As I pen these last Notes, I think about the art of listening. Stepping away after 16 years of being the Head of School, I am filled with gratitude and a sense of deep appreciation for the many partnerships and relationships forged that helped steward Proctor forward. This community has been a blessing in my life - not always an easy one to be sure - but it has been instructive about much that is meaningful in the education and life journey: decency, caring, grace, resilience. These characteristics I will work to carry forward to build into the next life chapters. This church for decency and kindness has left deep impressions on me as it has so many others.
When any two random Proctor alumni run into each other on the street, exploring in a National Park, or at a music venue, their shared experiences create an immediate bond that transcends their years spent in Andover. Central to these shared experiences are the faculty and staff who make Proctor, Proctor.
It’s been just over two weeks since we celebrated the Class of 2021. We each have taken a deep breath, spent plenty of time at Elbow Pond floating under the watchful eye of Ragged Mountain alongside friends and reflecting on the school year. We’ve written much about Covid-19 and the impact on Proctor, the resiliency and grit and perseverance that were required of students and adults alike, but maybe our success was more about human connection and collaboration than we thought.
Thirty days. After bouncing in and out of quarantine and waiting for a full cast and crew to finally be available, Proctor’s Drama Department had less than thirty days to rehearse for this spring’s production of Mamma Mia!. But if you have the opportunity to watch the production live during the next four nights, odds are you would never know how compressed a rehearsal schedule this group navigated. The show is energetic, spunky, loud, funny, and clever, and as is always the case with Proctor’s theater productions, a reminder of how talented our students and faculty are.
We spend an inordinate amount of our mental and emotional bandwidth working to align ourselves with our stated identities. Society repeatedly asks us to make declarative “I am” statements on surveys, medical intake forms, or social media profiles. In doing so, we risk becoming an identity that is as much shaped by others as ourselves. “I am white.” “I am married.” “I am employed at Proctor.”
In September we published THIS blog post discussing the term acedia and its ancient roots that aptly describe the situation in which we have found ourselves in over the past thirteen months: listlessness, undirected anxiety, and inability to concentrate. At the end of the Fall Term, we shared thoughts on emotional agility and the need to come to terms with the complexity of that which we were experiencing. Over the weekend, The New York Times published an article titled, Feeling: It’s Called Languishing in which the author, Adam Grant, describes the joyless and aimless state that has besieged so many of us over the past year. We are inundated with messages seeking to help us make sense of this chapter of our lives.
Yesterday’s weather was just about perfect: sunshine, 70 degrees, no black flies. The only problem? We were in Phase 1 quarantine on campus due to a few diagnosed Covid-19 cases on campus. Remote classes continue today, Day Students remain home, and our Boarding Students are living and learning in dorm pods while we isolate and mitigate the spread of the virus. It has been a tough week in many ways, and yet at this point in the pandemic, we are refining our appreciation for stoic philosophy and becoming quite adept at identifying what lies in our control and what does not.