April (2014)
February (2014)
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December (2013)
November (2013)
Valuing Work
October (2013)
September (2013)
May (2013)
April (2013)
March (2013)
February (2013)
January (2013)
November (2012)
Learning Styles
October (2012)
Accountability Driven Independence
Perhaps the phrase least heard in a high school classroom is, "Could you please be tougher on us and give us more challenging work?" While most teachers would love to have this kind of nudge from their pupils, the reality of adolescents, at least in those I have had the privilege of teaching over the past eight years, appears to be they are incapable of uttering such words.

Proctor's overarching academic goal of balancing rigor with support in the classroom has proven to be highly successful in helping students challenge themselves in courses that they may otherwise not take by establishing a culture of self-advocacy and accountability. When alums return, they feel as though their Proctor experience prepared them well for life beyond our cozy, comfortable campus in Andover, New Hampshire, however, when we dig deeper, we acknowledge that we can still do more as teachers to prepare our students for the current academic climate students will face in college.

This blog post by Maureen Downey of the Atlanta Journel-Constitution: Get Schooled Blog provides a window into what college students wish their high school teachers had done differently. Drew Appleby was the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Psychology Department and recounts his years as a freshmen psychology professor when he asked his students what they wished their high school teachers had taught them.

Among the suggestions offered by college students were the following various iterations of a common theme: each wished their teachers had, "provided them with more opportunities to behave in the responsible ways that are required for success in higher education." Specific examples provided by Appleby included the following:
- Don't accept lame, undocumented excuses about why we don't have assignments done or let us sweet talk you into making up tests we were unprepared to take.
- Be sure to teach us to be academically honest.
- Don't let us pass classes just because we earned a lot of homework points or extra credit.
- Don't teach us the answer to all the questions on the tests. 

So our challenge at Proctor is to walk a fine line, where we must prepare our students for college in the ways college students wish they had been prepared as noted above, while understanding that learning how to be independent learners is not an instantaneous occurrence. This process of teaching accountability and independence is not always fun, especially in a school where the culture of close relationships between faculty and students are core to the experience.

We believe, however, that it is through these trusting relationships with students that we have the opportunity to hold students strictly accountable for producing a high level of work and for academic honesty. We must avoid the temptation to believe the falsehood that accountability will threaten these relationships we have with our advisees, students or players, and embrace the notion that these relationships are in fact strengthened through accountability.

Proctor's programs on and off-campus, by their very nature, force students to gain independence and to become accountable to themselves and to those around them. Last year, a recent alum shared his thoughts on what Proctor meant to him as he prepared to attend college after his gap year.

While Will's full blog post can be seen here, this passage speaks of how Proctor seeks to educate its students, "The goal, then, of any educational institution -- up to a certain point -- should be to facilitate a student’s interaction with the world and to provide a skeletal framework to guide their initial exploration. My time at Proctor left me with an intense desire to explore and experience the world outside of my small-town New England roots. From the red-rock desert of southern Utah to the white-washed cement walls of my Physics classroom, the Proctor experience instilled in me at each and every turn an insatiable hunger to learn, a determination to push the boundaries of my knowledge and understanding."

If this 'unlocking of a sense of wonder' ultimately is our end goal, which I believe it is, then we must understand the key to that lock comes through variety of experiences. The 'unlocking' can occur on Mountain Classroom, in AP Biology, in Media Design or Programming classes, or perhaps in the Recording Studio. It could occur while studying in Spain, brainstorming a Statistics survey, or while working with a learning specialist in Learning Skills.

It can occur when a teacher holds a student to a higher standard than she ever thought she could achieve, or even when a teacher, coach or advisor has a tough conversation with a student about decision making and accountability.

Regardless of the setting, knowing that countless opportunities exist (often when a student is challenged to be an independent learner) to have that sense of wonder unlocked makes a Proctor education appealing for both teachers and students.
College students in a recent article acknowledged they wish their high school teachers had encouraged them to be more independent in order to prepare them for college.
Proctor alums have reported they feel well prepared for college, but why is that?
Is it because of rigorous academic study?
Or because of the opportunity to pursue individual passions?
One alum said quite simply, "Proctor has left an indelible mark, an insatiable hunger for knowledge obtained by experience, the feverish desire to do with my own two hands, to experience the world in its raw, objective form. The mark is indicative of the irrevocable change that Proctor has wrought on me, a change that will continue to enrich and enhance my life as I move through college and beyond, a change for which I am, and always will be, deeply thankful."