In the midst of the daily grind of teaching adolescents, we risk drifting away from our “why”. Why have we dedicated our life to education? Why have we chosen Proctor as the fertile ground into which we will sow our seeds of hope for the next generation? In order to best serve our students, we must nurture daily habits of centering around our “why”, both as individual educators and as a community.
Many schools provide a concise, nicely tied up educational philosophy on their website so prospective families can clearly understand the overarching goals of their academic model. From my seat in our communications office, a part of me has always envied these schools, wishing Proctor was a little cleaner in how we articulate our educational philosophy. We always seem to have an addendum, a “but” or “and” statement, tagged on to clarify the complementary nature of our seemingly divergent programs.
And yet when I look around at the humans who partner daily in pursuit of our mission, I realize there is nothing simple, nothing clean, nothing easy about Proctor’s educational model. When you’re “in” the Proctor model you see the magic at work, you understand how the messiness of 135 course offerings, five term-long off-campus programs, more than 30 different afternoon programs, elite level athletic and art programs, small family-style dormitories, and integrated academic support work in concert with each other to provide unparalleled richness to each student’s individual journey, all while adding to our collective experience as a community.
Despite our best efforts, we will never be able to distill the magic that happens at Proctor into an easily digestible educational philosophy we can post on our website or layout in our Admissions viewbook. To do so oversimplifies the complexity of adolescents and omits the most important intangible aspect of an effective learning community: emotional relationships.
David Brooks, the New York Times columnist and author of The Road to Character, often dispenses incredibly wise words through his writing. This piece from 2019 remains an especially powerful offering. I could quote the entire article as a part of this blog (and encourage you to read the entire piece HERE), but this paragraph, specifically, speaks to our “why” at Proctor:
“A key job of a school is to give students new things to love - an exciting field of study, new friends. It reminded us that what teachers really teach is themselves - their contagious passion for their subjects and students. It reminded us that children learn from people they love, and that love in this context means willing the good of another, and offering active care for the whole person.”
Brooks describes the messiness of Proctor’s dynamic educational model, always evolving, ever-seeking to meet students where they are. Students dive into their Proctor experience with confidence because they see teachers who love what they do and genuinely care about their growth as a student. As Brooks notes, “The bottom line for any school: What is the quality of the emotional relationships here.”
Healthy emotional relationships within a community require tough conversations, long hours, and a willingness to sit in the uncomfortable. They demand objective listening, vulnerability, and a care for the greater good of the community. As we watch the snow fall around us this morning, we pause to remember our “why”: Proctor exists to give our students something to love.