11 things about boarding school you were too afraid to ask.

Dear Reader,

As you can probably guess from the title, I spent my school years at *mumbles with head bowed* boarding school, or if you want to be pedantic, a private school that offered boarding. (I only fully boarded in my last year).

I know there are generally a LOT of strange and mythical assumptions surrounding boarding schools, and I could honestly fill a book with some of the stories I have. 

Once people find out I went to boarding school, I'm usually either spat at (literally) or asked a spiel of questions. I can't tell you the number of times I've been asked: "Have you made out with all your girl friends then?" or even: "So did you used to ride a horse to lessons?" 

I think scenes from St Trinians or Wild child pop into people's heads immediately when they think of private school, and in some ways, they aren't far wrong.

I hope to shed some light on my experience in a sort of poke-fun way, and in no way am trying to sound pompous, 'better-than-thou' nor take the fact I received very privileged schooling for granted.

1. You're very ok with nudity/ have no boundaries

When you spend 5 years living with the same few girls, all change in the same room, have dodgy shower door locks, no bedroom door locks and nobody really even knocks, you're going to see your friends naked.

You get to the point where you could completely strip mid-conversation with a full room of girls, and they would carry on sipping their tea as if nothing is happening. I've had baths and showers with my friends on a regular basis. Why waste time where you could be chatting?

I still remember my friend Lucy calling me when she first got to uni in a bit of a state. She told me that her flatmate had just tentatively knocked on her door, she yelled "COME IN" only to have the poor girl squeak and dash out because she was post-shower and naturally was stood there with her boobs out. 

Boundaries just sort of crumble at boarding school. What even is privacy? Taping each other's boobs, fake tanning your pals' bum cheeks, even putting 'Nair' on someone else's bikini line. You name it, and it's ok in a girls boarding house.  

2. You get creative with hiding booze and tuck

Vodka in empty nail varnish remover or mouthwash bottles; cigarettes inside books with a hole cut in; stuffing your Wispa bars inside your tights... To name just a few tactics for hiding the weekend supplies from teachers or the dirty thieving 'friends' you lived with.

Sometimes if teachers suspected alcohol, drugs or smoking, the house would have room searches. On one such occasion, I've been told by a friend before my time, that a certain legendary housemistress at my school once asked everyone to hide their booze and fags in a box under her desk so they wouldn't all get gated or suspended. 

Three huge boxes were filled. 

3. You eat a vast quantity of toast

At my school, there were loaves of bread and butter (sometimes jam if matron was feeling nice) in supply in our house kitchen. I'm being totally honest, and feel slightly ashamed to say that sometimes I would eat 10 slices of toast in a single day. As a snack. 

That doesn't include breakfast.

Toast is what kept me and about 40 other girls alive for 5 years, and I will forever be grateful to it.

4. You learn how to hack through any internet firewalls

As with most schools, I'm sure, you would type in " baby chicks" for your biology project on lifecycles in year 9 and be blocked from the page for pornography by the internet monitoring system. 

I remember certain boys at my school being put in detention or even suspended for trying to watch actual porn because some poor heavily bearded man in the IT department got notified of 50 site blocks to 'Pornhub' from someone's iPod touch. 

At my school, they also had all social media sites - so Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr, Kik (RIP, only real hoes remember), Twitter - even Pinterest blocked. 

Except for Facebook, which you could access for an hour in the evening and on weekends. Naturally, someone found a VPN blocker that allowed us to access all these platforms, or we would steal the wifi from various cafes in town between lessons or at lunch. 

5. No, we don't all make out

This is the one I get asked ALL the time. In my experience, I'm sorry to let everyone down and tell you that I haven't sat in a circle with all my girlfriends and practiced kissing after a pillow fight in our underwear. 

In fairness, I definitely know of groups of girls who did make out with each other a fair bit, and the all-girls school down the road always had stories involving lesbian heavy petting, electric toothbrushes being banned and in one case an incident involving test tubes.

