Toby Pouler Interview
This is File #30, cycle 4. Today’s date is January 2, 2020. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Toby Pouler who is a senior at Hotchkiss School. He is going to talk about his experiences there, his extra curriculum activities and anything else he wants to talk about. We will start with…
JM:What is your name?
TP:Good Morning. My name is Tobias Wilfred Pouler, but I go by Toby.
JM:When is your birthdate?
TP:August 28, 2002
TP:Sharon, Ct. at Sharon Hospital
JM:Where did you get your elementary school education?
TP:Salisbury Central School
JM:What did you like about it?
TP:I enjoyed the class size and the devotion to education from each teacher. It felt almost like a form of private institution: they had devoted themselves to the student for the whole year, and not just day by day.
JM:Were you channeled into a certain track or were you given opportunities to explore other areas?
TP:I’d say yeah, most of my teachers gave opportunities, particularly like Victor Cella in fourth grade. He was always allowing us to branch out during our free time to study different things. He is recently retired. He had worked there for at least 20 years. He retired one or two years ago.
JM:What about the class size, was it too small?
TP: I thought the class, the whole class was a little too small, but each classroom was a good size. Usually there is a bout 2 classes of 15 students which to me is a little too small because if you don’t like the kids that is a problem. But I think 15 in a classroom is a really good size. In a perfect world there would be more classes.
JM:Gone are the days of 35 or 40 in a classroom which I have done. What schools did you apply to for high school?
TP:My parents when they moved here from Princeton, New Jersey, Hotchkiss was not on their radar. My sister actually self -researched that for the application period. We knew about Hotchkiss and a couple of other schools in New England, because it is the gate way to Ivy League Schools. We looked at
a few. I applied to Hotchkiss, Choate and Andover. I ended up going to Hotchkiss: that was my top choice. My parents didn’t really care about the others. Yes, I did that as a day student.
JM:Your sister is older than you by how much?
TP:My sister is four years older than I, but three years in school because she took a gap year.
JM:Are you planning to take a gap year?
TP:I do not believe so, but you never know.
JM:Who is the Headmaster at Hotchkiss?
TP:Mr. Craig Bradley this is his 4th year, which is longer than most of the recent Headmasters we have had. The last 5 have not lasted that long.
JM:No which is why I have not interviewed any of them. When you went to Hotchkiss, did you have friends there from Salisbury Central or from sports?
TP: Yeah I think there were in my grade alone there were 8 others when I started. I think one had left, but and a couple of them were pretty close friends from Salisbury Central so for the first month or so those were the people that I gravitated toward until I found a wider selection.
JM:You told me about the discipline policy of “one chance”. Could you explain that in more depth?
TP:The discipline system is called the DC which is the Discipline Committee. It is usually run by a group of teachers as well as four selected students from the upper classes. Basically they review a situation and decide if the student has to have active disciplinary action or if the student has acted in a way that would grant them probation, or expulsion or something in between. The “one chance” policy is specifically about drugs and alcohol. If you are caught with either drugs or alcohol just once, that is immediate expulsion. Most students will withdraw as soon as they are caught, so that they don’t have to do thru the DC experience as they know what is going to happen. It is a bit limited when you look at tobacco products which have a strike system instead, but anything like marijuana or just any alcohol or any sort is grounds for immediate expulsion. There are other times such as academic dishonesty. Usually if this is a smaller offense when caught, you will get another chance, but if it is something big, like your final paper you copy word for word that is grounds for leaving.
JM:When you applied to Hotchkiss, what was the procedure?
TP:The first thing obviously was knowing something about it. Then we traveled to campus which was not hard. (Toby lives on Prospect Street in Lakeville Ed.) We went to the admissions office where we met with the head tour guide. We had a tour which wasn’t that useful for me but would be very useful for someone who did not know the school at all. I am a tour guide so I know it is very useful for kids that are coming from other places. After that in the same building we went upstairs and had an interview.
The interview was under ½ an hour. It depends on who you have. Sometimes you talk about academics, sometimes you are looking for at Hotchkiss. For me we really just talked about anything. It was someone I had already kind of known because of my sister attending Hotchkiss. Once I decided I wanted to apply, they had a very similar application to those of colleges where there is the financial aid package, all the general information, and they also had a supplemental section for some little essays that you had to write and along with your transcripts, of course.
JM:Were the essays serious or were there any that were off the wall?
TP:I think there were 3 and 2 of them were serious, or more or less serious like what do you plan to do here at Hotchkiss? or what kind of vision for the future do you have? The third was sort of semi-serious. If you could have any super power, what would it be and why? You had to explain that in 300 words. That was fun.
JM:What did you pick for a super power?
