New book makes boarding school whole lot easier

Sally HincksCountryman

A great little book on how to cope with boarding has been written by a Perth writer who works in a boarding school.

She is Michelle Dunn who has plenty of experience upon which to draw - she grew up in Katanning and Geraldton and is now a housemistress at St Hilda's Anglican School for Girls in Mosman Park.

Michelle has been there since 2009 and girls from years 7 and 8 are under her care. She has qualifications in youth work and residential care, has completed a Diploma in Counselling and before joining St Hilda's was at Northam Residential College.

"I participate in various workshops and personal development courses," she said.

"I feel very strongly about helping teenage girls with their boarding experiences and encouraging them to reach their full potential, both emotionally and scholastically."

And in the book she does a splendid job - it is written as if she is directly talking to the boarder reading the book.

For example, in the chapter headed Social Pressures she writes: "Make sure that you are comfortable with your choices and your actions. Make an informed choice after considering the options. Think about the Three Rs: respect for yourself; respect for others; responsibility for all your actions."

In this section, Michelle covers bullying and writes that many behaviours fall under this banner, like gossip, exclusion and cyber-bullying.

In the first chapter, Starting Boarding, Michelle writes: "Accept you are in boarding school; adopt a positive attitude; enjoy new experiences; get excited about what lies ahead.

"Talk to your parents about your fears and worries. It maybe that you are focusing on negative things that have an easy solution. . . your family is still the most important thing to you. Remember to show them this."

There are chapters on homesickness, boarding housefood, living in a communal setting, expectations in the boarding house, making new friends and conflict in the boarding house.

Michelle's final words are: "Your boarding experience will help you have an amazing and exhilarating time while you are in school and help you develop skills and strategies that you will use for the rest of your life."

She said that the thing that continued to ring through while working in the boarding schools was the lack of information available to students and families.

Bits About Boarding School is illustrated by Christian Barratt.


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