Recall Recall

2013-06-29 13.28.40
I’m delighted that my “Incomplete Recall” post (11/20/14) piece has sparked such spirited discussion, especially among Hyde alums. At risk of getting all cornball on you, it sincerely does my heart good to see so many men and women from a range of Hyde eras give such deep consideration to the concepts we’ve always tried to explore: character, family, purpose, etc.  While some may disagree with me and some may disagree with each other, there seems to exist a shared feeling that elusive qualities like integrity, unique potential, and personal growth are important to think about.  And the depth of that thinking here is inspiring.  For me, the very fact that people are thinking about it at all after two or three decades have passed gives credence to the very reason why we engage in it in the first place.

My motivation in posting the piece was two-fold.  First, I wanted to put in a plug for the value of gratitude.  Whether we are its subject or object, it’s a good thing to express.  Second, after having encountered more than a few former students who have seemed to cling to an inaccurate picture of the behavioral profiles they might have presented upon arrival as students, I chose to mention that fact.  (I don’t know… Maybe this is significant due to Georges Santayana’s famous maxim: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”)

Given some of the responses I have received, it would appear that I also communicated, at least to some, the idea that no criticisms of Hyde are warranted… OR that anyone who does criticize Hyde is either ungrateful or suffers from the aforementioned distorted view of self.  That is neither my belief nor my intention.  After all, I too am a Hyde alumnus with my own feelings on the up- and down-sides of my experience as a student.

For years, I have sometimes described Hyde as a “50-year experiment in trial and error.”  While much more is written down (i.e., best practices, faculty training programs) these days than was the case during the more seat-of-the-pants approach of the first two decades, we’re still trying new stuff when it comes to working with kids and families.  Some of that stuff works and brings praise while some of it doesn’t and brings scorn.

Even though we are always trying to improve, I suspect that some loose ends may well be both endemic and timeless.  I’ll mention two examples here.  First, in hiring faculty, history shows that younger straight-out-of-college candidates (like myself in 1976!) promise high energy combined with youthful mistakes whereas seasoned veterans often bring greater wisdom with less energy.  Given the demanding pace of Hyde, I suspect that our number of younger folks will always be on the high side.  A lot of these folks are learning how to teach and need to mirror that very same trial-and-error process that Hyde itself has experienced.  Better training and supervision helps, but mistakes can and will happen.

Second, it often seems that a deep commitment to excellence in one arena will often detract from that of another.  Consider America’s Spirit, where performing arts (PA) at Hyde got its start.  Few could dispute that the late 70s was Hyde’s high water mark when it comes to the quality of what was performed on stage.  The vocals, dance, costumes, sound, technical stuff, and musicianship were top notch.  At the same time, some would say that this priority caused academic rigor to take a back seat.  True or not, I can say with authority that the expectations of the Hyde academic teacher of today — lesson plans, syllabus creation, classroom evaluation — are considerably more demanding than the ones I remember during my novice years.  However, I can also say that the PA shows are not as polished.  Priorities change, and when they do, so does the nature of the experience.

In my discussions and cyber-communications of the last few days, I have found one factor especially uplifting: the extent to which many alums have related these themes and issues to their own parenting.  The placement of this priority in their lives is downright heart-warming.  Decades ago, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy famously said, “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.”  Hyde alums may disagree on a whole host of issues, but that seems to be a fairly firm common ground.  It’s also awesome.

Onward,  Malcolm Gauld