In between meetings and a seemingly endless to-do list, I sat in one of the green Adirondack chairs scattered about campus. I closed my eyes and let the September sun warm my face. For the briefest of moments, I was transported back to a pre-Covid fall.
July has arrived, and while campus remains quiet, planning for our return to school in September is in full swing. We know questions abound as the academic year approaches. In order to provide an open forum for these questions, we invite you to join the following faculty and administrators during our Summer Office Hours Series (all times listed are Eastern Standard Time). Each of these office hours sessions will be held via WebEx (parents and students should check email for additional links to each event), and will serve as true “office hours” where families can jump on for a few minutes or the entire time.
Proximate learning does not occur without risk, but it is in those moments where students are living their education alongside the issues they are studying where world views are transformed. Tomorrow at noon, more than a third of Proctor's student body will submit applications to study abroad on one of our five term-long off-campus programs next year. Many will apply to study off-campus for the first time, while others will look to cap their Proctor experience with a second or third trimester abroad. So why is it that more than 80% of our students choose to study off-campus?
I am traveling this week, criss-crossing the country from Atlanta to San Francisco, which is where I am today near Union Square. I can’t help but wander over to the Apple Store at times, venturing in to ogle the newest products. How could I not? There, on the front of the store, a huge photograph advertises the AirPod noise cancelling headphones, the newest iteration of a wildly popular little knobby white knuckles people are popping in their ears all over the world to listen to music and podcasts and to talk on the phone. I had to try them out, and I have to admit to being impressed. But this got me thinking about whether education is simply a product that goes through iterative phases. It made me a little uneasy.
Crafting a mission statement is an impossible task. How, in a paragraph or two, can you capture the entirety of a complex learning community like Proctor? How can you concisely provide the north star toward which your school constantly works? We talk about our core values and key programs, but one short phrase in the middle of our mission statement cuts to the very heart of our beliefs about education: We recognize the potential of each member of the community to stretch beyond what had been thought possible.
I think back on my middle-school days as the worst part of my youth. My school (like most middle-schools I’m sure) was a sea of insecurity. Kids combatted their fears of exclusion by labeling and othering. These categories created a sense of security and belonging for some, and a sense of loneliness and longing for others. I became more concerned with how I was being seen by others than figuring out my own interests and passions. I thought one day, after observing a popular eighth-grade boy named John strut through the halls with a confident swagger, this kid knows who he is, he has it all figured out. I later mimicked his mannerisms, constructing my identity around what appeared to be the culturally accepted and lauded one.
August is knocking on the door. Tomorrow we will have to answer. And we all know that when August arrives, our focus shifts to the start of the school year: advisor letters, roommate assignments for new students, start of year faculty meetings, Wilderness Orientation prep, firming up syllabi. We cling to the hot, humid days of July, anticipating the busyness and energy that accompanies each new school year.