“Intelligence plus character – that is the true goal of education.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Observers of Hyde have commented over the years on a perceived tension that exists between the character and academic components of the school. I have made it a priority of my leadership to clarify the relationship between our character-based curriculum and both faculty and parental expectations for greater academic challenge and rigor.
At the core of the perceived tension is the concern that the demands of the “co-curricular” components of Hyde–often viewed as more “character-oriented” (i.e., accountability for disciplinary transgressions, wilderness outposts, the family program, sports)–interferes with a student’s ability to meet the responsibility and demands of the academic classroom. More importantly this perception asserts that there is a disconnect between Hyde’s academic and character-development program and goals… that they are perceived as two independent programs competing for the same pool of hours during a week. The intent has always been that these two streams are weaved together synergistically into an interdependent program focused on developing character and unearthing one’s unique potential.
I’ve always believed the academic classroom is one of our best venues to help students unearth character.
Character is unearthed when students are asked to stretch beyond their perceived limitations and when students are taught to take responsibility for bringing a sense of discipline and structure to their lives. Character is also unearthed when a teacher perceives their instructional role as that of a character coach as much as a deliverer of information and catalyst of intellectual engagement. But neither the teaching of structure and discipline nor the “classroom stretch” alone, by themselves, are a guarantee of character growth. The “stretch” often wells up feelings of inadequacy and defeatist attitudes. Left solely up to the student to change their attitude and produce the new level of character to meet the challenge, chances are a reoccurring pattern of failure will prevail. This is where the skill of the teacher comes in.
Developing the ability to demandingly nurture the student beyond these attitudinal roadblocks to success–the key is demanding and expecting each student to utilize their character as a means to an end… i.e., as a motivator and tool of academic success. The classroom is a great setting for students to see that that the daily exercising of character builds new ways of thinking, acting and perceiving of oneself. These new ways of thinking, acting and perceiving build new attitudes. And it is in the repetition of these new attitudes that they will eventually take possession of our heart and mind… becoming what we respond to… and helping slide into the background our old defeatist attitudes.
Character development is essential to realizing ones academic potential. Character and academic development aren’t independent thrusts. Treat them that way and you will get neither.
Character and academics are not independent thrusts. They are one… “Charademics.”