Reciprocity is the key

On my frequent visits back to my home town in Sicily, I often marvel at the material advances my cousins have made in between each trip. The average wage in Sicily is very low, and if you are lucky to have a state enterprise job such as a teacher, policeman or train conductor you might bring home 1,800 euro a month. Without prying, my curiosity gets the better of me given Sicily's reputation. What I have found out is that much of the economic transaction is actually done in kind. In fact, this has been the way it has been for generations.

Reciprocity is a key ingredient in a cohesive society. Although people have long-recognised the importance of reciprocity, my feeling is that it is not as valued in some western societies as it once was. Close relationships with neighbours, real communities who share their lives through social events, festivals and fairs are becoming scarcer in the busyness and the styles of life. Many families live in houses that have every amenity, and so the need to visit the piazza, go for a stroll down the main street or be entertained is taken care of without engaging with others.

The motivation for this topic was born out of a conversation I had with a Year 12 boy this week. Each year the Principal interviews all the exiting Year 12 students. The conversation revolves around their journey at the College; highlights, challenges, main take-aways, important beacons etc. The boys are asked if there is anything they would change and would they send their sons here.

This week, one young man responded thus to a question about the College. He had spent three years at a prestigious western suburbs school before coming to CBC in Year 10. "At my previous school, the staff loved the school. At, CBC the staff love the boys. At my previous school all the focus was on my performance; at CBC the focus has been on morality and my personal formation. As a result, at CBC I have felt valued, and as a result I felt the desire and need to perform."

As I mentioned in my last article in In Touch, relationships are critical in educating boys. Reciprocity will be difficult or impossible to develop and maintain if one partner in the relationship believes that they are, and must be, superior or in control. Reciprocal relationships require a spirit of cooperation, as well as an understanding of, and ability to, embrace interdependence. To cultivate a lasting, committed relationship, both partners must have, and be able to continue to nurture, feelings of respect for each other.

On the CBC journey we emphasise commitment so that students don't feel controlled or have unilateral impositions placed on them. Behaviour management should be educative rather than solely punitive. Boys are asked to be accountable so as to build resilience and parents play a crucial role in focussing on their son's behaviour and response to challenges. No school can claim complete smooth sailing, and if boys are prepared for a perfect world, it will come tumbling all around them the first time they try and merge on the freeway.

Educating boys is a skill that needs understanding, some mastery and continual fine-tuning. Our focus in the immediate future is to sharpen our 'boys' education' point-of-difference and make sure that your decision to enrol your son at our school reaps maximum dividend. Quality professional development led by world-class experts on boys and how they learn and develop will be a continued priority, and thus far all the experts are telling us about the worth boys place on relationships with their teachers and of feeling valued.

One of the attributes of the CBC gentleman is that he is selfless and forms mutually beneficial relationships. That pretty much sounds like reciprocity to me. Armed with this skill I am sure your sons will be better prepared for the world that faces them, the relationships he will forge, and the satisfaction that each of us feels in a cohesive, interdependent society. I encourage all parents to remind their boys of the mutual obligations they have with you, their siblings, pets, and extended families and with all the wonder of creation that surrounds them. Doing something for someone else will be the only true and lasting joy they will ever experience and creates in others the need to respond in kind. As St. Francis of Assisi said, it is in giving that we receive.