Posted on December 5, 2017
A guest introduction from Mr Brett Trollope, Head of Boys’ Middle School.
The statistics are alarming: more and more boys are disengaged with school, more kids are depressed, suicide in teenagers is at its highest rate, and injuries and death of young men from risk-taking behaviour continues to grow. As scary as this all sounds, the reality is that it is true!
I’m fortunate enough to be able to look back at my time in school, especially the Middle Years, and be thankful that I survived, moved through, and became a ‘somewhat’ normal, caring and contributing adult male. I also have many friends who have made it to my current stage of life, despite countless situations where the choices they made would have had their parents and teachers questioning the possibility of their future existence.
Growing up as a boy isn’t smooth, not even close. From zero to six our boys need lots of affection so they can learn to love. From 6 to early teens they are learning about ‘maleness’ and what it means to be a boy instead of a girl. From 14 onwards, boys learn to become men. This journey through these phases can be extremely challenging and hence the importance of a strong connection between the boy, his family and the community, especially school.
During adolescence (the Middle Years) our boys are physically growing at their fastest rate (since the first year of their life), hormonally changing at an incredible rate and socially going through some of the most challenging times they’ll encounter. Testosterone is one of the main hormones that is significantly different in levels between females and males, and is responsible for the huge changes during these adolescent years. By age 14 (approximately) testosterone levels have increased by almost 800%, and this combined with the under-development of the prefrontal cortex of the brain (the part of the brain responsible for decision-making), is a recipe for potential disaster with our boys.
It is for all of the reasons mentioned above that I love our parallel learning model here at Tintern Grammar. This model allows us to provide an environment that can be more tailor-made to our boys, and to help guide them through their adolescent years. From simple things such as choosing texts in English that are more suited to boys, through to providing a more ‘hands-on’ learning environment in all subjects. As well as this, we are able to provide our boys with stable and key mentors who are there to provide support and navigation throughout their journey.
The Boys’ Middle School environment encourages our boys to participate in all areas of schooling, whilst providing that right balance between single-sex and combined gender activities. From sporting and camping programs, through to choirs, musicals and cooking classes – these single-sex activities allow our boys to express themselves without fear of being judged. Whilst also providing them many structured opportunities with the girls in the Middle School as well.
This year there have been so many wonderful achievements by our boys, both as individuals and as a group. We have had many boys recognised nationally in academic competitions including the number one student in Australia for the Maths Talent Quest, through to sporting success such as the Under 16 National Heptathlon Champion. Our boys are encouraged to participate, to get involved and to find areas of their own interest and passion whilst continuing to develop the necessary skills needed for their future, not just at school but also in life.
School helps to provide the ‘community’ that teenage boys need around them as they grow into young men and to be a part of this is such a fulfilling experience. I feel honoured to be playing a part in the lives of these young men and I know that Tintern is helping to guide them down the path of success so they too can look back on their schooling days in the future with positive memories.