Walking campus yesterday in the late afternoon, the emptiness was overwhelming. The parking lot by the gym - I have never seen this before - did not have a single car in it. Not one. Entering buildings I could hear the hiss of the HVAC systems, every building breathing and sighing with a different personality.
A couple pairs of skis sat on the workbench in the Outdoor Center as though they had just been pulled from a van. A box of Skittles lay tipped on its side in Slocumb. In Maxwell Savage, art supplies were lined up outside of the school store ready to be shipped by Alex. I saw a dog walker or two, heard the distant thwack of someone hitting golf balls into a net, saw darkened dorm rooms and shades pulled down - all of it a reminder that we are not together.
But then again…everywhere there are signs that we are coming together in new ways. On WebEx, Zoom, Instagram, in texts, emails, and videos we are forging new connections. Art supplies will be unpacked and new art made in your homes around the globe, labs will be assigned and completed outside of Shirley Hall, math classes will include the family dog at times, recordings will happen outside the recording studio. This Hornet Nation will swarm into this new way of learning. Some of it will be uncomfortable, some of it will be surprising, some of it will be delightful. I think all of us will grow this term, and we will grow best by doing what we always do at Proctor: support one another. Yes, much of this on-line learning feels like a solo journey, but a lot of it continues to be collaborative. That’s what we want. It’s what we do.
By the time you get this, the first day of on-line classes will be a wrap. The glitches, the broken conversations, the jagged experience of some classes - surely there were those moments - will hopefully be overwhelmed by the sense of starting back up as a community. And while I’d like to think we will get back together on campus this term, back together so we can overtly see all that binds us, and I’d love to think that there will be a graduation, (and maybe we will all be under the big tent together at the end of May), the probability of that happening is starting to dim. It hasn’t disappeared, but it’s getting tough to imagine that the “all clear” will come anytime soon. This matters, and it is hard to contemplate, but what matters more is that we continue on with this journey of living and learning, exploring new ways to come together even if only virtually in small groups and as community.
In the long run, this is a temporary state. Whether in three months or twelve months, this will diminish. Eventually it will pass. One of the things we will discover, or rediscover, is that sometimes it is the thing that we can’t see that we need to be most mindful of, which we know all too well these days for a virus like COVID-19, but which we must also remember as true for many of the sustaining components of our lives such as faith, family and community.
We miss each of you, wish we could have you back on campus right now, but together we can still make this a great term. You can help hold our community together, and as we have seen you lead by example on campus, we know you can now take up a similar role off campus. In WebEx classes, absolutely, but also in your advisory meetings, your extra help sessions, and your afternoon activities. You can set the pace, create the tone, continue to build your legacy. Rarely have we seen a class with your kind of spirit, and if we have to go through a disruption like this current one, I can’t think of a better class to step up to the challenge than the class of 2020.
On behalf of all of us at Proctor, thank you, and we miss you!
Mike Henriques P'11, P'15
Proctor Academy Head of School