Roughly 40 prospective families arrived to a bitterly cold campus early Saturday morning, immediately feeling the warmth of the boarding school community into which they stepped. Boarding schools are an enigma for many who are unfamiliar with our holistic approach to education. However, for those of us who have chosen to make Proctor our home and have committed our life’s work to helping our students navigate adolescence, the immersive nature of boarding school life simply makes sense.
Who doesn’t know about the Chris Van Allsburg Polar Express? The story about a mysterious train arriving in the middle of the night, a trip north through jagged mountains and cold winter landscape to the North Pole is a classic. It should be required seasonal reading along with A Christmas Carol and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Yes, required. There, at the pole, Santa stands in a square, sleigh loaded and surrounded by throngs of elves to present the first gift of Christmas to a small boy. The sleigh bell that he gives out is promptly lost to the utter dismay of the boy, and if you don’t know the ending of the story...it’s time to dig up your old copy. It’s a children’s story, but it’s a timeless life reminder about the importance of belief, wonder, and the power of the imagination.
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.
Perhaps our greatest asset as a human race lies in our ability to override a rational assessment of danger and speak up against injustice. We must never believe we are powerless, yet as we pursue what is right, we must understand the obstacles that prevent us from exercising moral obligation on both an individual and community level have plagued humanity for thousands of years. The remedy to inaction? Community.
As we dig out from our third November snowstorm of the season, students return to campus this evening after a well-earned Thanksgiving Break. The beginning of each trimester affords a start as fresh as the snow covering campus today, and we can't wait to hop into classes and winter afternoon programs tomorrow.
Students have departed campus for the week and we wade through the grading of final exams, writing of end of term comments, plowing of weekend snow, and tying up of loose ends before a few days truly "off", we pause to thank those that surround us. Working at Proctor is a choice. It requires each employee to put into perspective the greater goals of the work we do: empowering a generation of young people to make a difference in the world around us. It's hard, emotionally and physically exhausting work, but also incredibly rewarding to work with this group of students AND adults who have chosen Proctor.
It may have been the last jog through the woods before snow, a slow amble up from behind the tennis courts on Tuesday afternoon, the woods offering quiet solace in this transitional time between seasons. Up over wooden slab bridges, past the cut off for Wilson’s Wonder, up to Mud Pond and the Adirondack shelter. The dog rustled through the fire pit looking for bits of what? Marshmallow? Graham crackers? Scraps of discarded oatmeal from Wilderness Orientation? In the shelter, wood duck houses that students built were stacked, waiting to be set up later in winter.
In a small community like ours, we assume we know each other. We mistakenly tie an individual's identity to that which we see on a daily basis: their personality in the dorm, in the classroom, their smile as they walk to lunch or assembly, their athletic talents, their style based on how they dress. We assume we understand and appreciate the entirety of each other's contribution to the Proctor community, and yet during this final week of each trimester, we are left with a powerful reminder of the depth of being that exists within each member of our Proctor family.