An African proverb says, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. In our ever-changing world, it now takes a school to raise a child and nowhere is this more pertinent than in a boarding school. With the alarming statistics of children being diagnosed with depression at a young age, and resilience and wellbeing becoming the new ‘watch words’ in schools, there is a great need for all schools to be aware of the role they play in the life of a child. Childhood is precious and every child should be nurtured.
Nowadays, raising a child can no longer just be the job of the ‘village’ – parents, grandparents and other family and friends. Schools need to shoulder even more responsibility in helping children become well-balanced individuals, with a holistic focus on the wellbeing of the child. We are no longer simply teaching pupils, we are helping to raise them.
When you are looking for the right boarding school for your children, I urge you to look beyond the outstanding facilities, the superbly equipped classrooms and the extensive playing fields, although of course these are important. What really matters is how the school will deliver exceptional pastoral care and what this really means for pupils.
John Newman once said that teaching requires a moral dimension otherwise it is cold and arctic. Never has this been more relevant than today. Teachers have always had many roles – storytellers, educators, coaches, carers and others too many to mention – but a priority for me is being a ‘parent’ and role model. My philosophy, which has always guided me in teaching and indeed in leading the boarding at Hazlegrove, is that every child should be ‘parented’ every day. By this I mean children should not be allowed to get through a day without an adult asking them how they are feeling and digging a little below the surface in order to get to know the child better and help the child feel appreciated and cared for. We all have a role to play in raising our pupils – the whole staff including administrative staff, domestic staff, grounds staff, matrons as well as teachers.
Communication is key. Schools must ensure they have created an environment that encourages adults to talk freely and warmly about children. School and parents need to embrace the challenge and work together for the sake of the children. Teachers and parents can no longer just wave to each other from the car park or the street, they need to meet face-to-face and celebrate their children and talk together. They need to become active partners in the rearing of children.
This healthy communication must exist between children and adults too. Pupils must believe they have a voice and we the staff are the ears! They will be looking to the adults for guidance, support, advice, love and a sense of belonging.
Boarding school teachers have always had an enormous responsibility in looking after children and that responsibility includes making sure pupils are learning valuable life lessons, from being able to tie shoelaces, to riding a bicycle and having good table manners. At Hazlegrove we believe there is more to teaching than merely giving lessons. Teachers need to help children build self-confidence and a sense of self-belief, foster an appreciation and tolerance for others, facilitate friendships, help discover new talent and whatever makes a child’s tail wag, as well as reinforce the importance of self-control and self-respect. At Hazlegrove, we are ready for this.
So when choosing a boarding school, make sure you meet the staff who will be those all-important role models for your children and who will be responsible for a significant part of raising them to adulthood. Let’s start raising our children together!
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