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.
We last had students on campus on March 6. Snow covered the ground as student scurried to busses and hugged each other good bye. The excitement of Spring Break overshadowed the fears of COVID-19 that had begun to creep into our lives during the weeks prior. While we knew the Spring Term might be disrupted a bit (a delayed return for classes and maybe we would have to cancel Project Period?), few of us could have predicted what the next six months had in store: lockdowns, masks, remote learning, a remote graduation for the Class of 2020, a pandemic of racial injustice, and so much more.
For our new boarding students, the notion of sharing a dorm room with a roommate is either the most exciting aspect of starting at Proctor, or the most anxiety-inducing. Will they snore? Will they be messy? What if they like to stay up too late? What if they don’t take safety precautions seriously? These questions are valid, especially as we plan to return to school in an environment unlike any other we have experienced.
When Proctor made the decision to spend the Spring Term learning remotely, the immediate question that arose focused on our academic schedule. Would we attempt to stay synchronous in our learning? Or would that simply be too complicated with students scattered around the globe with varying access to technology? Ultimately, we realized that at our core as a school is human connection, and when we are deprived of that connection, we struggle, and a fully synchronous schedule was born.
One of the few consistent pockets of human interaction on campus occurs at meal times as faculty and staff migrate to the west end of campus by foot or bike to gather to-go meals from our Dining Services team. Toddlers sprint by on their balance bikes, dogs strain against their leashes to say hello, and for a few minutes we are reminded just how energized we become by the mere presence of our colleagues.
Having collectively faced several weeks of adjusting to an entirely unanticipated and drastically different lifestyle here on campus, our counseling team shares thoughts on how we can best cope with our new circumstances and continue to maintain a strong connection to the Proctor community while being physically distant. This new narrative we are facing is far from the one we imagined. The “supposed-tos” and “should-haves”, “wanted tos” and all of the visuals that accompany the narrative are disrupted, and, for now, unattainable. We as counselors know that a shift in our personal narrative is emotionally disruptive…a term we call dissonance. How can we collectively as the Proctor community cope?