Anyway… this time around there was something for everyone to ponder. For example, in a letter to the parents of the seniors involved, I asked, Once you got beyond the normal disappointment or anger invariably triggered by such news, how much of your thinking was focused on the level of honesty (or lack thereof) your child exhibited? How much of it was preoccupied with whether or not your child would be permitted to take his/her exams on time? Was it an 80/20% split?… 50/50?… 30/70?
I was particularly concerned about the seniors and their families for the simple reason that they are in the 11th hour of their Hyde experience. Furthermore, I felt a particular kinship with them, having taught them in government during the month of February.
Last Fall Family Weekend, I intentionally tweaked both the seniors and their parents with this statement: “The only person who cares about your progress is your mother.”
Progress is a wonderful thing. However, one’s senior year of high school marks an appropriate time to stop expecting to gain extra credit for progress. It is also a good time for parents to stop rewarding it. One’s senior year at Hyde is the time for students and their parents to move their proverbial 51% from the relative standard of progress over to the absolute standard of truth.
At Hyde, we strive to embody and uphold five words and five principles. It’s no accident that three of those ten deal directly with truth-telling:
Integrity – I am gifted with a unique potential. Conscience is my guide to uncovering it.
Truth – Truth is our primary guide.
Conscience – We attain our best through character and conscience.
Speaking to the student body last week, I asked all of our kids to consider this idea: Honesty is when our words match our deeds; Integrity is when our deeds match our words. A productive and inspiring evolution can unfold when a kid makes the commitment to be truthful.
It starts with honesty which is all about words. It sounds simple enough: When you are asked whether or not you did something, you respond with a truthful yes or no. That’s honesty. However, after a while, you grow tired of suffering the consequences of answering with “yes.”
This tiredness, in turn, leads to a realization: If I don’t engage in the negative behavior in the first place, I can then answer “No.” That can be the dawn, the essence of integrity. It’s all about acting before the fact.
Speaking personally, the school meeting on the evening of March 3 (Mon) was a miserable low for me. Not only was it hard to learn of the actions and “dishonesties” of some of our students, particularly those who had presented themselves as school leaders, the tone of the meeting seemed to lack the requisite sense of remorse. Especially disheartening was the realization that some students were not going to get honest until the Dean’s Office could prove that they absolutely had “the goods” on them.
What a difference a day… make that 2 days… makes! The wrap-up school meeting on Wednesday (3/5) afternoon was one of the year’s high points for me. It was inspiring to see and hear a number of our kids face the school, admit their wrongdoings, apologize, and commit to something better for the remainder of the year and beyond. Some of them were set free. (Albeit, with disciplinary challenges to face and complete.) Others benefited from the power of example.
Within the span of a few days, some of these kids showed the community both their worst and their best selves. Now the only question is: Which one will they ultimately choose?
Novelist George Eliot (1819-80) wrote, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” Hyde exists to help parents help kids develop character and discover their unique potential. Let us work together to be the best possible… us.
Onward, Malcolm Gauld