Early this week, returning and new families will receive an email from Assistant Head of School Karin Clough outlining a series of permission forms and start of year information. Included in this communication will be the 2021-2022 edition of the Student Handbook, a document that has long served as the guide to how our Proctor community functions.
It’s been just over two weeks since we celebrated the Class of 2021. We each have taken a deep breath, spent plenty of time at Elbow Pond floating under the watchful eye of Ragged Mountain alongside friends and reflecting on the school year. We’ve written much about Covid-19 and the impact on Proctor, the resiliency and grit and perseverance that were required of students and adults alike, but maybe our success was more about human connection and collaboration than we thought.
We spend an inordinate amount of our mental and emotional bandwidth working to align ourselves with our stated identities. Society repeatedly asks us to make declarative “I am” statements on surveys, medical intake forms, or social media profiles. In doing so, we risk becoming an identity that is as much shaped by others as ourselves. “I am white.” “I am married.” “I am employed at Proctor.”
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.