Call us boring, but my group of friends were content with practicing kissing outside the friendship group, or the backs of our hands.

6. Yes, we had school on weekends

To many, this concept may seem not only barbaric but bizarre but since year 5, us private school losers had to go to school on a Saturday. Granted, it was only three lessons followed by sports matches and finally (if you stayed in) a school disco. 

At my senior school, we also had church every other Sunday. We all traipsed down to the theatre in our pyjamas for 10am, hymn books clenched in hand and managed to mumble Shine Jesus Shine through muffled yawns. God forbid the Reverend picked on you to come down to do the bible reading in front of everyone, including the boy you pulled in the park hedgerow last night 4 minutes before curfew, when you were wearing your dorm-mates' jeans that suck your tummy in and not your Minnie mouse pyjamas with last nights glitter stuck to your chin.

But...after church was glorious brunch. A true banquet of cooked breakfast, pastries, toast, cereal, yogurt and hot chocolate that my friend Beth and I would have three rounds of before rolling back to the house, so it wasn't all bad.

Also, weekends at uni now seem extra long. I still am pleasantly surprised by the extra day off.

7. Boys and girls were kept very separate

There is definitely truth in this. Although I went to a mixed school, not an all-girls school. Boarding houses were not mixed, and there were rules in the actual rule book about boy-girl relationships.

One of my favourites was that boys and girls were to keep six inches from each other at all times unless 'embracing upon greeting or departure'. Any public display of affection would get you in trouble. Depending on the 'level of affection' you were caught partaking in, the severity of punishment changed.

members of the opposite had strict visiting hours in the boarding houses, and were definitely not allowed in to any bedrooms, which probably contributed to greater than average levels of homosexual activity. What are hundreds of sexually frustrated teenagers to do?

Girls' dress codes were also quite extreme, particularly if we were wearing home clothes at dinner or discos. 
There were to be no shoulders or thighs showing, no chest area and nothing too tight.

So basically, put your nun habit on or be dragged out of the dinner queue and sent back to the house to change, meaning you will definitely not have time to get seconds.

8. Inter-house competitions were SERIOUS

Inter-house music, sports and even tug of war were pretty much extreme sports. 

Months of planning and tactics and practice were put into the events. Your housemates became your comrades and sisters in arms. As a member of Wellesley, the 'manliest' of the girls' houses, of which about four of us could hold a tune, I'm still celebrating our house winning inter-house music in 2015 and 2016.

9. We had a school song and it was in Latin

I still know most of the words. 

10. lessons were more casual than you'd think

I think everyone presumes we called teachers 'professor' a la Hogwarts and were sat at singular desks in uniform lines. Maybe the cane was even used in your imaginings? 

Honestly, the opposite is true. especially as you got older through the school, small classes of around 10 or fewer meant that you got to know your teachers very well. Especially the ones that supervised your house at night. 

Even my strictest teacher used to pop down halfway through a lesson and make us all tea, and knew how each of us took it. 

11. End of term celebrations was BIG

There are of course the iconic end of year pranks, some of which have gone down in my school's history. Whilst I was at school, they actually painted all the boarding house roofs with black tar and dye, so if you tried to sneak out or climb onto the roof, you would be covered in permanent dye.

I'm talking about commem, church services, speech day and prize giving. We even were all given flowers coordinated with the rest of our house (my house had white carnations) for our lapels, and had to process through the town, down the middle of the damn road in our choir robes.

it was all very pomp and circumstance. Any opportunity to uphold tradition and they leapt at it.

it's over the top, totally ridiculous and stupid, but do you know what? We all secretly loved it.

So there you have it, just a few insights into what private school life REALLY entails! 

I understand that the topic of private schools is a controversial one. Many people have very strong, and justified opinions for and against their continued existence in our education system. Although this post is meant to be just a fun light-hearted one, I definitely

intend to write a future post about my thoughts and feelings both for and against private education, as I feel it is an important conversation to address.

Happy Reading,

Hebe x

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