Most of the stuff written or said about schools and families these days seems to focus on how teachers and parents need to raise their games. Sometimes it seems as though children and students are portrayed as helpless pawns, bit players in the dramas of their own lives. More than a few times I have found myself wondering and worrying, Do they get the fact that they are ultimately responsible for their happiness regardless of the quality of the parenting or teaching they might have received while they were coming of age?
So, here are two points for students and children – more specifically, adult children with point #2 – to consider. They have to do with effort and forgiveness.
When my wife Laura was a little girl, her stepfather used to say to her, “Whatever you choose to do in life, if you truly work your tail off you will only be competing against 10% of the people you encounter. That’s because the other 90% don’t work their tail off.” Of course, she would roll her eyes in the circa early-70s version of “Whatever.”
Today, Laura and I often find ourselves making the same point to our children and our students.
Looking back on the 20+ years I taught English and history, I am struck by the high percentage of my students who did not seek me out on their own time for extra help or to simply engage in intellectual discussion. (And I’m not talking about the common ploy to get out of evening study hall!) It was a surprisingly rare phenomenon. So, transcend the tyranny of most. Make like Nike and Just Do It!
After 30+ years at Hyde, I can’t help but chuckle at the selectivity or inaccuracy that some alums have when it comes to recalling the attitude and behavior profiles they presented upon their arrival as teenagers. I have learned to accept the irony that some of those whom I might naturally assume would be the most grateful – e.g., Grateful that we were willing to with them at all! – are sometimes the most bitter.
While it may be hard for a teenager to grasp, by the time you hit 30, it’s high time to perceive your parents and teachers for what they tried to do. I had plenty of bad teachers growing up. Some have even unknowingly served as examples of how not to teach. Today I see that none of these men or women meant me harm. I also can’t think of any of my Hyde colleagues who have ever wanted anything but the best for their students. Some people, as The Eagles sang, just need to “get over it.”
If you attend or ever went to Hyde, consider the idea that not only did someone think you were worth the cost of a rather costly tuition, someone – your parents or the school – was even able to come up with it. There are people in the world who are justified in weeping for their lack of fortune… no one who went to Hyde is. So, try hard. Then get over it.
Onward, Malcolm Gauld