Boarding Report – November 5, 2015

November 4, 2015

Director of Boarding

Our Crest articles have showcased our boarders many talents -“ and long will that continue -“ but, as I said at our last community dinner -“ we are very fortunate to also have such wonderful staff. This article I throw the spotlight on our Nangle Housemaster, Mr Michael Murphy, who recently wrote the following piece for ABSA’s -‘Light’s Out’ publication. It maps out Michael’s path to us here in Ballarat and asks us all to consider How did we get here? a question most apt. I congratulate Michael and all our staff on what they bring to our boarding community.

Look after yourselves.

Mike Silcock

Director of Boarding

How did we get here?

What’s more, why are we here…?

It’s a very interesting question I encourage you to ask yourself. Each person’s journey into working within a residential setting is unique. For some, they may have fallen into it; others may have taken a more complex route. My way into boarding was as a boarder. The majority of us reading this article are from boarding schools, however for those working in hostels or similar institutions the ideas raised here are just as important and relevant. So then, why do we do what we do and why do we do it?

To borrow an expression from Richard Stokes I was one of those -kids from the bush-. When I was born both mum and dad realised that Cowra had limited educational opportunities and so they enrolled me at St Ignatius College, Riverview. Although at the time I was only a drooling baby, my parents had made the single most influential decision in determining my future.

When I was 5 I began to learn piano and showed a great interest in singing, my parents were very excited by my interest in the arts. This love and passion of mine still exists today, and I am fortunate to be able to express it. When not working as a housemaster, I run the Choral Program here at St Patrick’s College Ballarat. Unfortunately in my small regional centre I was bullied for my love of singing and music. I was often called names such as -gay and -poofter-, at the time not realising what those highly offensive terms actually meant. This bullying was primarily because I was different. Where others showed a great deal of interest in Rugby League, I wanted to sing.

When at age 12 I finally went to boarding school we were assembled and the expectations of the college were explained to us. It was that moment many would recall, when you first understand what it means to be a part of your college community, in this case what it meant to be a -View Boy-. The part that I took the most interest in was the Choir Director telling us that he would be holding auditions on Friday that week for the College Choir and Chapel Choir. Friday simply couldn’t come soon enough!

To my great surprise, there were about 150 students (out of a year group of 210) trying out for the choir. What a change! No longer was I stigmatised as the outsider, there were others that shared my passion and were impressed to hear of what I had achieved in my life so far.- My audition went well, and the following week my name made it onto the notice board with the list of other successful candidates. My self-esteem was at an all-time high! I had made friends, I was singing with many of them and enjoying not only making music but discovering the joy of Rugby Union; another passion I carry to this day! Within six months I travelled to: England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France, singing in places such as Bath Abbey and La Madeleine as the head boy of the college choir. What a change six months at Riverview had had on me.

One character that I have an inordinate amount of respect for is Mr Chris Farnsworth previously the Year 9 Housemaster at St Ignatius College, Riverview. Mr Farnsworth held a no nonsense approach with all of the boarders in his care. He was firm, but always fair. This influence was so profound that today, when working with boarders, I often ask myself -what would Mr Farnsworth have done-.

Like so many of my contemporaries I travelled abroad. When I finished my time in Ireland I returned for further studies to Wagga Wagga, NSW, where I read Radiography at Charles Sturt University. Whilst most of the students with whom I studied were working in hospitality, I discovered Mt Erin Boarding School, now attached to Kildare Catholic College. Over the next four years as I continued my studies, I developed my technique as a boarding master significantly, and on a number of occasions including for a term deputised as Acting Head of Boys Boarding.

At the end of my time in Wagga, I got engaged to Monica, now my wife and we moved to Sydney to start out in our professions, Monica as a Registered nurse and me, a Radiographer. I was incredibly fortunate to secure a position at St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst (the hospital where Kings Cross ER is filmed).- -Vinnies- would arguably be one of the best hospitals in Australia. I found myself working with the best resources, some of the most accomplished staff in the radiography world, and regularly developing cutting edge techniques. During this time, I was also a boarding master at St Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill, and completing my Master of Theology from the University of Notre Dame, Australia.

As time progressed I found myself increasingly looking forward to working with the boarders at -Joeys-. One evening when I was talking with Monica, I had an epiphany; my calling was to work in education, with boarders. So in 2014 I took up the post of Housemaster at St Patrick’s College, Ballarat and I haven’t looked back.

I encourage each of you to reflect on how you got here and why you are here. Fundamentally, what is the pedagogical approach within your boarding house? This appears to be a largely untouched area full of research possibilities (particularly within the Australian Boarding School’s context) that I intend to address as I complete my Master of Social Science degree through the University of Strathclyde.

How then does that translate into our approach or flavour in which we carry out our work? I think my pedagogical approach to boarding is one fostering, above all else, fairness and consistency tempered with genuine care for each student as Mr Farnsworth showed me all those years ago.

It is important that we remember the opportunities that we foster for each and every one of our boarders whether like me it was the opportunity to sing in the Chapel Choir and tour the world, or for some the new and sometimes foreign experience of sharing their environment or having regular healthy meals.- I encourage you to reflect upon how you came to work in boarding and what sort of pedagogical approach you have and why. I believe it is important that we question why it is we do what we do and to always look for ways we can improve.

If we can provide for just one student what was given to me as a boarder, then our career in education will have been a great success.

So, how did you get here and why are you here?