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Loyalist (B)Log

Overcoming Obstacles, Personal Growth and The Fall Exercise

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), was an American educator, author and advisor to US Presidents as well as a prominent leader in the African American community. He once said  “I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles overcome while trying to succeed."

If you look at the life journeys of successful people you will almost always find a major obstacle, or several, that they had to overcome on the path to their success.

We’ve all heard that tough times build character, that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Have you ever wondered why great hurdles create great men and women? What do we learn from overcoming major obstacles or completing an almost impossible task that sets us up for success?

Facing a challenging situation teaches us new things. Sometimes it teaches us simply to be better problem solvers but sometimes the solution is a skill or task that we did not know before.

We learn perseverance, and patience. We’ve all heard Edison’s famous quote that he didn’t fail, he simply found 1,000 ways that didn’t work. When we don’t give up and are able to reach success we have learned how to persevere and the reward for that perseverance. 

This is what Dr. Carol Dweck meant when she coined the term “growth mindset” in describing the beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. When students believe they can get smarter and understand that effort makes them stronger they will put in the extra time and effort required to be successful.

Overcoming obstacles can help build inner strength and shows us what we’re made of. When facing one of life’s many difficulties we can either crumble into a ball, hiding and hoping the problem will go away or we can straighten our backs, step up and do better. If we choose the latter, we will likely work harder, be smarter, stand stronger and keep trying until we’ve overcome the obstacle.  Once you’ve succeeded, you look back and think “I didn’t know I could do that” or “I never thought I could handle that situation”.

And once you know what you’re made of and what you’re capable of, your confidence and self-image will improve immensely.

You know the feeling: “If I can do that I can do anything!”

If you happen to overcome an obstacle as part of a team or group, you’ve also learned how to trust and rely on others; how to be reliable and accountable; how to work together and collaborate on solutions and you have developed a sense of belonging.

This is why Robert Land Academy undertakes one of our most important school events right before Thanksgiving, just five weeks into the school year.

The Fall Exercise is a three-day hike along the Niagara Escarpment and to Queenston Heights in Niagara-on-the-Lake – a walk of just under 70km.

The boys do this hike while carrying with them all of the provisions the companies will need for each day and, on the third day, while sharing the work of pulling the cannon used in ceremonies at the end of the exercise.

It’s a tough three days. I know, I’ve done it.

Many of our students haven’t experienced a great deal of big accomplishments when they arrive on campus for a number of reasons: they haven’t put in the effort; they haven’t been pushed to reach their potential; they’ve never learned the tools or self-discipline to be successful; or they’ve been in situations or displayed behaviors that caused teachers and parents to overlook their ability.

So we take every single one of them out for a 70km walk.

After the three days we have a group of boys who have completed a very tough exercise and overcome some hurdles along the way. The know they can accomplish The Fall Exercise and it gives them the confidence to know they can accomplish almost anything life throws at them; the confidence in their ability to do the little things too, like a tough math exam or earn a university acceptance; and to know who they are and the strength they have.

Accomplishing the three-day hike together, all the while carrying their provisions, requires the kids to work together to finish the hike. When they are done they have come to rely on each other, inspire and push each other, help and support each other, and understand what it means to belong to something larger than themselves.

Staff and students are already training for the event which gets underway on Oct. 2. We are expecting several guests from other military academies this year and we are all looking forward to the experience.

Check back here on Oct. 2, 3 and 4 for daily updates from The Fall Exercise along with photos of the event.

Headmaster's Talk: A New Opportunity

The first week of school we focus on our new students, getting them accustomed to the routine of Robert Land Academy and ensuring they have the skills they need to succeed. After that first week all students, new and returning, are expected to understand the routine and participate fully in the program (with continued support from staff and student leaders). So, on Monday in our mess hall I had an all-academy meeting to review my expectations with the entire student body.

I discussed with the students why they are here. The general answer is that they were not reaching their potential in their previous school settings.

The real answer to the question why are these students here is much more positive. They’re at Robert Land Academy for opportunity. Opportunity to change some of the behaviours that are holding them back, opportunity to change the results of those behaviours, and opportunity for a second chance.

I spoke to them about Robert Land Academy and how our program and staff provide that opportunity, and that it is up to them to seize the opportunity and make the best of it.

Each student, I explained, will be given time and support to complete their school work, to learn the skills they need for success – both academically and behaviourally, to improve their physical fitness and to learn how to be a leader.

Much of a student’s success at Robert Land Academy starts with the student themselves, and I helped to illustrate this concept by explaining incentives, goals, plans, and attitudes.

If students complete the tasks and chores they have been assigned, including class work, meet the expectation that they are working to their full potential in all things, have success, and take on leadership roles they will rise up in rank and be given leadership opportunities with increased responsibility. With rank and leadership comes opportunities to earn privileges.

Privileges at Robert Land Academy can be pretty exciting – I’d certainly do all I could for the chance to take part in scuba-diving and parachuting;  take a trip with my fellow students to the USA to compete in military field challenges or take  part in a huge memorial march; or attend sporting events.

