Living in Colorado and working professionally as an actor and carpenter in the theater industry, Jennifer Summers moved to New Hampshire with her husband, and Proctor alum, Gordon Bassett ‘96 in the summer of 2013 not knowing how her career might evolve. Gordon had just been hired to take over Proctor’s machine shop from longtime industrial arts educator Everett Jones ‘49 and to coach kayaking alongside fellow alum Corby Leith ‘92.
School traditions that are hotly anticipated by the entire school community and that help to expand and amplify the thinking of all who participate are rare. The Hays Speaking Contest does both. The finalists of the event, selected by the participants themselves, serve as a state of the union of Proctor’s current sophomore class. As the event’s host, English teacher Tom Morgan, gives the audience members a glimpse inside of the window of the lives of our students who stand and deliver their speeches.
As we prepare to close out on the 2021-2022 school year, one thing stands out to me as I think about what makes Proctor uniquely Proctor. Of course, as mentioned in other pieces written across the Proctor Universe, the magic of connection and relationships drive everything that we do. Certainly, more so than any school where I have been or even schools that I have known from a distance. Affective connections and compassion matter.
Last Friday evening, we welcomed Phil Kaye of Project Voice to an all-school assembly where he shared his powerful spoken word poetry. Phil joined English classes on Saturday morning as well, empowering students to share their own voice through poetry. Phil’s visit to campus reminded us of the importance of hearing and seeking out varied voices within our community.
The final days of the Spring Term consistently showcase the best of Proctor in action: creativity, art, music, pursuit of individual passions, and an appreciation for the work of others. Wednesday afternoon brought the entire community together one last time for Proctor’s Art Department Express Fest, Senior Project presentations, and AP Language Moth talks. It was a jam-packed day reminding us of just how fun it is to see our students’ learning in action.
“Voice can take a long time to come all the way out, brother.” Bobby said. “Be patient.” These words jumped off the page of Tommy Orange’s There There as John Around Him discussed the book with Proctor’s American Literature students. This notion of voice, of who has the courage (and privilege) to share their voice, and who will listen when they finally do, cuts through an American Literature curriculum to the core of how we empower students to live lives that matter.
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.