Courage. Integrity. Leadership. Curiosity. Concern.

A lone figure faces an audience, ready for what feels like the test of a lifetime: “Audition” at Hyde School, where everybody — parents, students, teachers —sings an unaccompanied solo. Terrifying? Sure. But humiliating? No way. As Hyde president Malcolm Gauld says, “You don’t laugh at somebody when you know you’re next.” Audition is a tradition at Hyde, where putting yourself out there — in required sports, in required arts performances, and in facing your own need to grow in an explicit and carefully structured program of character education — starts with new students introducing themselves to the entire school. Significant parent involvement is an expectation, and even teachers participate, taking their place on what is informally called the “hot seat”: an open oral evaluation by students. “It reinforces the message that we’re all works in progress,” says Gauld.

Malcolm Gauld’s father, Joe Gauld, was a teacher and coach perplexed by the variability in his students’ “learning attitudes.” What mattered, the elder Gauld realized, was character. “Courage. Integrity. Leadership. Curiosity. Concern,” says son Malcolm. “Could you build a school around those five words — not as a residual outcome but as the primary purpose of the school?” Joe started Hyde in 1966, and forty-seven years later, the answer is a resounding Yes! And not just one school, as it turns out, but a pair of independent school campuses as well as three Hyde-affiliated charter schools in New Haven, Washington, DC, and New York City.

Does your school do something similar?

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