Our NCOs, or student leaders, also take part in NCO Club, which meets twice a week and allows members the chance to play foosball, ping pong, and board games and to have an evening snack; special trips just for NCOs; earn additional leaves and earn other privileges. 

I also talked to the boys about what happens if you don’t complete your tasks or fail to put in your full effort in the barracks or in the classroom - consequences.

Aside from NOT having the opportunity to jump from a plane or learn to scuba-dive, students who don’t meet expectations will be assigned physical training such as push ups, jumping jacks or laps.  If these consequences fail to dissuade a student from continued failure to complete tasks students can lose privileges as easily as they can earn them.

I offered the boys some advice on how to achieve success, achieve leadership positions and earn those exciting privileges – set goals.

To be successful, those goals should align with Academy expectations: an 80% academic average or at the very least doing your best in school work; completing physical training expectations for the month; achieve a job such as being I/C (in charge of) some aspect of the daily routine; asking for feedback from staff; and for each goal create a plan to achieve it.

I also told the students that they need to control their attitude as it is the most important factor as to whether they will have success or not.

In life, even life at the Academy, there are both successes and failures. Success is fairly easy to deal with however we actually learn more from our failures. By having a growth mindset we can learn from our setbacks and grow.

A positive mindset or having an open mind to opportunity will help students achieve their goals and find their place at Robert Land Academy and in society after graduation.

After talking to the entire student body about expectations as well as Academy rules and policies, I think my headmaster’s talk really just boiled down to one statement I made to the boys:

“Remember everyone is here to help you.  Everyone wants to see you succeed.  In fact, we expect you to succeed.  We are surprised when you don’t.”

Leadership in Action at RLA

Our campus came alive this week – as any building does when filled with one hundred 12 to 18-year-boys with all of their accompanying energy and activity. As the week progressed that energy and activity settled into the more regular rhythm of the Academy.

Our NCOs arrived on Monday ready to help the new recruits learn the ropes at Robert Land Academy. I am very proud of these young men who gave up their last three days of summer to step back into their roles as leaders on campus and role models to their fellow students.

Tuesday was a busy day at Robert Land Academy as our new students arrived throughout the day. It was an emotional day as well, with hugs, tearful goodbyes, and the occasional “I don’t want to stay” as parents, who very understandably find it difficult to leave their child at a boarding school, dropped their sons off here for the first time.

The remainder of the week our focus has been on those new students, making sure they feel comfortable on campus; making sure they have everything they need from uniforms and boot polish to binders and pens; and ensuring they know how to carry out all of their responsibilities while on campus.

Our NCOs demonstrated the skills they learned while at Robert Land Academy when teaching our new students how to iron their uniforms, the exact measurements and technique in making a neat and tight bed that will pass inspection, and the perfect form for getting boots to gleam. While they may sound like simple tasks each of these jobs takes precision and a special knack to get just right and learning that knack can mean the difference between frustration and making quick work of daily tasks.

While our new students are learning how to make a bed, they are also learning why to make the bed. Inspecting barracks, including beds and neatly folded uniforms in lockers, is one way we instil discipline in the students, teach them to respect themselves, their belongings and the work they do, and teach them to pay attention to even the smallest details. It also helps maintain order in the barracks which allows our students to focus on their studies.

In the mess hall, the new students have been learning proper etiquette for meals, including what to do when the large bell in the corner is rung (simply sit up and pay attention!).

On Thursday the rest of the student body arrived, those students returning for another year of study with us. Even with students who know how to make their bed and polish their boots there is an adjustment from life at home to life on campus. There is the renewing of friendships, not to mention forging new friendships with new students; getting back into the routine of classes and studying; and falling back into the rhythm of our campus.

On Friday all students are back in the classroom and it won’t be long until all of our clubs and activities are up and running and we will be training for the Fall Exercise and planning for the first trip home over Thanksgiving.

It has been a great first week of school at Robert Land Academy. It hasn’t been without its problems, its tears or surprises, but thankfully all rather small issues that were easily remedied. It has also been a great indication of the school year to come: of the successes our students will achieve, the great activities and adventures we will embark upon, and the memories we will create.

The Academy is Ready for the Students to Arrive

Wow. Life just got a lot busier at Robert Land Academy.
I’m sure parents are busy shopping for new school clothes, making sure the necessary school supplies are on hand, double checking student classes and schedules and gearing up to get back into a regular routine.
We’re doing all of that here on campus too – but on a much larger scale.
The Quarter Master is making sure there are enough uniforms on hand, stocking up on Loyalist t-shirts and socks and underwear, ensuring personal hygiene items are in plentiful supply and ordering enough binders, paper, pens and pencils to outfit about 100 recruits.
It’s a big job to run the Quarter Master store, keep everything in stock and organized and make sure the boys get what they need, when they need it. So big, in fact, we hired a new, full time staff person to look after stores and get names sewn into all student uniforms. So getting organized this year had the added element of a new staff person learning the ropes as well as the insights a new staffer can bring to a routine task.
I popped in to the Quarter Master store the other day and everything seems to be in perfect order, ready for the first recruits to arrive on September 4 and pick up their kits.

