My guess is that if you are reading this, you have clicked on the “Read More” button and are now reading below the fold (an antiquated newspaper analogy). So, I will risk a trip down memory lane by telling you that when I was 10 years old, my mother would allow me to hike a mile into the woods behind our house with my friends, pitch a tent, build a fire, cook dinner, and spend the night out with no adult supervision. We would come home the next morning, smoky, hungry, tired, and feeling like Lewis and Clark, or at least how we imagined they must have felt. How many of you today would allow your ten-year-old do the same? Here is another question: How many of you would allow your 17-year-old son to travel abroad for six weeks with two friends of the same age, with no set itinerary, and no way for you to contact him short of hoping he showed up at an American Express office in Paris? Don’t feel bad if you answered no to these questions. You are probably in good company, my wife and myself included.
I mention these scenarios because I distinctly remember these experiences four decades later as being an important part of my childhood but that it conflicts with the way in which I conduct myself as a parent. I am aware that my own parenting style is considerably more present in the lives of my children. Instead, I camped with my kids and tromped through Europe with them, ultimately denying them the experience of being in charge of their own actions.
I picked up a copy of the September edition of Outside magazine on my way to China a couple of weeks ago. Usually I read the magazine and leave it in the seat pocket to avoid the added weight in my briefcase, but this time I kept this issue due to its cover article “Rewilding the American Child.” I recommend this article to you even with some of its neo-flowerchild flavor as it speaks to the importance of providing a sense of adventure and independence in our children. At the school level, our faculty and staff will continue our discussion of how best we can develop independent thinkers and doers.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and it will be hard for us to overcome the irrational fear of our children’s failure, but if we can raise our awareness of the educational value of struggle, perhaps we can make some gains. (By the way, the motto of Outside magazine is “Live Bravely.” Sound advice.)
Christian J. Proctor, PhD
Dr. Proctor, the ninth head of school at North Cross since 2011, has more than 26 years of experience in education, 15 of which have been at the head of school level. He has served as headmaster at Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, South Carolina, St. Martin’s Episcopal School in Metairie, Louisiana, Grace Episcopal School in Monroe, Louisiana, and as Interim Headmaster at Wesley Academy in Houston, Texas. In each location, Dr. Proctor’s tenure was marked by creativity, innovation, and school growth.