One of my favorite podcasts is Guy Raz’s How I Built This. There’s something about the raw, unfiltered stories he tells of entrepreneurs and their journey that resonates with the work we do each day with adolescents at Proctor. Very few successful businesses, or students, have a linear path to success, and it is during the valleys where lessons are learned and business models are refined.
Since March, How I Built This has featured frequent interviews with founders in which he discusses how COVID-19 has impacted their businesses. He calls it How I Built This: Resilience Edition. As midterm grades are calculated and parents and advisors schedule conferences this week to discuss student growth, it seems like an apt time for us to look at how Proctor has adjusted to COVID-19 in our own version of a Resilience Edition.
Resilient is a word we chose to include in the Profile of a Proctor Graduate because we recognize how important setbacks, failures, and missteps are to the learning process. We understand that resiliency is something we can develop through modeling, expectations, experience and encouragement and not letting kids quit on themselves. It is at the core of who we are as a school community.
As an institution, the past seven months have challenged us in ways we never thought possible. The valleys have been many. The temptation to panic real and the obstacles to operating a school in our face each and every day. And yet in the midst of all the noise surrounding our work with our students, we are reminded of the lesson we try to teach our athletes when a call does not go their way: Control what you can control, and that is how you will respond to perceived adversity in the moment.
The people who do best under pressure, the ‘money players’, are not necessarily more skilled, they are just the ones who discipline themselves to respond to the moment by focusing on what they can control, and not on the endless noise that surrounds them.
Right here, right now, what we can control is how we, as a group of students and adults, will respond to the ever-changing adversity coming our way, whether that adversity comes in the form of rising COVID-19 numbers in the State of New Hampshire, the reality of likely spending a portion of the winter term engaged in remote learning, or the potential cancellation of athletic contests due to factors outside our control.
While much feels out of our control right now, our attitudes are not. The slogan “Attitude is Everything” was plastered on Proctor t-shirts throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. The unofficial motto continues to guide our work with adolescents in the classroom, in dormitories, and on the athletic field. With the right attitude and hard work, anything can be accomplished. Maybe we need to dig deep into the archives and pull out some of those old t-shirt designs and start repopulating campus with the notion that we have a powerful, powerful antidote to the unforeseen and unpredictable challenges of life during a pandemic.