School Meetings #3

School Meetings benefit the Hyde culture in more ways than any of us realize. Sometimes these benefits catch us by surprise. One of my most lasting memories of the power of a school meeting evolved from a seemingly mundane incident involving graffiti on a men’s room wall.  Here’s how I wrote about it over twnety years ago:

Our first full week ended with a powerful school meeting. I yanked everyone from evening study hall when I became aware of profane graffiti in the Student Union mens’ room. I stated my own disgust and deducing the gender of the perpetrator by virtue of the location of the offensive message, asked him to summon his courage and confess to me on the following morning. I went to bed that night certain that we would never discover the identity of the graffiti writer. I settled on the hope that a statement had been made that might deter future defacing of the campus.

The next morning I arrived at my office, and lo and behold, a young man was timidly waiting for me. We sat down in my office and he confessed. I asked him why he decided to own up to his deed. He cited the previous morning’s school-wide journalling session where we wrote about integrity and personal honor. He explained how he had written of his desire to become a man of true integrity and that this would never happen if he didn’t “clear the decks” on himself. Later that morning he faced his peers at announcements and repeated to the entire school what he had earlier confessed to me. We wound up using the circumstance as a kick-off for the afternoon school meeting.

A weight had been lifted off of the shoulders of this student. It was a wonderful example of the Hyde program in action with a component of our “action-reflection cycle”, journalling, directly contributing to the development of conscience.  The student got support at the school meeting but was not turned into a hero – he still had work-crew to deal with.  As I told him, “your exemplary honesty does not diminish the seriousness of your wrongful deed but it does open up your future opportunities. You’ve truly given yourself a break.” Then he went to work sanding the door.

Onward,  Malcolm Gauld