Seeking Independence: Gardener or Carpenter?

Posted by Scott Allenby


For the past 76 years, Andover has served as a gathering place for residents from the surrounding region as the town green in front of the Stone Chapel, Fowler House, and Gannett House are flooded with flea-market booths, games, and food vendors before the action halts for a community parade down North Street and Main Street. Roughly 10,000 visitors line the streets as we celebrate America’s independence and remind ourselves of the freedoms promised to all citizens in the U.S. Constitution.


As a private school, free from state or federal regulations, the theme of independence has long been important to Proctor and our decision-making processes. The agility with which we can implement new programs, courses, and initiatives ensures our faculty are building the most authentic, relevant educational model in the world for our students.


Andover's Girl Scout Troop kicks off the festivities with the Pledge of Allegiance. 


Throughout the month of June, NPR published and gathered stories using the hashtag #RaisingHumans in order to highlight the societal need to rethink how we are raising children. Some of the content is directed more at parenting styles of younger children, but all is relevant to our role as an independent school. We’ve touched on some of the themes discussed in previous blog posts (check out: “How to Raise Adults”), but one particular What Kind of Parent Are You: Carpenter or Gardner? resonated with us as we begin to prepare for the 2018-2019 school year and the 100 new families who will join the Proctor community.


The town green in front of Fowler House, Gannett House, and the Stone Chapel explodes into a flea market drawing huge crowds and supplying all of us with delicious food!


Leepin' Lena is a always a hit in the Andover 4th of July Parade.

In the piece, Alison Gopnik discusses her book, The Carpenter and the Gardener, and her work enlightening a generation of overly cautious parents. Many parents, including yours truly more often than not, believe their role is that of the carpenter, seeking to mold and build the experiences that surround their child. Gopnik notes, "The idea is that if you just do the right things, get the right skills, read the right books, you're going to be able to shape your child into a particular kind of adult.” The “gardener” parent simply provides a protected space in which their child can explore; the parent’s responsibility is simply to provide a rich, variable, diverse, dynamic ecosystem in which the child can grow in independence.


The Andover Cycling Club led by faculty members Drew Donaldson '92, Derek Nussbaum Wagler, and Mountain Biking Coach Chris Grotnes represent Proctor well in the parade!


Among the many quotable quotes by Gopnik in this gem of a podcast is the following, “We're so concerned about how these children are going to turn out that we're unwilling to give them the autonomy that they need to be able to take risks and go out and explore the world.”


Andover Elementary School's "Perfect Attendance Club" rings the Maxwell Savage bell to start the parade.


Could there be a better pitch for choosing an independent school like Proctor for your child? The very core of our educational model seeks to shift responsibility to the child, to shatter comfort zones for both parent and child. Off-campus programs, Learning Skills, egalitarian relationships between adults and students, 2,500 acres of campus wilderness to explore, Wilderness Orientation, Project Period. Understanding the value of immersing kids in a stimulating environment and letting them play while they learn within a protected space is absolutely foundational to Proctor’s risk-taking, activity-centered approach to education.



Our lawyers cringe at our high risk model where we send students on adventures around the globe (students are in China right now, just returned from Guatemala, and are getting ready to head to Rosebud, South Dakota in just over a week), ride in the back of the Woodlands truck for forestry and wildlife science classes, and usher each new student into the White Mountains each September on Wilderness Orientation. We, along with an increasing number of parents, scientists, and researchers, know Proctor’s educational model is built to develop the long-term skills, confidence, and independence needed to be an adult ready to positively impact his or her community.


And so on this Independence Day, we take time to celebrate the country in which we have the privilege to live and reflect on the important role Proctor plays in developing truly independent young people who are eager and willing to shape the world we all share.

Click to see Proctor's Educational Model in action!


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