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The Biggest Job We'll Ever Have: The Hyde School Program for Character-Based Education and Parenting

The Biggest Job We'll Ever Have: The Hyde School Program for Character-Based Education and Parenting

by Malcolm Gauld, Laura Gauld, Marc Brown (Introduction)

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Attitude over aptitude. Effort over achievement.
Character over talent.

In this groundbreaking book, Laura and Malcolm Gauld draw on their experience as parents and as educators at Hyde — an organization of award-winning schools and programs — to argue persuasively that true education springs not just from seeking good grades and


Attitude over aptitude. Effort over achievement.
Character over talent.

In this groundbreaking book, Laura and Malcolm Gauld draw on their experience as parents and as educators at Hyde — an organization of award-winning schools and programs — to argue persuasively that true education springs not just from seeking good grades and achievements but from reestablishing a commitment to character, attitude, and purpose. Offering a new paradigm for reconnecting education with values, the Gaulds focus attention not on the child, but on the child's primary teacher — the parent.
After explaining how enormous a parent's impact is on how children approach education and life, the Gaulds detail the Hyde program's 10 Priorities for meeting life's challenges so that any family can embrace them. Interspersed throughout are dozens of remarkable stories of Hyde parents and students; their funny, moving, and provocative anecdotes reveal that astonishing results are possible and that all children — and their parents — can exceed expectations and realize their full potential.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Patrick Lencioni
president, The Table Group, and author of The Five Temptations of a CEO This is one of the most profound and important books I have ever read. If every parent could apply these principles, not only would their children and families be healthier, but so would our society. A must-read for anyone interested in overcoming mediocrity.
The Barnes & Noble Review
When Joe Gauld opened the first Hyde campus in Maine, he believed education should encompass more than the basic academic fundamentals; he wanted his students to develop character. More than two decades later, the Hyde schools have garnered many accolades for helping "problem" students turn around and attend college. This phenomenal success is due in part the curriculum's requirement that parents be deeply involved in their children's academic and moral education. Most parents would agree that they value honesty, responsibility, and accountability in their family life. But are those expectations being met? This is the challenge extended by The Biggest Job We'll Ever Have.

Gauld's son, Malcolm, and daughter-in-law, Laura -- both Hyde teachers -- have outlined the basic Hyde philosophy to help parents and their teenagers learn character together, in the home. Even if you have an idea of what perfect family life looks like, the Gaulds warn that you aren't looking at the big picture. The first step, they write, is to "let go of the Hallmark fantasy."

Each chapter addresses one of the school's Ten Priorities, which include "Attitude over Aptitude," "Value Success and Failure," and "Allow Obstacles to Become Opportunities" and includes family exercises to help these priorities become part of the home. At times, some of their suggestions seem quite rigorous, but the authors state loudly and clearly that "this book will not appeal to the parent seeking a 'quick fix.' Parenting is hard work." And so is building character. Armed with the information provided by the Gaulds, readers will find that becoming a healthier, better-functioning family is certainly worth the effort. And the payoff is raising children who are fully engaged in their education as well as their personal development. (Jessica Leigh Lebos)

