Boarders are about to return to school and many boarding staff are busy trying to make sure that homesickness doesn’t kick in. Here are my top tips.
I know it sounds stupid, but sticker books have worked a treat for the first few days. Many a 6th former has have looked at me like I was mad when I gave them a sticker book or colouring in book but after speaking to them once they have left, it has definitely helped. I have also found that decorating notice boards and doing homework planning sheets ( all colour coded of course) have helped.
Week three and ten are the worse
keep them busy during this period and it will solve lots of issues. Don’t know why but after 12 years of boarding this is defiantly when the realisations of what boarding is actually like kicks in.
Phone calls home are the worse- however if you get the pupils to write down two positive points before they phone home and agree with them that they will mention them, this helps. They will focus on the negative so make sure they mention the good points. There are some students that you need to encourage to phone home, don’t ignore them, parents may be the homesick ones them. Sometimes it is worth phoning home after the pupils has phoned home and letting parents hear the child in group conversations, i.e. chatting happily and not sitting in a room all on their own. This can show parents that the phone call they have received is only a snap shot of what is actually going on. Email is great and I encourage pupils to send home photos of what they have done today. Photos of what they have cooked in FN, made in DTE or goals they have achieved in their homework. I have banned pupils from phoning home sometimes ( it sounds bad but bare with me ) however they are allowed to email. This helps with homesickness in the first term.
Mix friendship groups- this can be hard when L6th are busy sorting their social life but they will remember what it feels like to come to boarding school. They are your best asset, use them. We have L6th supervise homework or prep times. They need training though. Give them a bit of advice at the start of the year and it will pay of as the year progresses.
Make sure that pupils don’t sit alone in room, get them to be brave and go out and mix with people. Easier said than done, but as soon as they realise that life is there for them to take advantage of, the better. This can take some students years to realise, don’t give up on them.
First weekend they need keep so busy, almost overload.- we have bouncy castle, candle floss machine, cooking and swimming and photo booth( help get some photos to decorate room and you get some great photos for the school magazine).
Arts and crafts to decorate room ( important for overseas students who bring hardly anything with them)design door tag and bunting ( the yellow moon web site is fantastic for this ) – pottery painting to make their own bowls and cups is useful for later when you have washing up issues as pupils can then keep for the year. Build a bear has gone down so well, this may sound silly but many 6th formers are happy to kiss the heart of a bear before sowing it inside their bear. Cake making – is good for mix age groups especially if they can then eat it while watching a Disney DVD marathons. As boarding staff it can be draining for the first few weeks, but it will pay off. Spend quality time on their homework. Give valued advice and make sure that they understand what is expected from you and from the teaching staff. I find that after a while, I don’t have to entertain them as they are so focused on making sure that their homework is spot on it become their a priority. They then look for other things to focus on, Duke Of Edinburgh, Young Enterprise or music exams. But as a house matron / mistress / master you need to remember that there are those that you cannot help and that will be homesick whatever exciting activities you plan. I have had pupils wake me up at 3am and I have sat with ( in my posh Pyjamas ) talking things though for months and then have then leave because of homesickness, only to return for 6th form because they realise, its not that bad.