Social Collisions and their benefit in a holistic learning environment

How complaining about headaches, borrowing mosquito spray and looking at pictures of cats creates a community.

Solitary Confinement, is a form of punishment wherein prisoners of an institution are confined in their cells and isolated from any human contact. A sentence for an inmate in solitary can range from days to years. The psychological effects of this situation can include anxiety, depression, anger, obsessive thoughts, paranoia, and psychosis. There is no doubt that forcing someone to be alone without human contact for extended periods of time can have dire consequences. If we want to thrive and grow as people, we need the ability to have and share experiences with others.
The power of a boarding school is that students have so much more opportunities to connect with each other in their day to day lives. As I walked over to the night clinic this evening to grab some mosquito repellant I was greeted by a small group of students waiting patiently for their turn to see the nurse. All of them were sat outside on the steps talking to each other about their cuts, bruises, and various maladies. As I was leaving a grade 11 student invited a few others sat outside to join them to go to the boarding lounge to hang out. It appears mundane, but these small frequent interactions between students are some of the most important in building a community. In the process of these interactions they are learning together and from each other. Being outside the more structured classroom environment invites boarders to interact with each other in ways they might not do when in school. Different grade levels socialise with each other more. Students in different classes can share their learning experiences. Students living together can engage more deeply with the cultures and perspectives of other students. If a day in school facilitates the achievement of hard outcomes like exam grades, spending the rest of the time in boarding helps develop soft outcomes. Soft outcomes are skills which cannot be measured directly but are vital to a young person’s development. These include interpersonal, organisational and emotional development and understanding.
We as people are social animals. As such when we bump into each other in shared living spaces we often can’t help but strike up a conversation. Living in boarding might not mean that you feel completely socially connected to everyone around you. However, it does maximize the opportunity students have to exchange ideas, foster innovation and forge connections and friendships. Sometimes this can mean playing sports together in the gymnasium in the evening, asking each other for help with homework, or sharing experiences from their home countries. Other times it can be sharing funny images with each other downloaded from social media. It can even sometimes mean gathering outside of the night clinic and comparing who managed to get the biggest bruise that day.

Boarding Students wash a Temple Dog at a Weekend Hand to Paw Session

Boarding Students Pose for the Camera on Their Way to Drop Off Laundry

Catching a Songthaew during a Weekend Trip
Words and Photos by Benjamin Wright, Boarding Learning Mentor

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