Boarding Report – May 25, 2017

May 24, 2017

What a remarkable fortnight it has been, with the highlight being a series of exciting opportunities that your son/s have been able to enjoy as boarders across Australia have celebrated the inaugural -‘National Boarding Week’. Starting the week on Mothers’ Day with our first -‘Great Ballarat Bake-off’ (won by House Captain Osmond Green-King and Demius Miller), and including other events such as attending the opening night of the SPC/Loreto production, the highlight was undoubtedly the joint celebration with some of the boarders from Ballarat Grammar. On Friday afternoon students from both schools came together to partake in two National initiatives, -‘Boarders Run Australia’ and -‘Boarders Support Australia’ with the media present to cover the event.

Our SPC boarders walked their 1km from the College, carrying their winter woollies donations to the Lake Wendouree Olympic rings where they met boarders from Ballarat Grammar. The SPC boys passed on their winter woollies to the students from Grammar who then walked their 1km back to their school and organised the donation of the clothes.

This was a wonderful example showing young citizens from both schools working collaboratively for the greater good. This is what a boarding experience can offer.

That said there are difficult, challenging times for our boarders -“ especially around missing home -“ and I leave you with the second article from Emily Parkinson that was published in the Australian Financial Review.

-‘Dealing with homesickness’

-Rural students are still the majority of boarders, according to the Australian Boarding Schools Association. Around two-thirds of the more than 25,000 boarders nationally are from rural families.

It was one of the first big differences teacher and Director of Boarding at St Patrick’s College in Ballarat- Mike Silcock noted when he first came to Australia in 2008 from Britain.

“In Australia, I noticed boarding was valued for its geographic convenience -“ in the sense of families recognising a lack of- educational opportunities in more rural and remote areas. Boarding gave them that access to a better education.”

Silcock has been at- St- Patrick’s College in Ballarat since 2013.

Schools understand boarders will be homesick and have a range of programs to address it.

“In the UK, the popularity of boarding is less of a geographical factor and is much more of a realisation of what a boarding education can do; that it is more wholesome, well-rounded and incorporates making ‘better people’ as opposed to just academically strong or sporting excellence- -“- it’s much more holistic than that.”

With such a large portion of boarders coming from the country how do boarding house staff manage feelings of homesickness when they strike?

Silcock, who manages 42 male boarders at St- Patrick’s College, says the first remedy is to acknowledge that homesickness exists -“- something not done as much with previous generations of boarders when the “get-on-with-it” approach was the norm.

“It’s about letting the boys know it’s very normal and acceptable to miss your mum, or your dad, or your friends and it’s OK to be upset when you feel lonely,” he says. “Sometimes I think boarders arrive with a sense that they have to accept being away from home, that they have to accept being away from their family and believe that is the best thing for them. Well, it may be the best thing for them but why can’t they, within that, realise they can still miss something.”

At Tara Anglican School for Girls’ Eggleton House, where there are 55 boarders, peer support is a big help when dealing with homesickness, principal- Susan Middlebrook says.

“The girls’ relationships are very strong -“ I think that is one advantage of having 55 boarders as opposed to 100 -“ is that the girls all know each other well, and they know if one is struggling and they do look after each other like siblings.

“Some girls struggle with it. Others are fine. We encourage the girls to contact their parents 10 times a day if they want to. We have no problem with that. If they need to speak to mum, they do.”

At St- Mary’s Anglican Girls’ School in Perth, peer support is also a big factor. Younger girls often take comfort from the experiences of their older peers, says Tina Campbell, head of boarding at St. Mary’s.

“I will have girls here who are leaders who will tell the young ones: ‘I cried every single night for the first month I was here but look at me now -“ I can’t wait to come back.’ They see that other girls have got through it. We haven’t got girls in year 12 massively struggling with homesickness. It does get better.”

At Pymble Ladies’ College, a sense of “belonging”- among boarders is fostered through shared activities and agreed codes of behaviour, principal- Vicki Waters says. Adherence to the college values of care, courage, integrity, respect and responsibility are important.-

Silcock, who began boarding aged seven, often speaks with parents worried about homesickness before their child begins boarding.

