About a month ago, a mother robin built her nest directly above the entrance to Proctor’s Admissions Office. For days on end, I lugged a ladder out of the closet and tried to snap the perfect picture of the nest full of chicks. Alas, I was never able to capture a good enough of picture to post. Late last week, when I checked the nest on my way into the office, it was empty. Mama robin had done her job. She fiercely protected and successfully raised four babies until they were able to fly out of the nest and into a life of their own.
Tomorrow, 90 new students and their families will arrive on campus, move into their dorms, meet their advisors, gather in Wilderness Orientation groups, and then give a final hug goodbye. It will be a whirlwind of a day; one filled with the deepest emotions parents can feel where the most unlikely complementary feelings of sadness and elation seamlessly mix together into the “happiest sad” any of us will ever feel.
Choosing to have your child attend boarding school requires a leap of faith in your child and an unparalleled trust in the adults who comprise the school community into which your child is jumping. As advisors, dorm parents, teachers, and coaches, we have observed this transition is often more challenging for parents than it is for students, so we offer three simple pieces of advice to parents as we start the school year.
1. Develop a communication plan within your family.
Each family communicates internally in their own unique way. Some students and parents have nightly phone calls, mid-day texts, and frequent Facetime conversations. Others prefer to connect only on the weekends. There is no right or wrong when it comes to intra-family communication, but our advice to families as they embark on their Proctor experience is to develop a clear understanding of their own expectations with regard to communication. When parents and students are on the same page with regard to frequency and mode of communication, we have found student stress levels reduce and the efficacy of parent support increase. Make a plan, stick to the plan, and then reevaluate whether that plan is working for both parties after a few weeks.
2. Cherish and utilize your student’s advisor.
We shared this blog post with all incoming families in early August, and as the year gets started, we want to be sure we continue to emphasize the importance of the student/advisor relationship at Proctor. Each student, his or her parents, and the advisor are at the hub of the Proctor experience. Surrounding this hub is a powerful support network of teachers, coaches, dorm parents, health center staff, and countless other individuals committed to each student’s success at Proctor. Use your student’s advisor as the conduit through which information flows and you will be amazed at the power of the relationship your family develops as you navigate life at Proctor.
3. Student Agency is the greatest gift we (Proctor and Parents) can give your student.
Central to Proctor’s mission is deep desire to develop student agency in each of our 370 students. We talk about student agency in different ways - self-advocacy, self-awareness, self-confidence - but at the core of each of these traits is the student taking ownership of his or her own life. Student agency may come in the form of simply learning to do laundry. It could take the form of signing up for next term’s classes, or asking for extra help in chemistry class. It could be advocating accommodations to a teacher, or figuring out how to navigate an off-campus program without a regular Learning Skills block. We (parents and Proctor faculty) must be united in our shared goal to develop this agency in each of our students as it quite simply will be the greatest gift we give.
I’m still frustrated I did not get a perfect shot of those baby robins with the Admissions sign hanging directly below their nest. But perhaps this is how it should be; babies taking flight when they are good and ready, not worrying whether we are watching their every move or fearing their wings won’t carry them when they jump.