“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” A refrain we hear over and over again in the business world, and one that always resonates with us at Proctor. Independent schools can develop strategic plans, hire consultants to help formulate branding strategies, and spend countless hours whiteboarding the future direction of the organization, but when a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship lives deep within the school, effective strategy will evolve organically and continue to drive the school forward.
Consistently throughout its 173 year history, Proctor has embraced its culture of innovation. Sometimes this innovation came out of necessity (student improvement squads and victory gardens during the Great Depression and World War 2), but often it was embraced because Proctor’s leadership saw the value of the many voices that comprise its community - including students.
For the past six years, Proctor has held fall and spring innovation nights to further nurture the blue sky thinking of our student body. On Tuesday evening, Personal Finance, Culture and Conflict, Globalization, AP Environmental Science, Ornithology, Engineering, Sports Medicine, World History, and Introduction to Literature students presented final projects to the community in the Farrell Field House. The event affords a stage (beyond the classroom) to celebrate student work and to highlight the innovative learning that regularly occurs at Proctor.
Some projects were more advanced than others, and some more practically adoptable by the school (like AP Environmental Science students’ proposal for a chicken farm on campus to reduce the school’s carbon footprint, provide eggs to the dining hall, and byproduct to the local community) but for our younger students, the value of this event lies in the process of preparing and then executing their projects. Being on display in front of the whole community and observing the in-depth projects of some older students further builds the culture of innovation on campus that we hold so dear.
During a year where a global pandemic drove our institutional decision-making process more than anything, Innovation Night served a greater purpose for us as a school than simply showcasing student work. It helped us reset our culture of collective voices contributing to how we shape our rules, policies, and decisions. It reminded us of the wisdom and creative approach to problem solving our students bring to the community. And perhaps most importantly, Innovation Night helped ALL of us think to the future and move out of our day-to-day, get-through-the-moment mindset that has dominated the past fourteen months. That shift in thinking was powerfully on display, and refreshing for all of us, as we enter a summer filled with a major transition in leadership and look to life at Proctor post-Covid in the fall.
Thank you to all of the students and faculty who helped make Innovation Night a success, and as always, thank you to the PBN crew for bringing a live-broadcast element to the event with interviews of students and faculty throughout the evening. Stay tuned for a recording of their broadcast!