By Zach Jennings ’17, pictured above left
A conversation that is frequently brought up in the boarding school community is how it differs from our nation’s public education system. Being a transfer student from a public school, I’ll be the first to admit that neither one is perfect, and in the end, it all boils down to what you value more in your education and lifestyle.
Having attended public school for most of my life, I know the intricacies and facets of the system fairly well. Teachers have to be certified and meet certain expectations, while the school needs to prove its competence to the state in order to receive good funding. This is a curse and a blessing for students who values their education, because you will have teachers who are adept in traditional teaching methods as well as the content that they’re focusing on, but oftentimes the lessons become too oriented on preparing for standardized testing. Drills and review of basic and dull material can be torture for the avid learner, and over a month can be spent on these trivialities in certain classes. Sacrificing so much class time for this may be beneficial to the school from a financial perspective, but it is often at the expense of the learner.
This battle for funding can also cause budget cuts, which means access to resources, classes, and electives may very well be diminished in order to support the core curriculum that every student must receive. The more academically advanced students may find that they aren’t getting much out of this basic schooling anymore, which can lead to apathy.
In schools with a large student population, there may not be enough faculty to attend to the individual needs of every student. Kids with plenty of potential can often be left in the dust so that the majority of the class can keep a steady pace. This lack of attention can also mean that the students aren’t being monitored properly. When left to their own devices, kids can do some pretty foolish things and develop behavioral issues that aren’t addressed. In no time at all, an institution for learning can become a madhouse.
Such a large student body can be overwhelming at times and can alienate students. As we grow older and transition into adolescence, cliques and social circles begin to form, and friendship becomes a much more exclusive concept. Too often in public school would I see my fellow students sitting by themselves or eating their lunch in the bathroom, and they were typically the same people all throughout middle school and high school. Instead of reaching out, others would simply take pity on them, or even bully and ostracize them to a damaging extent.
The social dynamics of large public schools can be a dog-eat-dog world, and not everyone is lucky enough to be the alpha. As much as I enjoyed my public school for its rich social life and diversity, as well as its plethora of electives and advanced classes, I struggled immensely and frequently failed to meet basic expectations in class. I was in a game of tug-of-war between two very different cliques, and it tore me and my sense of identity apart in the end.
However, where public school fails, private school often soars. Unique teaching methods and alternative styles of education are a lot more tolerated in the private school system, allowing teachers to deliver information to their students in exciting new ways. Since these institutions rely mostly on donations and tuition for funding, there is no need to subject students to flawed standardized testing that could potentially take away from the experiences that make learning fun. Classes are typically smaller, and therefore it is much easier to develop a positive relationship with the teachers and receive more personalized one-on-one attention. Although there are often limited choices in terms of course selection, you have more liberty to design and personalize your schedule.
My first week at Hyde was incredibly disorienting and unfamiliar. I had never even considered that there could be more to education than a few periods a day and an afterschool activity a couple days a week. Frankly, it didn’t even feel like school at first, more like some sort of academic summer camp. Everyone was always doing something, and my boredom was finally being remedied. When we weren’t in class, we were practicing for sports, rehearsing for performing arts, or having valuable conversations with faculty and students.
The community was incredibly tight knit, and everyone seemed to know each other on a personal level. I sat alone for my first meal, expecting it to become a continuous ritual for the rest of the year. I felt like I had turned into one of the lonely public school kids eating lunch in the bathroom that I commiserated with so much. But in a matter of minutes, a group of students at a nearby table invited me to sit with them. I was shocked, for I had never seen such an act in all my years of eating in a cafeteria. I awkwardly shuffled over to them and sat down. Before I could even take a single bite of my food, I was bombarded with questions from the other kids. They were determined to make me feel like one of the denizens, and they certainly succeeded.
Residing in a small community can be liberating for someone who is quiet and introverted such as I am. Socializing was no longer a struggle for me, and since the concept of cliques are practically nonexistent at Hyde, I no longer had to worry about picking sides and being the center of petty quarrels between my friends.
Parents also play a huge role in the community. You wouldn’t expect them to interact with the school frequently, considering that they probably don’t live in the area, and yet there were always parents of students participating in events and integrating themselves into our miniature society.
Having a rather complex family dynamic, I rarely saw certain loved ones and was often the topic of many arguments between my mother and father, but after visiting me at Hyde for the first time, they began to communicate and cooperate with each other successfully. Even my older brother, who had been estranged from the family for many years, seemed much more invested in our wellbeing and functionality.
Despite my not being around, my family began to grow closer together in a way I would have never believed possible. This was one of the greatest contrasts between Hyde and my old public school. The last time I could remember one of my parents even stepping foot on school property before this was for an open house in my elementary years.
Another interesting aspect of Hyde is that it seems to house a very like-minded community. This can sometimes make it difficult to challenge ideas and perceptions that have been valued in the system for a long time, especially among the more seasoned faculty members. But it also means that the people who work and attend the school are incredibly passionate about their work, and they are constantly striving to improve themselves and the school. Everyone lifts each other up, and no one is ever left behind. The amount of perseverance and dedication I have seen at Hyde in the past year is something that I have yet to find anywhere else. Employees and students alike show genuine care and concern for the wellbeing of others, and this is probably Hyde’s most admirable attribute.
The Hyde School is the most unique and empowering school experience I have ever been a part of, and I am proud to be a member of such a wonderful community. I’ve always valued my education and strived to learn as much as I can, but this place has taught me many lessons that have proven invaluable, and most of them haven’t even taken place in a classroom. Anyone who wishes to challenge their perspective on the world and on themselves should seriously consider attending Hyde; it may very well change your life for the better.