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Crafting Engaged Citizens
Proctor's seniors (at least the ones in my classes) are ready for college. While they are still working hard prepping for AP exams and final projects, they can taste the end of their Proctor career. This is a good thing. As one of my colleagues once told me when I was lamenting the eagerness of seniors to be done with high school, "If seniors weren't ready to go, and we weren't feeling ready for them to graduate, we would have done something wrong."

With just two and a half weeks until the Class of 2013 walks across the stage at graduation, college and, eventually, careers are in their immediate future. While the National Council on Education and the Economy recently published this three-year long study on what skills are needed to be successful in college and beyond, we have taken a slightly different approach to evaluating the 'success' of Proctor graduates.

To judge 'success' by one variable (college GPA or job placement) would be misleading, as Proctor is just one stop on a student's educational journey that will last a lifetime. What we know, based on conversations and lasting relationships with alumni, is that Proctor shapes students to be active, engaged citizens wherever they go, whatever their interests may be.

John Howard's '11 (above left), educational experiences (at both Proctor and Dartmouth College where he is currently a sophomore) have been the catalyst in his helping launch a student-driven mediation initiative at Dartmouth, recently featured in this blog post.

Howard notes, "The main goal of Mediation at Dartmouth is to create a thoughtful and intentional conflict resolution forum and mentality and on campus. One useful attribute that we can provide, where the campus administrative apparatus may fall short, is our informality and voluntary resolution framework. We provide a forum for students to evaluate underlying causes of conflict in an attempt to both assist in problem-solving and to get people to engage with conflict head on when possible, rather than constantly seeking 'administrative' solutions."

*Photo credit: www.mediationatdartmouth.org 

For Howard, vice-president of Mediation at Dartmouth, this engagement in the greater community at Dartmouth has been a natural evolution of prior experiences at Proctor, "While we (hopefully) learn to listen intentionally and fully as a consequence of living in a society, I would point to two sets of Proctor experiences that pushed me to deliberately improve my ability to listen when approaching conflict." 

"First, required afternoon activities, and for me, athletics, constructed an environment that produced tension by putting students with different goals and values in close proximity, forcing them to listen to one another and develop those mutually positive solutions (winning, or putting on an extraordinary performance) that I now work to help parties in mediation find. Second, Proctor’s Mountain Classroom gave me the context to embrace personal differences and work with, rather than around, them to achieve common goals. Whether the task be cleaning the bus after a week of muddy conditions in the most efficient way or deciding whether to get ice cream (as required by the “Chaos Card” of the day) after several group members had begun fasts, learning to resolve tensions among twelve peers and two faculty members living within twenty feet of one another for ten weeks was an irreplaceable step in my development toward becoming an effective mediator." 

Howard and other leaders of Mediation at Dartmouth hope their program's impacts will soon extend to middle and high schools in the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire, "Our work, begun last spring and continued this fall with over 40 hours of training, is intended to produce tangible and intangible results. On the clearly observable side, successful mediations result in a contract between the parties describing future actions both parties will take to remedy and prevent escalation of their dispute. A less palpable, though no less important, goal is to cultivate within the community an ethic of seeking to understand others when approaching conflict."

While Howard's work with Mediation at Dartmouth is the focus of this post, Proctor alums around the world are highly involved in their communities. Outcomes are important for us at Proctor as we seek to evaluate our effectiveness as educators. However, our definition of a successful outcome is based on far more than college placement.
Seniors are ready to graduate...and we are excited to see the impact they will have on their communities as they move on from Proctor.
John Howard's involvement in athletics at Proctor was a key contributor to his engagement in Mediation at Dartmouth.
Similarly, his experience on Mountain Classroom taught him to value conflict resolution in a small group, a key skill in conducting mediation within the Dartmouth community.
Regardless of where our graduates go to college, we know they will be well versed in 'taking action' in their communities, and for this, we are incredibly proud!