We are a relatively small school, 370 students and 90 teachers, where we call each other by our first name. We always say hi as we pass on walkways between classes. We think we know each other. But how often do we merely assign an identity to others based on a first impression of their outward projection of self? He’s a soccer player. She’s a hockey girl. Oh, he’s a drama guy. A gamer. A skier.
In the hurried pace of life, both at Proctor and in society as a whole, it is far easier to simplistically place others into predetermined, conventional identity boxes. It allows us to easily make sense of those with whom we come into contact daily, lets us organize the complex social webs we are expected to navigate. And then weekends like this happen and we realize how foolish we are to confine another's identity to that which we can see.
Throughout Friday evening’s Art Show and Vocal & Dance performance, we saw new layers to our peers’ identities, layers we never knew existed, or were simply too rushed to see. The visual art on display was breathtaking; paintings, sketches, photography, metal sculpture, finely engineered metal pieces, textiles, furniture we would all love to display in our own homes. The dancing (by beginners and experienced dancers alike) was beautiful. The vocal performances stunning.
Saturday’s Jazz/Rock Performance was equally impressive as the depth of talent on stage wowed the packed Wise Center. The vocals complemented the instrumentals, each performer building on each other while contributing to the whole. Isn’t that what we each seek to do in a community like Proctor? Play our role to the best of our ability, while making those around us better than they would otherwise be?
Midway through the summer I shared a piece called Generalization vs Specialization: Understanding the Boarding School Model (read it HERE) in which I share the belief that schools like Proctor can only thrive when we encourage students to pursue multiple disciplines and we avoid specialization. One passage seems especially relevant this weekend:
At Proctor we believe in generalization, in Epstein’s concept of range, and yet we continually encounter specialization as we seek to offer breadth and depth of opportunity in equal proportions. Our entire educational model is designed to expose students to new opportunities: art classes, sports, off-campus programs, academic courses. At the same time, we want to provide opportunities for students to dive deep into their passions when appropriate. Over the past decade, we’ve seen this tension between generalization and specialization grow. Students want to play club sports out of season. Talented artists want to develop their talent all three terms. A demand for specialized coaches and instructors across all academic and non-academic program threatens the small boarding school model of talented faculty whose professional experiences trend toward range instead of specialization. The pursuit of passions is a good thing, but we must never allow our focus on one passion stand in the way of our discovery of another.
A quick cross reference of the names of those involved in Friday and Saturday night’s art festivities with our athletic rosters is proof we are trending in the right direction with regard to generalization instead of specialization, and we are a better community for it. Thank you to everyone who made this weekend’s celebration of the arts at Proctor such a powerful reminder of how deep our identities can, and should, be.