Working in boarding: a way of life

Posted: 26th May 2022

For me, boarding was a vocation and way of life with an annual rhythm. Things I would have valued knowing before I began my boarding journey include the importance of:

Taking the time to understand yourself and to ensure you have what you need to function well and enjoy your role. Balance, reflection and building bonds are vital along with peer support, critical friends and mentors. If you haven’t already, identify people who can support and challenge you with different ways of thinking and help you to reflect.

Choosing to respond rather than react – as the best decisions are usually made rationally and logically rather than being emotionally led. Impulsive decisions can often lead to more work in the long run.

Clearly articulating your vision – then articulate it again with passion. To lead and manage effectively you need a clear sense of direction or purpose, you need to seem in control, behave with integrity and to be always authentic: no joins or gaps in who you are – you need to be what you say you are and do. You need to set a credible example as a learner and teacher, walk the talk – with your actions aligned to your values and words. Be passionate about what your team is striving to accomplish – be clear with the message.

Prioritise your time building open, strong relationships where people fully trust each other. Be fair, listen and really try to understand – you do not have to agree, but to understand – human beings need to feel heard. Remember the importance of visibility – create opportunities for informal discussions, building relationships with pupils, parents and staff.

Try to keep your sense of humour.

Remembering behaviour is always for a reason – conscious or not, often things that are said/behaviour can feel very personal – but often it isn’t really, just the person’s reaction to a situation. Try to understand so you can work out what the situation needs to really resolve it.

Taking time to understand the people you work with, particularly in your team; find out what specific demands they have on them from other roles and responsibilities they have at school.

Understanding what motivates someone (including ourselves). Reinforcement and reward are important in learning and motivation. People will be more motivated if their work/contribution meets their psychological needs. Foster self-belief and motivation by positively reinforcing behaviour – at the time, catch people doing the right or good things or trying hard.

Maintaining an open and optimistic outlook/mindset and acknowledge rather than minimising (what could be a very important thing for an individual).

Considering creative responses to change and challenge including positive re framing which may enable a positive and adaptive response. ‘Nothing has meaning other than that which we give it’

Seeing complexity as a challenge, maintain unwarranted optimism and intellectual curiosity, avoid self-pity or paranoia.

Consistency – people don’t like surprises, they generally like and need predictability, a leader and manager who is consistent in their behaviour and expectations is important. Staff and pupils expect you to model the way you are asking them to behave.

Categories: Blog

Ammy Davies-Potter

Director of Guardianship and Inclusion at BSA Group

Ammy Davies-Potter is Director of Guardianship and Inclusion at BSA Group and a member of the BSA Foundation Trust. She joined the BSA Group in 2020 following a 30-year career in boarding schools, latterly Deputy Head Pastoral and DSL. Ammy is a...

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