ACTIVE AND EFFECTIVE SUPERVISION OF BOARDERS
It’s obvious that quite a lot has changed from the time I was a boarder in secondary school in the eighties, to what we have now. I think that just like the way we teach and learn have changed, so also have the ways we supervise children drastically changed.
Today, one thing clearly stands out: we need to give more care to the children we have oversight over. To be candid, as caregivers, we are required never to leave the children unsupervised. So whether they are in the dormitories, or bedrooms, or the dining areas, or changing rooms, or having extracurricular activities, or on an excursion, the children need to be adequately supervised.
This might seem like it’s a tall order for boarding house staff, but I have a word for you school administrators. You, the school administrator, will be held responsible first if there is the negligence of duty from the boarding house staff. I know this might not sit well with you, but I am speaking from experience as someone who has been a school administrator in four schools. So, the responsibility of ensuring that there is adequate supervision starts with you.
How? you may ask.
- Firstly, ensure that you employ the right employees who have the right skillset and attitude so that they can utilise these skills effectively in the boarding house. Picking just anybody to do the job does not cut it. If there is one place you must never ignore (and there shouldn’t be any place in the school for that matter), it is the boarding house!
When the wrong people are placed in the boarding house, they are likely to pose a risk to you and your organisation as there is a very high likelihood that there will be a breach of care. And then it comes back to haunt you.
2. Apart from ensuring you have the right staff with the right skills, also ensure that you have ENOUGH staff. Having one boarding staff supervise a hundred children (????) will do your organisation no good at the end of the day as this is likely to be overwhelming on the staff and he/she will begin to resent the job. With such a state of mind, you can be sure the staff will not give their best. And guess who this affects? You guessed right! The children, of course!
Ensure there is an adequate staff to student ratio that works for your school environment
3. Invest in training the staff in effective supervision and follow up to see that they apply what they learn from the training sessions. Supervision should be one of the core things emphasised during the orientation and onboarding of the boarding house staff.
4. Prepare a supervision roster and let everyone involved know what they need to do. let this be circulated to everyone.
5. Carry out a thorough risk assessment of your boarding house surroundings to determine what can or may occur in each area of the boarding house if it is not checked. Note what pops up in your mind in each area of the boarding house. Are thee areas that are likey to evoke the mischief in children, such as improperly lit areas?
6. Prepare the procedures outlining the manner of supervision required for various activities and of the boarders and the locations around the boarding house. Do not assume that the staff know. Remember what they say about assumptions being the lowest level of knowledge?
7. Pay unscheduled visits to the boarding house to do spot checks, and see for yourself what really goes on. Whilst it’s great to read good weekly reports from the boarding house staff as a school administrator, please take the time to visit regularly even when you are not a residential staff. This is one of the sacrifices involved with being a school administrator in a boarding school. I did this regularly in the boarding schools where I was an administrator.
8. Constantly educate the children on their roles in staying safe. Whilst the supervising adults do their job, the children need to do theirs too.
9. Keep a record of incidents and reports from the students. Record keeping is very important in the boarding house.
10. Have a means of hearing directly from the students and getting reports from them regularly, and keep an open-door policy to them, such that they can approach you to talk to you when there is anything wrong, and even when things are going right. I used to keep candies and chocolates in my office as an administraor, which drew the children to my office. Whenever they stopped by to have a bar of chocolate, they'd talk with me for a long time and reveal things that were going on. At other times, I simply invited them to come and chat with me in my office or take a walk around the school with a few of them. They also could send me emails if they didn't feel like talking to me in my office.
11. Invest in CCTV in the boaring house, but handle this cautiously so that the vidoes do not get to the wrong hands.
12. Make supervision a key parameter in the performance management of all boarding house staff. If children are constantly getting injured every now and then in various activities, on the football field, volleyball pitch and swimming pool, then you should know there is a problem with the supervision of the students.
Please add other tips that worked for you in supervising the boarding students under your care.
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