Posted on 01/07/2015

Les Garcons, La Foi, Le Cote Entrepreneur

Last week The Fulham Boys School went to France. As well as giving the boys an opportunity to practice their French and enjoy a different cultural experience, it also was a chance for me to to see how they reflected the school’s three pillars of boys, faith and enterprise in a different context and setting.

One thing was for sure when I walked in to their rooms to wake them up on Tuesday morning. I knew they were boys. They certainly smelt like ‘les garcons’ but once they had showered, dressed (and not a few of them had gelled and styled their hair!) they showed themselves to have good hearty boyish appetites which continued throughout the rest of the day.

They enjoyed their croissants, baguettes and gratin dauphinois, and the ambiance in the dining room throughout was one of boys enjoying their food and each other’s company, with plenty of laughter and the buzz of everyone having a really good time. Their behavior throughout the trip was excellent. Of course at times we were reminded that they were 11 year old boys but the bus driver said he had never had such a clean, litter free coach. Furthermore, we were staying in a hotel with other members of the public. I’m not sure how pleased I would be if I looked out on the first night of my holiday to see sixty three excited 11 and 12 year old boys arriving, but a number of the guests commented on how well they behaved.

Our boys also showed they are becoming enterprising young men. Every one of them was happy to have a go at making bread and croissants and, not surprisingly, chocolate. They all made an effort to speak in French; but when you’ve got the self-named mad baker of Boulogne wielding a rolling pin and sharp knife asking you what different ingredients are in French, it does tend to focus the mind! The boys showed interest as they looked around Nausica Sea Center and had so many questions at Vimy Ridge, Canada’s National historic site, and as they walked through the trenches. As we looked around old town of Boulogne, it was encouraging to see how well they worked in teams to find different landmarks; inquisitive, problem solving boys with a ‘have a go’ attitude.

As well as being lots of fun, including rugby and football on the beach, the trip also gave our boys the chance to think about social enterprise. It was eye opening driving through Calais and seeing so many immigrants desperately trying to get on lorries and buses in the hope of a better life. There we all were, on the way home from a fantastic school trip, to be confronted through the coach windows by people prepared to do almost anything for their existence to change. It provoked lots of discussion and has been the topic of RE lessons since we’ve come back. We don’t want our boys to be shielded from these things. We want them to be grateful for what they have got, to be aware of the complex issues surrounding these matters and to think and work on ways they can help and show compassion in practical and sustainable ways.

The highlight of the trip, perhaps surprisingly, was the visit to Etaples. There the boys learned about the history of the First World War cemetery and spent time walking around visiting the graves. It was an opportunity to encourage them to reflect and be grateful for the sacrifice others made so that we can enjoy our freedom and peace. The verses on some of the soldiers’ graves talked of the sacrifice Christians believe Jesus made that those who trust him may enjoy peace with God, which prompted boys to consider the pillar of ‘La foi’ that our school is built upon. We have made it clear from the outset that we are not out to brain wash FBS boys in any way, shape or form but we do want to encourage them to think and consider what it is all about – life, death, things worth living and dying for, wars, sacrifice and so on. This visit provided just that opportunity.

It was a fantastic trip. And at the end of our first year, it was ‘tres bien’ to see that the FBS pillars of ‘les garcons, la foi, le cote entrepreneur’ are strongly evident, and that when tested in a different setting, the school’s ethos is proving so very relevant to our boys.

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