Boarding Report – May 1, 2015

April 29, 2015

I am often asked, by students, staff and parents, what is the attraction, or benefits, to a boarding education. My own experience would be something akin to that described in James Hilton’s -Goodbye, Mr Chips-, which, although much maligned in popular media and educational forums today, served to instil in me respect, independence and a love of the holistic -‘experience’ that a boarding education can offer. Balance is the key as boarding is driven forward into the 21st century. Whilst some of the antiquated and simply unacceptable practices of your -Mr Chips- era needed to be addressed as schools become more accountable to parents and focussed on providing students with physical, social and emotional, as well as academic, education, these values of respect and independence still have an important place. Boarding wings have been replaced by a modern day boarding house, dormitories, of twenty or more are now bedrooms with just four or less occupants, for matrons you now have professionals. The face of boarding has truly evolved but as with all things in life as we look to the future we must appreciate where we have come from.

Ultimately though it is the -‘experience’ that stands a boarding education apart and this is certainly the focus at St Patrick’s College. We encourage our boarders to develop interpersonal skills and social maturity, to appreciate the opportunity that has been afforded to them and -know, desire and do good-.

With this mind I would like to share with you a snapshot of the boarding -‘experience’ at the College. On Saturday morning we joined the Ballarat community at the ANZAC Day Dawn Service. The boarders were given the option of attending this service or the later, mid-morning, one. To a boy each expressed their desire to be at the Dawn Service. The solemnity and respectful nature shown by each of our boarders was something quite special and to join our wider community for this occasion was truly a highlight of our time as a part of the St Patrick’s College boarding community this year. That same day our boarding weekend excursion was to -‘Inflatable World’. Ainslie, Tamara and I had the pleasure of an hour of fun and frivolity with fifteen of our boarders as they bounded from one inflatable device to another. These opportunities to spend time with our boarders, away from a conventional educational environment, are ones to cherish and only afforded to us by being a part of a boarding school. My personal highlight was a moment though that went unnoticed by many when one of our senior boarders stopped to assist a young boy who had fallen from a piece of apparatus. The gentleness and compassion shown by our boarder at this brief moment was indicative of the qualities we are able to instil in our boarders.

At present our boarders are in the midst of one of the busiest times in boarding -“ assessment at all ages comes thick and fast, our winter sports commitments are in full swing but that has not stopped the ambition of many to ensure our commitment to an inclusive community, to social justice, continues to be a priority to all. Next month we will

come together to thank all our mothers for the incredible support they continue to provide to us with our -Boarders’ Mothers’ Day Afternoon Tea and Mass- and then upon the conclusion to Reconciliation Week we acknowledge our Indigenous students and their families with a special Mass and family dinner. However, amongst all of the above, our boarders will be preparing a morning tea in recognition of -‘Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea’ in conjunction with Cancer Council Australia.

As the College moves into a new era under the leadership of Mr John Crowley and boarding is subject to a thorough review to ensure the best possible -‘experience’ for both our boarders and our boarding staff I am left humbled by my time with our boarders and the fine young men they are. We will provide the holistic education they need, we will focus on their academic pursuits but we will not lose sight of the importance of instilling in them core values that will mark them apart as products of a boarding education.

Look after yourselves, Mike Silcock

Kenny Housemaster -“ Tamara Westwood

When I was asked why I wanted to join the SPC Boarding Community as a Housemaster, my answer was simple. The boys. St Patrick’s College is extremely lucky to have such a talented, entertaining, compassionate and diverse group of young men that make up the Boarding Community. Working with these boys each day within my other roles at the College meant that the decision to be a part of this community was an easy one.

Each day is different and you can never quite tell what you will be challenged by, but that’s one of the great things with Boarding -“ it is definitely never dull. I have had the opportunity to share many wonderful experiences with the students -“ from horse riding and sporting matches, to beating them on the go kart track, boarding is certainly a fabulous experience.

Becoming a Housemaster has not come without its challenges, but it is certainly made a lot easier with the calibre of boys within the house. I am definitely looking forward to the challenges and rewards that this new experience will bring.