

"No, I do not think it is all for nothing," explained the hermit. "Are any of your friends more vicious than a lion? I think not. The potion you need is courage. You thought you did not have courage. You could only feel sadness and fear when you came to me. You thought you needed a lion’s whisker to make a special potion. But true courage is being able to feel sadness and fear and still take steps forward. You approached the lion night after night with your special food morsels! You grabbed a whisker! Surely if you can win the confidence of such a wild animal, you can do the same with your friends at school?"

Hearing this, the young Hamlin girl stood speechless for a moment. She felt the courage she needed to make new friends and try to keep the old ones. She went down the trail, feeling quite proud of what she had learned about herself and the world, and walked back home.


I loved Maya’s definition of Courage: Going against what is popular to do what is right. Be upstanders, girls. Interrupt unkindness. Do what is right. Include people in your games and conversations. Play fair. Live the Creed. And let’s have a great year!
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Wanda M. Holland Greene

Wanda M. Holland Greene is currently in her ninth year as Head of School. She is a proud New Yorker and a graduate of Columbia College, receiving her B.A. in English and Psychology. She earned her M.A. in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University. Wanda complements her work as an educator by serving independent schools and as trustee for Columbia University. She is a vocal performer (jazz, gospel, and soul), an avid reader, poet, and writer.

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