The Fuller Day
Friday, 29 September 2017
“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
Schooling has become, in many instances, a bit of a race. We rush through ever busier days with parents wanting children to be at home as much as possible whilst achieving ever more in schools. Clearly this is a calculation which places undue pressure at all ends of everyone’s candle; that way, as Lear would have it, madness lies.
It is interesting to note that a number of Universities are now offering two year degree courses with some even touting the idea of one year Bachelor’s qualifications. For me, there is no doubt that I could have fitted the academic work of my degree course into one year but I would have missed the thinking time that developed my intellectual maturity, I would have missed the time in which I planned plays, played sport and sported unusual outfits at a range of Durham dinners. We could see this time as having been wasted but it seems to me that such time, as Saint Exupery would have it, is perhaps the most important time of all.
I asked some Year 9 pupils this week how they had found their first month at Monkton.
‘It’s been incredibly busy,’ they said. ‘Much busier than our prep school.’
‘But fun,’ I replied in question, ever the Headmaster seeking the positive, ‘what have you enjoyed most?’
‘The free time,’ they said. ‘We have much more free time than before when we can decide what to do and how to spend it with our friends.’
To some, this conversation might seem like a strange contradiction in terms; in actual fact, this perspicacity represents the life of a busy boarding environment. It is worth noting that one of the pupils I was talking to attends school as a day student but often chooses to stay for supper and some of the evening to give themselves this important time with friends. I call it ‘regulated independence’. Pupils’ spare time in a boarding environment grants them an independence and requires from them a self determination which is much less the case in the family home, whilst still being supported by the presence of adults as a safety net if they make a poor decision. Pupils in a boarding environment have the time to set themselves targets in discussion with each other, however big or small. They can debate, explore their opinions, develop their thinking and evolve new ways of coping with the challenges of modern life. They become the Socrates and Plato that there isn’t time for when the school bell calls time at 4pm. They can make time to discover who they are with their peers, they can chew the fat, plan and politicise. They can tend their rose through the time they appear to waste on it. And they can grow up at their own pace.