As Director of Enrollment Chris Bartlett stood in front of our start of Spring Term faculty meeting discussing the importance of upcoming Revisit Days, faculty nodded their heads at the need to showcase the best version of our authentic selves for visiting families on March 30 and April 6. As independent school educators, we know full well the balance every school seeks to manage during Revisit Days as our Admissions team works to enroll the most dynamic, fun, engaging, diverse student body for the 2018-2019 academic year, while not simply putting on an Admissions dog and pony show that fails to give prospective families a genuine window into our community.
The Revisit Day announcement quickly shifted into a conversation around Proctor’s unique identity within the independent school world and the strong admissions numbers we have experienced again this year. Living our academic model each day, we sometimes lose perspective on the incredible depth and breadth of programs offered at Proctor: five off-campus programs, integrated academic support program, individualized academics, hands-on approach to classes, a small-dorm model, elite athletics and arts programs are simply not offered at every boarding school. Our differentiators are so interwoven into our DNA as a school, we forget just how unique Proctor is.
Midway through this discussion, longtime math teacher, Mountain Classroom program director and Project Period Coordinator, Patty Pond, turned to me and said, “I really think our relationships with students serves as a differentiator, as well. But that must be hard to market I guess?” I nodded to both statements.
Ask any alum or current student and the relationships we build with our students are without a doubt the single most powerful differentiator at Proctor when compared to peer schools. And so we try to show these relationships in action. We write blogs about them. Share Instagram posts that seek to reinforce the unique faculty/student culture that exists here. Interview students and faculty about the impact of these relationships and publish videos to our website. But ultimately, students and their families have to experience how Proctor feels in order to truly understand this differentiator. You can’t truly market an organization’s feeling (at least I have not seen an anyone do so effectively), but you can feel a feeling, and that’s why returning for Revisit Day is so important for our accepted families.
When accepted students and their families step foot on campus for Revisit Days, they will hopefully see beyond the dirty, partially melted snow banks that scream mud-season in New Hampshire, and embrace a ‘feeling’ that is wholly Proctor; a unique culture that has been carefully nurtured for decades. Internally, as faculty, staff, and students we must always be conscious of the ingredients that create this ‘feeling’ that sets Proctor apart, and be sure to steward into the future the best of Proctor. We believe wholeheartedly that one of the key ingredients in our culture is Project Period, our four day immersive learning experience to kick off the Spring Term each year.
Aside from Wilderness Orientation, there is no other time of year as fruitful in the relationship building journey as Project Period. Allowing faculty to sponsor projects centered around their own passions unlocks the Proctor Magic we talked about in this blog post last spring unlike any other program at Proctor. This year’s projects range from dog sledding in northern Maine to backcountry skiing from hut to hut on the Appalachian Trail to traveling to the Gettysburg Battlefield to furniture reclamation, maple sugaring, and developing a comprehensive fitness plan. With 38 different projects designed and organized by faculty sponsors, mixed-age student groups of four to twelve students provide an unparalleled opportunity to develop new relationships outside of the normal academic routine.
Over the next four days, our social media feed will explode with photos and video from both on- and off-campus projects. Followers will see each of our projects in action, students doing amazing work, stepping outside their comfort zone, learning new skills, giving back to the local community, and going on once-in-a-lifetime adventures. But, what followers won’t experience in these pictures and video that is absolutely core to the Project Period experience and why we have been committed to this model of education over the last 45 years is the depth of relationships built between students and faculty. You’ll just have to take our word for it, or join our community and see for yourself!