Last Sunday afternoon I walked through the Norris Family Theater to the sound of power drills and pieces of the set for The Foreigner thumping to the ground. The living room, the fireplace, the windows, and the doors – everything was gone. Where the night before there had been the beckoning magic of Cooper and Amanda conjuring a separate reality, now screws clattered to the floor and lumber was being stacked. Jacob pushed through with a broom, a visual cue to the lessons of deconstruction. Moment passes to moment, season to season, term gives way to term.
The warmth of the last couple of days, the cascade of snow melt off roofs, the pooling of puddles, the coils of mud from boots and tires speak to the change. Jackets are left behind; t-shirts are worn at the ski hill. It feels like a warm April stretch, not the third week in February. This weather change has resulted in the collection tank being muscled out of the barn and into the bed of the woods truck on Thursday. It has pushed Dave Pilla to start hooking up the collecting lines, hanging buckets, tapping trees. The sugar season is here.
Squeaking out of Boston Sunday night on a flight to Lisbon just before the biggest storm of the winter rolled across the Northeast, this was my week to visit Proctor's off-campus programs in Spain and France. I caught up with Dave and Jen and the European Art Classroom students in Madrid to wander Centro De Arte Reina Sofia, the Museo Sorolla, The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the Museo del Prado to stand in front of works that ranged from Picasso's "Guernica" to Sollera's "The Horse Bath" to the black paintings of Goya.
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?
It’s good to have a thought for the day, something to turn and twist like a Rubik’s cube to unlock some life pattern. Ian Hamlet gave us one in Thursday’s assembly and I’ve been turning it over ever since. Thursday’s was a reflection about identity: How do we come to the labels that we affix to ourselves? How many are put there by others? How many do we put on ourselves? And are they healthy?
Watching games last Friday and Saturday in the gym and the rink – basketball and hockey –players pivoted, sprinted, shifted from offense to defense, worked to set up and break up plays, communicated with each other through eye contact, gestures, and position. Sometimes a call, a shout, and when the timing clicked all was flow. Effortless on the surface. Professional. Sports are a natural setting (not the only setting) for collaboration to blossom, for different strengths to fuse together to create team, where the critical lesson of transition is taught. And given this week highlights transition on a national scale, where we witness the transition from one administration to the next, it’s in the back of our collective minds.
On Thursday night, seven Proctor students presented in the Meeting House as part of the 18th Hays speaking contest, while earlier in the week President Obama delivered his farewell address to the nation from Chicago. The seven Proctor students shared their insights to several hundred, while the President shared his with millions. He is a practiced orator, well-known for his grace and passion and his ability to seamlessly cross-thread the reality of a time’s complexity with belief in democracy’s better future to weave a hope we all might share. He inspires with his message, his delivery, and his integrity. One might expect there to be a gap in performance between the speech of a president and the speeches of sophomores in high school, but to be honest? That gap felt minimal on Thursday night.
Most of us go to the technology help desk because we dropped a phone, cracked a screen, forgot a password, or need help with an update. We need something. We go to the tech office humble and looking for help, and when we get to the first floor of the Fowler Learning Center, Anna, Jim, Spencer, Susan, or Seth wait with their store of infinite patient, deep knowledge, and good cheer. Those five manage and work with constant change, continual upgrades, and the persistent (and silly) “user error;” they live professional development. At Proctor, the repair space of grounded work stations, microscopes, and tiny tools is noteworthy and impressive, but the people are awe-inspiring: Anna, I am convinced, can field strip an iPhone (any model) and reassemble it in under ten minutes.