August is knocking on the door. Tomorrow we will have to answer. And we all know that when August arrives, our focus shifts to the start of the school year: advisor letters, roommate assignments for new students, start of year faculty meetings, Wilderness Orientation prep, firming up syllabi. We cling to the hot, humid days of July, anticipating the busyness and energy that accompanies each new school year.
We hear often the value of being a generalist, of embracing different pursuits and being well-rounded individuals. Yet, time and again, specialists are rewarded for being the best at what they do. Professionally, we rarely see someone promoted for simply being above average at many things. College coaches claim they want multi-sport athletes, but more often than not reward specialized athletes with scholarships. The mixed messages our children receive as they discover who they are and what passions live within them are not only unhealthy, but have created an unsustainable environment for our schools.
We have officially surpassed the midpoint of summer. Sadly, just five weeks stand between us and the start of new faculty orientation, faculty meetings, and the slow build up to the start of the year. Between now and then, we will enjoy sunshine, warm temperatures, and regular swims in Elbow Pond. We will read, journal, and listen to all the podcasts we don’t have time for during the school year. We will take time to reflect on our work as educators and our role in influencing young people’s lives at Proctor.
Irrational fears are often rooted in an experience, a moment in time when our innocence is lost or our perspective shifts drastically. I’m terrified of sailing. It is an irrational fear born of a family sail aboard our 17 foot day sailer as a young child. I don’t remember the specifics, but simply recall the sensation of lost control, of tipping on edge, of feeling helpless. For years after my father worked to help me overcome this fear, attempting to teach me how to sail, how to manage gusts of wind, explaining ad nauseam there is always an escape plan in an emergency as long as you are prepared for it.
We never want to become a school where isolated pockets of academic novelty trump the whole of the work done in our classrooms. We simply want to be who we are, to be who we have always been, long before buzzwords like innovation, maker-spaces, and collaboration saturated our lexicon. We want to be a school where these buzzwords happen naturally through the work we do with our students.
Over the past decade, a shift toward competency based education (CBE) has flooded the world of higher education as universities look to become more efficient in developing a graduate’s skill set while ensuring each student possesses baseline proficiencies. Plenty of obstacles exist to implementing a competency-based educational model in higher education, however, Proctor’s World Language Department continues to pioneer a rethinking of the traditional approach to assessing and evaluating student development used by most high schools.
Few moments in life will match the excitement of being eight years old and diving into the imaginary world of Hogwarts alongside Harry, Ron, and Hermione. As I read The Sorting Hat chapter aloud to my son last night, I thought about what it would be like if we tried to categorize each student into a dorm or group based on their personality, ambitions, and character upon their arrival at Proctor. How would that classification define their Proctor experience? Would it enhance or detract from their journey through high school? Do we subconsciously do this at Proctor?
Last evening I watched the late innings of a baseball game against St. Paul’s School. It was a tight one, the score see-sawing back and forth. We’re up, they’re up, then we’re catching up. The sun cut shadow from trees to the west, the outfield was a deep green, the chatter of the benches (and some rowdy fans from Carr House) peppered the evening. I could lean against the white fence near the right field foul pole, my favorite spot on a perfect evening. I could lean against that fence on evenings like that - baseball, no bugs, no wind, warm enough for just a light fleece - for hours.