On Being a Boarding School Parent

Posted by Scott Allenby


We have reached the midpoint in the summer. There are nearly as many days until students arrive as there have been since graduation. Fourth of July has passed. Students and faculty have returned from service learning opportunities. Students are working summer jobs, traveling, and of course completing their summer reading! New students and families are starting to think about their Proctor experience that will begin in just a few short weeks.


For those new families watching the short video below of parent Atul Gawande’s commencement address will alleviate some of the stress around the unknowns associated with a new school. We acknowledge making the decision to send your son or daughter to Proctor is difficult and were reminded of this by Gawande’s speech at this year’s commencement. While many have heard him speak, his comments to the Class of 2014 were unique. He commented, “I know coming here comes with sacrifices. You miss family vacations. It can be lonely. You have to grow up fast. I still don’t know what to think about it as a parent.”

Gawande’s Proctor experience with his son, Walker, began with much hesitation. He knew nothing of boarding school and was a self proclaimed “private school snob”, but his experience as a Proctor parent ended with tremendous respect for what this school does for each of its students. That transformation, for him as a parent, began on Walker’s tour when Alan McIntyre and Dave Fleming immediately took interest in Walker as a student, “We hadn’t seen two teachers that interested in Walker in years.”

Walker’s four years at Proctor were filled with learning, not only about content, but about self. As someone who had the opportunity to teach Walker, his father’s observations of this evolution as a student, and as a young man, is powerful, “We can never be sure how the places we put ourselves will leave the mark on us. Only that they will. Who you are is a carpet of many strands. A lot of strands were laid before you got here, but it is stunning to see how many more you’ve picked up since. Each strand has added shape and strength to who you are.”

Gawande concluded his speech, “You leave here more ready for the world than most others. You already understand what to do. You learned it here. You put yourself in new places in the world. You made new friends. You add new strands and then you see what happens. All we need to say is you’re ready, we’re proud of you, and we can’t wait to see what happens.”

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