From the earliest moments of welcoming our first child into the world, my wife and I realized parenthood would be filled with contradictions. We desperately needed sleep, but craved those moments of solitude when our son would finally stop crying. Eleven years later, we know he and his siblings need independence, but feel hardwired to protect them from the unknown. This dichotomy of parenthood we experience daily pales in comparison to the emotions our incoming families experience on Registration Day. Even when you know Proctor is the right school for your child, saying goodbye is far from easy.
We live in fast-forward, running from one activity to the next, checking email and notifications on our phone constantly. Immersed in ourselves, our own needs, we often slip into the unfortunate pattern of comparing our own life to those around us, asking “what if” questions rather than embracing “what is”. Revisit Days help us lift out of this self-absorbed pattern as we reflect on who we are within the the context of our lives at Proctor and the imperfection that surrounds us. We become ultra-focused on the moment, a beautiful gift of self-reflection and authenticity we are rarely granted in this fast paced, image conscious world society has created.
Tomorrow, 62 accepted students and their parents will attend the first of our two Admissions Revisit Days. It will be an incredibly busy day as families attend assembly, visitors shadow classes, parents attend breakout workshops, and our current students share about their Proctor experience through panel discussions. Our unabashed goal is to present the best of Proctor, and at the same time we have the deepest desire for each visiting family to experience the authentic Proctor. This blog is for those visiting parents. It is a message as their family makes the very, very difficult decision about where they want to spend their high school years.
A week ago, a group of prospective students received notification of their acceptance to Proctor. Dozens of families have already submitted their contracts for next year; Proctor was their #1 choice and the fit between their son or daughter and our school was perfect. For the vast majority of our accepted students, the decision is not that easy. Proctor is one of a number of schools to which they were accepted, each offering amazing programs and filled with talented educators who care deeply about their work and their school. So how does Proctor stand out from the crowd? How do we ensure prospective families fully appreciate and understand the depth of the Proctor experience when weighing their options?
In this age of technology, we are processing the constant flow of information, the next notification, the next piece of news to break, soaking up the dopamine of the never-ending scroll our social media provides. Within this world of insatiable, ever present content, we forget the feeling of excitement and anticipation that accompanies awaiting. Delayed gratification is a good thing! For the roughly 175 students who have been admitted, the waiting is over!
In the midst of the daily grind of teaching adolescents, we risk drifting away from our “why”. Why have we dedicated our life to education? Why have we chosen Proctor as the fertile ground into which we will sow our seeds of hope for the next generation? In order to best serve our students, we must nurture daily habits of centering around our “why” as individual educators and as a community.
When asked by old friends or new acquaintances what I do for a living, I usually state, “I work at a prep school in New Hampshire.” Most have a general sense of what a prep school is, and I am able to navigate the confusion accompanying my explanation that a boarding school like Proctor is far different than the image they have in their heads from Dead Poets Society or Hogwarts. Unintentionally, the ambiguity of my answer understates the complexity of the "prep" that takes place with our students here.
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!