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.
For the past eleven weeks, we have operated in our own sphere, working incredibly hard to do our best work in the classroom, on the athletic fields, in the studio. Focused on our individual work, individual needs, deadlines, demands. Periodically, we come together for community moments, but too often it seems these moments center around tragedy: processing the loss of a loved one, supporting each other through unthinkable violence, discussing the hard truths around inequality in our lives. As we walk through this final week of classes of the Fall Term, our focus shifts to coming together as a community to celebrate all the good that surrounds us.
Advisory Dinners are some of the best evenings of the semester, though scheduling them is not easy. Last Wednesday night my advisees came over for a meal, but we had to balance a JV Girls Soccer game at 4:00 pm, Open Gym at 6:15 pm for a basketball player, extra-help for a math student, and the time I needed to clean up my house, bake a lasagna and frost a birthday cake. I try to do a dinner for each advisee’s birthdays, letting them choose the meal and the kind of cake they desire, a tradition left over from my childhood. (My brother always chose fish-sticks, my sister never failed to opt for spaghetti.)
Walking down Ward Lane late yesterday afternoon, the cold wind ripping down from Ragged with the clouds scattering bits of rain and snow, I approached the baseball field. Green tarps, water pooling on them, had been pulled over the mound and home plate, the red dirt of the base paths had been raked smooth by Garry George, the dugout benches had long been carted away to other fields. The single ball I found, a leftover seed from the past season, won’t spin out of a hand until next spring. I took it all in and thought about the Nor’easter predicted for this weekend that could bring snow to the mountains and bury the field. Proctor’s baseball season barely ripples through the community consciousness, but thankfully the game is still being played on the national stage.
I was met by pigtail braids bouncing up and down as my daughter sprinted to the door asking me through her gap toothed, kindergarten smile to guess what she learned at school today. Before I could formulate a witty response, she blurted out, “Fair is not the same as equal!” I’ve always known this to be true, but how often do we fully appreciate our privilege relative to those around us? How often do we really wrestle with the difference between fairness and equality as it applies to our own lives? Living and working at a private boarding school in a quintessential New England town, I would submit it is not often enough.
Claude Monet understood the reality that the world never stops moving as he captured moments in time with a slight blur, the movement within the moment we too often miss. Possessing the same root, the difference between a moment and momentum lies in our own desire to isolate a single period of time rather than appreciate all that is happening around that specific moment.
I visited six freshman seminar classes in Shirley Hall this week, enjoying the chance to get a read on who will help us build and sustain the Proctor community over the next four years. The intent of this one term program is to help ground these incoming students, answer questions for them, and help them center down for the next four years.