For our new column, Ask an Educator, we turn to educators, whether teachers, tutors, or principals, to answer frequently asked questions from parents. To send in your question, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, our question is: What kind of child or student thrives in a boarding school environment? Why would you recommend boarding school to parents?
Having worked in a US boarding school for 25 years and for the last two years at a boarding school in China, I can attest to the many merits of a boarding school education. My own son was born and raised in a US boarding school.
A boarding program, when done well, offers students a unique opportunity to live and study with their friends, interact closely with their teachers and dorm parents, and learn a host of valuable life skills and lessons of character. Relationships and friendships are deeper and more meaningful when you live alongside a few hundred of your friends! Teachers are available in the evenings for extra academic support, or to lead weekend trips to local sites and volunteer work.
Boarding schools prepare students not only academically, but for the real world. From getting yourself up in the morning to attending classes, to managing evening study time, a level of independence and maturity is evident in just a few months time. Boarding school students seamlessly adapt to university-style residential living, developing the skills of self and time management, as well as the importance of diligence and a strong work ethic.
However, boarding school is not for everyone. Students who thrive in this unique educational setting must be willing and open to live and compromise with peers that come from a wide range of backgrounds. They must be able to quickly learn self-management skills, from doing laundry to completing school work. Dorm parents provide guidance and care, but the most successful boarding students have already developed effective study and organizational skills prior to boarding.
Participating in dorm life, both evening and weekend programs, is essential for the development of a well-rounded learning experience. The lessons of character and community extend beyond the academic day into the residential life program. Team building games, spirited competitions and residential life curricular initiatives seek to build relationships and connections that can last a life time. Student dormitory leaders take on similar roles as resident assistants (RA) in a university setting, managing the life and fun of the hallway while practicing valuable leadership.
Parents are also crucial to a child’s success in a boarding school; they must be willing to support the school’s policies and expectations in order to allow their child to flourish away from home.
As an educator, I feel fortunate to have spent the last 27 years in a boarding school. I am continually amazed at the transformation and maturity of students who have embraced and grown from the boarding school lifestyle. They are confident, engaged, and resilient young people. My own relationships with our boarding students at Keystone Academy are richer and deeper than might be the case were I in a day school. Be it talking about deep issues in life, sharing a meal, or tossing a frisbee around the quad with kids, there is something intensely deep and satisfying about boarding school connections and experiences.
Photos: courtesy of Keystone Academy