Wednesday 13 December 2023

The Role of a Boarding Supervisor

In the intricately woven fabric of boarding school life, the role of a boarding school supervisor stands out as a crucial thread. These individuals are more than mere overseers; they act as guardians, mentors, and sometimes even as surrogate parents. For many students, they become the pillars of support during the transitionary period of boarding school life. It is thus essential to address an emerging concern in some schools - the need for boarding school supervisors to remain active and engaged during their duty hours, rather than diverting their attention to personal tasks.

The Responsibility of a Supervisor

At its core, the responsibility of a boarding school supervisor is the well-being, safety, and development of the students under their care. From ensuring that boarders follow their schedules and maintain discipline to being there as a confidante during moments of homesickness or academic pressure, a supervisor’s role is multifaceted.

However, when supervisors engage in personal tasks during their duty hours, it can lead to lapses in oversight. Whether it’s completing personal assignments, indulging in entertainment, or even something seemingly harmless like scrolling through social media, such distractions can compromise the primary duty at hand.

Potential Implications of Divided Attention

  • Safety Concerns: Active supervision ensures that potential hazards, whether they be physical, emotional, or psychological, are addressed promptly. A distracted supervisor might overlook signs of distress, bullying, or any other issue that could escalate if not addressed in time.
  • Discipline Lapses: Consistency is crucial in maintaining discipline. When supervisors are not fully present, students might take liberties with rules, leading to a gradual erosion of the established order and potentially fostering an environment where rules are seen as flexible.
  • Missed Teachable Moments: Boarding school life is full of teachable moments - instances where life lessons can be imparted. A supervisor engrossed in personal tasks may miss out on these spontaneous opportunities to guide and mentor.
  • Relationship Building: Active engagement with students fosters trust. When supervisors remain present, both physically and mentally, they can build stronger relationships with students. These relationships often act as the bedrock for effective mentorship.

Changing the Paradigm: Shifting Priorities

It is understandable that everyone, including supervisors, need personal time. The rigours of overseeing a group of energetic young minds can be taxing. However, the key is to distinguish personal time from duty hours. Here are a few strategies that can assist in ensuring supervisors remain active and engaged:

  • Scheduled Breaks: Just as there are designated times for meals, study, and recreation for students, supervisors too should have clear, scheduled breaks. This not only gives them a designated period for personal tasks but also ensures they return refreshed.
  • Professional Development: Continuous training programs that emphasise the importance of active supervision and its implications can be beneficial. Role-playing scenarios can help supervisors understand the potential risks of inattention. The free ABSA ‘Active Duty’ Course is a clear reminder of the things to remember in this area.
  • Technological Aids: The use of technology, such as walkie-talkies or surveillance cameras, can be a boon. They can serve as additional eyes and ears, but they should supplement human oversight, not replace it.
  • Feedback Mechanism: Encourage students to voice their concerns. If they feel neglected or believe that their supervisors aren’t as active as they should be, there should be a safe and anonymous avenue for them to communicate this.
  • Personal Workspace: If possible, boarding schools can designate a specific area for supervisors to complete personal tasks during their breaks. This physical demarcation can serve as a reminder of their primary responsibilities when they are in the students’ space.

In Conclusion

Boarding schools are much more than institutions of academic learning. They mould characters, build resilience, and foster community values. At the heart of this transformative experience are the supervisors, whose guidance can leave a lasting impact on a student's life.

Being present, in every sense of the word, is not just an obligation; it's a privilege. Every interaction, every nod of approval, every word of advice, and even every disciplinary action plays a part in shaping young lives. Let's honour this responsibility by ensuring that when the lights are on in our boarding schools, our attention is undivided and unwavering.

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