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Loyalist (B)Log

The Five Values continued

Over the past several weeks I’ve been talking to the students about the five values of Robert Land Academy – Loyalty, Labour, Courage, Commitment and Honour – and how these values can be lived in our everyday lives here on campus and throughout life.

My last blog I touched on why we have the values as well as Loyalty and Labour. This week I would like to share the talk I had with the students on Courage and Commitment.

Courage is often misunderstood as a lack of fear. It’s actually the ability to do something despite being afraid or the strength to face pain or grief.

At RLA sometimes just showing up is an act of courage. New students don’t know what to expect; they hear “military school” and wonder if it will be like boot camp, or worse; and they’re going to be away from family and friends, often for the first time. It can certainly be a scary experience.

Once here, courageous acts happen daily, if not hourly, as students take on new roles, learn new skills, or tackle difficult academic lessons.

In a much broader sense, and the kind of courage we want our students to take with them throughout their lives, Robert Land Academy sees courage as making changes, when necessary, to improve yourself; making the right choice, even when the right choice is the difficult choice; respecting yourself and others in all situations; and upholding your personal values and beliefs when they are challenged.

When we make a commitment we make a promise to be constant in our effort to realize a goal, to be faithful to a person or cause, to stick with whatever that commitment is, even when the going gets tough.

Our students are taught to have commitment toward their academic studies and goals; to be committed to the physical training and sports they have chosen to take part in; to be committed to improving their life skills by taking part fully in all aspects of the RLA program; and, ultimately, to be committed to reaching their true potential and living their best lives.

As well, I made a connection with the students by describing how commitment was actually loyalty and labour by standing up for something and putting actions toward it.

The Five Values of RLA

Loyalty, labour, courage, commitment and honour.

These are the five values of Robert Land Academy which we strive to instill in our students. For many of our students, and many adults as well, these words are understood as concepts or ideas but not in how they apply to everyday life.

To help our students understand these values, as well as the importance of having values, I have ben spending time each Tuesday morning talking to the cadets to help define these words, how they apply to life on campus as well as life after RLA, and how the cadets can live within these values.   

I started with why the Academy has five values and where those values came from.

Many military schools, which have existed much longer than RLA, have a declared value or values which support a lifestyle based in honour and integrity. And the military has a strong connection to honour and integrity as well. The Academy chooses to maintain this tradition of basing itself on having a strong and defined set of values.

The five values Robert Land Academy chooses to base itself on were created based on the belief that if students at RLA are to reach their potential there needs to be standards of behavior that they can strive towards both here at the Academy and in everyday life.

They were inspired by Robert Land, who the school is named for and who epitomized these five values in the work he did; and by the 1 Can-Para group, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion which fought in WWII and whose members were instrumental as practical role models for the RLA program (Lt. Col. G.F. Eadie was the last unit commander of  the battalion and is who the Parade Square is named for).

The first of the values I discussed with the boys is loyalty, which is the quality of staying firm (not changing) in your friendship or support for someone or something.

It’s fairly easy to be loyal to a friend or to your school or workplace. At RLA loyalty is shown when cadets and staff follow the rules and expectations set out by the Academy and respect themselves and each other. At the Academy we also encourage the boys to support each other, rely upon each other and be loyal to each other.

It’s much harder, however, when your loyalties conflict and are pulled in opposing directions. I shared this example: if a student brings contraband to the school – does his friend stay loyal to the other student and not report the contraband or does he remain loyal to the Academy and report the violation of the rules to a staff member?

It’s a tough situation to face and a tough decision to make. I explained that the students can be loyal to both the school and their friend by understanding that by doing the right thing they are ultimately being loyal to both by helping the friend learn the importance of these values.

I also noted that we need to consider the long-term effects if we have to choose between loyalties. In this specific example, considering the Academy has the best interest of the student at heart, helping him to succeed now and throughout life while friendship, while important, is often fleeting and more focused on short-term pleasure than long-term gain.

