Questions for Housemaster please(10 Posts)
My DS is starting boarding school next Sept. First time anyone from our family has boarded. We have been invited to meet his prospective new Housemaster and visit the boarding house. Not too worried about actual house, it is what it is. Housemaster however is new to school (actually won't start until Sept, though currently Housemaster at another school (not one I know)). What should I be asking him....my mind is a blank and sure I'll waste my time asking moronic questions and forget to ask the vital ones!
Ask about how they support new pupils to integrate, how they communicate with families, what they do about homesick children. Their sanctions and rewards system. What their house is reputation is, what ethos he hopes to create. Ask about laundry arrangements and if child is ill - do they expect you to collect? If a full boarding school ask how many actually stay at weekends and whether there are closed weekends.
This thread will suggest some questions.
I would ask how busy they are kept at weekends. How they mix the new pupils? Do the different houses mix together much? Do the pupils mix across the year groups? What does a child do if they have a headache and need paracetamol? What are housemasters particular interests?
My favourite question to ask pupils is "if you could change 1 thing about the school, what would it be?" You can tell a lot by the speed and content of their answer!!
A new housemaster not yet started won't know the answers to all the practical questions of routine suggested above, better to ask the matron and the older pupils. Ask him general ones to get a feel for what sort of a housemaster he will be. For example how does he deal with bedtimes and problems after lights out for the new boys in his present school. There are no critical questions at this stage, just getting to know each other including fellow new parents. For a good boarding school it will be very easy to contact somebody for any practical questions as you think of them.
I personally wouldn't ask too many questions what can you do if you don't like the answers? Can you change house? As said above he f he's not already in post he probably can't discuss minutiae and most of this sort of thing will be discussed after his place has been confirmed most boarding schools do a new Boyd lunch/tea/morning in June where you'll meet staff and can ask lots of questions. Even if he does say things you don't like around day to day routine etc you won't be able to change things if you don't like it! If it matters to you do ask someone about availibity of matrons etc, of its weekly boarding pick up times (he might not know of course) if its full boarding some schools allow an extra weekend a term:1/2 term again are their any restriction (again he might not know). Also if you DS is a fanatical tiddlywinks player do check the school do it. It never ceases to amaze me the number of parents who complain that their golf/tiddlywinks/basket ball obsessed DC can't play it at their boarding school and they only discovered this after they'd started. I always say if it really matters ask don't assume it will be there.
But the whole point of these things is for you to get to know him a little and he you, listen to what he says, get a feel for his general interests, I personally don't think they have to be the same as your DS's others might disagree. Do you like his ethos, his manner with any boys he meets in the house; he should be significantly less formal than normal, does he make you feel welcome? If he's showing you around the house he should knock before going in any dorm and ask to come in this is a small point but for me I think it's important. Does you feel your DS and you could talk to him about problems, is he the sort of person you think your DS will get on with?
happygardening you should write a book on this, you are so brilliant. (basically what happygardening said)
Be friendly and positive, and don't interrogate him. As others have said, there will be time to find everything out later.
Thank-you all so much for your replies. I appreciate that we can't ask the day-to-day routine questions about the house.It was more about the questions for him as a Housemaster and I guess a person.
HG ....in theory we could change house, if this meeting doesn't go well.
Also, we're meeting him away from the house, as he's not officially started yet, so won't see him interact with any boys or indeed staff.
Should it be an issue that he will start at same point as my DS?
We chose an HM who was doing the job when we met him, over a really nice one who I think would have started at the same time as my DS would, anyway he certainly wasn't doing the job when we met him.
But at DS's the HMs have loads of autonomy, he interviews prospective boys and decides whether or not they get a place in his house and the school in general, every house is different and he is the most important person in your DS's school life so seeing how he does the job is kind of key.
I worked closely with a new HM (different school) the general consensus is that it takes them a year to settle into the job, I think it's hard to walk the fine line between formal/informal, it can be tough on their families, the hours are very long and they need to balance this with their own family commitments, they are often dealing with very demanding parents, and often older pupils (and even parents of older pupils) resent the change however good the new incumbent is. It often unsettles existing pupils who have got used to the way Mr X does things. Existing house staff can also find the change difficult. So the first year can be a bit of a shock for everyone. On the other hand a new HM can bring about a much needed change, it's inevitable as the current encumbent is coming to an end he's less likely to address any long term problems. After a significant stint in the job most must be completely exhausted and their own families fed up to the back teeth with the job.
In your position I'd meet with him, don't ask too many questions let him do the talking, generally having excellent interpersonal skills is one of the requirements of the job although Id want to ask him about previous experience of boarding and where. Are you a good judge of personality? Some people aren't, my friend I walk my dogs with is absolutely crap Im always amazed because she's generally a very capable person. On the other hand I have spent 30+ years mainly on the front line in public sector (I'm a cynical old bitch and I can detect a nutter at 50 paces) and I generally considered a pretty shrewd judge of personality. If your good go with your gut feeling. Be friendly and pleasant, don't talk to much, listen to what he says, try and find out what his ethos on life in general is, I'm assuming your taking your DS watch how he behaves around him. He will be loco parentis, it's great if they amusing, urbane and charming but your not looking for an dinner companion, he should IMO more importantly know his mind, be decisive and have an air of calm authority about him, he's going to need it running a boarding house. You should feel he genuinely cares about your DS. He's acting on your behalf standing in for you on a day to day basis and will be an important part in your DS's life how do you feel about that? Do you feel confident in him?
If you come away with any significant doubts ask to meet another one so at the very least you've got something to compare him against.
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