TP:I think went for super speed, but I explained it where it wasn’t like the normal kind, I explained it scientifically. (I used to be more into science than I am now.) You could vibrate your molecules faster, a multiple faceted superpower.
JM:What is your weekly schedule like?
TP:Every day is different, but every week is the same. Sometimes Wednesdays and Saturdays get mixed up because we have Saturday classes about 2/3 of the year at optimum times. They say one half, but that includes the days we get off for break, but I don’t know why. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday are full days with 7 periods. Often times especially in the upper classes you will have a decent amount of free periods, so not every class will be in that slot. Wednesdays and Saturday are half days to allow for sports. If you do not have Saturday classes you get to sleep in.
JM:When are sports generally scheduled?
TP:Usually they start around 4 PM and run to about 6 PM. That is more of a fall and spring schedule. In winter they have to balance when teams can use the court, and they hockey rink and such. Often one team will start at 3:50 and go until 5:30 and another team will come in at 5:30 and have to go until 7:00 PM. No team ever practices past 7:30.
JM:What is your dress code like?
TP:When I first came in as a freshman, it was at least for the boys, the girls is a little more lenient, it was always more lenient. It is more what you can’t do than what you can. For guys it was either a tie or a jacket and of course nice khaki pants or something like that. You could either wear a polo shirt and a jacket or a dress shirt and a tie. I think most kids did the jacket. I did the tie. Every day there is a game, you wear the full tie and jacket. At certain events you do that, but now by lower midyear it changed. In
my sophomore year it became very lax. You can wear jeans: that was the big thing. A lot of the female population pushed really hard to be allowed to wear jeans. With that they said you can just wear a polo shirt, you do not need to wear a jacket or a tie. Now they say you can wear an unmarked tee shirt; so you can just have a black tee shirt and that is OK as long as there is nothing is written on it. Now you can go to class wearing jeans and a tee shirt which is very divergent from the whole jacket tie thing that we were doing at my tenure at Hotchkiss.
JM:Oh my yes! Are there any occasions now where you do have to dress formally with a button down shirt, tie, and jacket?
TP:Yeah, there are certain things that it goes without saying like some of the more formal dances. They do not say you have to wear this, but everyone does. There are also times when you do have to wear formal dress as for certain speakers who come or a certain dinner.
JM:How are your meals served< are they buffet style or sit down meals?
TP:They are buffet style 95% of the time. Maybe once every two weeks there is a more formal sit down dinner that is meant to integrate an upper and lower classes. It is buffet style most of the time with a salad bar, a fruit bar and things like that.
JM:Are you assigned to a table with a faculty member?
TP:Yes, faculty members usually eat at their own table, but for those formal dinners yes, there is generally one to two faculty members per table. Most evening students eat with other students.
JM:What subjects do you like best?
TP:I would say probably history, social science, even though this year I am not taking any but that is because I doubled up on them last year. I like anything with international relations, foreign affairs and things like that are really interesting to me, especially the way it relates to US policy. I had a teacher my sophomore year who was really into that: he was young and he taught a class relating global politics to economy. I thought that was really neat. That is something I want to check out a bit more in college and we’ll see where that takes me.
JM:State Department possibly?
TP:Yeah, anything like global politics, or international relations would interest me, but this year because I am not able to take that, I have always sort of been interested in math. At Salisbury Central I was definitely a math kid. I progress an extra year and work along with Miss Chris Werner for a year in geometry. I think she is still teaching at Salisbury Central. I also learned math from Miss Laura Badolato as well. Coming to Hotchkiss their Humanities program which is English, history and philosophy is very strong along with their language department. Their language department is particularly strong. The science and math department was a little weaker in term of names they have there. That was evident
my first year in math. I had a tough time. Since then it has gotten much better. Mr. Bolmer my sophomore year was really good. I think he is planning to retire this year.
JM:He is planning to retire. (See David Bolmer interview)
TP:The past couple of years have been good as well, but starting off was a little tougher. This year I am taking more STEM classes like computer science, some sects of calculus, and environmental science so a lot of other things that are more STEM based. That is mainly because I was not able to take them last year because I coalbed up on history courses. They care a lot about you fulfilling not core requirements, but to have a balanced number of different courses.
JM:That is so you are well rounded academically, rather than just focused on one particular area of learning. What do you play for sports?
TP:In the fall I do soccer, but not very seriously. In the winter I cover sports rather that play sports. That entails announcing or writing recaps of games, but announcing is the most fun thing so far: you get to do live stream. This year they have purchased new head sets and other equipment so the mike is on and we just have a back and forth comments on the play by play. This is the way they do it on professional TV. We should strive to be as professional as we can be. We have a pretty good basketball and hockey team this year: it has been building toward this year. It is good fun so far with more than half the season to go so it should be alright. In the spring I play Ultimate Frisbee. I am a senior on that team. That is another really good team. Obviously when I came to Hotchkiss, I didn’t really know much about the sport. No one really does. It is held in high regard there. We are New England champions and we hope to repeat this year. We have a pretty good squad to do so.
