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Loyalist (B)Log

Noticeable in a Positive Way

We are always proud of our students for working hard to meet the expectations Robert Land Academy sets, in all aspects of school life including athletics, academics, and personal behavior.  It isn’t always easy and students will struggle to maintain those expectations from time to time. It is worth it, however, as students learn self-discipline, improve their academics and enroll in post-secondary institutions, and develop the life skills necessary to be successful in all aspects of life.

It may seem odd, but this was most apparent late last week as Robert Land Academy hit the wrestling mats at another local high school.

We were successful in the wrestling tournament, bringing home three silver medals and watching as our small team of wrestlers improved their skills, learned some lessons to use in their next bouts, and developed both physical and mental strength, and I was very proud of the boys for their performance.

I was most proud however, when I heard how others at the tournament spoke of our students.

A few other coaches and parents from other teams commented on how our students conducted themselves at the tournament, noting “they seem like such nice boys” and that we are “doing something right at RLA”.

As our wrestling coach put it – the boys were noticeable in a positive way.

It’s not that boys from other schools are misbehaving or conduct themselves poorly, and I’m sure boys from other schools are just as nice as our students. The difference, and the reason parents and coaches at this tournament noticed and mentioned RLA’s conduct, is in how our students carry themselves and their deportment.

The unique program at Robert Land Academy is based in military structure. Both staff and students address each other with respect and by title or “sir” or “ma’am”, students practice drill on a regular basis and walk in formation between classes, they are expected to act with proper manners at all times, and they are taught how to live life with courage, commitment, loyalty, labour and honour.

So how does this translate into a wrestling team being noticeably positive in an environment full of high school students from numerous other schools? The proper conduct they learn at RLA, as well as the pride they take in their achievements, is visible in our students. From their straight backs and good posture to being respectful to each other and to those they meet, from performing their best at all times to accepting defeat with grace and good sportsmanship, from taking care of their appearance and taking pride in themselves to saying sir and ma’am when appropriate: Robert Land Academy students are learning how to conduct themselves in a way that shows respect and commands respect, and it shows.

And it’s not just the wrestling team. All of our students conduct themselves in this way and all of our students make us proud when their deportment demonstrates their understanding of the importance of respect, for ourselves and for each other. 

Engaging Parents of RLA: Parent Teacher Day

A few weeks ago we sent out early assessment reports. These aren’t report cards but rather a quick snapshot of how each boy is doing academically so staff and parents can address any issues, encourage boys to put in the effort to improve their grades, or find out why a student might be struggling in one area.

On Friday we issued the first actual report cards each student will receive this school year as part of our Parent Teacher Day.

Parent Teacher Day at RLA is significantly different than parent teacher interviews in most other schools. There’s a reason we call it a “day”.

All staff work hard to put this day together. Our maintenance crew always makes sure the campus is in top shape but often spruce things up where needed – this year the halls in Loyalist (the classroom building) got a new coat of paint and some posters depicting life on campus; the kitchen staff baked up some goodies and brewed lots of coffee for parents who had travelled great distances to be here (not to mention a hearty and delicious lunch for staff); the academic staff worked long hours to ensure report cards were ready to go and every parent who wanted to meet with a teacher had the time to do so; and the administration team made sure everything worked perfectly. They all did a great job and I know the parents noticed.

Parents are invited to the Academy to meet with their sons’ section officer (the teacher who oversee a small group of boys largely to look after academics and be a parental figure), pick up report cards, and – the most important part of the day according to the cadets – pick up their sons for Stand Down for a visit home.

Parents also have the option to meet with individual teachers during this day and many take advantage of the opportunity to learn a bit more about what their sons are learning, make a connection to their sons’ school life and, occasionally, check up on marks.

For senior students time is taken to discuss their options for university and in particular choosing which university and programs he should apply to.

It’s an exciting day for RLA parents who don’t have the opportunity to stop by the school on a regular basis, both because they live too far away to make it practical and because our structure doesn’t make it possible for regular visits or school events.

All of the parents I had the opportunity to chat with on Friday were very happy to be here and appreciative of the opportunity to meet and talk to teachers. We know that the boarding school nature of the Academy makes it more difficult for parents to feel involved in their child’s school and education which is why we create a day for these important teacher meetings and why we plan other days for parents to be on campus.

The best part of the day, of course, is watching as parents finish their interviews and students are called to sign out for the weekend. Lots of hugs, lots of smiles and even some tears. 

And when all the parents have left campus, the teachers sit down to call each of the parents who could not attend in person for phone interviews. It’s important that every parent has an opportunity to discuss their son’s education with his teachers and our staff do a great job accommodating them all.

Because of the unique nature of Robert Land Academy, days like these are important in creating a school community inclusive of parents, guardians and other family members. But it’s days like these that make RLA the unique place it is as families from all over the world come together with a common bond – the best education for their son.

I had to laugh as some of our parents from Mexico complained of the cold (running out to buy hats and mitts that morning) while other parents from Northern Ontario were comfortable in just a spring jacket.

Whether they came from Ontario, Mexico or further afield, or could only be here via a telephone connection, I’m glad our RLA families took the time to be part of this important day for their son’s success and I’m proud of the work of all of our staff who make these days not only possible, but enjoyable and meaningful as well.

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.

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