Dr. Amit Jugran, Headmaster, The Assam Valley School & Author of An Introduction to Pastoral Care (Parenting in Boarding Schools in India)
All over the world, there have been changes made or initiated in the various sectors of education in the 21st century. Then how could the Boarding School Housemaster be left behind untouched by rapid changes? With the on play of technology and the unsurmountable pressure created by parents and their expectations, the Housemaster’s job has undergone a sea change. Most of the Boarding Schools, after their inception, faced several challenges, complex conditions, untrained staff, induction done over small talk, and people pushed into the pastoral system on their availability rather than their willingness or aptitude for the job. Yet quite contrarily, the role has remained almost the same over the years. The selfless men and women still toil laboriously, putting in umpteen hours tirelessly in shaping the future of the next generation.
The Housemaster, Tutor and Matron are turned into loco-parentis of the large family they look after. The job is tirelessly a thankless one. However, it has its own rewards in education. So, what are the special set of values and qualities one needs to have to be a successful Housemaster? How do the children develop socially in the house system? What contribution can a sound parenting system make in the social development of the boarders? The houseparent is like the rudder for a child who is experiencing turbulent weather within and beyond the School gates. He is the adhesive which holds the fragile lives of the students together, tending to his perforated, bruised soul, skillfully getting him back on his feet. The ultimate function of a houseparent is to provide structure, stability and a congenial atmosphere for the little lives entrusted under their care. House parenting is a roller coaster ride, each day bringing joy and ecstasy.
One of the main aims a Housemaster must carry is to develop leaders within the house. He must have a good sense in making a sound judgement about selecting and giving the reigns of the house to the prefectorial body. A prefectorial body assists the Housemaster in managing the affairs of the house. It is a very fine line for Housemasters to tread while handing over the management of the house. While the opportunity to handle the house may be given to the prefects, the Housemaster must set the limits within which the house must be managed. It is essential for the Housemaster to understand that the prefectorial body can work wonders both physically and socio-emotionally for the students residing in the house. On many occasions, the Housemaster may encounter a situation wherein the problem at hand may have been solved due to the close proximity of the seniors to the juniors. Be it the age difference or idealism practiced by juniors, allowing the handling of certain issues to prefects may be beneficial for the Housemaster. The seniors practically run the house, and their belief in the house system. They groom the juniors to be the torchbearers in their time to come and leave behind their own legacies.
The Housemaster is a reflection of the School and its ethics and must go to great lengths in showcasing it through his behavior, attitude and approach. A Housemaster’s life is full of unknown challenges and hurdles. They should not be overwhelmed by the difficult part of it but be grateful that they will be shaping a life, touching it daily with their actions
for which they will be remembered. The house is as good as his Housemaster, and the students will intimate him; therefore, one must be cheerful even in the worst of situations. Eventually, a Housemaster’s job is much more responsible than even the Head of the institution. The role of a Housemaster, to start with, can be quite delusional. One has to slowly learn what has to be delegated and what needs the direct attention of the Housemaster. The feeling of being wanted only when there is a problem or demand should not differ the Housemaster from understanding their own value in the system. He must realize that he is a living example of heavy responsibility and a thankless task master at the same time. Daily for hours, he is in contact with children under his care, wishing and planning for their physical and emotional well-being. He must learn to love his job and the children so much so that in his eyes, there is no house greater and better than his, and no child is better than the ones in his house.