In between meetings and a seemingly endless to-do list, I sat in one of the green Adirondack chairs scattered about campus. I closed my eyes and let the September sun warm my face. For the briefest of moments, I was transported back to a pre-Covid fall.
I listened to the sounds surrounding me - the chatter of students as they passed between classes, the hum of mowers in the distance, the rattle of skateboards zipping down pathways, leaves rustling in the maples above my head, clinking of hammers against an anvil in the forge. I inhaled the smells of early fall, wet leaves from last night’s heavy dew, fresh cut grass from one of the last cuts of the season. And then I became acutely aware of my unbrushed-due-to-COVID-saliva-testing-this-morning breath inside my mask and was jolted back to reality.
This fall is not normal. Yet in the midst of the abnormal we are reminded our work with adolescents is unchanged. The rhythms of the school year, of the fall, of the day go on. Much has changed, but more has not. Masks cover our faces, and so we are learning to see the smiles in each other’s eyes. Teachers are reinventing classes, delivering content in new ways, and weaving technology into their classrooms more effectively than ever. Through this forced evolution, our faculty are refining their craft and showing our students how to be the agile, resilient, life-long learners we hope they will become as they move through and beyond Proctor.
COVID-19 prevention is front and center in our daily lives, as it should be as we work to keep this community safe. But this second week of classes is reminding us that the impact of a Proctor education remains unchanged, that human relationships persist, that our students appreciate each other and this community now more than ever.
Tom Morgan’s Creative Nonfiction course welcomed journalist Josh Robbins to class Wednesday morning via Webex. As Josh shared with students his evolution as a sports writer, he talked of the importance of telling a compelling story in the midst of a life of cliches. He discussed the importance of details in writing, of utilizing the senses to bring the reader into a shared space and experience.
It is in noticing and appreciating the details that surround us that we are able to transcend the cliche narrative of how difficult life during this pandemic has been. We are able to emotionally move beyond the wearing of masks and social distancing. We are able to shed the weight of what “could have been”, and embrace the “what is”. We are able to look around this campus and soak in the relationships being formed, the learning taking place, the hard work being done. We are able to see each other at our best even though we may feel we are at our worst. As we reframe the very, very real challenges we are each facing right now, we step into our next class, our next meeting, our next practice, our next whatever with a deep gratitude for this school community and a renewed grace for those walking alongside us during this most abnormal time.