A local middle school has asked Hyde to facilitate a day-long program for their 8th graders. As a school, Hyde worked with this group of kids last year, putting them through a “Know Yourself, Be Yourself” workshop. (“Know Yourself, Be Yourself” is a complementary program to The Biggest Job parenting workshops conducted by Hyde). Obviously the middle school principal felt the workshop was worthwhile, and so has requested a second day of team building and peer culture building for her students. I believe for any of the Hyde students who might potentially be involved with the middle schoolers, spending a day giving of themselves and experiencing the positive impact they can have on others is worthwhile. Everything comes at a cost, though, and in this case the cost is missing class time. Undoubtedly for many of the students, helping to facilitate in the workshop will mean missing a class in their honors and/or AP course. The question, then, for the individual students as well as Hyde as a school is, “What is the best way to use our limited resource of time?” Or “How does the benefits of service and self discovery stack up against the benefit of personal scholarship?” It is not an easy question to answer since both are worthwhile endeavors.
For me, the answer in this case is to host the middle schoolers and work towards having a day of learning for all involved. Community service, athletics, and performing arts, I believe, need to be co-curricular, not extra-curricular, with academics. I trust, based on conversations with graduates from both the recent past as well as from 20+ years ago, that these activities are as essential to one’s success and enjoyment in life as is academic achievement. As more and more students and parents push for advanced courses (it seems some students want to finish their first year of college before they graduate high school!), it becomes more difficult to resist the urge to curtail or eliminate the other aspects of the high school experience. The pitfall in doing so is that academic challenges are only one avenue through which to develop one’s character, and many students need multiple avenues to learn about themselves and the world in which they live. And since education needs to prepare students for life, not just college, we need to give them opportunities to develop their character and as well as their intellect.