By the second week, we are getting used to life in France, what a thing to say! The town of Aix is starting to become more and more familiar by the day. Everyone in our group is finding cafes and restaurants that they like and are trying to become regulars at.
Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, implores students to get proximate to their own learning; to come face to face with the issues they are studying in order to understand the complexity of the world around us. The foundation of any community rests in an appreciation and understanding of each other. Conversely, we undermine the communities in which we live the moment we allow our own limited experiences to inform our understanding of others. We must actively listen to each other's stories as we work to shape our own narrative.
Advisory Dinners are some of the best evenings of the semester, though scheduling them is not easy. Last Wednesday night my advisees came over for a meal, but we had to balance a JV Girls Soccer game at 4:00 pm, Open Gym at 6:15 pm for a basketball player, extra-help for a math student, and the time I needed to clean up my house, bake a lasagna and frost a birthday cake. I try to do a dinner for each advisee’s birthdays, letting them choose the meal and the kind of cake they desire, a tradition left over from my childhood. (My brother always chose fish-sticks, my sister never failed to opt for spaghetti.)
Working and living at a boarding school is an incredible gift, but at times becomes insular in nature as our entire existence occurs within the Proctor bubble. Sure, we watch the news and stay in touch with others through social media and texting, but periodically stepping outside this bubble with intentionality allows us to gain valuable perspective on how we are living our lives with a macro-mindset.
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.
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.
As we prepare for another 60 families to arrive on campus tomorrow morning for our second Admissions Revisit Day, we can’t help but pause to consider: What attracts a family to a school like Proctor? We shared THIS POST earlier this winter as we looked at the different “pain points” we solve for families, but we also need to think on a grander scale in order to truly answer this question. Families are flocking to Proctor in record numbers because the intangibles of a Proctor education align with what our world needs most right now: good people.
I wrote about the “small marvelous” last year at this time, wrote about the bell that sits in the bookcase in my office, the bell that was dug up on Proctor grounds by two self-proclaimed “dirt fisherman” Dave Elwell and Dana Newton, the bell that must have jostled off a harness a hundred years ago to sit quiet and silent in the dark for years before the metal detector pinged on it. But it rings again when I pick it off the shelf, the small metal clapper knocking against the nickel sidewalls to send out a warm, wholesome sound. A chuckling ringing, a smiling sound. I imagine it shaking out its winter melody, the sound of sure-footed joy, as a horse-drawn sleigh slips through snow-packed Andover streets. Not hard to conjure after this week’s snow.