By Laura Jardine Paterson Graduate Teacher Marlborough College Malaysia
Looking back at my boarding school experience, I have incredibly happy memories. It must seem a totally bizarre concept when I explain I started spending the night at school from the age of 8; that I only saw my parents two nights a week and sometimes I didn’t even go home! Why would my parents want to ‘send me away’? People normally assume it was because my parents worked late or were away a lot but neither was true. The craziest part of all was that it was my choice to board. To me it seemed strange that I would want to be home with my parents when I could be at school with my friends.
Some of my most memorable and favourite times are of those in my boarding house. We would come back together as a house at the end of the day after lessons and I remember always feeling part of something. The day pupils would look at us enviously because we went ‘home’ to house together, a two-minute walk away whilst they had a forty-minute drive home. Obviously there were times when I missed home and I just wanted to lie on the sofa with my dog but, looking back now, I wouldn’t change a thing.
It is mostly the relationships I made within the house that I cherish. Most boarding houses are mixed years which encourages cross-year friendships, the older girls became my idols and strong role models, and as I worked my way up the school I remember trying to be a good role model in return to the younger years.
Each evening there were activities after prep, leaving no time for homesickness. It was in these activities I got introduced to things I never would otherwise have tried. For example, I took up playing fives and went on to win the single and double national competitions. Also squash; I started playing squash as an evening activity and eventually went on to captain the 1st Marlborough Girls’ squash team and then to play for my University. I also started attending life drawing evening classes in the art room, which provided invaluable techniques to help me through to my Fine Art degree. I am not saying boarding was the only reason for these things but I am convinced that it was boarding life that made me try such different things; I was continuously challenged.
Now, on the other side of things as a Resident Tutor in Honan House (senior girls’ boarding house) it seems as natural as it did as a pupil. I watch the girls return to house at the end of the day almost envious that they get to be all together to share their day’s experiences.
I have watched over the course of this year as relationships have formed and changed, there have been moments of laughter, tears and angry faces but amongst it all they are learning to live with others and they are learning to communicate with all people from different cultures. I have watched them forge invaluable relationships with the other tutors in house; each girl has a tutor they meet once a week in the evening, in a more relaxed environment than in a classroom. They meet in the house common room and chat over tea or during an activity that the tutors run in the evenings.
Every Sunday evening I have been painting a mural with the girls on one of the walls in house. Through this I have learnt more about the girls as individuals than I ever would have in the classroom. Multiple times these painting sessions have turned into a One Direction karaoke night, despite my complaints, but it is these memories that I know I will treasure and I know they will too. At the same time another tutor runs ‘Yoga under the stars’ as an activity, after which the girls always come back laughing about a gecko running over their leg whilst they were doing the downward dog, but these are the memories they will remember. Most importantly, they are sharing these moments with each other; the friendships I formed at boarding school are invaluable and those childhood friends are my friends for life. Besides, how many of you can say you lived with sixty girls in one house!
So as daft as it may sound to ‘send your children away’, give it a try and watch your children grow in confidence as they take on new challenges, surrounded by the strongest group of friends.
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