Is November more beginning or more end? Is it the wind up as in the final stages when the last notes of a song are played or the last calculus problem set of the term is completed? Or the wind up like when a baseball pitcher shifts the seams, finds the curve grip, and collects for a single pitch that is simply one of many?
Proctor graduates are collaborative, ethical individuals, ready to contribute productively to their communities. At least that is what we have written in our aspirational Profile of a Proctor Graduate statement. But how do we get them there? Well, part of the answer might be found in last night’s end-of-the term “Innovation Night.”
The quiet, generous help of PAPA (Proctor Academy Parent Association) is everywhere at Proctor when I reflect on the fall term. Winding all the way back to the start of school, even before the start of school, parent volunteers have continuously stepped forward to make a difference. Day Student Picnic. Registration. Open House. Adopt a Team. Adopt a Dorm. Fall Family Weekend. And the most recent example? You only had to pass through the Wise to witness Halloween dance decorations - a term which loosely does justice to the shrieking bats, giants skulls with red eyes, and the drifting, life-sized ghosts - to appreciate their commitment to the community.
Here’s the thing: at some point we all need to tie into something that is a little bigger than we are, a little scary, something evolutionary in nature with a significant time commitment. There are lessons to be learned in these long haul endeavors, lessons that have transferable properties that show up in other areas of life: friendships, marriages, communities, faith, and athletics. The long haul teaches resiliency in a time when so many are conditioned to expect ease of operation, instantaneous answers to online queries, overnight shipping from Amazon, and flawless lives lived seamlessly on social media. One of the constant adolescent illusions we battle today is that something can come from nothing, or in alchemistic fashion lead will turn to gold with the right, easy incantation. And that’s why we need these projects.
My first reaction after reading a NY Times (Oct 10) editorial on climate regulation rollback was to think about Proctor’s land, the care we take in ensuring a productive woodlot that not only produces timber harvests and creates healthy species habitat, but is also managed for future generations. Then I thought - briefly - about ranting for the environment and against all of the regulatory rollbacks on clean air. I thought about the fires in California, the warming oceans that have created a record tying hurricane season, and all of the inconvenient truths we are now living. In the end, I settled for the swinging bridge.
We expect students to understand the difference between their work and someone else’s. We expect them to cite sources, avoid plagiarism, keep their eyes on their test, and use technology responsibly. We expect students to know - or at least develop the ability - to discern the difference between fact and opinion.This is the fundamental framework that holds academic institutions together, and should intellectual integrity start to dissipate, should these basic tenets not be part of the whole structure, it's as though laws of gravity have been somehow disbanded. We float in the wilderness of relativism.
Sometimes it is a simple piece of paper, a skittering scrap blown across a walk or lodged in the taller grass. Sometimes it is the tape at the end of a game, rounded up and tossed under a team bench, or an orange Gatorade top hovering on the green grass, or the water glass left on a table after a meal. We notice these bits of community flotsam, and each time there is that mini-debate inside: Should I pick it up? Will it make a difference?
What is it that drives us to the ocean, to shorelines, out on the water where the blues turn to grey, the ripples build to waves, the zephyrs strengthen into gales? We are a landlocked school, tucked up next to rock-ribbed granite of New Hampshire. Our proximity is to rivers and lakes, to ski mountains and biking trails. And yet, as today’s launching of Ocean Classroom reminds us, we are drawn to the ocean, to harbors, waterfronts, lighthouses and passages that bear us outward. Today nearly two dozen students will go to Boston and find the Roseway, Captain Flansberg, a World Ocean School crew, and two Proctor educators. They will walk the decks with their duffels over their shoulders to ease down gangways and find assigned berths below. They are beginning their term at sea. That beckoning to adventure and discovery, that call to the sea, is in us all.