In week 3 of our school term we accompany our year 9 tutor groups to a 3 day camp where the students get to bond with each other through adventure and problem solving and their tutor teacher who is there with them all of the way.
This was an incredible opportunity for me to spend time getting to know my tutees on a deeper level, seeing them rejoicing in beating their fears and supporting one another to overcome challenges.
The interactions I had with parents on student camp health and well-being prior to going to the camp also made me realise the fears and concerns they have at sending their boys into the senior school system. One of my tutees, for example, has life threatening allergies to nuts and eggs and was concerned about how this would be managed on the camp. Responding to her questions about this I contacted the school nurse and the man in charge of the camp to check what arrangements had been made for keeping him safe at camp. This resulted in the school contacting her and explaining to her the procedures put in place for this – separate food line for his meals and his mother would bake him snacks to have throughout the day. I also requested she send in a back up epipen which I carried with me in my bag throughout the 3 days in back up to the one he carried on his person. I also talked to the rest of the tutor group about his allergies as I know they have a tendency to devour any food they see lying around and hadn’t wanted his, irreplaceable. snacks to be mistakenly eaten. This subsequently turned into a lovely moment when, a few weeks later, a boy whose birthday it was brought in a cake from home which was nut and egg free so that the boy wouldn’t feel left out.
There was also the boy whose parents emailed me early on the first day of the camp to let me know their son had been out of sorts that morning and they were worried about him. A simple email back, later that evening to say he was fine and had really enjoyed his first day meant a lot to them, worrying at home.
So, when it came to ‘Meet the parents’ night, a brilliant event in the first term where the parents get to come into the school, see their boys tutor room and meet the tutor I was keen to ensure they knew I was invested in the well-being of each of my tutees. I feel it is vital that the parents feel their son is being well looked after and supported as an individual, especially in a school where there are over 2000 students.
The school has a really strong pastoral system to support this. We see our tutees twice a day for 30 minutes each time and accompany them to events such as chapel, peer support, assemblies. This constant, daily contact gives the students someone and somewhere to anchor themselves throughout the busy school day/term.
So for the ‘Meet the parents’ evening I created a video of the boys on camp, showing the activities we undertook through pictures, videos and gifs, set to music to try and capture the atmosphere that we had whilst there. The boys weren’t allowed recording devices with them, so this was the first time the parents had seen what they had done.
I went through with the parents what the tutor group ‘looked like’ in make-up, communication, activities and general feel, trying to give them a sense of what their boys were experiencing everyday as well as going through the routines and procedures so that they knew what expectations were around school reports etc.
Finally I went through each of the boys and read three adjectives I had to describe my impressions of them at so far. These included words like: resilient, brave, funny, leader, creative, energetic.
The feedback I received from the parents that evening was very positive, they felt that the evening had been useful and they felt comfortable that in a short time I was getting to know their sons.
This evening opened up strong lines of communication between myself and the parents and reinforced to me the importance of knowing your tutees as individuals and being able to relay this part of their personality and daily experience to their parents; their school persona is often different to home.