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In Pursuit of Humility and Listening Well

Scott Allenby

We have begun to settle into our summer routine here at Proctor. We welcome Gordon Research Conferences to campus this week, and will spend intentional time in Administrative and Leadership Team retreats reflecting upon and assessing our work at Proctor as we already turn the page to planning for the 2024-2025 school year. 

Through our collective work preparing our 10 Year NEASC Accreditation this year, while simultaneously implementing our strategic plan, preparing for major transitions in leadership, bidding farewell to long-time faculty and staff members, all while launching an investigation into past sexual misconduct at Proctor, we have a unique opportunity to reflect on our work, our school, our culture, and how we both sustain that which is wonderful while critically evaluating that which is holding us back from being our best selves. 

Proctor Academy Community

As humans, we have a tendency to allow the “bad” to emotionally outweigh the “good” in our lives. Over the last few years, our colleague, out-going Dean of Equity and Belonging Will Wamaru, has challenged us to hold seemingly contradictory truths at the same time as we wrestle with challenging topics. At this time in our school’s journey, we have the opportunity to apply this wisdom across all areas of our lives. We are deeply saddened to see so many beloved colleagues retire or move on to new adventures AND we are so excited for the new voices and perspectives that will be represented by new faculty and staff joining our community next year. We are deeply committed to doing the hard, important work of looking at past sexual misconduct at Proctor AND deeply committed to ensuring the highly relational work that sits at the core of the Proctor experience is not compromised, but rather strengthened. We are incredibly grateful for the work of outgoing Head of School Brian Thomas and Assistant Head of School Alisa Barnard AND we are excited for Interim Head of School Steve Wilkins and newly appointed Assistant Head of School Annie MacKenzie to lead us next year. 

In a polarized world, one that will only become more polarized in the coming months as the 2024 election dominates the news cycle, deepening our ability to hold conflicting truths and reconciling contradictory beliefs will be some of the most important work we can do as a community in preparation for the arrival of our students in the fall. 

Proctor Academy Community

At the core of exercising these hard to tone muscles of community building is the acknowledgement that maybe, just maybe, we do not have all the answers. A series of pieces in the New York Times over the past month have illuminated the importance of humility in the education of society. Frank Bruni’s book, The Age of Grievance, explores this topic. In his piece, The Most Important Thing I Teach My Students Isn’t on the Syllabus, he writes, “While grievance blows our concerns out of proportion, humility puts them in perspective. While grievance reduces the people with whom we disagree to caricature, humility acknowledges that they’re every bit as complex as we are — with as much of a stake in creating a more perfect union.” 

As we think about our work of building, stewarding, and sustaining the Proctor community, I’m not sure there is a more important trait to develop than humility. It sits at the core of everything we do: large scale institutional initiatives, community-wide reflections like our NEASC accreditation work, the intentionality and care required of our past sexual misconduct investigation, our on-boarding of new leadership and teammates, our stepping into new roles and cultural holes as some of our most veteran colleagues retire from Proctor, and, perhaps most importantly, our work with our students. 

Proctor Academy Community

We choose to work at a boarding school because of our ability to model community investment and stewardship to the next generation. We coach, and teach, and advise, and supervise dormitories, amplifying our intersections, and therefore impact, with the young people under our care. We must do this work, all of it, with humility if we are to do it well. Because when we do, we sow essential seeds of humanity in the lives of our students. We teach them that it is ok to be wrong, to have differing perspectives, that just because someone else believes differently than you, it does not mean your beliefs are compromised.

When we live with humility, we openly allow ourselves, and in turn, our community, to listen deeply - to the good, the bad, the joyous, and the hard to hear. It is then, and only then, that we give ourselves a chance to step into our potential as a school, as a community, and as an extended family for those we seek to serve. 

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