Publishers Weekly
The formation of character is an elusive thing; despite concerned parenting, good schools and all the best intentions, parents worry about everything from insubordination and bad grades to hard drugs. According to the Gaulds (authors, teachers and alternative education proponents), the "biggest job we'll ever have" is developing positive habits of mind and behavior in our young. According to these authors, it is hard, it is doable and it is never too late to achieve "exceptional parenting." This how-to book offers 10 commonsense principles of character education, enlivening them with anecdotes gathered from thousands of parents and children, as well as with their own family stories. The authors accompany each rule with family exercises and activities, some of which seem contrived (e.g., writing down strengths and weaknesses; keeping a log of "mandatory fun activities"). The authors are relentlessly upbeat all the stories here are triumphs, implying that if parents simply apply the Gaulds' formula, they will achieve "personal and family excellence." This book falls into the camp that claims that the problems of society are with individuals, mostly due to flawed parenting. Hence, solutions lie in "fixing" the individuals and their families. What's missing from this perspective (and from this book) is an analysis of the social, economic and cultural factors that may cause the alienation, boredom, underachievement and family dysfunction that constitute "poor character." Scholars and educators hoping for an in-depth understanding of the complex dimensions of character education will not find it here, although families seeking a self-help boost and some informed coaching may find useful tips. (Mar. 19) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Since its founding in Maine in 1966, the Hyde School has provided an educational alternative for students having difficulty in the public school system. Hyde leaders Laura and Malcolm Gauld here tell the story of the school's success by focusing on the character education at the core of its philosophy and on its commitment to involving the entire family in the educational process. Readers interested in learning about classroom life at Hyde will be disappointed, however, as this book focuses more on the parenting lessons that Hyde provides both on campus and as part of its "Biggest Job" workshops. As the authors write, "parents are the primary teachers and the home is the primary classroom." Hence, this book is more about parenting than it is about schooling. Followers of recent calls for virtue-centric education, such as those by former U.S. Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, may be intrigued by the Hyde model (which has recently been adopted by a public charter school in Washington, DC). It may also prove appealing to the many advocates for an increased role for parents in the education of their children. For all collections. Scott Walter, Washington State Univ. Lib., Pullman Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Read an Excerpt

Introduction: To the Reader

Exceptional Parenting

It is hard.

It is doable.

It is never too late.

We are the parents of three school-aged children. We began our professional careers as teachers over twenty years ago and have spent the years since working with hundreds of teenagers and their families. The experiences we have had and the lessons we have learned in both roles, as parents and as teachers, form the heart of this book.

The bottom-line point we make in these pages is simple. We believe that parents are the primary teachers and the home is the primary classroom. The job of parenting asks us to accept and honor a commitment to develop the best in our children, the best in our families, and the best in ourselves. No job is more important than parenting, and while most people we talk with profess to agree, we have observed that many parents do not organize and prioritize their lives in accordance with this notion. It is our hope that this book and its 10 Priorities can help parents focus their efforts by presenting a program that has provided meaningful experiences and valuable lessons to hundreds of parents.

Many of these experiences and lessons have occurred at the Hyde Schools, a group of schools and programs dedicated to character development and family growth. Both of us graduated from Hyde's original campus in Bath, Maine, in the 1970s. Our time there as students was life-changing. Our teachers challenged us to test our character and we were rewarded with a sense of purpose that has guided us as individuals, as educators, and as parents ever since. Today we serve as leaders of the Hyde organization: Malcolm as president and Laura as director of the Biggest Job workshops, a national parenting program. In these roles we strive to offer the same challenges and rewards to students, parents, and teachers in a variety of settings. Whether at a boarding school in rural New England or an urban public K-12 school in Washington, D.C., it has been deeply gratifying to see the promise of genuine character development unfold for American kids and families from all walks of life.

Although this book has been written with parents foremost in our minds, it is actually for anyone committed to the personal growth and character development of children. In attempting to identify those families that will find it especially meaningful, we are reminded of a one-page piece written by Hyde students in 1970. Entitled "Statement to the Prospective Student," it has since been offered to hundreds of students and families considering a Hyde education. It is intended to help families answer the simple question: Is Hyde right for me? The statement begins:

If you have the desire to take an honest look at yourself and are willing to commit yourself to the pursuit of excellence, then Hyde may be for you.

Later the statement notes:

If you are happy and content with yourself, then Hyde may not be for you. You must want to change and grow.

Near the conclusion, the central point of the piece is made:

As a Hyde student, you should accept the following premise as your basic responsibility: that you make and keep a total commitment to pursue excellence.

Such a commitment is not easy to make, and, once made, it requires effort to keep. We feel that we have made such a commitment. That is why we are at Hyde School and why we have experienced growth.

This book is offered in the spirit of this statement and is designed to be especially helpful to those committed to the pursuit of personal and family excellence. In accordance with the statement, those parents who are happy and content with themselves probably will not find it as useful as those motivated by a deep desire to change and grow. The book calls upon families to make and keep a total commitment to pursue excellence while at the same time it recognizes that each family's goals and objectives will vary. It comes with the fair warning that this commitment is difficult to make and maintain. As parents and teachers, we have made such a commitment and we strive to keep it on a daily basis. This commitment and the accompanying growth we have experienced in the form of various ups and downs have fueled our motivation to write this book.