“I tell them: I don’t want this student to not miss home. But what I hope -“ the ideal scenario for any boarder for me is they miss their home but they enjoy coming to school -“ and likewise, when they are home they are enjoying being at home but they are missing aspects of being at school.”

Emily Parkinson, Australian Financial Review.

As always please do not hesitate to contact us if there is anything we can do to improve your son’s boarding experience -“ and support them in any way.

Look after yourselves.

Mike Silcock

Director of Boarding

Over the past few weeks, it has been pleasing to see many of our boarders step out of their comfort zones and contribute to the wider Ballarat community in a number of different ways. One such event was our recent collaboration with Ballarat Grammar which coincided with the inaugural -‘National Boarding Week’. Students were asked to donate -‘winter woollies’, a gold coin and their time to help promote boarding and help those that may be less fortunate. It was a wonderful event and one that we hope will only grow each year. We also had a number of our boarders take their skills into the kitchen and whip up some tasty treats. Although some appeared to be a little sweeter than others, all were purchased and the money raised will be donated to the Cancer Council’s Biggest Morning Tea.

Every Wednesday we also have a small group of boarders visit Talbot Place, spending time with the elderly residents, playing games and sharing stories. However, many of our boys also contribute to the wider community by being members of local sporting organisations, representing themselves, the College and their families extremely well. I consistently receive messages from people within these clubs, praising the way in which the boys present themselves and treat others. I believe one of the best things about boarding is the confidence and strength that the boys may find within themselves while becoming wonderful, independent, young men.

We have many wonderful events still to come on the calendar, including the Year 10 Night of Homelessness and the Year 12 Formal. One of the most important events on the calendar, is our upcoming, Term 2, Family Dinner and Mass. This fantastic event coincides with Reconciliation Week and gives us a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the diversity that we have here in boarding at St Patrick’s College.

With so many events happening within the College, personal commitments and external engagements, the boys are never starved of opportunities to participate and have very little time to be bored. One of the focuses of this term in the house is for the boys to learn the fine line of balance. Balance between their commitments, their school work and their personal needs. It is a difficult lesson, but one which will assist them for many years to come.

Tamara Westwood

Senior Housemaster

This last week the house has been very quiet with the Rebels’ games, club footy now in full swing and the other codes also well into their season. I had the pleasure of taking seven of our boarders to the football in Melbourne this past Saturday. I must admit that I approached the activity with some hesitation, imagining searching for year 10 boys amidst a Melbourne football crowd. However, the boys acted well and we returned home with the right numbers. Perhaps the most pleasing thing was seeing the boys who had been to Melbourne before helping the rural boys. Dealing with myki cards and large crowds being a new experience for some of our newer boarders. Another fine example of the boarders pulling together, always willing to help each other.-

Daniel Willey

Weekend Housemaster

Transitioning from a boarder to a boarding staff member, with only a short break between the two was always going to be a challenge for me. This past Monday though I found myself placed in a position where I could further my skills and knowledge in a boarding staff role when I, along with Ms. Westwood and Mr Silcock, attended the Victorian State Symposium in conjunction with the Australian Boarding Schools Association, held at Geelong Grammar. This for me was an eye opening and extremely worthwhile day spent soaking up plenty of information and ideas surrounding boarding environments and settings. I felt at times out of my depth in many ways but had to constantly remind myself that I am no more than eight weeks into my life as a boarding staff member and that this day was only ever going to help me face the challenges that come with working in this professional landscape, and I think now because of this day I can build or rather create more meaningful experiences in boarding for the lives of our boarders. Also a great roll on to the symposium was the inaugural -‘National Boarding Week’ where our boarders aided in the fight against homelessness by collecting, supplying and transporting items of clothing and bedding. This week was a foreign thing for me as far as what had occurred in my time in boarding as we had never really celebrated a national boarding week. In many ways it is a sign of the improvement that has been made in boarding both in general and specifically at St Patrick’s College and made me beam with pride of the efforts of many of our boarders.

Daniel Briggs

Boarding Assistant