Pictures tell you things that written history never will or perhaps can. On my wall in my office just behind my left shoulder is a photograph taken in 1895. It is of the Proctor and Carr families of Andover, NH. During the opening weeks of school, I spoke at great length to our community about members of this family, but John Proctor is the person from whom we as a school get our name. When the picture was taken, John Proctor was gone from the scene for 12 years, he died in 1883, but his extended family and relatives were alive and well represented in Andover. What Proctor planted, the regenerated seeds and start of a new school, still stands today. Vibrant and prosperous.
Over the last two weeks, Proctor student leaders Grace ‘23 and Maks ‘23 sat down with Karin Clough, Megan Hardie, and me to chart a road map for their tenure as School Leaders. From the get go, both students brought the most important aspect of their personalities to our meeting and to the Proctor mindset.
On Wilderness Orientation, you never know what you might encounter and what you probably will need to get yourself through. A mountain of sand and gravel awaited our group as we entered the Willey Station Road parking lot off of Route 302, which was under repair. We retrieved all of our gear from the bus that then had to back down the trailhead road. Stuffed to the gills, we put on our heavy packs, adjusting straps and awaiting our turn in line to make the heavy climb up the trail on a very busy Labor Day Weekend.
As I write this blog entry, our students and faculty are entering their final days before school begins, thinking about the year to come and the possibilities of our future together at Proctor. Many of us, including myself, are preparing to head back to school by going on Wilderness Orientation with those brand new to the school.
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.
When I first moved to Proctor and to Andover, the question I most often received from folks was, “Are you excited?” Pausing, I would drink the question in for a while, just to get my bearings each time and to see if anything had changed for me. Each time, after carefully thinking it through, I would say, “Not really.” Or, I’d say, “Excitement is not really the word.” Or, finally, “It just feels ‘right.’” I was not trying to be cagey or obtuse, but I was simply trying to honor the question and the questioner. I am also a stickler for precision. To be more precise takes careful and nuanced answers.
In the last two years, our country and our culture has been put to the test. Pushed to our limits, at least for some of us, it sometimes feels like “the center cannot hold.” Working with and holding hope for adults and teenagers through one of the rockiest periods in recent memory definitely has had its challenges. Even the most stalwart of folks strain to stay healthy while empathy, patience, and the ability to self-regulate too often feel in short supply.