Photo by Muffy Aldrich
The Modern Guide to The Thing Before Preppy

Saturday, March 7, 2015

In The Prep School Van

“From the moment we arrive to the moment we leave - and as long as we can be seen or heard - you will be representing our school.  When you wear the school colors, when you arrive by our bus, you are an ambassador of this institution.  We will be guests. How you behave, well or poorly, is not just a reflection on you but on all of us.   
No swearing.  No littering.  No bad mouthing.  Respect the letter and the spirit of the rules. Go where you are suppose to, not where you are not. This institution follows an honor code - just because a door isn't locked does not mean you should be opening it.   
This sounds complicated but it is not. When in doubt, act towards others as you would want yourself and your property to be treated and you cannot go wrong.  
And it matters. Our school is no longer welcome at a certain museum because of the behavior of just a few students many years ago.    
You are not just responsible for your actions, but the actions of everyone in our community. It is not enough to act well, you have to hold your classmates accountable. 
But the good news is that we - that you - will be welcomed today with enthusiasm and trust because of the exemplary behavior of the students who came before you.  Enjoy yourself.  Be part of a proud tradition.”  
- Said by every coach, teacher, and adult chaperone on every school field trip or away game


  1. At my school (where I imagine some form of this speech was said all the way back to 1774 on the school wagon) the speech became progressively shorter over the years. In the words of a 50+ year faculty member - "Don't do anything stupid." Truly words to live by.

  2. This also applies to foreign travel.

  3. I don’t recall ever hearing such an admonition en route to a sporting event. Perhaps it was because we were expected to behave properly at all times and failure to do so was met with swift punishment.

    As with many New England Schools, mine was grounded in church tradition, so the Golden Rule, along with unspoken rules of behavior, were understood. It’s a shame that in my day, some of the Masters did not follow these principals. In fact scandal has been brought upon the school by students and faculty in equal parts. Which brings me to the root of the problem.

    In an era in which almost anything goes, in a society where unacceptable behavior is often accepted by a vocal minority, is not the role of parents stronger than ever? Surely a school should not be expected to stand in loco parentis, for that would invite abdication of parental responsibility.

    Perhaps being welcomed with enthusiasm and trust is less a reflection of the students who proceeded you than the parents who came before you.


  4. I do remember such admonitions. Necessary for youth.

    If only MGC were in charge.

  5. MGC, that was most excellent! I agree with you. I was taught by my parents and family both etiquette and manners.

    Some parents today expect schools to replace them in all forms of education. Common sense seems to be coming and going from time to time.

  6. Ha ha ...d.. "Don't do anything stupid was a couple years ago. Last year on the day summer vacation began, the SRO (that's school resource officer, a sheriffs deputy assigned to our school) said "Don't get arrested." He meant it too.

  7. Muffy--As a teacher and coach at a boarding school, I've given variations on that speech many times. I even wrote a booklet on manners, sportsmanship, and deportment, called "Grace Notes," for my school. Your photo also illustrates a fact known to every boarding-school veteran, that the preppiest of all vehicles isn't a Volvo wagon or a vintage Land Rover, but one of those school mini-buses you drive to away games. Michael

  8. The coaches and teachers at my boarding school used variations of the same list of admonitions. Our headmaster, however, did not require vocal expression: he simply gave us "the Look"

  9. With slight modification, this could be the best outline for how one might live one's life.

  10. My school had a dean simply known as "The Enforcer." If he was headed your direction, you were in trouble, likely detention for one or more weekends and a session between the dean and your parents. And it was drilled into us that we had to be following the Honor Code both on campus and off. So there wasn't much deviation from the rules. If the wrath of the dean wasn't enough, the wrath of your parents was.

  11. Oh yes. My school had an excellent French teacher, a graduate of the Sorbonne, who had sneaked into the country with a tennis racket saying he was going to work at a summer camp, overstayed his visa, married an American and went on to a distinguished and beloved career before an early death from cancer. Anyway, he was our "enforcer." Skipping chapel meant "ze broom," otherwise known as repeated sweeping of the refectory until it was beyond clean. The one time in six years of prep school that I actually skipped chapel (to complete a paper), I escaped like Augustine with the pears because no one could believe that I had actually skipped chapel. I also remember a teacher telling us about her youth at another school which, in theory, dispensed with such admonitions ("inner light" and all that), yet she had a distinct memory of her own teacher up in the gallery of the Library of Congress silently checking to see which students were and were not actually doing what they were supposed to be doing. So Calvinism in practice.

  12. @Mary Anne - I'm onboard with MGC being in charge!

    @Katahdin, I went to an all girls Catholic high school I'm very familiar with "the Look". My mother did it quite well also.

  13. pGj,
    I agree that Parents have the strongest influence on their children. It can however be a positive or a negative influence. All children are taught by example. An exemplary education can not be avoided. No matter what we tell them, they learn to do what we do more than what we tell them. No matter how much expectation we have.



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