The privilege of a teacher

Posted: 30th January 2023

We often hear about the privilege of young people within the Independent Sector. Rarely, however, do we hear about the privilege of a teacher. Yet, perhaps this is something that deserves more attention.

To play such a formative part in the lives of young people as they navigate the inevitable roller coaster of adolescence has always been central to my enjoyment working in such a setting. School is not preparation for life but is life itself for the young people in our care. In their moments of uncertainty and self-doubt; moments of achievement and accomplishment; moments of error and choice they need to know that their unique experiences are human ones. Experiences which they can embrace and learn from because they have a security and strength of belonging which has been fostered within their respective boarding houses. A space which they can call home and where trusted adults are their true advocates during the naturally unpredictable teenage years.  It is this I have found to be my real privilege when working in a boarding school.

Emotional wellbeing and a love of learning are inextricably linked and such an understanding of this must pervade all aspects of school culture, not just within the confines of a successfully run boarding house. Such a holistic approach, one which does not separate the pastoral and the academic, and where all members of the community recognise the part that they play in supporting young people in their care, is fundamental to flourishing boarding school communities. Inspiring young people to connect with specific aspects of a subject and making it matter to them is a hugely important part of schooling. Abstract and disconnected facts will never change the world, but personal engagement with the learning, and the individuals, will.

Such a culture is built and reinforced daily, not through grand acts and whole school events (although of course these in themselves play a hugely important part in the school life of a school over the course of an academic year) but through small moments of ‘noticing’. The noticing, for example, of young person’s humility, respect to others, acts of kindness and moments of gratitude but also when their behaviours or mannerisms are out of kilter with the young person that you know. ‘Knowing’ and, in turn being able to ‘notice’ young people, is a hugely powerful pastoral tool and one that should not be underestimated. It speaks volumes to that young person and allows them to truly explore who they are and gives them the confidence to break from stereotypes, to be brave, to take measured risk and, ultimately, to be fully human.

The privilege of a teacher is therefore in the granular, the minutiae, and the everyday. The privilege of human connection.

Categories: Blog

Jonathan Mace

Senior Deputy Head

Jonathan Mace is Senior Deputy Head and Head of Boarding at Strathallan School. Prior to his move to Scotland Jonathan spent eight years as a senior boys’ Housemaster at Cheltenham College having moved there from Warminster School where he concurrently held the posts...

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