The early years of adolescence are formative for many reasons.
They significantly influence ongoing mental health and the capacity for individuals to build strong, effective relationships now and in the future.
One of the Personal Development programmes at Wadhurst – What sort of man do you want to be? – focuses on exploring healthy masculinity and respectful relationships, and building self- and social-awareness because, with awareness, comes the power of understanding and acceptance.
Recently, all Year 8 students took part in full-day workshops in which they explored their social conditioning, toxic hyper-masculinity, positive mental health and bullying in an environment that was open, honest and authentic. The guiding question of the day – What sort of man do you want to be? – took the students on a journey from an initial perspective of someone who is ‘popular’ and ‘good at sport’ to someone who ‘has integrity’ and ‘someone who will stand up for people who can’t stand up for themselves’. This formed a platform for boys to individually consider ‘what type of man do you want to be?’ and ‘how can you best be part of a community?’
The aim is to give students the capacity and right to move towards being the adult they want to be, according to Mr Matt Houniet, Head of Cain House and Co-coordinator of Personal Development and Leadership and Service Learning at Wadhurst. “It is important that boys are given the opportunity to reflect on self-identity in a safe and supportive environment,” he says. “The better they know and understand themselves, the more likely they are to be able to know their emotions, and exhibit long term positive behaviour.”
Facilitated by The Man Cave, a preventative mental health and emotional intelligence programme for boys and young men, the workshops set out to create a healthy and contemporary understanding of masculinity within the group of boys. “We hope to provide them with the capacity and awareness to recognise the social conditioning around what a man is, and give them the skills and awareness to redefine this on their own terms,” says The Man Cave co-founder Hunter Johnson. “We ask the boys to consider what their own manhood or humanity means to them as they grow up.”
Part of a broader Personal Development programme, What sort of man do you want to be? was trialled at Wadhurst last year, and was so successful it is now part of the core curriculum.
“The whole experience has been truly memorable. This day helped us open the ‘mask’ that we sometimes hide behind and see what we are as true individuals. Great trust and respect came from all boys which brought us closer,” says Max Shepherd, Year 8.
Will Preston, Year 8, concurs. “The workshop was an emotional day but very rewarding. It enabled us to be vulnerable in a safe place. We became closer throughout the day and new friendships blossomed which will help us in our community,” he says.