Friday 6 December 2013

Signing in . . .Homesickness - not a disease!

As we are all heading into the Christmas Break, and looking forward to our long break, spare a thought for the families of our boarders who are preparing to send a new child away to board for the first time. The apprehension for many of these young people about living away from home, not having mum and/or dad there ready to offer support, worrying about missing their older or younger siblings, and moving into a foreign environment with a strange woman or man looking after them, can be quite overwhelming for many.  And we must not forget those returning boarders we have who miss home so much every time them return to the Boarding House.

So, how do you handle homesickness in your boarding house? Do you spend time with the families and students before they start and explain how they might feel homesick, and that sometimes they don’t even know why the feel that way? Do you explain to the mums (and dads in many cases) that they need to say goodnight in the lounge room rather than in their child’s bedroom for some months in preparation for them ‘leaving home? And how about teaching their child to put their laundry out each night and change their beds weekly rather than doing it for them? Have you encouraged them to visit the school, and the boarding house, in the year prior to them coming, so that the experience is not as foreign? Do you write to the child in the months leading up to them joining your community, telling them how much you are looking forward to having them join your ‘family’? These are just a few of many ideas which happen in boarding houses all over Australia to help new boarders prepare for their time away from home.

And what happens in your community once the new boarders arrive? Do you welcome them on a separate day to the returning boarders? Do you have big sisters/brothers available to help them on that first day? Do you make their beds for them before they arrive so it looks welcoming? Do you gradually split them from their families, rather than one heart-wrenching break at the end of the day (which often happens anyway, but at least they have had some time apart during the day)? Do you have some form of ritual to help them feel a part of your house? Do you make sure you are available on that first night (or first week!) as a stable presence for the new boarders to talk with?

That first weekend - is there so much organised that they can’t get bored? Do you spend time at those activities helping them all have fun (and showing you are human)? Is the food great so that they have little to complain about? Are the teachers educated to help the boarders understand why they feel that way, and to ensure they don’t feel too much like a little fish in a very big pond? Have you told the parents to write - or email - rather than always phoning as the boarders can enjoy reading, and re-reading, and re-reading again and again that written piece? Have you told the boarders to write back? Have you warned the parents that their son or daughter will call at their lowest, and, once they dump, will probably go off to have a great time while the parents sit at home fretting?

And when second term (and third, and fourth and ….) starts, do you understand that this might all return once again?

Of course homesickness doesn’t affect every boarder, and usually is something the boarders get used to, even if they don’t get over it. The wonderful work all our boarding staff do to help our boarders to make the most of every opportunity at school, and not miss home too much, is something we need to celebrate! 

Do you have ideas we can add for others to read? Please email us at and let us know what you have found effective - we’ll be more than happy to publish your words.

Until next time, Signing Out……

PS - We all hope that the Christmas break is a happy and holy one for you all, and that you take the time to regenerate and refresh - so that you can return to this wonderful work with renewed vigour!! Enjoy!!!!!!

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Signing in . . . Location, Location, Location

I'm sitting here on a day off to celebrate Labour Day, and got to thinking about a workshop on the topic of 'Active Duty' I am putting together for Toowoomba, Sydney and Perth in the coming months, following on from a wonderful presentation by Mika Browning at St Michael's Collegiate, Hobart during the recent Tasmanian State Conference. Mika entitled her talk "Location, Location, Location" and raised a number of key questions about how Boarding Supervisors go about their work.

There are many things about working in Boarding Schools which can be a bit scary, but the issue which is most challenging is ensuring staff are where they need to be. Do supervisors know where the boarders are and what they are up to? Do the boarders expect to see a staff member regularly, wherever they are? Do the supervisors work hard at developing positive relationships with the boarders in their care?

The challenge of new technologies, and especially the connectedness of young people, often means they find it challenging not to check their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat accounts all the time, and this leads to them being behind a computer screen or on their mobile device at times when they might better be served doing other things. This refers not only to our boarders, but our young staff as well. It becomes critical that supervisors remember what their role is - to be observing and supporting the boarders in their lives. Checking in on what their friends are doing while they are actually on duty can cause them to miss important observations or issues - we would rather see them be active listeners, story tellers, carers and above all great role models for the young people in our care.

