Proctor Seeks the Sweet Spot in Facing Dichotomies

Challenges and support; accountability and trust

By Scott Allenby
Andover’s River Turnbull ’22 shares his perspectives during Proctor’s Accepted Student Days.

We feel more fragile than we did two years ago. We worry our children are more fragile, too; their childhood upended by a global pandemic, school interrupted, screens trying in vain to replace the human interaction that we know fuels their soul. 

And yet, as we step into the bright light of a post-pandemic world, squinting our eyes against the flood of “how it was before,” we must realize it is through challenge that our children are strengthened.

As we listen to our teenagers and their journey through Proctor, we encounter a seemingly contradictory dichotomy of principles that has long guided Proctor’s educational model: academic rigor alongside integrated support, a powerful sense of community on campus alongside an ever-changing community due to more than 75% of students studying abroad on off-campus programs, informal relationships between faculty and students alongside accountability and clear expectations. We are deeply confident it is in this space of apparent contradiction that students grow into the adults this world desperately needs.

During Proctor’s recent Accepted Student Days, Andover’s River Turnbull ‘22 shared, “If anything seems uncomfortable – on-campus or off-campus – run toward it, because that is where you will change and grow the most.” 

Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck is quoted in a recent New York Times piece, “The answer isn’t taking away challenge, it’s giving more tools to deal with challenge.” At Proctor we believe we cannot, and should not, prevent our students from encountering challenges. Instead we must continue to use frameworks, feedback mechanisms, and the teaching of self-advocacy skills to help young people step into the learning opportunity before them.

As parents and educators, we have to fight the tendency to smooth the path of our students as we emerge from a trying two years of pandemic disrupted education. We are at an inflection point, both in our children’s lives and our lives as educators, where we can choose to lower expectations for our students because we are worried about their well-being, or continue to push them toward challenge because we know that is where growth and confidence blossom.  


At Proctor, we believe we must trust that challenge, when combined with consistent feedback and support, yields powerful learning experiences for our students.

Now, more than ever, our work must be focused on continuing to find that sweet spot of accountability and trust, rigor and support, demanding expectations and honest feedback. This is what Proctor does so well. We see our students thrive when we are willing to embrace these dichotomies as a community.