On my way to the library in the twilight hour earlier this week, I passed a group of students outside the back of Rulon-Miller Dorm in the dark sitting in Adirondack chairs just chilling and chatting. They were senior boys getting their wings, deciding what evening study hall will now look like for them as they transition to Senior Projects, last rites of the school year, and what post-graduation might hold as they begin to chart their own courses.
You see the beginning of the end everywhere: The varsity baseball and girls’ varsity lacrosse teams played their first home games the other day. The boys’ varsity lacrosse teams also sojourned up to Maine; it was their third game in less than five days. The spring musical has been cast, which means that some students will be heading from practice or games to donning costumes and reading scripts, preparing for their grand opening later next month. Many of our students will be singing their hearts out for the first time in the Wilkins Meeting House in no time. Trying something new to the very end.
There really is so much to do at Proctor. There are so many activities running in the spring in general, and so little time to do them all. Of course, we have not even mentioned the off-campus programs in Spain, Costa Rica, France, and the American Southwest. Proctor students are learning to soar above and beyond what many of them thought possible when they arrived.
While back in the classrooms during our warmer days, students are getting out to listen to bird calls and test CO2 levels with Sue Houston, making furniture with Greg Allen and iron castings with Corby Leith, or stopping in Accepted Student Days to boil sap in the Johnson Family Sugar House with Laura Ostrowsky and Chris Jones.
Our circles are unbroken, bye and bye. We keep ourselves plenty busy and entertained here at Proctor. When it comes right down to it, the place is a marvel. With so much to do and so many people moving in every direction all at once, some of us are wondering if we are doing too much?
New to this place and to this region - indeed, I have been at Proctor and in Northern New England for less than 9-months now - some people wonder whether we are trying to be all things to all people. Are kids split in a million different directions while having to choose a multiplicity of roads less traveled? Is there wisdom in letting our students decide to do whatever direction their hearts take them? Or, should we be guiding them more in directions that sustain the place and the pace of the place? Some folks might say that having to choose among a limited option of things won’t be that way in life. Why should we not try to do less so that we can be excellent in fewer, more well-honed endeavors? Who are we anyway?
As we continue to complete the visioning for a new strategic plan for the school, these questions will pop up and have to be addressed. Being pulled into a lot of different directions means that you have to make and set priorities and use resources wisely. The Board of Trustees makes us aware of these larger concerns. Over the years, the school has been an excellent steward of the school’s resources. And, we will continue to be.
Yet, what about those students outside of Rulon-Miller, seemingly without a care in the world? What are they feeling and sensing as they prepare to make their exit? Do they feel the onslaught of a promise we have implicitly made them that feels like endless summer days to come on an early spring day? Have they symbolically pitched their proverbial tent right in front of a dorm that some of them have called home over the last years and perhaps even the last few years? How do they address the need to prepare for that end - that commencement - where all heart-connected things begin to take shape and grow? Is too much just right–for creating the kinds of characters that must meet what Dr. King calls the “fierce urgency of now”?
Yet, these and even more adult questions remain. Who are we? Who might we become? How might our helping students' direction set help all of us do the same as we look towards a shared future of possibilities?
At Proctor, I am proud of who our students are becoming and all that they do. The people they are now and the people they long to be. They are kind. They believe firmly in the fairness of things. They truly enjoy being in each other’s company and they even enjoy being in the company of adults–out in the wide, wide world.
How does this all fit together? How do a mountain of choices lead to kind kids?
What we do is create tiny mirrors out of the people who are entrusted to deliver the mission at Proctor: the adults. This metaphor even extends to those teachers who choose to teach from a distance off campus– in Segovia, in Monteverde, in Aix en Provence, on Mountain Classroom, at sea. We hold these mirrors up to students, in the form of language and body language and good questions, so that what is reflected back comes in the guise of the classes we teach, the sports we coach, and the dorms we parent and surrogate so that they can see themselves fully and more accurately in the myriad of reflected and refracted shards, the pieces of our lives, of who they are and what they might become. This end of year reflection near Rulon-Miller reminds them and coalesces those self-reflections, but it is in their individual and collective journey that they have the ability to really become all they were meant to be.
Brian W. Thomas, Proctor Academy Head of School
I must admit, one of the joyful things about working with teenagers nearly every single year since getting out of college is that it makes all of us think of our own totems and touch points from high school days. For me, that was Chicago, both the place and the rock band. But I also can’t help thinking about our shining stars and the band Earth, Wind, & Fire and their hit “Shining Star.” Listen: HERE.