So, next time you are on duty make sure you 'turn off' your outside connections, 'turn on' your active duty button and get out there with the boarders in your care - and help your fellow staff do the same thing. Our boarders and boarding houses will be all the better for it!

Until next time  . . . Signing Out

Monday 9 September 2013

Signing In . . . the importance of relationships

Over the weekend I was pondering what I missed about my time running boarding houses - and you'll never guess what it was - the kids!

My two sons have moved out of home (one is overseas, whilst the other is away in the country for work at present) and my wife and I were enjoying the peace and quiet, the doorbell and phone not ringing, the chance to watch a TV show through without interruption and all the normal things people can do at home - and yes, I missed the fun of the boarding house.

So what was it I really enjoyed during my 30 odd years? It was the chance to connect with so many wonderful young men and women.

Recently we were very privileged to attend the overseas wedding of one of my boarders - 26 years after he graduated - and we not only felt like one of the family but were treated as such! It was the wonderful relationships we developed with the boys and girls in our care that gave us the energy and enthusiasm for the role, but also that allowed us to give them all such strong and positive guidance.

It is a key part of being successful in our work in a Boarding School - to ensure we develop positive relationships with each of the children in our care. These positive relationships allow us to guide, discipline, support, share, teach, care for, nurture and enjoy time with these young people, and help us to produce the wonderful young women and men that our boarding houses turn out.

So next time you are tired and weary in your work, remember the positives - the wonderful relationships you have with your boarders and the huge impact you are having because of them.

Until next time.....Signing Out

Monday 17 June 2013

Signing in ..... The value of networking

One of the key areas of development for our Association has been ensuring all Boarding School staff have opportunities to learn from others in the industry, and our staff constantly discuss ways we can make this happen.

So, how do you connect with others working in such an important role? Do you join in with the exciting offerings of your State Division, ensuring you find the time to not only learn from the Professional Development offered but to also share stories of your work with the others attending? Do you find the time to visit other Boarding Schools to see what they are doing? Do you have at least one other person working in another school that you can call when you need a chat? Are you attending our Symposium to learn from others in important Boarding Roles and to hear experts in their field talk about the positive side of risk taking?

The greatest strength of our Association is the many and varied opportunities we provide for you to network with others, but this only works if you take up the chances offered. Make sure you read our weekly ENews to know what is coming up in your area, make sure you contact our office if you have an idea we can help make happen, and most importantly make sure you talk to others at each and every event you attend - we are all about relationships and people are only too happy to share their experience.

Until next time .... Signing Out

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Signing in .... Professional Development for all boarding staff

As I sit here and ponder that it has been almost a month since I last wrote a blog, I was thinking about the issues which faced me when I was running a Boarding House. First and foremost that came to mind was staffing - getting the right staff, keeping staff for longer than a year, and most importantly ensuring they knew what they were doing. This was a huge challenge when faced with a Boarding Staff of over 60 - many of whom were university students who were studying in areas other than education.

Over 15 years ago I thought it really worthwhile to use the old Duty of Care Course as a basis for training, giving the staff inservice each term in one unit. However, if I was faced with the challenge today I must admit that I would handle it differently. To be a staff member in a boarding house today without at least some solid base level training puts you at risk, and I would be challenged to ensure that all new staff started work on Book 1 of the Duty of Care Course to get their basic training done. This was one of the reasons ABSA decided to offer workshops to help people to complete the units of the workbooks, and one of the added side benefits of this has been the networking which occurs between staff, not only at different schools but from the same school too - so often staff working at the same place are so busy they don't get the time to sit and talk about the important work they are doing.

So my challenge to you all is - what training have you done, or provided for your boarding staff, and if the answer is very little, how can ABSA help you to rectify this?

As an added bonus for those studying Duty of Care we are well underway in the process of getting Book 1 accredited as a Certificate IV Course in Residential Care, and when completing Book 2 as well people will likely qualify for a Diploma in Residential Care. Those who have already completed the course and had it assessed by us at ABSA will be able to upgrade to these AQF qualifications!

