A Shout Out for our RFAs

Tuesday, December 01, 2015 - By: Marius Felix

Many of the parent community may not be aware that, over the past several years, the school started and continues to develop a unique program which enables us as a boarding school to run a multitude of extra programs.

I speak of our Resident Faculty Assistant (RFA) program. Ten years ago it became increasingly clear that as the school evolved and the number of programs increased, the school was asking more and more from the teachers and the residential staff. As a result, and in an intentional effort to improve the boarding and overall experience for our students, the school decided to hire recently qualified teachers and university graduates to fill a supporting role in the school, while also providing the opportunity to gain some invaluable experience in our intensive and demanding program.

Years ago we started the program with three RFAs and each year since we have increased that number. Some of the questions we ask of the candidates during the interview process include:

1. Everything we do at the school is designed to make the student experience as good as possible. Can you check your ego at the gates to make sure that happens?

2. Are you afraid of hard work, long hours, and being called into service at the drop of a hat?

3. Do you genuinely love working with young people?

This year, with Rogers House (whose RFA lives on campus but not in the house itself) being the exception due to accommodation availability, every house has an RFA living in. This provides another fully engaged and committed faculty member taking an active and intentional role in the lives of our students, offers much needed support for the Houseparents and Assistant Houseparents, and provides these young teachers with an invaluable education experience within the Brentwood community.

With nine RFAs on the ground this year, we have been able to run more weekend trips, provide top end supervision for extra-curricular programs and enable the school to put fully qualified teachers into the classrooms when our full time faculty are ill, traveling with groups, or away on professional development. The students are benefitting from a fully qualified professional to either teach or supervise those classes and provides a great classroom experience for the RFAs.

The program has also benefitted the school in the long term. Since the creation of the program, we have hired nine full time teachers who started here at the school as RFAs. In essence, the program has enabled the school to "test drive" potential faculty and, more importantly, provide RFAs with an opportunity to see if Brentwood would be the right professional fit for them. If Brentwood is unable to hire, the majority of past RFAs secure excellent positions elsewhere. In two cases, former RFAs left after their one year here, gained more experience in another school, and have since returned to a full time role here at Brentwood.

This year’s RFAs are proving to be another exceptional group. Coming to Brentwood with a wide variety of experiences, from working at a boarding school in Kenya, playing rugby for Canada at the World Cup, completing a master's degree, or stepping in for a colleague to teach Math 8, they are collectively and individually making a massive contribution to our school. A big shout out to them!

Marius Felix, Assistant Head

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