How hard is it to be a young person in the 21st century? The complexity of the world in which they are growing and developing is constantly evolving. The pressure to conform to incredibly unrealistic stereotypes can be crushing. The complexities of relationships, often played out over social media platforms and the barrage of information from a 24 hour news cycle, is overwhelming. The expectation to conform to a particular way of thinking and being is often a weight too heavy to bare.
But there is an oasis from all of this. A place where judgements are few, where individuals can dream large in safety, where all are respected and valued for who they are not what they bring, where failure is just another step on the journey towards being the best version of self. That place is a boys educational setting.
As an educator and leader in boys school settings for over 20 years, I have witnessed thousands of boys thrive in this environment as they grow to become fine young men. Whether it be in the classroom, on the stage, the sporting field or simply in the school yard, I see young men being comfortable and confident to be who they wish to be. At Whitefriars, we firmly believe in the concept of multiple masculinities. We define this as being that there are many pathways to manhood. In a boys education setting our students have the opportunity to explore these pathways free from stereotypical expectations and pressures. Each young man is able to naturally gravitate towards the things that interest him without fear of judgement. At the heart of this approach is our Catholic Carmelite ethos and identity which reminds us that each young man is made in the image and likeness of God and therefore demands equal respect, dignity and opportunity to be who he has been called to be.
A boys classroom is a vibrant and energy filled place of learning. A place where teachers know and understand boy’s learning needs and interests, which are often different to girls. The research tells us that boys thrive in a classroom setting where there is structure and signposts to show them where they are heading and how they will get there. An excellent boys learning environment is one where there is a sense of ownership and a common language. A place where the task is broken down, and a place which is democratic and provides an environment where risk taking is celebrated and mistakes are just things to be learnt from. It is also a place which offers many ways of recognition. An excellent boys classroom is place where boys can see the relevance of participation and achievement at school to their current and future lives.
Boys like a classroom where teachers state the intended goals for that particular lesson, where there is a consistent approach by teachers. A place where there is some negotiation, transparent rules which are consistently applied and where there exists positive reinforcement and rewards. It is most importantly where boys build strong, positive and appropriate relationships with their teachers, knowing they are liked, respected and encouraged to succeed. Our teachers have made a clear choice to work in a boys education setting.
Beyond the classroom boys are encouraged to grab hold of the broad range of co-curricular opportunities the College offers and they do this in large numbers. This is often where they find like minded souls and develop friendships that will stay with them for life. Boys in boys schools often maintain a stronger connection with their school and each other well beyond their final year.
Boys schools are best placed to provide each of the elements of an excellent education as we have the luxury to focus our attention on how best boys connect and engage with learning and with school more broadly. To put it simply, we are experts in boys education. A Catholic school for boys goes one step further as we educate the whole person academically, socially, physically and spiritually.
Mr Mark Murphy, Principal