Until next time.....Signing Out

Thursday 28 March 2013

As Easter Approaches

February and March have been busy months of workshops for ABSA, with staff in Ballarat, Hamilton, Brisbane, Melbourne and Hobart all taking part in one or more of our Duty of Care workshops. We do encourage everyone who has attended to get to work and complete their workbook - no point in putting it off!
Our Leaders in Residential Communities Symposium in Perth on 18 and 19 August has come together nicely, and registrations are now open. We encourage everyone who is a Leader in a Boarding House to consider coming along and learning from our speakers and workshop presenters, and to enjoy a wonderful networking event.
Work has also been done on our web page and social media presence lately - a key part of our offerings. We are keen to get more people to follow us on Facebook (like the page Australian Boarding Schools Association), and on Twitter and Instagram (@austboarding) - lots of interesting information is posted to these site regularly.
There has been some wonderful publicity for Boarding Schools during recent weeks - on ABC Radio, in Flight Magazines, in the Weekend Australian Magazine and shortly in the Sydney Morning Herald. If you have a 'good news story' please share it with us and we will work to get the good word out to the community.
Two exciting developments are underway - we will hold our first Boarding School Expo in Tasmania later in the year - more information on this will be forthcoming in coming months. Also we are well underway with the Boarding Standards work with Standards Australia - the committee for reviewing this is forming and will meet in early May - we will keep you informed.
Enjoy the Easter break, and the holidays which follow!
Duty of Care Beginner Workshop - St Mary's Anglican Girls School, Perth

Sunday 17 February 2013

Term 1 is well underway

As Boarding Schools around Australia have started the year, we have had the privilege of training over 200 people attending our Beginner and Advanced Workshops in the Duty of Care course in Western Australia and Victoria. Many of these staff were new to boarding, and looked forward to the year ahead, and Tom has been able to produce two YouTube Videos on our link looking at their aspirations for the year ahead - check them out using the link on our Home Page. More workshops are planned for Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Hobart in the coming weeks.
Friday was a sad day for both Tom and me when we said farewell to one of our partners from Edart Global Sourcing, Dean Bonke. Dean passed away suddenly last Tuesday, leaving behind a young family. He will remain in our thoughts for many years to come.
I have finally had the chance to upload all the Duty of Care pages I have been promising those attending our workshops - log in to the members' section and clock on the Duty of Care Documents link to download these useful pages. If you can't remember the logo, email Tom at and he will email you back the details.
Tom is busy preparing a Boarders Section of our website - watch for this as it develops over the coming months. This will give all of our boarders access to useful information and will hopefully let them link together to share their boarding lives.
Update forms are on their way to all Heads of Boarding - please prioritise the completing and returning of these so that our database is up-to-date and we can start work on our 2013 Boarding Directory.
Information regarding the Leaders in Residential Communities Conference on 18 and 19 August in Perth will be mailed out and published on line shortly - get in early to secure this place at what promises to be a really new and exciting event on the ABSA Calendar.

Sunday 20 January 2013

2013 - an exciting year ahead

As everyone heads back to work after what has hopefully been a rewarding and restful break, work in the ABSA Office is ramping up once again. It is exciting to note that we have 20 Duty of Care workshops planned across the country for Term One, meaning many more people will get the chance to undertake this excellent training for their very important work.

Both Tom and I have spent some time putting together a plan for the year, including many new and exciting activities and events - more information will be forthcoming soon. Part of our plans include a road trip through country New South Wales visiting many of the regional boarding schools in that State, these visits being one of our key strategies for the year. We also have plans to visit many schools in Perth, Sydney and Brisbane already. If you are keen to have us visit your school please get in touch with our office.

Our Leaders in Residential Communities Symposium in Perth in August promises to be an event not to be missed - the program and registration details will be published in February. Watch for this and register early to ensure your place is secured for what will become a regular and worthwhile event on our annual program.

State conferences in New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania are already being planned, with the other States to follow shortly. These low cost, local events give all our staff the chance to network and learn from the experts.

A new Directory of Boarding Schools will be published in the first half of the year, supplementing the developing 'Find A School' Section of our website. We post out over 50 directories to the public each month - a critical part of marketing our boarding schools!

Please contact our office if there is any help we can give you - and we look forward to catching up some time during the year.