JM:What is Ultimate Frisbee?
TP:It is a sport that was developed in college: it has always been thought of a as a college sport. It has been trickling down to the lower levels. It is similar to American football, but you can’t run with the Frisbee, and there is no tackling. There is passing and throwing.
JM:Would there be any guarding action?
TP:Yes whoever is holding the Frisbee has 10 seconds to throw it to someone, but the other team tries to stop them: it depends on what kind of defense you are playing. You try to cover each member of the opposing team.
JM:What do you do for community service?
TP:At Hotchkiss is it not a required thing as you might think it would be. There are a lot of local opportunities and there are a couple of clubs on campus that do stuff. For me my mom has always has been in arms with Habitat so I have helped them out whenever I can. Recently we helped them on a
house in Lime Rock that they were doing. I always help with the tag sale every year which is set up at Hotchkiss in the gym. That is always a big thing. (See John Pogue and Judi Moore interviews)
JM:Are you a life guard?
TP:Oh yeah I got certified in life guarding about 6 months ago. Since then I have done most of my shifts at the Hotchkiss pool. They have open swim there for the community; whoever wants to come to swim as they leisure. There are also sometimes birthday parties: that is the more stressful time. I am open to doing some part time life guarding at the lake as well during the summer with Stacey, Jackie and Rhonda who are doing swim team.
JM:I interviewed Stacey Dodge, Rhonda Rinnisland and Jackie Rice. I had Stacey in my 6th grade. You have good people there, very good people.
TP:Rhonda was hilarious during training. All the time we were doing training for CPR she would say, “Just hit that dummy; hit it like it is your ex-boyfriend!”
JM:She would, neat lady. You told me you had done a semester at the New York Historical Society.
TP:I went and visited there when I was in New York because I went to City Term at the Masters School which is closing down this year, unfortunately. It is a semester program very similar to the Island School or High Mountain Institute which come to Hotchkiss to present usually to try to enroll kids in their programs. I didn’t plan to go, but I applied. It was not a hard application and got accepted and decided to go. I ended up going to school in New York City for a semester which is about a little over 4 months. That was a really great experience: while I was there I did visit both the Dobbs Ferry Historical Society and the New York one, but the New York one is much bigger. We took a lot of classes in the history of the city as well. We learned about Robert Moses and had discovery sessions.
JM:Oh yes, the highway on Staten Island that Robert Moses wanted. I know it well. What do you do in school for extra curriculum, besides the things you have already mentioned? You are the sports editor for your paper “The Record” aren’t you?
TP:I really enjoy journalism in general. I especially like sports journalism. I have also done a lot of opinion writing, like political opinions or local opinions. I moved from writing to editing this past year. It is harder. I feel that editing I spend less time on so it is less fun. It has been fun trying to get people to write, the younger kids that I know.
JM:Do you do something with peer counseling?
TP:Yeah we have to get certified for this thing called “Peer Listening” which is dumbed down therapy session. You are supposed have open hours and you invite anyone to come in and just speak about what is going on, their troubles. It is more about the listening factor that they have someone there to listen and make sure that you are really listening to them, by reaffirming certain things. It is less
about a response which for me is difficult because I have often been in a situation with friends or peers who ask me for help or advice: you always respond in the end with some sort of advice. The advice is not always good so I am sure that is why we just listen. That is something I think I would love to do in the future as well, but I don’t look to major in therapy.
JM:How about being a proctor?
TP:Being a proctor is great. Basically ii is less controlling RA in college or like a Prefect in the Harry Potter series.
TP:Yeah, I am in a boys’ underclass dormitory, Garland, there are only 8 upper classmen juniors and seniors and the rest are freshman and sophomores. This dorm is pretty new: it is the closest one to the big track field on the far side of campus. It is a bit of a struggle getting to the athletic building, but I have a bike so it is not too bad for me. Even as a day student which entails going to all the classes, sports, but at night rather than sleeping over, I go home. I always had a room and a roommate, but no bed. This year I have own room which is a single, very big with my own bed because I am a proctor, I still have the same day student regulations so I can go home whenever I want. It is the best of both worlds.
JM:Good for you. Do you do any tutoring?
TP:Yeah I have done a little bit in math. I also help out in writing sometimes because of “The Record” I am pretty good at editing. I do mainly math. I am trying to correct what was done wrong for me in my early days.
JM:Pupil diversity? I know Hotchkiss is not all US citizens.
