When John O’Connor ‘79 arrived in rural Andover, New Hampshire from Houston, Texas as a Proctor ninth grader, he was greeted by a vastly different campus than students enjoy today. Proctor’s current Admissions Office was a local watering hole, Rocky’s Roost, serving 18-year old Proctor students, the west end of campus was wholly undeveloped aside from the Farrell Field House, and the student body was composed of more than 80% boys. But it was never Proctor’s physical plant or enrollment statistics that allowed John to flourish. Instead, it was the relationships formed with teachers and classmates and fundamentally life-changing experiences that laid a foundation for his on-going engagement with Proctor over the past forty years.
For more than 70 years, Proctor has served as a leader in brain-based approach to teaching diverse learning styles. During an era when most schools uniformly categorized a student with a learning difference as “unable” to achieve the same as a traditional learner, Proctor chose to take a different approach. Faculty worked to understand how students learn and developed an educational model that celebrated and supported a truly diverse set of learners through an integrated Learning Skills program. For Pam Stewart-Martinez '87, the lessons of support and community learned during her time at Proctor ignited a passion for committing to a life of service to others.
With well over 8,000 alumni, it is impossible to pause and recognize all who pass away. But when an individual who has shaped Proctor the way James L. Dunbar ‘49 has leaves this world, we feel compelled to share his story with the greater community. Jim died on June 9 (on what would have been his 69th wedding anniversary) at the age of 90.
Intuitively, I feel my students’ experiences, reflections, and actions influence who they are and what they do. However, the more I learn about neuroscience, the more research released on brain plasticity and metacognition, the more I realize these intuitions that have guided my work over the past twenty years as a Learning Specialist, and Proctor’s work over the past seventy, are based in scientific fact. Adolescent brain development is a biological process, but it is also a dynamic process that is enhanced through experiences. In other words, what teenagers learn, practice, and think develops neural pathways, which fundamentally restructures their brains over time.
Little by little the days are getting longer. This week’s sun and warmer temperatures have buoyed our spirits and put a noticeable bounce in everyone’s step. Overnight rain and ice reminded us how closely tied our emotional state can be to the barometric pressure. As we look toward the final three and a half weeks of the Winter Term, we lean into the scaffolding of support that surrounds each of us at Proctor.
During these last days of 2018, we reflect on those moments that defined our year. Some challenging, others joyful, all beautiful in their own way. Enjoy these clips from the past year as you look at the year past for motivation to make the year ahead the best yet. Happy New Year to all in our Proctor Family. Here's to a great 2019!
Early in his career former Proctor Academy Head of School Lyle Farrell (1952-1971) worked alongside Dr. Samuel T. Orton to pioneer the psychometrics and pedagogy of reading disabilities. Farrell would take what he learned from Orton and establish the nation's leading tutorial support system for college-bound, dyslexic students in the early 1950s at Proctor. Through intentional programming aimed at helping young dyslexic boys, the predecessor to Proctor’s Learning Skills program changed countless young people’s lives.
Dominique Jordan Turner explores poverty as a superpower in her TedX Talk recorded earlier this summer (see video below). Her insights into the skills and strengths obtained by young people growing up in poverty not only prove valuable to us as educators of a diverse student body, but her underlying message applies to all of our students. We all share an understanding that young people need to experience an intersection of belief in their lives in order for learning to take place; belief in themselves, others believing in them, and belief in something bigger than themselves.