Game days. Being able to move from gym to rink, shuttling from one venue to the next at the end of a half, between quarters, or simply to catch the last minutes of a game, reveals a lot about game flow. The pace is almost immediately discernible.
Proctor is not one of those schools that can afford to swagger. We don’t have hundreds of millions of dollars in an endowment; we have about twenty-nine. We don’t have fifty applicants for every opening in admissions; we have about six. We have had to hustle as a school for a long time, and we will have to hustle for years to come. I hope we never lose the hustle. Even if the endowment does become as large as some of our peer schools and we have as many applicants as some of our southern neighbors, we can’t lose it. Hustling keeps you humble, It keeps you competitive. It keeps you evolving. It keeps you from slipping into hubris.
This week I’ve been thinking about classrooms, both intentional and unintentional, and about how the process plays out. Yes the Congressional impeachment process, but more about how it contrasts to the way we come to consensus and decisions at Proctor, the way we wrestle with changes and our differences. And I have to admit, I like the local model where we work with smaller groups, work towards consensus even when the work is messy, sometimes heated, and sometimes divisive. We disagree with each other, sometimes fiercely, but we try to do so with respect. We collaborate. We remind ourselves that we are colleagues, partners in this school endeavor, knowing that sometimes our differences create the friction necessary for the community to evolve into a better school.
It’s hard to imagine a school that’s more dialed into the outdoors. It’s not just the land, the nearly three-thousand acres that we use for academics, sports, and recreation. It’s not just about the 50 year tradition (next fall) of Wilderness Orientation, the off-campus programs of Ocean Classroom and Mountain Classroom. I believe our students spend more days in the outdoors, in total, than any year-round school I know of save for NOLS or Outward Bound.
There’s no real easy way to do this, to make this announcement. I have wrestled it, spent time journaling, talked with a few folks in a very tight circle, but it simply comes down to this: the 2020-21 school year will be my last as Head of School at Proctor Academy. It is a decision that I have come to in consultation with the Board of Trustees, and it is a decision that I have moved towards over the last six months. It is not an easy decision, but I have made it with a full measure of pride in the accomplishments of this community and complete confidence that the school has the leadership and the wisdom to continue on with its current success.
I am up early on Friday morning, 4:30ish, thinking about the start of the break, listening to the wind push down from the north. It’s cold, seven degrees outside. Some students have left already, the majority are leaving today, and a few will be around for holiday tournaments, finding their way home this weekend. In the early dark, with coffee and the dog on the sofa next to me, I look at the tree.
My default these days is to wish everyone a happy holiday. I want to be circumspect, want to honor the various celebrations that coincide with this time of year - Hanukkah, Las Posadas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa - I want to tread lightly. It happened last night at the holiday celebration in New London. There were close to 130 alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of Proctor at the event at the Lake Sunapee Country Club, and amidst the good cheer and laughter and Proctor stories, holiday greetings rang out. “Happy Holidays” dominated.“Merry Christmas!” could be heard as well, but the preponderance were holiday greetings, and that’s got me thinking: to Christmas or not to Christmas?
It was a breakfast joint that will remain nameless, but I can still see the coffee maker over Matt’s shoulder, and the way the waiter slipped it easily off the hot plate and filled mugs, replenished hot water for tea, scribbled an order on a small pad of paper; scrambled eggs with jack cheese, corn, hash browns and cilantro. Heaped plates, a pile of fresh fruit, toast. The tables shouldered up against one another. The kitchen about the size of a generous baker’s table. It wasn’t an airy place, but it was a comfortable place, a good cafe, an excellent breakfast spot. It was the perfect classroom.