Hyde alums will be interested to know that discussion of Brother’s Keeper is ongoing. I thought I’d offer a recap of my meeting yesterday with our seniors… Here are 10 points to consider as you start the year.
- Aim High. If June arrives and you find that you have not impressed yourself in some significant way, I will feel that we failed you.
- If you do manage to impress yourself in some significant way, you probably will not get there alone. Some person(s) will have helped you. That’s BK.
- Whether you know it or not, you likely have already established several alliances. Which ones push you forward? Which ones hold you back? (Can you really distinguish between the two?) What are some new ones you might form?
- My 40+ years in character education have led me to a two-part definition of character: “Our guardian against temptation… Our catapult to greatness.” Evaluating my own performance as a facilitator yesterday, I’m not sure I accomplished my objective of moving the critical mass of you from a focus on the guardian side to one on the catapult side. Time will tell. (It always does.) I am happy to help with that as the year progresses.
- The eternal sticking point regarding BK is the interpersonal “ickiness” surrounding the dynamics whenever student ethics are violated. Either you find yourself kept at the hands of a keeper… Or you don’t want to play keeper to one in need of keeping. I get it. Hey, those feelings go all the way back to my own student days. However, allow me to offer a fool-proof solution…
- Don’t. Break. Student. Ethics… If you take this position and make it clear to others, two things will happen: 1) Your worry about ever being kept for anything will vanish. 2) You will stop being invited to participate in ethics breakage. Ethics violators will begin to conceal both their actions and their intentions from you. Chances are you will only learn about them when you walk by the Dean’s Office windowed door and see their anguished faces as they await their disciplinary fate. You might feel bad for your peers, but you won’t feel icky.*
- Of course, should you choose to honor #6, there is always the chance that you might stumble upon ethics violators in mid-action. And that can indeed be icky. In such cases, you might try to remember that Hyde is an incredibly forgiving place. During my years as head of school, I often said, “As long as I’m headmaster, Hyde may well be guilty of giving too many chances, but no one will accuse us of giving too few.” At Hyde, expulsion is extremely rare. Standard ethics violations are not reported on college applications. Should you BK someone — While BK may not be exclusive to Hyde, I doubt any other community uses it as a verb! — there is no damning blemish on his or her record. Typically, there is only a stint on work crew, maybe the temporary loss of a cellphone, and then this is followed by fresh restart. I mean, what’s the big deal?
- Some of you expressed the feeling that BK might be OK so long as you do not have to exchange (i.e., express or hear) criticisms with classmates with whom you do not share a bond. If you were a first-year freshman, I might be able to accept that view. However, I stand by what I said yesterday: “If you are not open to the idea of expressing or hearing constructive criticism from anyone in this room, you may well be misplaced as a Hyde senior.” Bonds are not a necessary condition for BK to work its magic. (Indeed, sometimes BK creates bonds from circumstances where there were none.) Consider this story told by a male faculty member recalling a comment he received from a female student he neither taught nor coached:
Having established myself as a coach in football and wrestling – arguably Hyde’s most “manly” sports – I confidently took my place on the Hot Seat. Then one female student challenged me to be more engaged with Hyde women’s athletic teams. Months later, responding to an opening in women’s lacrosse, I threw myself into it, eventually becoming head coach, a position I’ve now had for several years. I love it! Prior to this change, I was all about “rah, rah” and did a lot of yelling. Working with Hyde’s women, I learned to appreciate what I might call the “Power of Positivity.” Interestingly enough, I’ve brought this over to my football and wrestling teams. At the end of the day, I’m a better coach… for both men and women. And it all started with a single comment from a female student who didn’t even know me all that well.
That coach could have privately said, “The heck with you! You don’t even know me!” Good thing he didn’t. So, be open to the possibilities of BK with anyone as both giver and receiver. And remember, in the end, you are the final judge in determining the proper fit of any “shoe” that might be offered.
- Are you utilizing your teachers as Purveyors of Wisdom or as Discipline Backstops? Don’t use your teachers as enforcers to help you meet deadlines. Access them for as much wisdom as you can obtain from them. BK is not only a peer-to-peer thing.
- Get off the progress standard. You either is or you ain’t… a person of character. Two quotes to consider: “The world is not your mother.” – Indira Gandhi… “The only person who cares about your progress is your mother.” – Malcolm Gauld.
* Hanging heavy in the air during our discussion was the knowledge that a then undetermined number of students had imbibed in some alcohol the night before with the rationalization that school had not yet officially begun. Those of you who were involved obviously need to give some hard consideration to #6. I have since heard that some of you were invited to partake but chose not to participate. On the one hand, you made the right choice. On the other, you might do well to ponder the vibe you gave off that might have led others to believe that you ought to be invited in the first place. I was no angel during my four years as a Hyde student, but I do recall that once I fully bought into BK, I stopped getting invited to stuff like last night’s activities. Food for thought.
Here’s a link to a digital pamphlet I wrote last year in the 5 Things You Will Only Do at Hyde series:
Onward, Malcolm Gauld