Gaelin: Cut corners? No, thanks.
Emily Weir

Gaelin Kingston remembers exactly what got him excited about attending NMH. On a visit to campus a few years ago, he sat in on a World Religions class, and marveled at how happy and relaxed the students were as they discussed what seemed like “really big concepts” — and also at how interested the teacher was in everything the students had to say. “It felt like they were a team, and she was the leader,” he says.

Team dynamics make sense to Gaelin. He’s a three-season athlete on NMH’s varsity soccer, Nordic skiing, and Ultimate Frisbee teams, the last of which he captains. And he grew up on a farm in southern Vermont, where everyone pitched in. His NMH day-student lifestyle is a less “earthy” than his childhood — he was alternately homeschooled and sent to small alternative schools, where he spent a lot of time outside, “making fires, sleeping in shelters I built myself out of forest debris, that kind of thing,” he says. But he has grown in other ways, which he deeply appreciates.

Academics, for one, and perseverance, too. Case in point: When he started Honors Algebra 2 last year, he struggled for a couple weeks, and asked the teacher about dropping down to a lower-level class. “She wanted me to stick with it,” Gaelin recalls. “So I did.” He ended up with a lower grade than he was used to getting. “But in this class, that wasn’t the point. I learned so much. I was so rigorously involved in that class that I remembered everything.”

Another turning point came more recently, in an American Literature class. After misinterpreting a writing prompt, Gaelin produced a three-page paper that was pretty off-track. The teacher pointed out the problem, and Gaelin considered just tweaking the paper. “I could have gotten by that way, and it would have been an OK paper,” he says. Instead, he decided to start over. He squeezed in the extra rewriting between his other homework assignments and sports practice. It was something he says he wouldn’t have done his freshman year.

“It can be tempting to take the easy way out,” he says. “Sometimes, like if you’re tired, you want to cut corners. But I realized that this was my experience, not the teacher’s. I could write a paper that wasn’t true to the prompt and she might not like it, but I’d be cheating myself. I’m the one who’s going to benefit or not benefit from doing the assignment.”

When advised that his reflections sound like a teacher’s dream, Gaelin laughs. “I did that once,” he cautions. “It’s a start. Definitely not the finish.”