We like to be right. It’s affirming, pumps us up, and boosts confidence. We crave it, moving from one island of affirmation to the next, hopscotching the confidence squares. We can be talking about sports, politics, religion, race, or the best way to fix a lawnmower. We feel good when we get it right, when we “win,” when we get that chemical hit of dopamine. Gradually, however, with perspective, we realize that being right isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes being wrong can be a good thing.
Each year on Indigenous Peoples Day we pause to recognize the Abenaki people who lived on this beautiful land before European settlers colonized it. We look out from Balanced Rock toward Mount Kearsarge (g’wizawajo in Western Abenaki meaning Rough Mountain) and honor those who first called this valley home.
Every time language is spoken or written, every time a work of art is created and displayed, it sits within some kind of larger context. My interest this week is in words, how they hang in the air or on the page and how the air is charged around them and depending on the context and who is saying them, the meaning changes. No word, written or spoken, gets to simply float in a vacuum, in a weightless state and the absence of pull. Every word carries with it a definition, or several definitions, and it carries with it a certain connotation that might be relatively neutral and light in weight, but might also be significantly heavy within a context and setting, which leads me to the question, who gets to say what when?
Usually a time of quiet reflection and rejuvenation, summer at Proctor took a different form this year. Navigating simultaneous pandemics of racial injustice and COVID-19 within the context of financial uncertainty and a politically polarized nation has reminded us our work connecting with, supporting, and educating our students never stops. Neither does the institutional work required to safely welcome students back to campus next week, while actively addressing the need to dig more deeply into the work of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice at Proctor.
We each have a story that led us to work at Proctor: we went to school here, grew up in the region, were attracted to a specific program or the school’s educational philosophy. For Proctor’s newest member of the community, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator Will Wamaru, his journey began as a nine year old on his first mountaineering adventure with NOLS on a summit attempt of Mount Kenya’s Lenana Peak (16,355 feet), just twenty minutes from his family’s rural farm. This early exposure to the philosophy of NOLS and the notion that learning, relationships, and the outdoors could be inextricably woven together through a formal program, and not just in his daily life in his village, planted a seed that led to his continued involvement in NOLS as a student, and eventually, a teacher over the next two decades.
In less than two weeks we welcome students back to Proctor's campus for the first time since March. The ability for in-person instruction and regular daily routine of classes, afternoon activities, and nightly study hall is something we all desperately crave. As we transition back to campus and settle into our new normal, afternoon activities will be a part of our routine.