Today we voted. We voted because we have been granted the right to do so under the representative democracy designed by America’s founding fathers nearly 250 years ago. Every four years, like clockwork, through times of war and economic hardship and domestic unrest, citizens gather in their communities to vote for President of the United States and other offices. As we step behind the red and white curtain in the gym at Andover Elementary Middle School to cast our vote, we are reminded that our voice is powerful and that our voice matters.
We shared a blog post earlier this fall discussing the emotion acedia (read it here if you missed it), a crippling, layered anxiety we are all feeling right now due to COVID-19, economic instability, the election, the hybrid schooling for our own children, and so much more. These layers have a real impact on our lives, but so does the mindset with which we approach the instability around us (read how we believe Attitude is Everything here at Proctor!). Now, more than ever, we are the narrative that we tell ourselves. For many of us, we feel as though we have lost control of that narrative to a polarizing hurricane of emotions, headlines, and social media posts.
A passage in our faculty handbook states, “We believe that a student who feels known and understood will have a stronger sense of belonging, will be more confident, more motivated and hardworking, will develop a stronger sense of self and will contribute more in the community. In an environment that is predictable and supportive, our students will thrive.” That last line is so, so important at this moment.
We, as educators, must continue to be the stability and predictability in our students' lives. The outside world will not provide it. Social media will not provide it. The 24 hour coverage of the election will not provide it. But conversations in our dormitories, in our classes, in our advisories, on our teams, in the dining hall? These provide stability and predictability and may just prove to be the remedy at this moment for our anxieties. We do not need to have answers for our students - heck, we don’t have answers for ourselves half of the time this year - but we need to have time for them.
We hear the words “predictable” and “supportive” and think of an antiquated educational model where mere repetition is the path to perfection. Karl Methven reminded us this week that predictable does not mean boring, it means consistency. It means rhythms and routines that make sense to our students and allow them to plan and prepare. Support does not mean enabling, but rather encouraging, coaching, empowering students to be the best versions of themselves. It means helping students develop skills and confidence. It means not letting them quit on themselves.
When the outside world is messy, our responsibility to our students (and to ourselves) is to stay grounded in, and to anchor ourselves to, the relationships we have formed with those around us. Our vote, and our voice, matter. But, so, too, does the time we spend in relationship with each other. How fortunate are we to exercise both of these rights today?