The signs of the end of school are everywhere. As I write this, I can hear the concluding strains of Act I of the spring musical wafting down the halls in the basement of the Wilkins Meeting House and Norris Family Theater. We have great representation of students and faculty from Proctor, as well as faculty children from Andover Elementary and Middle School; I, too, am in the play. “Shrek!” is Proctor’s spring musical, which opened last evening.
In addition, the boys and girls tennis teams, boys and girls lacrosse teams, the baseball team, softball team, kayaking team, cycling team, and woods team are either winding down or have concluded their seasons. Senior Projects are over the hump of their time away, sliding into home soon, while the students who presented their Academic Concentrations have put most of their finishing touches on their final exit interviews and presentations to the community. Finally, and most importantly, the black flies abated for a bit today, as the wind kicked up and spared us from the constant swishing, swatting, and ouching.
It’s all bittersweet.
If being in a school is like living and reliving the movie “Groundhog Day” over and over and over again, being at Proctor is more like seeing “It’s a Wonder Life” or “Elf” or “Slum Dog Millionaire” on re-run. Proctor has that feel-good vibe that defies explanation about why you like it, but you just do.
As the days get more and more New England-y bucolic and the temperatures stabilize to a constant state of beautiful, what I have found are three characteristics of being at Proctor and ending the school year:
PROCTOR STUDENTS STAND OUT
We don’t give enough attention to the positively excellent work that our students do and have done in various venues in and around the classroom. Good things happen both in these grand spaces like assemblies or even after hours at the Stone Chapel, but good things happen without adults present and in view. We prepare students for college and for life. Within a span of a few days in two assemblies last week, we witnessed the academic effervescent ebullience of Matthew ‘22 regale us on the research that is being done on Proctor’s 2,500 acre woodlands, as well as an original graduate level research surveying the entire student body on gender and belonging by Dylan ‘22. Both of these were just a few of the passionate descriptions of enlightened study and the embodiment of our motto “Live to Learn, Learn to Live.” At the same time, I hear students talk about what they have learned and how they will use it going into their summers and beyond.
2) PROCTOR FACULTY AND STAFF LEAD THE WAY
Never have I seen such a joyful, heart-connected bunch of humans who care deeply about how students engage and process the work they have done not just in their classes, but for the entire time a person is enrolled as a student at Proctor. Over the course of more than a month, individual students were discussed in department meetings and faculty gatherings about recognitions that happen at assembly and right before graduation. These are moments that you won’t see at Proctor unless you work here. The privilege is the faculty and staff’s willingness to engage beyond the venue of a meeting. We discuss the merits and the big learnings that students have all of the time. We care about them in ways outside of academics. One of our housekeeping staff approached me to talk about how we might support our younger colleagues in the dorms. She made her case known that by supporting our colleagues, we in turn support students, too. We look out for each other and lead in ways that’s not always about grand statements.
3) PROCTOR STUDENTS DO THE WORK:
This is what we all strive for in schools. Where the adults are planning and executing, but students are picking up on what they know and are learning. This requires that learning becomes visible and transparent to everyone. That’s why an athletic contest is so thrilling. The coaches don’t play. (Note: I am still unsure why baseball coaches wear uniforms. Perhaps another blog for another day.) The student-athletes do. Similarly, in schools, typically teachers were taught to “keep students busy and engaged.” Depending on where you went to school that meant worksheets, homework packets, lecturing, hands off, and remote while the lucky few got to read a passage out loud to the rest of the class, demonstrate what was happening in a particular lab, or hear about some time in history that was removed from the actual experiences of students. At Proctor, learning soars. What a student learns stands in direct relation to their desire to know. Their desire comes out in how well they regard their time here and how the connections they make will last them a lifetime.
This end of the term puts in stark relief all of our outstanding students, my colleagues who care deeply about them, and how much agency our students have by simply getting things done.
Brian W. Thomas, Proctor Academy Head of School
What was your “go to” music to get you going when you needed to finish the last five percent of any major project? Whenever I was at the end of any one of my writing projects (i.e., paper, lab, etc.) in school, I would put on the group Chicago’s "25 or 6 to 4” to get me going and blast it through my headphones. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Listen: HERE.