As the spring sunshine warms campus and students migrate out of their dorms onto the pathways and fields around campus during this post-Spring Break quarantine, we are filled with hope for the term ahead. At the same time, our community processes the loss of a long-time community member to cancer last week and walks alongside another as she battles late stage cancer. Both far too young, both remarkable humans who have made this school a better place and touched the lives of countless students, colleagues, and friends over the past decades. We find ourselves, again, learning how to hold the contradictory emotions of joy and mourning with grace.
Amidst today’s chilly late-March rain showers and heavy clouds, we welcome students to campus for the Spring Term. A two-week Spring Break allowed us all to hit reset, to take a few deep breaths, and to reflect on all we have accomplished this year as a school community. During a year of “Can’ts” for so many institutions, we have been a school of “Cans”.
Each student finds Proctor for a reason. For about 35% of our students, Proctor’s integrated academic support program, Learning Skills, serves as a key component of the independent school search. For others, it might be our term-long off-campus programs, athletics, the arts, or maybe the sense of togetherness that exists at a place like Proctor because of the faculty and staff who have dedicated their lives to nurturing and sustaining our community.
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.
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.
Normally my winters are spent in the gym coaching one of Proctor’s basketball teams or one of my three kid’s local rec teams. But with youth basketball programs on hiatus until later this winter due to COVID-19 and Proctor on an extended break, I decided this winter would be a great time to dust off the Nordic skis that usually get one or two uses a year.
Temperatures will plummet overnight as we bid farewell to a mild first half of December and anxiously await what Winter Storm Gail will bring Wednesday evening into Thursday. As the winter winds shift, we each have a choice to make: retreat indoors and curse the cold, snowy winter ahead or embrace the amazing outdoor recreation opportunities available to us in rural New Hampshire’s Lakes Region. At Proctor, we choose the latter.
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.