As parents we all want our children to grow up to be happy, healthy and successful. Our school launched an extraordinary program this year called The Making of Men, which runs the entire school-year and requires every Year 9 boy to live on campus for three weeks.
While they’re there, they engage in some interesting conversations, ones that wouldn’t normally take place in a classroom.
The journey begins with a boy packing his belongings in preparation for the immersion. When he arrives he is shown to his bunk-bed where he will sleep for the next 19 nights. Every boy must relinquish his mobile phone for the three weeks, and that’s a gut-wrenching exercise for Gen Z boys.
The first two days, they participate in conversations and exercises designed to consolidate a particular set of values, both collectively and individually, and establish a psychology of trust.
With a single candle flickering, boys are asked to form a circle and the ‘talking stick’ is passed around. Each boy nominates a moment in time he believes has been significant in shaping who he is today. They share their personal stories, which is challenging for 14-year-olds, yet the room is filled with understanding, gratitude and empathy. They’re on their way!
Seven days pass and the boys are reunited with their mothers (or a significant female). The conversations shared over the next 24 hours explore this bond and they arrive at a shared understanding that this relationship must adapt to the fact that there are important differences between being a mother of a boy and fulfilling the same role in support of a young man.
The second week explores relationships with the boy’s mother, peers, girls and father (or significant male). This comes to a close with a weekend shared between the boys and their fathers.
It’s been 12 days since they last saw each other and they come together with some nervousness but also a willingness to see what this relationship has been, and what it can be.
Over the next 40 hours, boys and their fathers explore their relationship and learn from other men in this newly created community. There’s a critical moment at this juncture when the boy commits to being the very best young man he can be.
From that moment on, all the ‘boys’ are referred to as ‘young men’.
The latter are now on the final stretch of their journey. They take time to reflect on their life’s purpose, identifying both their strengths and areas that need refining. The final night arrives and as a united group they leave their campus accommodation to attend a celebration. One by one the young men are asked to stand alone to be honoured by their peers.
It’s beautiful, it’s brave and it’s confronting. It’s a Rite of Passage.
ED: Jarrod Kayler-Thomson is head of Year 9 at Christ Church Grammar School