Sometimes it all just seems to fit together. Everything runs smoothly. We walk into classrooms, the gym, the dining commons, our dorms, and it all flows. The lights are on, the floors are clean, the temperature is comfortable, the food is ready. The hours of the days shift smoothly. There’s order. Students and faculty do their best work in this environment, and often it is because of the infrastructure of support that we often don’t see. But we should.
Proctor is far from a traditional boarding school. Sure, we have traditions (Holderness Weekend, Polar Swim, the Hays Speaking Contest, and Winter Carnival), but we are not driven by them; they are simply nice features layered on top of the core of who we are as a community. We thrive on evolutions and shifts and changes, recognizing that when we become stagnant as a community, we stop growing as individuals.
No one likes it when it happens. You are trying to get from point “a” to point “b” when the roadways slow, traffic thickens, and momentum ceases. The flicker of tail lights ahead signals the change. The speedometer drops. Drivers start playing games with lanes, shifting from left to right trying to gain fantasy momentum and the driver’s equivalent of a first down. Someone thinks they own the breakdown lane. Waze is consulted, alternate routes are sought out, the music doesn’t quite elicit the same travel vibe. Stuckness descends.
When we walked our eldest child to kindergarten for the first time, we shared a short phrase before releasing his hand into the big, scary world of elementary school: “Be kind, be brave, and have fun.” Every day since, with each of our children, we utter these words before saying goodbye for the day. It is our mantra, words that center us before going about our day’s work.
Words are used to build up and to tear down, to communicate the intricacies of self and to oversimplify the complexities of each other’s humanity. When we seek to use the words given to us by society, we fail to capture the whole of who we are in this moment, and who we must become. Today’s community celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, albeit virtual, provided a powerful reminder of the power of words and the intricacies of our interwoven stories.
Walking to assembly Thursday morning, Wednesday night was still very much with me. The images from Washington, Capitol Hill, jarring: the confederate flag in the capitol, the images of doors being barricaded, guns drawn, members of congress crouching under desks. As Nicolas Kristof wrote in an editorial for the New York Times, “I’ve covered attempted coups in many countries around the world, and now I’m finally covering one in the United States.” How to find context for hope in all of this?
One of the challenges of working in school communications is the inability to disconnect from the world of social media. There is always something to post, someone to follow, a comment to which we must reply, and, inevitably, comparisons to others to be made. We know the perils of social media and the damage it can do in the lives of children, and recognize we can fall victim to these dangers as adults as well.
Campus has been incredibly quiet this week; even quieter than our remote December provided. Meetings related to our repopulation of campus in January and end of year fundraising projects fill some of our calendars, but an opportunity to disconnect allows us to reflect on our collective work at Proctor.