Living by a set of values usually helps make these types of decisions clear, because you will make the choice that aligns with your own values no matter how difficult it may be to report your friend’s contraband.

Labour, as defined by the dictionary, has many definitions including childbirth or the working class movement, but for our students the simplest and most relevant definition is productive activity or work.

The key word here being productive.

As part of my talk on labour I pondered whether it is natural for humans to work, and of course the answer is yes. Throughout time, work – building shelter, hunting or collecting food - have all been forms of labour that have improved the individual lives of humans and progressed our overall existence.

At RLA labour helps our students reach their true potential. Work around the barracks and on campus can improve life skills, work in the classroom improves academics, and work in the physical program improves health and wellness.

Beyond RLA working hard at everything you do – academics, jobs, furthering your career, family relationships, etc. – is the labour required to build a successful and happy life.

I continue to talk to the boys about these values, and I’ll share these talks on the remaining values in future blogs.

Understanding the unique lexicon of the Academy

School has been in session for several weeks now and many of our students went home over the Thanksgiving weekend for our first Stand Down of the Year.

I expect the families and friends of those students heard some interesting phrases during that first visit home. I know they will hear many new words and phrases over the course of the school year during weekly phone calls, in letters home and during leaves.

Robert Land Academy does have its own lexicon that takes some getting used to for parents, friends and even new staff.

To help our families adjust to the new language their son seems to be speaking as a student of RLA, here are a few of the new words and phrases they are using along with the definitions:

A COY, B COY and C COY – These are the three companies the students are placed in by grade and age, A COY are the Grades 5 to 8 boys; B COY are the Grade 9 and 10 boys; and C COY are Grades 11 and 12. Within each company you will also hear the terms section and house, which simply refers to the internal organization of students into smaller groups that work together and support each other. The houses are named for Canadian historical figures so those names will come up as well.

Barracks – are the buildings in which the students sleep and includes their personal lockers, study space, washrooms and common areas. Brock Barracks is where A COYs live, Brant Barracks is for B COY and C COY lives in Butler Barracks.

Other buildings on campus include Ivey Hall - the gymnasium, Landholme Hall – the mess hall where students eat all meals; Loyalist Hall – the classrooms for senior students; Ritchie Hall – the administration building and junior classrooms; and Matron – where laundry is done and students get their names and badges they earn sewn on their uniforms.  In the centre of the buildings is Eadie Square, the Parade Square where formal ceremonies and inspections take place. The square is not to be walked on unless by cadets during parade.  Fitz, or Fitzgibbon Hall, is the yellow building on campus that has been part of the Academy for many years and is currently used for guests to stay, for cadets to watch TV or movies during an on campus leave, host NCO Club or for other uses as needs arise.

Cadet – The term cadet refers to all students of Robert Land Academy regardless of their rank. Cadet is also used as a specific rank and is the most common rank at the Academy. Cadets are full members of Robert Land Academy with all of its attendant rights and responsibilities.

Rank – Ranks are positions within the Academy that students can be promoted to. Cadet is the most common rank at RLA. Recruit is the lowest rank and refers to new students who have not yet completed their recruit course. Cadets can be promoted to Barman for mastering all of the skills and responsibilities of a cadet and taking on a leadership role. Cadets can become Double Barman by fulfilling the same criteria as Barman and displaying leadership. Moving up the ranks, cadets can be promoted to Leading Barman, Master Barman, Lance Corporal, Corporal, Master, Sergeant, and Warrant Officer. Students can progress through the ranks as they display appropriate conduct, leadership ability and confidence.

Along with promotions students earn awards each week for academics, athletics and citizenship. Best House  is presented to the house in each company that has the best made beds, kit and polished boots overall and White Belt is presented to the cadet with the best kit including properly folded clothing and polished boots.

