Mike's Notes: Rituals, Traditions, and Managing Today

Posted by Mike Henriques


It’s not the same as last year or the years before. These last two weeks before graduation are different, but still I can’t help but get excited. It’s a jangling energy and I recognized its arrival earlier this week when a familiar noise outside of Maxwell Savage startled me out of a WebEx meeting. 


Garry George had arrived with his truck, Adam with the tractor and a load of compactable grit, and the whine of the saw meant a section of pavement was being cut and lifted out so bricks, the Class of 2020 bricks, could take its place. Garry and Adam worked through a morning and afternoon to tamp down the surface, nail the edges, then lay the bricks. For me the bricks are a starting point, the beginning of the commencement that is now just two weeks away, and I know I am fortunate to be on campus to witness the placement. All sorts of rituals surround graduations, moments freighted with emotions and the bricks are beginning at Proctor. But what does it mean to not be on campus?


Rituals infuse our schools, our churches, our families, and our teams. Some are sacred and help connect to the spiritual, some are simply the small fruit of superstitions. Sometimes they are so familiar, almost ho-hum, like the morning coffee routine. But each ritual helps bind time to meaning and community to a sense of purpose, which is why the loss of this year’s graduation is so challenging for seniors, families, and all of us at Proctor. But even pared back to the skinny bones of video and WebEx, a graduation still carries meaning. It still evokes anticipation. Or at least it should. 


Sometimes I wonder about my own over reliance on ritual. Like the Class of 2020, I feel the impending virtual graduation and it creates a bit of a funk to work through. No senior dinner with the awards night? No big screen Hollywood-like production? No big tent? No rehearsal? No mingling in Alice’s Garden? No mortar boards flung in the air? No roses on the stage? No live music? Bah-humbug!  It’s only when I see “first takes” of musical productions, am a part of all the planning that is still going into graduation, or when I see senior projects highlighted that I can pull myself out of the spiral. It’s going to be good. I have to tell myself that graduation hasn’t always been the same even on campus. It’s hopscotched around to different locations, has been at one end of the campus and then the other, has been indoors and out. Rituals are meant to help frame and give meaning, not create a co-dependency. 


So when I see the bricks stretch out from Maxwell Savage, when I see the programs stacked up and printed on Morgan’s desk, when I sign the diplomas, I realize this is still going to be good. Very good. And I let myself feel that tingle of anticipation as we move towards graduating the Class of 2020.


Mike Henriques P'11, P'15

Proctor Academy Head of School

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