Dear Boarding Families,
The last two weeks have been very busy and seen a lot of movement in and around boarding at Grammar. Agfest or ‘Bogfest’ as it was affectionately known this year has been and gone and I have just returned from five days in Brisbane where I attended the International Boarding Forum. While I was away from the coal face of boarding, I was able to reflect with many of my colleagues from around Australia on what we do well and what we can improve on in our boarding spaces. One of the areas we discussed was the way we as a boarding community looked at building our culture of equity. This conversation linked to a course I am currently doing as part of my Certificate in School Management and Leadership at the Harvard Business School Online.
We know all students can flourish and achieve at high levels if adequately supported by their boarding and school environment, regardless of their background and identity.
Every boarder is different and will have different needs. It is not enough for boarding to provide the same structures and supports to students – that is, to treat students equally – because this ignores their differences. Equity means creating the conditions that enable every boarder to succeed.
As Head of Boarding at Grammar, I aim to make sure that we build a culture that supports the success of all of our boarders. I focus on inclusion and belonging and it’s important that our staff ensure our boarders feel like they are welcome, included and belong as this can deeply influence if they can perform at their highest level. This is something that has challenged our community over the last fortnight with an array of complex issues for some of our boarders. Our boarding community has a varied background and demographic of boarders, staff, and community, we need to be able to celebrate and identify ways in which can better communicate that, so we can recognize, welcome, value and appreciate this diversity.
Over the year I observe how students communicate amongst themselves and to staff in and around boarding. These conversations sometimes take on a brother/sister kin relationship which results in me copping a roast from individuals or groups as favouring the other side or person. When I observe these situations, I will often take them aside and have a conversation to intervene or correct these behaviours.
Instilling a growth mindset in boarders is important to advancing equity because boarders who believe that their capabilities can be developed and that their intelligence is malleable are more receptive to feedback, work harder, and are better equipped to deal with setbacks.
As boarding staff we need to show our boarders what a growth mindset is and why it is important, so they can see that their own behaviour and attitude in the boarding house can model for our boarders what it means to have a growth mindset.
At the end of the day, we all have some degree of unconscious bias, and without us even realizing it, it affects how we interact with others. Unconscious bias can show up in different ways in boarding: the boarders or boarding staff we call on or spend time with, the feedback we give to them, the extra supports that we provide, the way we react to their successes or failures, and the special opportunities that we do or don’t make available to them.
As Head of Boarding at Grammar, my aim is to work alongside our wonderful boarding staff and community to address the effects of unconscious bias by discussing it as a group and implementing specific practices to mitigate its effects.
Enjoy your fortnight