During the recent Fall Family Weekends at Bath and Woodstock, I invoked a bit of executive privilege to offer some advice to the seniors and their parents. My purpose was to contribute to the cause of getting both groups on the right path for a fulfilling final year at Hyde and maybe help with the launch into the great beyond.
Having interacted with 55+- Hyde senior classes (35 at Bath; 20 at Woodstock) during my professional career, I have come to appreciate the words of the late great Yogi Berra, “You can observe a lot just by watching.” Hence, here are four guidelines for seniors and their parents to consider.
1) “The only person who cares about your progress is… your mother.” – Me
Get off the progress standard. If you’re a Hyde senior, know that you have been the beneficiary of a faculty who has routinely gone to the ends of the earth to help you “be the best possible you.” We follow your progress closely and we report same to your parents. Also know that whether you’re heading to college, work, or the military, you will do well to cover your bets and expect that wherever you wind up, you’ll likely be surrounded by an air of indifference. Standards will shift from the relative notion of progress to more absolute qualities like dependability. You either are or you ain’t dependable, responsible, honest, etc. – and you will probably be rewarded (or penalized) accordingly.
If you don’t like my quote above, you might like Indira Gandhi’s “The world is not your mother.”
You might even give a listen to a classic song by B. B. King: “Nobody Loves Me but My Mother, and… She Could Be Jivin’ Too.” (Off Indianola Mississippi Seeds, 1970)
2) Are your teachers wisdom purveyors or discipline backstops?
A quarter-century ago, Hyde was truly blessed when Arthur White spent a year with us teaching math. Arthur had just retired to Bath after a stellar 40+ year teaching, coaching, and headmaster-ing career at Hotchkiss School (CT). Suffice it to say that Arthur may well have been the best math teacher Hyde has ever had.
During teacher evaluations in the spring, one student said, “Mr. White, you sure know your math, but sometimes you’re too nice and you let us get away with too much.” After looking into it, I learned that this particular student and some of his peers in the class were less than responsible when it came to daily preparation of assignments. Rather than accept responsibility for their shortcomings, it seemed to me that they were trying to push them on to Mr. White. In any case, I pulled them together and challenged them: “You guys using Mr. White to get you to do your work is like owning a Ferrari and using it to haul stuff to the dump. Not only are you incredibly lucky to even have a teacher like this, it pains me as headmaster to be wasting such a valuable resource on such a poor learning attitude.”
So, how are you using your teachers? Are you placing them in a position where they must account for your lack of responsibility and initiative?… OR… Are you building a partnership and striving to extract from them whatever wisdom they might have?
3) This is a Test: How are you coming along with your…
a) Executive Function – Are you all about TCB (Taking Care of Business)?
b) Legislative Function – Are you building synergistic relationships with mentors and peers?
c) Judicial Function – What steps are you taking to enhance your wisdom and sense of justice?
In Government class you will undoubtedly study the three branches of the American government system. Yeah, you need to learn them and you should expect to be asked to prove your understanding on some test of some kind. However, don’t forget to apply these three concepts to your own life in order to develop your own sense of self-governance.
4) Aim High
Forty-plus years ago, I began my senior year in high school with three concrete, measurable goals:
– I wanted to be the #1 student in my class.
– I wanted to be named a high school All-American lacrosse player.
– I wanted to be admitted to Harvard University.
Let’s review my report card:
– I rose as high as #3 in my class.
– Although I was in the conversation for All-American status, I was not selected.
– In April, I received a letter from Harvard that began with “We regret to inform you…”
On the one hand, I failed on all three goals. On the other, I had the best academic year of my life, scored a lot of goals on the lacrosse field, and was admitted to two excellent liberal arts colleges. Yeah, I did not make it to the moon but I wound up with a pretty nice star. I know I felt great on graduation day.
May the same be true for you.
Onward, Malcolm Gauld