29 Oct 2015

Pastoral Care and Boarding at Dilworth Rural Campus 2015

We have a interesting boarding set up at my Campus.  We have a cohort of only year 9 boys.  Our campus is based about an hour south of Auckland City and it is a sort of a transition year between the Dilworth Junior and Senior Campuses.  It is a chance to prepare them for the challenges of growing up.

All our students are boarding.  They stay on campus for two weeks at a time and follow normal term dates of state schools.

There are 10 cabins each with 10 beds in it.  They have 5 beds to a room.

They have a gear room, a small lounge, a small kitchenette, laundry, and bathrooms and toilets.

This system is designed around creating space for students to do all these things themselves.  Each Cabin has a staff member with the role Cabin Coach, which is similiar to a dean I guess.  The Cabin Coach will give directions on how to manage all these things in the beginning and then develop ownership within the cabin over the year for all these things.  There is no live in staff member, most supervision is indirect, there is always someone available to help sort our issues that a Cabin cannot work out themselves. 

The model is based on principles of self managment and interdependent living.  Being able to take ownership of their own space.

The key areas this happens are:

Collecting and preparing their own breakfasts every morning.

Lighting the Cabin fire in the winter

Cleaning of all areas of the Cabin everyday

Washing drying and folding their own uniforms.  We still have a campus laundry that takes care of linen and manage cleaning supplies.

Developing and maintaining positive relationships.

In the Cabin I coach I find there is ups and downs every year, I am just completeing my fourth year as a Cabin Coach.  The first term is about learning the ropes they are eager and willing to listen to how to do things and will do their best.  Through Terms 2 and 3 there is a drop in morale and often conflict arises that may need some mediation to work through.  By the end of term 3 if things have gone well the Cabin are taking ownership of the space and I am there to make it work for them and get out of their way.  It is a great example of Tuckmans group development stages of Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.

This model can be tough on students that are accustomed to a lot of support.  It requires that they use their own emotional intellgience and social skills to make it work.  If a student is lacking in these then Cabin life can be pretty tough.  However this experience can be a catalyst for growth and always they students that win one of our major awards, the Personal Growth Award, are one of the students that have struggled in the beginning with their relationships or managing on their own.

I did put these students on the spot a little bit, I asked them to share a little bit about what their experinence has been like this year up until now in Tearm 4.

Overall creating this space for students to make decisions, manage their relationships, practice ownership and accountability, and to make mistakes, all with the ongoing coaching and support of a dedicated staff member seems to work really well to foster the personal growth that it aims for.

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