Boarding Bravery

“Being a boarder means leaving your parents and living away from home for the first time with people you don’t know.” Current Year 7 boarder

Everything about going to boarding school involves change and adaptation. It is a very big leap of faith for children who often only 11 and 12 years old.

Year 7 boarder, Orla Fowler, says the biggest challenges include:

  • Being away from your family
  • Moving away for a whole term into a new placed filled with strangers
  • Going out and being social
  • Helping others and trying to be strong
  • Learning to say goodbye
  • Getting along with everyone

Orla is right. There is so much to get used to; there is a different style of schooling, being surrounded by many more peers, new faces and new opportunities.  It can take bravery just to make the most of all that is on offer.

Together, our Santa Maria boarding supervisors have many years of valuable experience in assisting new boarders.  The transition is made as smooth as possible through the Boarding Orientation Program, allocated boarding buddies, experienced teachers who assist during boarders’ study and by constant contact with new families.

It is important in the Boarding Community that this is a time of partnership, where parents and boarding staff work together to ensure the needs of the individual girls are being met.  It is a different approach now as compared to the bad old days when boarding parents were advised not to call for at least two or three weeks.  In fact, it is critical that parents stay connected and on hand at this time of significant change.

The girls all settle in different ways and on different timelines.  Like everything else in life, the way forward is a very individual path.  The happy days and tough days are never the same days for each of the new boarders.  This is another notable aspect to boarding bravery.  We see these young girls providing super support for their peers, soon to become their friends and later to be thought of as their sisters.  It is one of the most positive aspects of girls’ boarding houses.  Watching girls look out for each other, giving each other confidence, showing thoughtful acts of kindness and even just providing laughs to lighten the mood.

As the Head of Boarding, I believe boarding can have its challenges and there will be days when all boarders wished they could just be at home.  But like owning a new puppy, the good days, the fun experiences and the strong bonds far out way the struggles.  Bravery is choosing to focus on these positives and make the most of the huge range of opportunities that come with a wonderful community like Santa Maria College.

I also think it is important to mention that boarding bravery extends to the parents who make the commitment to educating their children away from home.  This decision changes family dynamics with adjustments for siblings also likely.  For success, a great deal of trust is needed in the staff responsible for the wellbeing of all boarders.  And perhaps most significantly parents will more than likely respond to many upset calls from their children in boarding over the duration.  They will answer bravely, listen calmly and provide advice.  This over the phone parenting soothes the girls, gives them a much-needed dumping ground for the day’s worries and leaves boarders ready to continue with shared fun and laughs.  Parents at this point often feel distressed and guilty.  It is nearly impossible to be brave as they hang up the phone or drive away from the gates of the Boarding House.

But parents will do this time and time again as their children all attend school in the city.  Choosing to focus on the educational benefits, wide-ranging experiences and strong support of the whole school community, allows for strength in these times.

Leanne McTavish, Head of Boarding





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