For the 48th consecutive year, Proctor Academy has kicked off the school year with a five day hiking and backpacking trip to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As is the theme of so much we do at Proctor, small groups work best as eight students and two faculty allow for relationships to develop that are simply not possible in a larger setting. Tech free, shower free, and with no shortage of challenges, Wilderness Orientation pushes even the most confident of new student outside his or her comfort zone.
Each fall, as the majority of new students take part in Wilderness Orientation (read more here), Proctor's Athletic Department hosts Sports Camp for seven fall sports: football, field hockey, girls' and boys' soccer, cross country, crew, and mountain biking. While each team approaches the preseason camp slightly differently, the benefits for all athletes and coaches are universal as skill development, fitness, and shared experiences establish a foundation for the season ahead.
Thursday evening I hit the trail to drop in on a Wilderness Orientation group. It was getting dark, but I knew where the group had camped along the Pond Brook Trail in the Sandwich Wilderness. I knew the swimming holes, knew the rerouted section, knew the waterfalls. I jogged up through a tree farm a little after 6:30 pm. The sun had dropped down behind the Sandwich Range, and where the Guinea Pond trail angled left, I hooked a right on the Bennett Street trail to run along Pond Brook in the softening light. The dog stitched back and forth through the pines, and after a mile or two I caught the sound of laughter against the brook. It was Patty Pond and Lori Patriacca’s ‘01 group.
It is a refrain from a song written by my brother, Trent Wagler, and performed by his band The Steel Wheels. The song, based on stories from our grandfather, presents the challenges faced by a young person growing up in the Amish church. The Amish, famous for their buggies, bonnets, baking and furniture are a sect of anabaptists who broke off from the Mennonites in the late 17th century.
Today started with a teary goodbye for my daughter’s first day of kindergarten and ended with a hug and pride-filled smile of a little five year old who knew she had encountered a really hard thing, and conquered it. As our new students said goodbye to parents yesterday afternoon and embarked on Wilderness Orientation (a five-day, tech free, small group hiking and camping adventure in the White Mountains), there were plenty of looks of uncertainty on the faces of both parents and students; looks not too dissimilar from the tear stained gaze my five year old had on her face this morning. Entrusting your child to a school, especially a boarding school whose first responsibility with your most precious possession is a five day camping trip, is an incredibly hard thing. And our message to all those new parents at home right now is we are proud of you!
As a reader, and also one who enjoys the writing process, I think about flow. For me, the way a piece of fiction or an essay moves forward is like watching a dance come together. Well conceived, well written pieces flow, movements sync together, and you feel yourself a part of something bigger, something powerful, something instructive. To create a piece of writing with flow is not a haphazard process. It requires time, patience, and an openness to craft, not unlike what is required of any quality endeavor. When you step into this Proctor community at the end of this week or next week, you become a part of a school and a mission that has been moving forward since 1848. The “flow” of this school has taken over 150 years to create, hundreds of faculty and staff have contributed to it, thousands of students have benefitted from it, but if we think of this as a piece of writing, the essay is still being crafted.
Celebrating the life of one of our dearest colleagues alongside well over 1,000 alumni, neighbors, family and friends on Sunday afternoon. Being welcomed by an incredible breakfast from PAPA this morning. Sitting through insurance presentations. Hearing about faculty Summer Enrichment Program opportunities. Wrestling with difficult conversations as a faculty. Enjoying a most outstanding spread prepared by our dining services team at tonight’s welcome back dinner. We’ve given every emotion in our repertoire a workout over the past 36 hours.
As a natural part of any community's lifecycle, each year faculty and staff retire or depart for other endeavors, while a new group of talented educators join Proctor. Over the past few days, this group of dynamic, energized teachers has enjoyed (we think!) a thorough orientation to all aspects of life at Proctor. With students arriving in just over a week, we asked each of our new faculty members to share a few fun facts about themselves.