ckley residential boarders at dinner

Our Home under the Rafters: A Peek into Life on Hackley’s Boarding Corridor

By Amanda Esteves-Kraus, Boarding Associate and biology teacher

“HEY, CHICKADEES, LET’S GO HOME.”

That is the phrase I call out every Monday night at roughly nine o’clock. I’ve just entered the Hackley library, where the “chickadees” — the Hackley boarders — have been studying. And where we are going — our home — is Hackley’s third floor. You may be thinking one of two things:

• “Wait, there is a third floor? How do you get there?”

• “Wait, Hackley has boarders?”

The answer to first question — which I will return to — is simple, but the second question has a much richer history.

Hackley was founded as an all-boys, seven-day boarding school that welcomed boarders beginning in 5th grade. More recently, the program housed students from grades 7 to 12. At one point, boarding filled the second floor of the main building, which explains the random showers in second floor bathrooms. Eventually, Hackley became co-educational and Hackley boarding became a five-day program for grades 9 to 12. So, yes, Hackley not only has boarders, but has always had boarders.

Hackley boarding is like a rather large family: a family of 24 boarders, six teachers, three spouses, one toddler, and eight pets. This is my fourth year as a Boarding Associate, or “Dorm Parent,” and what astounds me is how quickly boarding transcends the back-to-school nerves and seemingly overnight becomes this remarkable place where children are laughing, learning, supporting each other, eating meals together, and sometimes crying together. I have walked past a room where a female boarder was putting on a fashion show of a dress made of every scarf owned by every other female boarder. I have learned to use a lacrosse stick in the hallway…only to forget how to use the stick properly by the following year, and be taught — in the same hallway — all over again. I have introduced the entire boarding population to mochi ice cream — a Japanese dessert — as well as dark chocolate infused with chili spice and Pop-Rocks. (Watching the reactions to the boarders eat both of those foods was quite entertaining). And every Thursday night is movie night — pizza included.

If all of that fun hasn’t convinced you about the magic of the third floor, I’ll let you in on a few of my own favorite boarding moments:

• Watching upperclassmen help freshman study before physics assessments.

• Watching every boarder at the weekly Sunday night meetings clap and cheer for a senior who was just accepted into college.

• Watching the freshman, who seem so tiny and so young, grow into leaders and mentors for the boarding community.

Everything I want to see and nurture during my “day” job of being a teacher — warmth, support, growth, and a little bit of fun — is magnified in my “night” job of being a Boarding Associate.

On the third floor, it’s not just “Enter here to be and find a friend.” It’s “Enter here to be and find a friend you will be living with and sharing a bathroom with for the year.” This is a home. We are a family.

And, if you want to find the third floor, I’ll tell you what one of my senior boarders told me my first year on boarding. “To get to the third floor, well, it’s sort of like Hogwarts. Just hope you get on the right moving staircase — the one that takes you to Awesome.”

(Previously published in Perspectives, Spring 2017)

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