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Posted: Nov 14, 2006 19:53


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Woodstock, Connecticut
Jason Warnick, Assistant Director of Admissions

Visit Report By: Larry Stednitz, September 2006

Over the years, like all consultants, I have visited programs across the country. Somehow, various circumstances have caused me to bypass Hyde. I have had colleagues who frequently referred to Hyde, saying it was perfect for some of their students. On the other hand, some have said that Hyde may have taken some students who required a stronger clinical intervention while their model did not include clinicians. On this day, I was in search of understanding Hyde's model of working with students who needed special support in order to succeed in school. Hyde School is a college prep boarding school that emphasizes character development.

I met with Mike Dawes, Associate Headmaster, and Jason Warnick, Assistant Director of Admissions, who told me how Hyde grew out of the east coast prep school ranks. Joe Gauld had two students--one a not so bright, hard working student and the other a gifted student who achieved A's with little effort. Later in his life, the gifted student did very poorly while the hard working not so bright boy became a top psychologist. It was at this juncture that Gauld had a profound epiphany. Although his career was going well, he realized that he had a higher calling. That calling was to develop a school where principles of character were paramount, not mere achievement. His dream was to revolutionize education across the country.

Mike had a son who graduated from Hyde in 1989 and Jason is a graduate of Hyde. Mike shared with Jason and me about his son and his role as a parent in contributing to his son's struggles. I felt comfortable discussing the difficulties with which my son and I also struggled. By this time, Mike who is 62 and I, 65, felt comfortable sharing our experiences with each other. After I told Mike of my own personal difficulties, he made a point of telling me that I was partly responsible for my son's behaviors or at least was his struggles. On some level, I certainly agreed with Mike because I did play a major role in my son's life. Mike made his point with me and drove home the necessity of the involvement of the "Hyde Parent". When Hyde enrolls a student, they also enroll the parents. In effect, parents are the primary role models for their children, and as such, are required to be full participants in the program. Mike also made a point of saying that there is no blame aimed at parents, but that the parents are the primary teachers in their children's lives. Hyde teaches parents that inspiring their kids is "job number one."

Over the past several years, Hyde has published three books that I encourage our readers to read in order to get a clear picture of Hyde's philosophy. My wife and I spent a good part of a morning reviewing the Hyde philosophy, testing it out with our beliefs and philosophy of living. My wife and I found ourselves agreeing on most points and debating some. Overall however, we found the philosophy and practices have the potential to he helpful for those families who resonate with its various principles.
Joe Gauld, and I assume his colleagues, have developed a comprehensive philosophy of life centered on character education principles.

I brought up the issue of how important heavy confrontation and emotional sharing are in Hyde's program, subsequently how some think that fragile students or parents may experience regressed behaviors triggered by the confrontation and openness. I asked them how they respond to these issues. Mike discussed the evolution of confrontation at Hyde. He said that during the late 80's, the confrontations were "more intense." It was suggested that the early days may have been too heavy, and that Hyde is continually evaluating the balance between confrontation and support. These days at Hyde, confrontation is really a synonym for challenge. Students and faculty are committed to positive growth in one another and that means they have a responsibility to challenge each other with honest feedback and true concern.

Both Mike and Jason agreed that any parent considering Hyde has to be aware of the challenging nature of the school and the high expectations of sensitive sharing. They said that both confrontation and self-disclosures are currently considered "mild to moderate." To address the issue of enrolling clinically involved students and families, they rely on a careful screening process with the intent of continually refining the appropriate students and families for Hyde.

Two boys took me on a tour of the campus; one had been at Hyde for a year and the other for six months. This massive campus is probably one of the largest in the "parent-choice" industry. The boys were open with me about what got them into Hyde and they demonstrated a clear understanding and appreciation of the school. Clearly the description of Hyde through Jason and Mike's eyes is consistent throughout the campus. The boys spoke freely of being a "Brother's Keeper" and how that was important to them. They had a clear understanding of the "discovery groups," parent seminars, and the role the senior students have in setting the tone of the school. The boys reported that Hyde helped them mature and understand what was important in their lives.

I found Hyde to be a "transparent" program. They are clear about their school and how they go about helping students and parents. In order to fully understand Hyde's approaches and the thinking behind these approaches, any parent considering Hyde should read the three books written over the years. In Joe Gauld's recent book, he emphasizes that the book "is expected to be read by students, teachers, parents and family members alike." In another quote from Gauld, "Hyde is a revolutionary process that we believe forecasts future education in America." He goes on to say, "Since parents and family are the most powerful developers of character, and since character is primarily internalized by example, the Hyde culture provides a deep, transformational process for student, parent, family and teacher alike… He goes on to say, "Hyde is a tough and demanding process that must fully address and sometimes challenge the student's entire life and family of origin as well. This forms the foundation for the development of the student's character and unique potential and for our work at Hyde."

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges accredits the Hyde School.

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