Learning from Failure

“Be the change you want to see in the world” -Mahatma Ghandi

As summer slips through our fingers and cool nights signal the start of school, educators start to anticipate the return of the students that attend our independent schools. While the check list runs the gamut from program updates, faculty team building, and swapping out new shower curtains, the most important job is to set an example for our students and inspire them to play big and summon the courage to be their best self.

While it is always important to learn when experiencing success, I usually have the deepest learning when I have to face the challenging times. This past spring, I had to own an important failure in our school community and wrote the following article in our weekly publication that was sent to all current and external constituents at Hyde. As a leader, I had to also start with myself and make sure that our words about the importance of “sportsmanship” were connected to our actions and decisions as an organization. Here is a portion of that piece:

Learning from Failure

"Last weekend, our varsity boys lacrosse team was excited to begin the season and emotions were high with both the players and the fans who assembled at the field. It was clear from the onset that our opponent was more disciplined in their teamwork, and the first half was back and forth between the two teams.

During the game, several of our teammates allowed comments to get to them and the second half saw the Hyde team collapse into poor sportsmanship and frustration. On the sidelines, some of the Hyde fans added to the tension with unacceptable comments.

Regardless of what the other team was saying, Hyde was not Hyde. At the end of the game, it was clear that while we lost the game, we had an even bigger failure in how we handled ourselves.

The next morning, we gathered the entire community to debrief the game. Players, faculty members and students all shared some of the following thoughts:

"I was caught up in my ego and emotions around the game and I am truly sorry."

"I saw some students who were off-track and I didn't say anything."

"I played in Hyde's first lacrosse game and this wasn't who we are as a school."

It was an important moment for everyone to see that we all had a part of what happened and how we could move forward. The Hyde brand is about character and leadership, which assumes a high level of class and sportsmanship.

The next game, the atmosphere was strikingly different. All in all, it was a painful but important lesson."

One of the Hyde’s Biggest Job Parenting Priorities is "Value Success and Failure." It is also important to have the humility to:

  • Admit that you were wrong
  • Apologize where necessary
  • Make it right

While our leaders in today's society do not always model this, it still rings true. Failure can be an important teacher if we accept the humility to truly look at ourselves. Our school went through this exercise and hopefully, we will continue to use that learning to strive for our best selves.


About The Author

Laura Gauld

Laura D. Gauld

Head of School: Hyde School, Bath Maine

Executive Director, Hyde Boarding School Initiative

Co-author of The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have

With more than 30 years of classroom and public speaking experience, Laura Gauld has earned a national reputation as a top motivational speaker on parenting, family dynamics, and character education.  She has been featured on PBS, in her own parenting series on NBC in Portland, Maine, and numerous television, radio programs, and publications throughout the country. 

In April 2006, Laura became the head of school at Hyde School in Woodstock, CT and, in 2008, she was named Executive Director of the Hyde Boarding School Initiative. As of July 1, 2013, she moved to the Bath campus and assumed the position of Head of School at Hyde-Bath.

A native of Beverly, MA, Laura attended Hyde School in Bath, Maine as a teenager. She received a BA from the University of Southern Maine and an MA from Columbia University. The mother of three children, she lives in Bath with her family.