Campus Resource: Role of Proctors at Deerfield
Everything Parents (and Students) Need to Know About Proctors
Summer is winding down, and our Deerfield community is focusing on the start of a new school year. Parents and students begin to pack duffle bags, check and recheck class schedules, and confirm hall residents, dorm mates, and proctors. But just who are the proctors and what do they do? Many new parents have questions about our proctors and what role they play in their students’ lives at Deerfield. The following will attempt to give you a comprehensive view of the proctor program at Deerfield Academy–how they are selected and trained, proctor/hall resident communication, and where to go if a problem arises.
Proctors are one of the many people who will support your child while he or she is a freshman and sophomore at DA. This year there are 43 boarding and nine day student proctors from the senior class. The Deerfield website states, “Proctors are a vital link in the residential system and work closely with the dormitory faculty in supporting freshmen and sophomores. They provide leadership and mentoring, and add to the congenial warmth of the dormitory environment by acting as big brothers and sisters.” Careful consideration is given to all areas of the proctor program.
Proctors are selected in their junior year after a thorough quantitative and qualitative process overseen by class deans and a committee of current proctors. Prospective proctors submit a written application that includes a teacher recommendation. The junior class also ranks each classmate who applies for proctor. The applicants meet with the committee in a group interview setting. The Deans then take a final review of each application to ensure that the quantitative rankings and the qualitative comments present a consistent picture of each applicant. Fifty-two boarding and day juniors are selected from this process.
The newly selected proctors are assigned to dorms. The process of matching students with faculty in the residences takes into account a variety of factors. Requests from faculty and students may be honored, but not always. As Amie Creagh, Dean of Students, notes, “Dorm selection is determined by individual need and circumstance. A new hall resident may need a certain personality. Who the proctor lives with and where the proctor lives are secondary to the needs of the dorm and resident advisor.” Becca Sherburne, a veteran hall resident and one of the freshman/sophomore Connect4 Heads, has a quick checklist of characteristics she looks for in her proctors. “Do I know them from teaching?” “Do they have a responsible work ethic?” “Are they outgoing and also a good listener?” “Are they responsible while having fun?” “How would they handle discipline?” “And, can they lead a discussion in Connect4?”
When recent proctors were asked what traits they believe make a student a good proctor, Teddy Romeyn responded, “the list is endless–kind, approachable, funny, good with kids, hard-working, determined leader, etc. No one can embody all these traits, of course, so it’s best that you proctor with someone who is quite different than you are. Patience and composure are vitally important for a proctor to have. There will be nights when you have to quiet down your proctees two and three times.” Mettler Growney added, “Underclassmen come to Deerfield with an unbelievable amount of questions during their first years at Deerfield, and it is very important for a proctor to be a good listener.” Mettler also noted that “the proctees rely on you so much, and it is very important that you give them your full attention and genuine advice. The role is definitely for a specific person, and for a person who is going to be happy and enthusiastic.”
There are four training sessions in the spring. In the first session, newly selected proctors have the opportunity to meet with current proctors and ask them, “What do you wish you knew a year ago?” These conversations between proctors is their first introduction to “open communication and listening skills training,” according to Amie Creagh. In the second session, the proctors learn how to facilitate thoughtful conversations, as they will be asked to be front and center in Connect4 dorm meetings in the fall.
Proctors also meet with school psychology counselors, Dr. Sheila Fritz-Ellis and Dr. Stuart Bicknell, to learn about homesickness and other concerns new students may have when they arrive at Deerfield. Proctors also receive instruction about the importance of taking care of themselves, as the fall is busy for seniors at Deerfield. Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out, and Dr Chris Overtree, Clinical Psychologist at UMass, visited Deerfield to meet with proctors for the third training session. The group discussed the proctors’ roles on campus and their responsibility to set a tone for thoughtful and equal inclusion of all students. The final training in the spring focused on fun–ice cream novelties.
In September, proctors return to school a day early for additional training, when they meet with faculty residents and Sheila Fritz-Ellis and Stuart Bicknell again. Rachel Simmons and Chris Overtree also come back to campus and lead another discussion in the winter. Proctors receive ongoing training and support throughout the fall and winter. One free period each week is devoted to meetings with Deans, school counselors, and other faculty.
Proctor/Resident Advisor Communication
In the beginning of the year proctors and hall residents meet regularly to discuss how the 9th and 10th graders on their hall are adjusting to dorm life. In a conversation with Poc hall resident, Becca Sherburne, she told us that her proctors check-in at the end of the first week of school and then meet weekly throughout the fall after dorm feeds. “Abby Cacho and Maddy McGraw did a great job of checking in, and they understand to come to me as soon as something doesn’t feel right. Proctors are on duty one night a week in their dorms to monitor study hall and organize a feed, which creates another opportunity to check in on the girls.” Becca likes to organize feeds twice a week for the girls in her dorm, and her “open door” during weekend duty often results in a roomful of teenagers gathering to relax, eat popcorn, and watch reruns of “Law and Order.” Mike Schloat, a resident advisor in Field dorm, told us “dorm feeds” are his favorite dorm activity. Mike said a “feed” is a good way to check in with the boys, and it builds community between hall residents, proctors, and proctees in a relaxed and fun way–you can’t have enough of them!
Where to Go If a Problem Arises
If a parent has a concern, the first person to contact is the faculty advisor. That person may also be their hall resident for 9th and 10th graders. As Amie Creagh notes, “The faculty advisor is in contact with all the adults who see your child each day.” If the issue is specific to dorm life, then it may make sense to contact the hall resident first. The hall resident will speak to the proctor, who also sees the student daily. If necessary, hall residents and faculty advisors can reach out to other experts at school.
What do the proctors say about their experience? Teddy Romeyn and Mettler Growney thoroughly enjoyed their year as proctors. Teddy and Mettler both agreed that they had to work hard to balance their own academics, extra-curriculars, sports, and social lives to connect with their proctees. The proctors are really “on call” 24/7. Just because the proctors are assigned to specific residential halls doesn’t mean they aren’t being looked up to and watched by the underclassmen all over campus. Teddy told us, “I realize how much of an impact I could have on these kids. All of your proctees know who you are, see you as an example and–in most cases–listen to you when you tell them to do something.” Mettler commented, “Without having lived with underclassmen, I would not have much contact with these younger students. I really enjoyed knowing a lot of the student body at Deerfield. Many of my proctees have become some of my best friends, and friends I will keep in touch with forever. Without having proctored, I would not have had this opportunity.” Mettler added, “Being a proctor senior fall calls for extreme time management; however, I enjoyed every single second of it and wouldn’t change anything about my senior year.”
Proctors at Deerfield Academy are a valuable resource for the underclassmen and aid in building a strong sense of community on the campus. As the DA website states, “Proctors serve as role models, demonstrating sensible and responsible lifestyles. Resident and associate faculty work closely with their proctors to develop trust and open communication. The combination provides a safe and welcoming environment for Deerfield students.” As a parent, I am comforted by the thoughtful planning and commitment that goes into the proctor program. Thank you, proctors, and all the faculty members involved, for your efforts in helping to make the Deerfield freshman and sophomore years warm, inviting and safe!
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