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.
Corby Leith '92 and I were talking Thursday morning in Slocumb, reviewing some of the charcoal work of this fall’s art students, some of the framed work in racks that had been in a summer show, and then he checked his schedule and realized he was supposed to be in the forge teaching. We scooted out through the ceramics studio and headed around to the backside of the Shepard Boat House to the shuttered door of the forge. I thought I would tag along to see how the class unfolded.
“Grief is the price we pay for love, and when you feel the weight of the grief we are all feeling right now, you recognize just how much love lived in the one you are grieving.” These words were shared by Proctor’s counselor, Kara Kidder, during an informal gathering for faculty and staff Tuesday morning in the wake of longtime forestry faculty member Dave Pilla’s sudden passing. Just as Proctor’s Maintenance Department approaches the tireless clean up of downed trees from Tuesday night’s microburst that ripped through campus, the path to healing for our community will take time.
April flood waters from the Blackwater River have gradually receded in response to this week's sunshine as spring peepers scream “pick me pick me” from the wetlands surrounding campus. As I jogged across Carr Field toward the nearly full moon cresting the eastern horizon behind Gannett House during a post dinner run last night, an uncharacteristic summer-like humidity hung in the air. The peepers' relentless calls drowned out U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" playing on my headphones. I strained to hear Bono’s lyrical spiritual journey as I reflected on the dichotomy of the lack of isolation I feel in my existence at Proctor and that which is clearly felt by the vast majority of individuals in our society.
I have this ability to fall asleep, to take a cat nap, and have had it since before I can remember. I could curl up in the space behind the passenger’s seat in a car (before seat belts), or tuck myself on the shelf behind the backseat and sleep for miles. I could sleep anywhere: boat, backseat, under the piano, and definitely on the sofa. Ordered to take an afternoon nap? No problem. But as I grew older, the habit slipped. Guilty about stealing a few minutes after lunch as an adult, I powered through and “coffeed up.” Why is that? Was napping a childish habit? Does the puritanical work ethos demand bulling ahead until the day is done? Is napping a sign of slothfulness, one of the seven deadly sins?
I’m a planner; always have been, and despite the constant encouragement of colleagues to embrace spontaneity, probably always will be. I like to know ahead of time what is on the day’s agenda (and may or may not have a compulsion to lay my clothes out for the following day each night before falling asleep). It’s, as chemistry teacher Ian Hamlet says, “Just how my operating system works.” As such, Sunday evenings are spent looking at the week ahead and planning what Proctor narratives will emerge given scheduled events. Off-campus program blogs, Mike’s Notes, Team Spotlights, guest posts by faculty or staff all laid out in a nice orderly fashion so our team can see what gaps may exist as we try to help share the Proctor story with others.
Vaping. It’s in the news and it’s something we have been paying attention to at Proctor. Although the technology has been around for longer, the mass production and marketing of Juuls and other “smokeless” devices has started to significantly impact campuses over the last couple of years. It’s not a good development. We started noticing a higher presence of these devices last year, and then a further shift this year. Our experience mirrors what is being reported in the NYT article on April 2nd: ‘I Can’t Stop’: Schools Struggle With Vaping Explosion. It’s a bit like trying to contend with an invasive species in your garden. Weed it out, chop it back, and it just keeps popping up.
About a week from now, the 2017 Proctor Magazine will be arriving in mailboxes around the country. A theme woven throughout this year’s magazine centers on the necessity of building a strong foundation for each of our students. Understanding the complex lives of adolescents, the often conflicting priorities they feel (which is more important: sleep or studying?), and our role as adults helping them navigate the daily decisions they make are all critical to nurturing a vibrant learning community.