Wellbeing for Boarders in Covid Times | Parent Wellbeing Blog
A recurring concern this year has been how we continue to promote and ensure wellbeing amongst our boarders in these unpredictable times when we are stripped of so much of what gives us our boarding identity. Gone are the interhouse sporting and music competitions, the house shout, house drama, even boarders’ assemblies. For a long time we couldn’t mix with the other houses so as to protect our ‘bubble’, and we have had separate allocated house tables in the dining hall for much of the year. Social events, dinners, parties and discos have been cancelled and of course trips were inconceivable for so long.
When I was appointed the new Housemistress of Honan around eighteen months ago, I looked forward to taking over the highly successful and very competitive girls house that it had become. But the impact of Covid and the rules and regulations that it has necessitated have meant that winning trophies has taken a back seat and our priorities have completely changed; Resilience, Compassion, Care for each other and Mutual Support have become our medals, and Kindness is our biggest trophy. I could not be more appreciative of how the girls – both online and offline – have approached each twist and turn. They have demonstrated every one of those positive character traits that are so prized at MCM, and none more so than those girls who have been through weeks of solitary quarantine, in some cases twice or more. Those who have not made it here yet have been equally resilient in maintaining their focus and determination from afar without complaint. Sadly our house captains have had little opportunity to carry out their specific named roles (‘sports captain’, ‘events rep’ etc) but as a group they have risen to the new challenges this year has created and have been just as impressive modelling adaptability, resourcefulness and gratitude to younger boarders.
Without the headline trips and events we have had to be more creative as to what we can do within our bubble. The house staff have stepped up and helped to put on bonfire and s’mores nights, treasure hunts, card nights, board games, waffle breakfasts and Christmas crafts. Raising money for a series of charities the girls are all on their way to completing 100 miles walking and running around the ‘Marlborough Mile’ and several times each week a group have been following online workouts before dawn in the house garden. The girls made the house sparkle when they decorated it for Christmas, they have kept gratitude journals and supported each other through random acts of kindness towards a name drawn from a hat. They have tried tie-dying and sewing projects and painted a mural on a spare wall in the house. One Saturday in deepest lockdown every girl was involved in planning and cooking part of a three course progressive meal, moving between three beautifully decorated venues (within the house) for the courses. When we were finally allowed to swim we bought glowsticks, borrowed a disco light and held an aqua zumba disco in the pool. We baked Welsh cakes for St David’s day and filled stockings for those here on Christmas morning. Birthdays are always celebrated by the whole house together with home baked goodies and many candles. House assemblies honour our ‘house stars’ and we have a regular slot when we share our ‘Inspirational women’, (who incidentally have varied from historical figures to Olympians to in many cases the girls’ own mums).
As Housemistress or Housemaster we are of course ‘in loco parentis’ but never has this felt so relevant that this year when so many boarders have committed to their schooling at the cost of seeing their own families for many months at a time, and in many cases have been here throughout the holidays and exeats. My approach from the start has been wanting Honan to feel first and foremost like a regular family home; we have tried hard to keep the clinical SOP signage as discrete as we can and have created lots of little comfy areas around the house where girls can sit, read, study and watch netflix whether individually or in small groups. We have encouraged a very calm, positive approach from the house team and overall with reduced numbers here we have taken out some of the more institutional aspects that boarding often necessitates. Recent developments have included our much used and loved movie room and the conversion of one dorm into a gym space.
None of this is exactly groundbreaking; in fact, it is precisely the opposite, but that is sort of the point. As I see it our role this year was above all to provide a calm, steady family home in which the boarders can flourish against the chaotic backdrop of covid-related changes and closures and a media brimming with scare stories. I am incredibly proud of every single girl in the boarding house for how they have approached this year and for getting to this point, at which many of them are poised to finish their school careers. The Class of 2021 can hold their heads high as true role models.
Rebecca Jarrett | Housemistress of Honan