NCO – Non-commissioned Officer is a student who has been appointed to a rank by the Headmaster. These students are exemplars of leadership, mentors and role models for other students and positive in nature and supportive to their fellow students and staff. The top three NCO positions are: the Head Boy –serves in his senior year and is an example to all students on campus in all regards and to all aspects of Academy life. He is the highest ranking Cadet and leads the Academy during parade; Parade Sergeant Major –serves in his senior year and works with the Head Boy as a leader during parade; Aide-De-Camp – is a student who is identified as a leader and works with the other leaders at the Academy and has a prominent role in the parade.

Other leadership positions on campus are I/C – this is a student who is in charge of a certain aspect of life on campus. There are Barracks I/Cs who are leaders in the individual barracks and there are also I/C for making sure everything that is needed for meals is on the table; for ensuring phone calls home are made on time; keeping track of haircuts; and most things that require an organization aspect for students.

Kit – one of the formal definitions of the word kit is a suit of clothes and other personal effects especially for a traveller or soldier. At RLA the Cadets’ kits are their uniform for daily wear – black track pants and a black Loyalist t-shirt, their BDU uniform, which is the camouflage pants and jacket used by the Canadian military, and their boots, belts and caps and any other items they need for use on campus.

Other uniforms the boys will wear include Scarlets which are the dress uniform with black pants and a red, or scarlet coloured, jacket used during formal occasions and while boys are on parade and the Garrison Uniform which is black pants, white dress shirt and black sweater.

Stores - this is where the Cadets will get the items they need to replace the original kit that was issued to them on their first day of school as well as school supplies and personal products. Stores is operated by the QM or Quarter Master.

PO – Performance Objectives are the goals students work to achieve to earn promotions in rank and other privileges on campus. A PO Run is the time set as a goal for students to run as part of their PO.

P/T – is physical training and includes all of the physical training the boys take part in.

Laps – are laps the students run around the Lap Track, which is the track around Eadie Square, as part of their P/T or for discipline. Laps run are counted and recorded at the Lap Station.

Scoff – are the snacks students earn and can include popcorn, nacho chips or healthy snacks and are usually eaten during an All Academy Movie.

The Importance of Extra Curricular Activities

After school activities, aside from teaching our children new skills, are an important part of their development. Some would argue participation in clubs and activities is just as important as academics.

Taking part in sports, music or other activities outside of the classroom helps children develop interests, discover a lifelong hobby or even future career, develop their individual personality, cut down on stress and boost academic and social skills.

Studies have shown that kids involved in extracurricular activities have improved grades but also develop skills and habits that will help them succeed academically, even if their chosen activity is not directly related to classroom learning.  

It has been said that Einstein would often play music when he was stuck on a mathematical problem – the idea being that by concentrating on the math problem, which uses the left side of the brain, while playing music, using the right side of the brain, he was able to strengthen the communication between the two hemispheres of his brain and increase brainpower.

In fact, music is basically math - counting, rhythm, scales, intervals, patterns, etc. – so it makes sense that students who learn how to play music will boost their understanding, and grades, in mathematics. The same is true with many activities and classroom subjects.

 Extracurricular activities also have an impact much broader than specific skills learned that apply to the classroom

Students who take part in activities often develop important life skills that will help them in the classroom, in social situations, and in their careers. Leadership, working as a team, problem solving, and patience are just a few of the life skills kids can learn on a sports field, in a band or on a technology team.

Taking part in these activities will also boost a child’s confidence as they master a new skill and excel in an activity. Having the confidence of mastering drawing, swimming, or piano allows kids to know they can also master math, literacy and science.

As kids explore new activities, meet new people and master new skills and concepts they also develop a sense of their own character and how they fit into social situations, learn about the sharing of ideas and collaboration, as well as supporting their peers. As kids explore their abilities and learn new things they’re also building independence and a life-long habit of being involved in activities, hobbies and the community.

The importance of activities for kids must be balanced however. It is possible to enroll our kids in too many activities that will wreak havoc on time management, cause stress for the kids, and eliminate any time to just play and be a kid. Down time is important too.

The importance of clubs and activities in a child’s life, and academic success, is why clubs play a prominent role in life on campus at Robert Land Academy.

