Over the last week we have been relatively busy processing discipline infractions: a dismissal, an appeal of another dismissal, and other blips on the discipline front that kept Drew Donaldson busy. I addressed the school in last Friday’s assembly prior to the weekend and spoke to the needs of the community, the need to collectively step up. Ours is not simply a community of rules, overly prescriptive, and we know relationships create the fabric of community and give it texture. So what does this last week say about Proctor in February?
Proctor Academy hosted the 3rd Annual Rail Trail Rally to benefit Special Olympics New Hampshire Saturday morning. With over 250 participants, including 80 Special Olympians, hundreds of volunteers, and every Proctor student (who was not taking the SAT's) taking part, the event was the biggest in its three year history. Even larger than the event itself, however, is the impact the event has left on each of our lives.
We are biased (all schools are), but each year we witness the genuine kindness of our students as they embrace new members of our community. This visible demonstration of compassion affirms the example we try to set as adults in the community, and leads to a remarkably steady, positive student culture on campus. Social groups transcend teams or afternoon activities because of our focus on intentional small group experiences in dormitories, advisory groups, and off-campus programs. Proctor’s Big Brother/Big Sister program reinforces this same message of compassion by pairing returning students with new students in a mentoring relationship.
Proctor’s long-winter weekend, or Bonus Weekend, has arrived. It marks the midway point between Winter Break and Spring Break, and provides a much needed respite for all in the community. While we’ve enjoyed one of the nicest weeks of January weather any of us can remember, the winter remains a long, exhausting term. Despite these challenges, our goal is to embrace all the Winter Term has to offer, rather than feel like we are just ‘getting through it’. In order to ensure this mindset lasts, we need occasional encouragement.
Last week, I talked in assembly about being in the White Mountains, years ago, with a group of students during a brutal March storm when the temperature swung from the upper 20’s to 15 below zero. The winds screamed at the base of Carrigan, snapped tarps, drove snow everywhere, and buried gear. I talked about the necessary skills to be comfortable – relatively – in such an environment, and the people in my life who had made a difference, forged a connection, inspired a love of wilderness, and imparted those skills. I talked about former teachers, old Outward Bound and NOLS instructors, listing some of the adults who guided me towards wisdom and helped me with skills.
Usually the most valuable conversations are the most difficult ones. When Cindy Pierce visited Proctor Academy’s campus Tuesday, an anticipation of discomfort and curiosity preceded her separate conversations with students and faculty, which meant we knew this meant it would be time well spent! As Pierce noted at the beginning of her conversation, “In order to get to the other side of awkward, you have to wade through awkward soup.”
Adolescents are always on the go. Just read this post from earlier in the week to be reminded of that!
Our lives are layered. As a boarding school, understanding the interconnected nature of our students’ lives is critical to the education we provide. Our diet is linked to our health, which is directly connected to our energy level, and consequently our ability to learn. If you disrupt any piece of this sequence, every step is impacted. Developing an approach to education centered around active learning, exercise and healthy social interactions will result in increased learning, and even increased intelligence.