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The Churning of Community and Shattering of Stereotypes

Scott Allenby

Each trimester brings with it transition -- changes in the weather, new classes, new teams and afternoon programs. Life at Proctor involves more transition than most schools as we welcome back more 40 students from off-campus programs and say goodbye to nearly 40 students embarking on a life-changing experience abroad during the winter months. 

Proctor Academy Community Students

These transitions create an added layer of community development, but having almost 20% of our student body transitioning between on campus and off each term breathes vitality into every corner of Proctor’s campus.

Proctor Academy Community Students

In many high school social structures, peer groups remain relatively static over the course of the year, but that is simply not the case at Proctor. Sure, if you stop any student returning from Proctor en Segovia, European Art Classroom, or Ocean Classroom on their way to assembly and ask about their experience this fall, you will likely be regaled with stories about their host family, excursions across Europe, hiking in Segovia, stepping off the SSV Corwith Cramer onto Bermudian soil, watching the sun set, and then rise again with their C Watch partners. Proctor’s off-campus programs create unique bonds within groups of students that last a lifetime, but these relationships do not operate solely within the isolation of that peer group, but instead serve as a catalyst for new relationships to develop across campus along with the other natural social transitions that accompany the start of a new trimester.   

Proctor Academy Community Students

When individuals come and go from Proctor's five off-campus programs, the community churns in a healthy way. Friend groups welcome new members, roles shift within dorms alongside personalities, teams and afternoon activities find their identity, and classes begin to gain their own unique rhythm. This natural transition in community serves Proctor well, but it must be done with intentionality as we reestablish community norms and challenge students to fight against the natural adolescent social tendency to operate in cliques. 

Proctor Academy Community Students

As we launch a new trimester, we must encourage our natural winter “groups” - the “Eastern skiers”, the “hockey team”, the “Ocean kids”, the “basketball players”, the “theater kids”, the “Carr House boys”, the “Sally B girls”  - to consider how to make themselves known within the context of the Proctor community, while challenging preconceived notions of their “group”. The good news, as this article suggests, is that stereotypes may not be as powerful as we once thought them to be. Research suggests that current actions are actually more powerful than stereotypes in forming impressions of others. 

Proctor Academy Community Students

We have a powerful opportunity this winter to redefine and reframe how we are perceived by others within our groups. It is a reminder that each trimester is a fresh start in a far more important way than a new grade book in our classes. May we embrace this challenge as we expand our perceptions of others and open our minds to who we could become as a community this winter. 

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