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 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.
A theme seems to be developing in our blog posts this summer. Two weeks ago we shared thoughts on the balance of disruption and vision at independent schools, and this post from last week discussed our personal investment in student growth. Regularly exploring the bigger, existential “why” of our educational model challenges us to recommit to what we believe and why we believe it.
For teachers, the rhythm of the calendar year is inextricably tied to the cycle of the academic calendar. Boarding school life amplifies those rhythms: when we are on, we are ON, and when we are off, we try to unplug and recharge. As we prepare to turn the calendar to July, we are still in the early phases of recharging, but cannot help but feel the emptiness of campus this time of year.
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.
As you walk past Guilick House and approach the steps to Mary Lowell Stone House, you gaze to your left and see Proctor’s Woodlands building. For the past thirty years, white smoke would waft out of the chimney from the small cast iron wood stove inside this home base for the management of Proctor’s 2,500 acres of woodlands. The former office of longtime forester and wildlife science teacher David Pilla, few of us have ventured to this corner of campus since Dave’s passing in July. However, the time our students are spending on our land, studying wildlife and ecology, continues through the work of Alan McIntyre and Lynne Bartlett’s Conservation Ecology classes.
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.