Now that the students are settled in, classes are underway and everyone is back into the rhythm of life on campus, our clubs and activities have started up again as well. We don’t do traditional “after-school” activities. Instead we turn Wednesdays into club day, where students don’t attend regular classes but participate in their chosen clubs and activities. Lunch is also different on this day as students will eat lunch with their section and section teacher (a faculty member who supports each student in their section with advice and feedback on how the students are doing).

The boys will showcase the results of their work in clubs over the year at our Annual Open House and Inspection in the spring, where families, local community leaders and the public are invited to see boys’ displays explaining various clubs and classes and showcasing their successes.

I know our staff enjoy teaching our various clubs as much as the boys enjoy learning new skills or simply taking part in a pastime they enjoy. In fact the interests of the students and the hobbies or interests of our faculty are what drive which clubs and activities we offer, allowing RLA to offer a broad selection of clubs that keeps our students’ interest piqued while allowing our faculty to enjoy their own passions and interests while at work.

At RLA we offer everything from music, photography and basketball to climbing, boxing and automotive restoration. The restoration of our 1972 Volkswagon Beatle has been a multi-year project – talk about teaching kids the major life skill of patience!

I’m looking forward to seeing what changes that old bug undergoes this year, as well as what the students will accomplish in our other clubs and activities.

The Fall Exercise - Day Three!

After two long days of marching in rain, up and down hills, through conservation areas, along the Niagara River to a National Historic Site our students, staff and guests woke up this morning in the barracks of Fort George to one more day of The Fall Exercise – the most important day.

I think one of the most iconic images of the entire exercise is the moment we leave the fort, the entire group marching as one on the final day, pulling (and pushing) our 1812 replica cannon and passing through the huge wooden gates of the fort.

We must make quite a spectacle to residents and tourists alike as we march along the Niagara Parkway Trail to the Village of Queenston before making the long climb up to the top of Queenston Heights to finish the exercise.

Each of the group takes turns pulling the cannon and while the last two days were a bit of competition between sections and companies to see who had the fastest time, today was all about working as one to accomplish a goal.

Today’s march closely followed the route Major General Sir Isaac Brock would have taken from Fort George to the top of the cliff in Queenston to meet the American forces invading at Queenston Heights during the War of 1812. Brock died in the battle but the British were victorious in holding the heights and he is considered a Canadian hero for inspiring the British regulars, Native and local militia to continue the fight.

While we made our way along the Parkway from Fort George to Brock’s monument the boys were admiring the beautiful homes we passed, joking about which staff members live in the largest estates. Along with a bit of fun and camaraderie we also used this part of the march to talk about Niagara’s history, the War of 1812 and the heroes who played a pivotal role in the 1812 conflict, including Brock and Laura Secord, whose homestead we passed today as well.

When we reached the top of the heights, in the shadow of Brock’s monument (a 185 foot tall limestone column which is also Brock’s final resting place), the group gathered to honour those who fell during the Battle of Queenston Heights and the War of 1812; bless the Academy’s colours and present the Baker’s Badge.

The Baker’s Badge was presented to several of marchers today, those who had completed the march for the first time to recognize the physical and mental discipline required to complete the exercise.

Receiving the Baker’s Badge at the end of the Fall Exercise happens at just about the time new recruits are being promoted to the rank of cadet after completing the five week recruit course.  It is also very often the first time some of these boys have been acknowledged for an accomplishment of this kind.

It’s a powerful ceremony and it shows everyone at the Academy just what is possible.

The ceremonies also represent all that The Fall Exercise is to the Academy and those guests we were honoured to have march with us over the last three days: esprit de corps; pride of achievement; reflection on where we have come from; and belief in where we are going.

It has been an exhausting, exhilarating and emotional three days but it has been worth it.

Following the parade at Queenston Heights our students and guests returned to RLA for a delicious Thanksgiving Dinner prepared for us by our talented kitchen team.

After dinner we thanked our friends for joining us and I congratulated our students on a job well done before wishing them all the best for Thanksgiving.

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