This week I had the privilege of spending from Sunday through Wednesday visiting Burke Mountain Academy as part of their NEASC accreditation process. These opportunities are to be both cherished and entered into with full awareness that sleep and family will be parked for a few days. And the upside? Stepping into another vibrant and focused learning community is some of the best professional development available.
One of the inherent dangers of independent school work is that we silo ourselves in the world of our own schools. We can become isolated, insular, and complacent. Or we obsess about issues we perceive to be of staggering proportion. We measure ourselves against the reflection of ourselves, not against a more varied landscape. Visiting other schools is humbling in this regard. You tend to self reflect with greater honesty. “Ok, so we are doing alright with “X”, but not so much with “Y.” Perspective is restored.
Burke is a ski academy, different from Proctor, but there were plenty of take-away moments over the week.
I think of Proctor as being a tight community - and we are - but at Burke I saw a school with just over seventy students. It felt even tighter. If we call ourselves family, from Burke’s perspective the Proctor community includes extended family with distant relatives twice or three times removed at the table. For example, everyone stops at a small sink on the way into the kitchen and washes their hands before picking up a plate to go through the food line. “We can’t afford to get sick,” a student said, indicating their cycle of intense workouts, academics, ski camps, and competitions.
Just that small habit of hand washing at Burke made me slightly envious as I imagined a sink at Proctor and a lunch line stretching from the doors of the dining hall to the doors of the library. Wouldn’t work at Proctor, but it’s a habit that creates common ground at Burke. How, I wondered, could we create more of those common ground moments at Proctor?
Accreditation for a school happens every ten years. We went through ours last year, and it was an honor to be a part of Burke’s process this year. It’s a way of being reminded of the larger educational landscape and a way to give back to, and sustain it. And so while there was not a lot of sleep this week, the visit brought into focus the varied and wonderful educational landscape we are all a part of at Proctor.
By itself, that is remarkably restorative.
Thank you for reading. Share your comments below.
Mike Henriques P'11, P'15
Head of School - Proctor Academy