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Macdonald House "Residential Life Curriculum"

Character education. Values. Human development. Contemporary philosophy and curriculum. Goals and objectives. The scope of a schools responsibility. The "dynamic" curriculum. Freirean pedagogy. Cultural abundance. Themes of care. Humanistic teaching. A "Residential Life Curriculum". The "third" curriculum.

As a boarding school Housemaster, or as a parent who is sending their child to a boarding school, it is important to not only understand what the above mean but to understand their importance to the child’s development during the most critical period of their lives – the turbulent and emotionally volatile period of adolescence. Recently, I attended a seminar given by Professor Kevin Ryan, founder of the Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character at Boston University. During his talk, he pointed out that there is a critical need to address the deteriorating ‘values’ system in the culture of today’s adolescents and that most schools are making a conscious effort to bring back "character education". This would be especially critical in a "boarding school". As Dr. Ryan points out, "our primary mission is to aid children in acquiring good moral judgment and the enduring habits which are at the heart of good character."

Who then is providing those kids in a boarding environment with the character education and nurturing support required during their most critical time in adolescent development?

J.W. Evans highlighted the critical need to address the deteriorating values system or lack thereof in the culture of today’s adolescents. He says, "The fact that our children have not established a clear set of values upon which to base their citizenship is profoundly important. No amount of expertise in academic material will prepare them to assume the leadership roles required by industry, government and society in general. The overwhelming message delivered by current literature on the topic is that most educators believe that teaching values is fundamentally important to a solid democratic education. They also accede that pedagogy has failed miserably in the last decade to include this element in praxis."

As Paulo Freire himself pointed out, widely recognized as one of the most significant philosophers of liberation and a pioneer in critical literacy and critical pedagogy, "What I have been proposing is a profound respect for the cultural identity of students – a cultural identity that implies respect for the language of the other, the color of the other, the gender of the other, the sexual orientation of the other, the intellectual capacity of the other; that implies the ability to stimulate the creativity of the other."

The importance of making students aware of the similarities and differences in their values and citizenship is paramount to the growing process. How else can we all get along and live together and learn to respect each other? Knowing these similarities and differences is important not only for their peer group but also for residential staff as we must be prepared to respond to the needs of students in a residential setting in a wide variety of areas from stress management, to issues in the classroom, and to other various peer issues (Noddings, 2000). Understanding that students from different cultures will have different values and expectations is a critical part of developing solid and trusting relationships with those same students. By doing this, I hope that residential staff and students will become aware of and understand not only their values and beliefs but those of other students and that they will then behave in the ways that reflect those values.

It is clear then, that the structure of the environment of a "residence" will play a huge role in shaping the behaviour of your child. As Allan Ornstein points out, "Teaching and schooling should be committed to a higher purpose, a humanistic moral purpose designed not only to enhance academic grades, but also for personal and social responsibility. If should be built around people and community, around respecting, caring for and having compassion towards others." That is why we have spent an enormous amount of time and resources in Macdonald House this year to committing ourselves (Housemasters, Duty Masters, the Resident Don, House Captains and Mac Council Representatives) to ‘valuable and meaningful experiences for your son; from "study skill seminars, to fire safety, to internet safety, nutrition and the power of choice" just to name a few. A residence that is structured with a formal "Residential Life Curriculum" will no doubt provide your son with better experiences and values that are meaningful. One of the biggest reasons I hear from parents about having their son attend a boarding school is to promote ‘independence’ and ‘responsibility’ in their child. Yet this perceived strength can be a boarding schools greatest flaw if it doesn’t have in place ‘healthy choices’, adequate guidance and solid role models (Crosier,1991). New rites of passage, a healthy and positive student subculture will replace those of old if students are given direction and different frameworks with which to express themselves (Crosier, 1991). As Crosier points out, "changes need to be made to create a healthy environment...for it will only be through thoughtful evaluation and appropriate restructuring that schools will upgrade their boarding programs."

As a Housemaster, it is clear to me that a formal "Residential Life Curriculum" is a vital part of your son’s education in a boarding school as it nurtures his moral and social development in issues such as respect, responsibility, integrity, caring, fairness and citizenship. And that is my hope that we (Housemasters, parents, Duty Masters, teachers & students (Macdonald House Council, Residential Life Council, House Captains, Heads of House)) can through a formal "Residential Life Curriculum", work together, so that we can all be a part of your child’s development. Through various activities and programs that Duty Masters & Housemasters have implemented to the demands of daily study and duties, we must recognize the role we all play in shaping a young ‘Andreans’ future, before becoming adults. It is clear that positive changes in residential programs will make a difference in a child’s education, both in the classroom and in the development of their character. After all, I’m sure you’ll agree, "Character Matters"! With that, we will kick off the "theme" of "Fitness and Lifestyle" and hope that your son will become involved in one of the many activities that we will be offering this term.

Please feel free to comment or ask me any questions regarding our "Residential Life Curriculum" in Macdonald House. It’s time to bring forward a new pedagogy of possibility; a new day has dawned in the hallways of Macdonald House.

Residential Life Topics that have been discussed in the past include:

1.  Orientation, Communication and Leadership

2.  Study Skills (Note - all Macdonald House students will be taking these vital sessions which look at "how to organize and study"

3.  Life Skills - How to do laundry and other things!

4.  The Power of Choice - Who Am I?

5.  The Power of Choice - Creating a Safe Environment.

6.  The Computer - Multitasking, Plagiarism, and Chat Rooms

7.  Keeping Healthy - Nutrition

8.  Keeping Healthy - Exercise & Sleep

9.  Career Goals - What Kind of a Learner Am I?  High school and career options? (two sessions)

10.  Dealing With Stress and Coping With Failure/Re-evaluating Goals

11.  The Fire Marshall and Safety in the Residence

12.  Racism and Prejudice

13.  Chemicals and Your Mind

14.  Social Standards and Role Models

15. Internet Safety

16. Each month of the school year will have a particular theme. Speakers will be brought in to discuss the theme topics.

17. Monthly grade ‘Town Hall’ meetings will reinforce particular ‘Residential Life Curriculum’ topics of discussion. The meetings will provide a forum for all students to listen and discuss relevant and important issues in a respectful manner as part of our ‘character education’ program.

 House Awards:

The King Memorial Trophy: Presented to the boy living in Macdonald House who most excels in studies, games, deportment and character.

The Edith Grant Memorial Trophy: Presented to the "New Boy" in Macdonald House who has shown the greatest improvement towards becoming the ideal Andrean.

The Ron MacMillan Memorial Trophy: Presented to the best athlete in Macdonald House in the senior division.

The Ladies Guild Macdonald House Athletic Trophy: Presented to the best athlete in Macdonald House in the junior division.

The Manny Cominsky Memorial Award: Presented to the boy in Macdonald House (voted by his peers) who best contributes to House life and spirit.

The Macdonald House Gold, Silver & Bronze Medallion Awards:  In May, each Mac House resident can apply for a "unique" Macdonald House award.   To receive the award, students must acquire points in each Macdonald House category of MIND, BODY, HEART & SPIRIT.  The point system will be posted on-line.   However, unlike the awards above which are presented on Prize Day, Mac residents will be presented this award during the December Holiday Banquet (another unique Mac House event) in front of their parents and peers!

 

 

 

 

Director of Residentail Life:                              Mr. David Galajda at david.galajda@sac.on.ca

Assistant Housemasters:                                   Mr. Jeff LaForge  at jeff.laforge@sac.on.ca

                                                                                          Mr. Paul Totera at paul.totera@sac.on.ca