Just as Friday’s student panel during Revisit Day highlighted the impact of a Proctor education, today’s conversation between visiting families and current students reinforced how important it is to allow yourself to be curious. Nearly every student on the panel articulated how his or her experience at Proctor has been one of redefinition. But why is this? What environmental factors allow for this type of uncharacteristic vulnerability among adolescents at Proctor?
We don’t necessarily know the answer to that question. Some call it the Proctor "magic" that touches each student during his or her time here. We do know this risk-taking occurs in part because of the supportive relationships faculty and students have developed in dormitories, advisories, classrooms, off-campus programs, and through afternoon programs and athletics.
Perhaps more impactful, however, is the simple fact that healthy risk-taking is so rooted in Proctor’s culture that students regularly model the behavior for other students to follow. There is nothing more powerful in a young person’s development than older role models. When older, well-respected students regularly step outside their comfort zone and risk vulnerability, younger, newer students quickly understand this is simply the norm here at Proctor.
Today’s assembly featured plenty of opportunities for students to be humiliated. Vocal solos during an a capella performance, eating donuts off a string, jazz/rock solos, announcements, and trivia questions. Instead of worrying about humiliation or failure, we witnessed students (even some of our revisiting students!) embrace the opportunity to express themselves openly in front of their peers.
Sure, Proctor students (and faculty) are still plenty self-conscious and fear failure as much as anyone. But what is unique about the Proctor community is the simple fact that students do not allow themselves to be defined by a singular passion, talent, or activity. When students are constantly trying new things, they naturally get comfortable being uncomfortable. It is this unwillingness to become complacent that fuels the energy we saw in assembly, and the excitement we will see on May 28 when the Class of 2016 walks across the stage at graduation an entirely changed group of young people.
We don't want to define who our students are, but rather empower them to define themselves over time. One member of today's student panel summed up the Proctor "magic" they have experienced when she said, “When I came to Proctor, I was sure I knew who I was and who I wanted to be. I couldn’t have been more wrong.”