A few evenings ago, I opened the Netflix app on my phone and browsed “recommended” movies as I spun on the stationary bike in Proctor’s fitness center. I clicked on Moneyball (for the third or fourth time), and as I mindlessly listened to the dialogue, I thought little of the Hollywood dramatization of Billy Bean’s experiment to use data to measure the intangibles that would allow him to build a winning team out of the small market Oakland A’s in 2002.
We enter exam week with our noses pressed to the ground, focused intently on helping guide our students through final assessments, studying, and, our favorite, dorm cleaning and packing. This head-down, tirelessly-support-our students mindset has dominated our lives since Registration Day on September 7. As we cautiously lift our heads and see glimpses of the end of the term, we need to acknowledge the good, good work that has been done by so many over the past ten weeks to allow us to remain in-person.
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?
Temperatures in the 70s, sunshine, and blue skies have been a gift to our students and faculty as we enter the home stretch of the Fall Term. We soak up every moment of these extra days of meals and classes outside and our final practices before Holderness Weekend knowing well this weather won't last. We encourage each other to live in the moment, to suck the marrow out of each day, not knowing what the next will bring in this COVID-19 laden world.
Today we voted. We voted because we have been granted the right to do so under the representative democracy designed by America’s founding fathers nearly 250 years ago. Every four years, like clockwork, through times of war and economic hardship and domestic unrest, citizens gather in their communities to vote for President of the United States and other offices. As we step behind the red and white curtain in the gym at Andover Elementary Middle School to cast our vote, we are reminded that our voice is powerful and that our voice matters.
The fiery reds and oranges of mid-October maples have given way to the rusts and browns of November oaks. Forecasted snow tonight confirms winter is near; the inevitable changing of seasons upon us. It is hard to imagine a more pleasant weather pattern than Fall in New Hampshire - cool nights, warm days, abundant sunshine, and scenery to match. A look through Proctor’s Flickr page looks like one big brochure for boarding school, and yet when we experience a few rainy days in a row, we seemingly forget the beauty that so recently surrounded us.
One of my favorite podcasts is Guy Raz’s How I Built This. There’s something about the raw, unfiltered stories he tells of entrepreneurs and their journey that resonates with the work we do each day with adolescents at Proctor. Very few successful businesses, or students, have a linear path to success, and it is during the valleys where lessons are learned and business models are refined.
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.