IT IS IN OUR DNA
Growing up at St Alban’s College
As you browse through our webpage, you may be seeking to discover what it is that makes a St Alban’s College boy tick? What is it that makes what we do special? What will the boys in our school learn today and what will they be tomorrow? How does our school guide them to become capable and confident young men in the future? In particular, what are the ingredients we blend to create a unique experience for each of the five hundred and forty boys in our school?
Teenage years are filled with many challenges. A boy will face challenges with his peers and through his time here he will be supported by a strong community and guided by staff (and senior boys) offering understanding and assurance. These challenges will enable him to recognise his strengths, overcome his weaknesses and discover his potential.
He will face physical and emotional challenges as he moves from boyhood to manhood. Providing boys with educational experiences that engage them and encourage them to discover their talents and take them beyond their comfort zones – while understanding their different rates of development and learning styles – is part of the St Alban’s experience.
At the end of the Easter Term all of our Form 3 (Grade 10) boys and about 20 staff will walk out through the school gates for a 22 day adventure called The Journey. During this period and perhaps due to this experience, many boys will ‘change’. The how and why will depend on the individual, the dynamics of his group, the relationships formed with his staff guides and other boys, and the challenges overcome during the Journey. One thing is certain, the experience gained, the friendships made and satisfaction derived from getting through it, will remain with them forever.
Ask any member of staff who has endured the close company of 16 adolescent boys for over three weeks about their experience and rest assured, there isn’t much that they don’t know about these boys. The development of these types of relationships is the essence of what is special about St Alban’s. The Form 3 Journey is just one of innumerable experiences that will educate our boys to know, to do, to live with others and to be.
The importance of the older boy
Pastoral care is a key aspect of any good school. We know the benefits of our pastoral care system – houses, tutor groups and professional counselling – but we often see it just from an adult’s perspective. That would leave out the immediate and crucial influence of older boys mentoring younger boys.
A consistent theme in all opinion and climate surveys over the past five years has been the value and importance of older boys mentoring younger boys. The Mentor – Rookie system, the College Support Programme and Academic Support Programmes are based squarely on this relationship. It is perceived by all to be the most important aspect of our relationship building.
Older boys help younger boys to recognise the importance of hard work as well as the importance of taking different opportunities – particularly ones they were not confident of trying. Older boys are role models in a profound and authentic manner that is more meaningful than the celebrity role models in the media.
Most important to the boys are the friendships they develop with other boys. These daily interactions influence what our younger boys become.
Leadership is important in all educational contexts. The boys have a range of opportunities to experience leadership.
The formal positions such as captains of sports teams, peer support leaders, chairmen of a club or society or prefects are balanced with the wide range of leadership roles, some of which occur in the classrooms and extramural activity groups.
The House System also extends the range of leadership opportunities through the many competitions that occur throughout the year.
Learning about individual responsibility and taking responsibility for others is an essential element of life here.
Extra Mural Activities – Sports and Cultural
A key philosophy at St Alban’s is encouraging boys to reveal the full extent of their person and their talents. This has at its foundation the compulsory sport policy, compulsory music in Form 1 and compulsory membership of a Club or Society. There is a plethora of activities to choose from (see elsewhere on this site – hypertext?) and there is a rich variety of experiences for each and every boy: every individual should be able to find an activity that he will enjoy.
Increasing the range of sporting and cultural options to cater for various abilities and interests has been one of the College’s activities in the past ten years. We are a diverse school and our activities reflect that diversity.
In this and school sporting competitions we emphasise participation, not victory or defeat. Coaches at all levels teach the boys how to accept defeat and celebrate success.
Sure, we enjoy winning but being a relatively small school in our South African contest we certainly know the value of giving of ones best and accepting the eventual outcome.
The St Alban’s community is one that lacks pretention but yet it is a privileged one.
As one of the first schools that opened its doors to disadvantaged students in the 1980s and as the pioneers of outreach projects in South Africa, being of service to those less fortunate than us is part of our ‘genetic code’.
The Interact Club, Presidents Award Programme, Life Support Club and School Twinning Programmes all provide opportunities for boys to accept difference, cherish diversity and understand the need to lead a sustainable life.
Global issues are beginning to touch our lives more often these days. The impact of our own personal choices on complex issues such as sustainable growth, energy, biotechnology and global warming are more tangible. The schools that are really preparing our youth for life in the 21st century will build community, be reliable and also strive to engage our youth on the big issues confronting them as individuals and global citizens.
The transition from boyhood to manhood is complex. The roles once assumed by adult men are adopted as ‘normal’ for young adolescents. Coupled with this, the family structure is no longer as stable as focussed on child-rearing as it was in previous generations.
Schools like ours are increasingly being called upon to provide the stability that boys and young men need. The staff are attuned to these needs. They spend a great deal of their time with the boys discussing their progress and their welfare and simply getting to know who they are.
We strive to provide appropriate models of manhood to adolescent males and we provide models of strong women in leadership roles too! We acknowledge the need for relevant ‘rites of passage’ experiences in today’s society and we enable young men to establish their identities through opportunities to encounter and master challenges and develop a ‘vision or dream’ for their lives.
Our boys form a strong sense of belonging to their school. They revel in its successes, take pride in its traditions and above all, enjoy the opportunity of being able to grow up here.
What do you want to be remembered by?
A question that we ask of ourselves – staff and boys – is “what do you want to be remembered by?”
That question gives us cause to pause and reflect. It is one we could usefully ask ourselves throughout our lives.
It gives us direction and helps us to get to the essentials of life.