Brother’s Keeper #7: My Experience

During the 1/7 alumni/student meeting at Woodstock, I told my own story about my experiences with BK in college.  You could say that these experiences reflected my observations expressed in BK Primer #6.

The first paper I submitted as a freshman at Bowdoin College was a 2-pager in English Composition.  I thought it was one of the finest pieces of academic work I had ever done and I eagerly awaited the professor’s verdict.  A few days later, the professor returned it to me all marked up in red ink with a grade at the top that read “D-/F.”  Although I had never seen that grade before, something told me that it wasn’t a good thing.  I soon found out that this was the lowest grade one could receive at the college that was not an F.  Suffice it to say that my world was rocked.

Distraught, but guided by false pride, I initially told no one and certainly didn’t ask anyone for help.  After receiving  a few more less than stellar grades in other classes, I broke down and approached my roommate, a guy who seemed to effortlessly receive A’s on anything and everything that he wrote.

He good naturedly offered to critique my work.  He also asked me, “How honest and frank do you want me to be?”  I responded with, “Brutal… no holds barred.”

A few days later, I presented my roommate with the draft of a paper that had been assigned in a political theory course we took together.  He attacked it.  I recall that the paper had included an observation prefaced with something like, “It’s only human nature for man to yada, yada, etc.….”  Upon reading this, my roommate turned to me and said, “Oh, I see… so now you’re an expert on human nature.  Exactly when did that occur?”  He must have read the resentment on my face as he softened the blow by asking, “You sure you still want brutal?”  I responded with the mid-70’s equivalent of “bring it.”

While I cannot report that immediately after this exchange I began to knock down A’s on my papers, I can say that I stand eternally grateful for the tutoring (mixed with a bit of tough love) that my roommate gave me.  I credit him with helping me take some big steps forward academically.

However, I also credit myself for intentionally seeking out and voluntarily entering into a demanding and challenging tutorial relationship… a Brother’s Keeper relationship .  Sometimes asking for help is not enough.  Sometimes you have to seek out the help that you might not want but it’s the help that you know you need.  (You also cannot always be on the receiving end of this dynamic!  Sometimes you need to reciprocate.)  My own Hyde education helped steer me to do just that.

“We help other’s achieve their best.”  That’s what Brother’s Keeper means.  It sounds simple, but it’s probably the hardest concept a Hyde student has to learn.  That’s OK, because it also offers a lifetime of value.

Onward,  Malcolm Gauld