TP:Hotchkiss has a Diversity Department which is interesting. A lot of kids are international students: most of them come from China or nearby areas in Asia. There are a lot of South Koreans. There are kids from the Right Stream Program as well-Ghana, a couple of guys in my grade from Nigeria. We get kids coming from the UK all the time, France and Germany. I would say the majority of them come from eastern Asia. It is pretty spread out, especially in terms of ethnicity, it is very spread out. The majority of the population is still probably Caucasian, but there is a very wide variety.
JM:What is the pupil total?
TP:I think it is around 600: our grade is about 165. Our grade is bigger as we get new kids every year.
JM:How do you think Hotchkiss has helped you develop as a person?
TP:Something I noticed while I was taking standardized tests is that they work in little things like my freshman English class grammar was not a big part of it. I noticed little parts of it and I asked myself how
do I know this? I did not have to study anything: it was just in the back of my mind. I feel that Hotchkiss is very adamant about working things into slowly behind the scenes. That goes for stuff like grammar and certain people skills, mannerisms. The intention of private institution like Hotchkiss is that the students are going to some of the better colleges in the country. To do that you need to have social skills as well as academic ones.
JM:You have to have manners, act well, listen and pay attention to what is going on around you. Everything that you have said helps you throughout life. You said when we talked before that you were under stress about college acceptance> Are you still under stress or have you gotten a college acceptance?
TP:I haven’t gotten a college acceptance yet: I am waiting on a couple more. The regular decisions went out a couple days ago. I got all that in. There has been no bad news so far, but also there hasn’t been any good news. It is at the point where I can’t really do anything else. I have written all the essays, my grades from now on really don’t matter as long as I am not getting F’s or D’s which is good. I don’t know what I am going to do because the concept of Senior Spring is a very real thing.
JM:What is the concept of Senior Spring?
TP:The idea is that once a senior has passed their first semester senior year, their grades and extracurricular activities don’t really matter anymore for college selection. They have got all their college work done which I have.
JM:So you are a lame duck.
TP:Yeah I probably worked the hardest this first semester than I have ever: my second semester was also pretty hard, now I know I am going to regress For me I won’t be able to just see myself getting bad marks, but I shall try to stop working as hard as I have in the past, especially in math. There are some late night studies: I have studied way too much. Sitting down to the test, I realize that half the stuff I did, I really did not have to do.
JM:Still you were prepared: that is better than going in and going blank.
TP:Yeah it is better than the alternative. Some people take Senior Spring very seriously: you won’t see them working or sleeping, but others do not.
JM:I think you will go middle of the road.
JM:You told me there were three area of college: reach, 50%possibility, and likely. If I have this right the reach was Princeton.
TP:The thing they recommend you to do is apply to 2-3 likely colleges, 2-3 possibles, and really the rest of them is up to you. You can do as many reaches as you want. You might get lucky. The only problem is the applications cost money and they take time. The time thing is not as big, so I found a school that I hadn’t been that adamant about, but I noticed that they had this thing where if you applied for financial aid, you did not have to pay for the application. It had a lot of essays, so what the heck. If I can work but if it’s free, that’s fine. It is also nice to see on an application that there are not any essays required. Princeton is one of the reach schools. I have a couple more. Then there are some that I am on the fence as I am not sure if they are a reach school or a possible one. They are getting reevaluated as new grades are coming out.
TP:Bates was a possibility, but I think it is more likely now. It is a school with a lot of demonstrated interest: it depends on how much interest you show in attending that school. I interviewed, I went to the campus, I went to all the college fairs and wrote me name down so I did everything in my power to show that I was interested. My grades also improved this year once again. I am at a high level. That helps as well.
JM:University of Virginia?
TP:I am still waiting on that one. My application went out a while ago. My mother was an undergraduate.
JM:You said you were also interested in Thomas Jefferson, and they had a good History Department. Which one would you like to get into?
TP:The school I would pick over all the others would be Princeton. Bates is the one I want the most because I really liked it when I went there. I would be happy going there, over even an Ivy School. I feel I have a good shot to get in there, whereas Princeton is the luck of the draw. The results will come in April.
JM:Is there anything else you that you would like to add to this interview about Hotchkiss before we close?
TP:I don’t think so. I suppose I should mention the way in which they are moving. The dress code seems to downgrade every year: we’ll see what happens in 10 years, if they are wearing clothes at all. They are renovating several of the dorms, and now they are moving more to work on the main building. Next year they are going to start working on the dining hall. That has been a long time coming. They have a solid plan. Let’s hope they stick to it. They were going to do the dining hall 2 years ago but decided to do a patio for the Art wing instead which cost a lot of money and is not used much.
JM:Thank you so much.