The Life of a Boarder
(Adapted from the letter of a Headmaster;Courtesy: John Wakeford, “The Cloistered Elite”)
Perhaps this is the time to remind parents what they are getting for their money. Take for example, Albert.
For thirty-six weeks of the year, and twenty-four hours in the day Albert, in health, in sickness, in strength, in sorrow, in trouble (dear Albert), and in joy, is our responsibility, our challenge, our hope and of course-in the eyes of Albert’s parents-the one and only boy in the school. He must be understood, must Albert, down to the last silly thing he is likely to do, -and there is a big long list. He must be treated with infinite sympathy and kindness. Albert is someone else’s child whom one must learn to know as if he were one’s own.
Does Albert know how to tie up shoelace? Probably not. We teach him. Does he know a clean handkerchief from a dirty one? Unlikely. We teach him. What does Albert do in his bath? Nothing. We teach Albert to look upon his bath as a happy, active and energetic occupation and to regard soap as his best friend.
Is Albert ever in bed? Rarely. But when he is, we look after him as well as his mum who is sitting at home with her feet up taking things easy. If Albert has a cough, mum doesn’t hear it, but you can bet your dear life that we do.
If Albert has a snarl, we change it into a sweetly tuned purr. If Albert is slow we teach him to be quick; if he is always late we teach him how to tell the time. If Albert is dull in the head, he gets the best possible individual attention in a class of seven or eight boys. If he is clever, you can’t see him for dust. If Albert loves games, he gets all the games he wants, and skilful coaching in the bargain. The half-acre at home is replaced by almost unlimited space in which to be happy and naughty.
If Albert is too fat we do our best to reduce him; if he is on the thin side we try to expand him. If Albert turns his thumb down to fish for lunch we persuade him that there is no fish like our fish, and that it comes out of a very special sea. Eggs are laid to suit Albert’s taste.
If Albert’s manners are like those of an under-tipped British Railways porter, by the end of the term he is saying, ‘Yes please’ and, No thank you’, and remembering that other people have a name as well as Albert.
Albert’s hair is washed once a fortnight, and Albert’s clothes are beautifully cared for, If he comes back with a hole in his jersey and his shoes a size too small, we just smile-and darn. If Albert does not know a prayer he is taught a little private one and we see he says it.
Bed going, in the rough-and-tumble of the dormitory, is a happy business. If Albert wants a goodnight kiss he gets one (but not from me). If Albert wants a swim or to sail his boat or do a bit of gardening or play a game of cricket, tennis or football, or have a swing, or mess about in sand, or play golf with a hockey stick, all he has to do is go outside.
If Albert wants to read a book he goes to a well-stocked library. If he wants to climb a rope (and fall off it) or use the horizontal bar (and fall off that) or make a heck of a noise in the corridor, or play billiards or table tennis or the piano all he has to do is to go inside. If he wants to cut his finger, he may go into the woodcraft hobby room, and when he is old enough, he learns to hit the target (or something which is not the target) with an air gun.
If Albert is sick at the favoured hour of three o’clock in the morning it is his privilege; it is also our bounden duty to change every one of Albert’s sheets. If Albert swallows a marble, swills down half a pint of ink, or playfully tries to strangle himself with a dressing-gown cord it is our responsibility-and ours alone-if Albert passes on. (But Albert does not pass on: prompt service is one of our mottoes)