All of the Company Commanders, CSMs and Staff Sergeants, as well as new staff, have been on campus since last week as the entire campus gears up for the start of another school year.
All of the faculty are back on campus as of this week. They’re busy getting their class lessons planned, organizing the textbooks they’ll be using and setting up the classrooms for the start of classes on September 7.

Our Academics Officer is scheduling classes, making sure our students have the courses they need and a timetable that accommodates all of our students being able to attend each class they’ve registered for. While that is happening, I’ve been scheduling tutors and duty officers to ensure the boys are supported, supervised and entertained outside of classroom hours.
All staff are also taking part in training this last week of summer. We do safety training that is required by all workplaces in Ontario and we update the training for the staff who interact with the students on a regular basis, including PMAB (Prevention and Management of Aggressive Behaviour).
New staff are being trained in, well, everything. It’s important that our staff not just know how to do their jobs, but why our policies and procedures exist; how those procedures impact staff; how those procedures keep students safe; and what could happen if those procedures are not followed. It’s a lot to take in for a new staff member at Robert Land Academy but we take the time to ensure they are ready for the first day of school.
We’ve introduced some new training sessions as well for all staff this year. Students change year to year, the world around them changes at a fantastic pace, technology changes even faster and our staff have expressed a need for some new training to understand and handle some new issues that seem to be coming up recently. As much as Robert Land Academy is a place of routine that holds to many traditions we are also a modern school that addresses modern issues.
Sitting at my desk that overlooks the campus, taking in the view, I don’t know if the grounds have ever looked better.

Our maintenance team has been busy all summer cutting acres and acres of grass and keeping the gardens looking great – even in that extreme heatwave at the beginning of the summer. The team added some new landscape features to the campus over the summer, small details to help with “traffic flow” when we have a big event and to give the walkways a finished look.  They’ve also been busy in the buildings. There always seem to be jobs that don’t get done while the students are here, either because they can’t be done while we have boys on campus or because there are more pressing matters to attend to.

On a campus the size of Robert Land Academy there is always work that needs to be done. When maintenance finishes one job two or three more pop up, so maintenance will be busy these last few days making sure the campus is physically ready for school to start.

The administration staff is the only group that didn’t rush in this past week, busily  preparing for the students to arrive and that’s because they’ve been busy all summer long, finishing up and closing out the last academic year, getting organized for the new year coming, talking with parents and meeting new students. It’s a lot of work to register students for a boarding school, especially international students who need student visas and other legal documents completed before they arrive, but our team has worked hard over the summer to make sure everything is in order for the students when they arrive next week.
We’re ready for the recruits. I hope they’re ready for RLA.

The First Step in Success - Admissions

In a recent blog post I wrote about whether or not Robert Land Academy is right for your son. Maybe you’re still not sure, maybe you’re wondering if your son is right for our school, or maybe you’ve made up your mind and you are ready enrol your son.

The Robert Land Academy Admissions Process is the perfect next step no matter which of those scenarios you’re in at the moment.

Our admissions process is handled by Deputy Headmaster Dr. Harley and it is the first step to setting up your son for success. We don’t simply ask you to fill out a form and take your tuition, we take the time to get to know you and your son, and allow you to get to know us.

The process begins with apparent information session, either by phone, Skype or in person, to answer any questions you may have about the Academy and the program. It is important that parents have a clear understanding of the school before they decide to send their son here.

If you believe Robert Land Academy is the right school for your family we ask you to visit the school with your son for a tour and an interview. On the tour, which is conducted by one or two students without staff present, you will see the campus, the classrooms, mess hall, gymnasium and barracks. You will get a sense of the beautiful, rural setting where boys have an opportunity to fish, swim, and see wildlife in a natural setting. And, you will experience life in full swing on campus. 

Obviously, if you take a tour during the summer months or a break in the academic year you won’t see students on campus, but we can certainly give you an understanding of what life is like at RLA nonetheless. If you choose to complete the admissions interview by Skype, we can share with you a virtual tour of the campus.

The interview is where we’ll discuss your son’s academics, any behaviors you’re concerned about, learning disorders, medical issues and personality. This is where we will get to know your son and will be able to know if he is a suitable student for Robert Land Academy and whether the Academy is a suitable school for your son. If we don’t believe that our program will lead to success for a boy it’s very likely we will not accept him.

We will also have an interview with your son alone. This is another opportunity for us to get to know him and assess his suitability for the school. It is also when we will ask him if he agrees to attend RLA and make sure he understands the challenges, and benefits, of attending. A boy needs to agree to attend the Academy before we will enroll him.

If your son is accepted into the program there will be the obligatory paperwork to fill out and arrangements will be made for your son’s arrival at his new school, what is for most of our students a second chance at success.  

We are currently accepting applications for a September 2018 enrollment and generally accept new students throughout the first semester. We are also currently accepting applications for second semester enrollment, which begins in February of 2019.

Please contact our admissions office to set up a parent information session – it is the best way to know for sure if our school is the right place for your son.