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.
Taking an early evening tour around campus Thursday in the spectacular light of a mid-May evening, I happened to pass the woodshop where Greg Allen holds “extra help” sessions on Tuesday and Thursday. The pool of light spilling out, the sound of the bandsaw and table saw, the hum of the vacuum system for dust mitigation, exerts a kind of gravitational pull.
It wouldn’t be altogether spring if there weren’t at least one small tribute to the sport of baseball, that maddeningly slow game that I find altogether addictive and centering. Everyone has their sport weaknesses. Mine just happens to be baseball in the spring, and late yesterday afternoon when I passed Mark Tremblay’s squad running through situational drills I could feel the draw. I just wanted to linger and watch as he slapped balls to the infield and outfield and ran the team through its paces before their games this weekend. Man on first, ball hit to left: where’s the play?
Over the past months, an alarming rise in incidents of hate and violence towards Asian American and Pacific Islander communities reminds us of the deep seated racism, xenophobia, and misogyny that lives within America. Last week, yet another incident saw eight victims of irrational violence in Atlanta, Georgia. Regardless of the stated motivations behind this shooting, the fact remains that six of the victims were Asian women during a time when racist language and imagery against Asians has been stoked by anti-Chinese bias related to Covid-19. Racism and misogyny are intertwined in American history, and it is up to all Americans to stand up to it.
Sometimes it’s the little things like holding a door or saying thank you, and sometimes it's the moments that ask for much more sacrifice. Tuesday reminded me of this when I got the call early evening that one of the weekly saliva pool tests had pinged positive and 50 faculty and staff had to be antigen and PCR tested by our Health Center staff. We wanted to hustle the new round of tests off to the lab, so the call went out for folks to come back to campus. Immediately. The Health Center staff, some of them just having gotten home from their day shift, all showed up. The employees who needed to be tested left families and drove back to campus to stand outside the Health Center and wait their turn to be swabbed. They did so with humor, patience, and caring, and by 9:30 that night the task was complete.
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.