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.
It’s one of the corners of the school where history is visible, where narrative takes concrete form. It’s behind the thick curtains of the stage, behind a wall with a huge clattering garage door, behind the mystery darkness of the back stage. Penetrate far enough and you step into the scene shop, where the power tools are racked, the trays of screws and lag bolts stack up, the paint brushes and rollers hang over an industrial sink. Pry bars, levels, caulking guns, miter saw, plywood, doorknobs, castors, tape measures, battery chargers, clamps, step ladders surround the visitor. It’s a bright, busy space. It smells of sawdust and paint and dreams.
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.
As the Proctor community swings back to in-person learning this week, as the dorm pods loosen and disperse, the interconnectedness of all that is Proctor, the mycelium underneath, reveals itself. Coming back to in-person gets the network humming. Yes, we can do a lot remotely, but we get to the “it “ of learning by being in the landscape, not simply observing it from the outside.
It’s part of who we are, part of our history, part of what we move forward. Scraps of the history can be found in the woods behind the football field, a wheel nailed to a maple tree signals the old rope tow. Stories swirl of slope improvement that involve students, dynamite, and a granite stater do-it-yourself mentality. Every institution has legacy, tradition, and it’s important in the current hustle to evolve and to become the new next, legacy is not forgotten. And yet sometimes legacy has to justify itself, and sometimes in the exploration of legacy institutional values are revealed. And that can be a steadying.
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?
On the cusp of exam week, students will be looking back to reflect and collect the knowledge accrued over the term. There will be final projects, final fall performances, and final exams. The library will bustle. Review sessions will be packed. The stairs to Learning Skills will continually creak as students transit up and down. All of this is part of a normal term, part of an opportunity for students to put forth their best work, to celebrate excellence. These are the expected takeaways from a term. But what about the unexpected?