It was a breakfast joint that will remain nameless, but I can still see the coffee maker over Matt’s shoulder, and the way the waiter slipped it easily off the hot plate and filled mugs, replenished hot water for tea, scribbled an order on a small pad of paper; scrambled eggs with jack cheese, corn, hash browns and cilantro. Heaped plates, a pile of fresh fruit, toast. The tables shouldered up against one another. The kitchen about the size of a generous baker’s table. It wasn’t an airy place, but it was a comfortable place, a good cafe, an excellent breakfast spot. It was the perfect classroom.
Natural learning requires the transfer and construction of knowledge. Spend time with toddlers as they explore the world around them. They touch, feel, taste, form a hypothesis, test the hypothesis, evaluate their findings, and then explore again. Over the last two days, faculty have engaged in professional development conversations exploring the learning cycle and how we can deepen our own understanding of how to create classroom experiences that encourage students to ask questions and pursue understanding. How do we give our students the autonomy to act, to actively question the world around them? How do we pursue our best selves?
“Voice can take a long time to come all the way out, brother.” Bobby said. “Be patient.” These words jumped off the page of Tommy Orange’s There There as John Around Him discussed the book with Proctor’s American Literature students. This notion of voice, of who has the courage (and privilege) to share their voice, and who will listen when they finally do, cuts through an American Literature curriculum to the core of how we empower students to live lives that matter.
Sharing a meal with people you care about is an event as ancient as you can get. Breaking bread together is a symbol of forgiveness, togetherness, and a shared understanding of our humanity. It is a signal of coming together, sharing resources, and forging friendships. It is especially important in our fast paced world, where a sit down dinner can be elusive at a school like Proctor where we are all going in a hundred different directions, all good directions, but different. This past weekend we carved out time for Advisory dinners. Some had to play field hockey at New Hampton, or soccer against Bridgton, but we did our best to share a meal together, and it was a powerful experience.
Browse the news and it does not take long to recognize the current struggle we have as a society to honor the humanity of the other. A culture of polarization encourages us to seek opportunities for division, to highlight our differences rather than the bonds we share as a human race. As powerful as these voices of despair feel, they pale in comparison to the joy we experience when we actually spend time playing alongside others. Today, we made a powerful step toward unity as we welcomed our friends from Special Olympics New Hampshire to Proctor’s sixth annual Special Olympics Fun Day.
Traipse through the New England woods long enough and you will run across old stone walls bisecting a dense forest. Follow those walls and you will likely find an old cellar hole. Once a home, these remnants transport you to a different era when Proctor’s 2,500 acres were clear cut pasture sprinkled with farms of hardworking men, women, and children scraping a living off the rocky soil. An era when connection was found through human interaction, walking to your neighbor’s home to help bring in the hay, share a meal, repair a wagon. An era when it was acceptable to care deeply about those walking through life with you to show your emotional investment in their well-being.
I think back on my middle-school days as the worst part of my youth. My school (like most middle-schools I’m sure) was a sea of insecurity. Kids combatted their fears of exclusion by labeling and othering. These categories created a sense of security and belonging for some, and a sense of loneliness and longing for others. I became more concerned with how I was being seen by others than figuring out my own interests and passions. I thought one day, after observing a popular eighth-grade boy named John strut through the halls with a confident swagger, this kid knows who he is, he has it all figured out. I later mimicked his mannerisms, constructing my identity around what appeared to be the culturally accepted and lauded one.