4 Points for Seniors

Just before we headed off for the Holidays, I thought I’d swing by a meeting of our seniors…

… and lay four points on them. Having laid the same four points on their parents during Fall Family Weekend, my hope is that they might compare notes over the break. Here goes:

Point #1: “The only person who cares about your progress is… your mother.” – Me

Get off the progress standard.  Whatever you choose to do next year — college, work, military, etc. — cover your bets and assume that you will be enveloped in an air of indifference. Expectations 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 depending upon which you are, you will be rewarded (or penalized) accordingly.

If you don’t like my quote above, you might try Indira Gandhi: “The world is not your mother.” Either way, accept the fact that 6 months from now you will enter a world where you will be expected to meet and exceed the standards of someone besides your mom… and she will have nothing to say about it.

And just to get you in the mood, 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)

Point #2: Do you perceive your teachers as (a) Wisdom Purveyors OR (b) 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).  He 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. 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 behaviors, 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 poor learning attitudes.”

So, how are you using your teachers?  Are you placing them in a position where they must accept the burden of your lack of initiative?… OR… Are you building a partnership and striving to extract from them whatever wisdom they might have? (Litmus Test: Rate your initiative and responsibility level on handling your college application efforts. Are you meeting all deadlines?)

Point #3: 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 peers and mentors?
c)     Judicial Function – What steps are you taking to enhance your wisdom and sense of justice?

So, when you’re sitting in Government class and you’re trying to make sense of the three branches of the American government system, don’t just grasp them enough to parrot back on the test. Go one step further and use them as a tool that can help you develop your own personal system of self-governance. Which branch is your strong suit? Which one needs work?

Point #4: Aim High

Forty-five years ago  — Yikes! — I began my senior year at Hyde with three concrete, measurable goals.  I wanted to be…

–          Valedictorian of my class;
–          a high school All-American lacrosse player;
–          admitted to Harvard University.

Let’s review my report card:

–          I rose from the middle of the class to as high as #3.
–          Although I was nominated for All-American status, I was not selected.
–          In April, I received a thin letter from Harvard that began with “We regret to inform you…”

So, I went 0-for-3. I failed on all three counts. However, 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. Although I missed the moon, I wound up with a few pretty nice stars.  And I sure felt great on graduation day.

May the same be true for you.

Onward,  Malcolm Gauld