Our personal and professional experiences have taught us three things about this commitment:

1. It is hard.

2. It is doable.

3. It is never too late.

To add a fourth: It is never too early.

This book and its 10 Priorities outline and support our belief that, at any age, a person's character is more important than his or her innate abilities. Who we are is more important than what we can do. If asked, most people would agree that the right attitude and a commitment to principles are keys to a fulfilling life rich with achievement, strong personal relationships, and a sense of purpose. Unfortunately, in today's results-driven culture, the element of character is overlooked more than those same people would care to admit. How else can we explain the dramatic rise in cheating in schools across our country? How else can we explain the students who, often on the advice of adult role models, might choose to avoid taking a particularly challenging advanced high school course because the low grade they might receive would hurt their chances for admission to an elite college? The logic of this choice is understandable, but it most certainly is not aimed at developing the student's character.

The "results" culture that prevails in most schools is damaging to students in a number of ways. Those who try hard but don't have the aptitude of the class stars come to feel as if they're fighting a losing battle and begin to ask "Why bother?" Meanwhile, the top performers gain a false sense of accomplishment when they are not challenged to explore their full potential. Across the board, these teenagers sense the hypocrisy at work and become alienated and apathetic. Creativity, curiosity, and enthusiasm flag, and restless energy looks for less constructive outlets.

Similar troubles emerge in the home when the principles that most parents believe they value — honesty, responsibility, accountability — don't actually govern family life. In fact, it's often difficult to determine which ideas do lie at the heart of a family, since many of us are so focused on avoiding the mistakes our parents made that we unwittingly neglect to devise a positive parenting plan of our own. In a sense, we're steering without a rudder, and each time the desire to "get along," to placate a volatile family member, or to quickly repair a problem that someone else has created overrides our purported principles, parents and children veer farther off course. Cynicism and hostility creep in along with secretiveness, making each new challenge that much more difficult to face.

In visualizing a guide for parents, we imagined the metaphor of a map and compass. When hiking in the woods, a map and compass, working hand in hand, are essential tools. A map without a compass is of limited value because we are then forced to guess our direction. A compass without a map not only leaves the destination in doubt, it leaves us unable to identify and connect with critical landmarks along the way. We not only need both, we need both simultaneously. Thus, our book is intended to offer a philosophical framework, the "compass," accompanied by a set of ten parenting Priorities, the "map."

This book parallels the program followed in the Biggest Job workshops, a program we created and have presented to thousands of parents across the country. We call these workshops the Biggest Job for two reasons. First, we want to clearly establish our belief that parenting is a very difficult undertaking. In fact, we sometimes tell parents: "Even when you do it right, you will feel like a sucked lemon!" Thus, we offer fair warning that this book will not appeal to the parent seeking a "quick fix." Parenting is hard work. However, we have observed that anyone with a genuine commitment can be pretty good at it.

The second reason for the title Biggest Job derives from a regular theme of the many interviews and conferences we have conducted with students and their parents over the years. In these sessions we have repeatedly observed a phenomenon we initially regarded as a fascinating irony but have come to expect as a common occurrence. Sitting before us are men and women who, on the one hand, are confident, highly competent, and very successful professionals, yet, on the other hand, are uncertain, perhaps even frightened, parents. We often say to them, "What works at the office may not work at home. No matter how successful you have become in your professional lives, remember that this is the big leagues. This is the biggest job you will ever have."

Laura and Malcolm Gauld

Bath, Maine

April 2001

Copyright © 2002 by Malcolm Gauld and Laura Gauld

Meet the Author

Malcolm Gauld is the president and chief executive officer of the Hyde Schools, overseeing Hyde's two boarding campuses in Bath, Maine, and Woodstock, Connecticut, and public school initiatives in New Haven, Connecticut, and Washington, D.C.

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