I wanted to come to Kings since I was a little boy mainly because my Dad and older brother had come before me. Tradition is powerful.
Coming from the East Coast of New Zealand, from Tairawhiti Gisborne, meant that I would be a full time boarder. I had always heard my Dad say that what is really powerful at Kings is the blend of town and country and that country kids always punch above their weight! In his day, they used to fill a plane of kids from Gisborne and the boarding life at Kings was much larger. Today whilst there are less country kids in full boarding, mixed boarding has enabled local kids to experience living at school and enables those from outside of Auckland to form strong relationships with local kids and for many, this means a home away from home.
Boarding life is like no other. I know that whilst we may all come from different walks of life, socialise in different areas, there is a bond that brings us all together that is difficult to explain. You get to know people very well after four years of living together. As we navigate the teenage years, there are definitely highs and lows. You learn tolerance and independence and whilst our mums probably don’t want to hear it, the reliance on your parents does wane because if you don’t sort yourself out, you miss out.
I went through all the usual questions before I started boarding at Kings - how would I handle the homesickness? Would I make new friends? What would I do in the weekends? I was anxious but really excited.
The first year in Te Putake Lodge is a great way to start because you not only live with boys from your own house, but you get to know others who will be boarding in other houses. It can be challenging coming in from outside the large feeder schools because everyone seems to know each other and it can be daunting. But it soon changes. My advice to any new boarder is to be open minded. Put yourself out there, get involved and don’t hold back. Stay off your phone. Our phones have become a security blanket for us but trust me, put it down and go and talk to someone. And to those who are lucky enough to come with friends, be willing to meet someone new. They may end up being your best mate. I am sure you have been in a situation where you haven’t known anyone – so remember how it feels.
I encourage anyone who wants to try boarding at Kings to do so - It has shaped me into who I am today, and I will be forever grateful for the experience. There are so many benefits – no travel, mates for life, facilities galore, opportunity for tutoring, great mentoring and above all – UNITY.
I recently addressed the school about my experience at Kings. Following are the 7 life lessons I shared at the wise age of 17.
7 life lessons I shared at the wise age of 17
No. 1: Be kind. No I am clearly not Jacinda Ardern, but I’ll tell you why;
I love this school. I am proud to be from this school but I’ll tell you the truth. It wasn’t always the case. Day five at Kings College, one of the boarders who didn’t make it past year ten at Kings - in front of his big group of mates from his past school, said to me in reply to a question “come back and talk to us when you’re under 85 kgs……..” It was a shame because I was 87 at the time…… I’m sure he felt like the man for getting a few laughs from his clan. On the outside to me it was water off a ducks back, but inside I was broken and humiliated. This unfortunately wasn’t a one off. It continued for weeks on end. Little comments here and there and they were always quick and Witty and very cruel and always in front of a group. It hurt and impacted me so much in my first year that I was close to leaving Kings. And being a brand new import from the east coast, all the way from Tairawhiti Gisborne, knowing no one at all didn’t help. Something I’ll never forget though is William Olde - sticking up for me in a van on the way back from rowing to school when this same guy made yet another cruel, unnecessary comment. Olde won’t even remember but I won’t ever forget it. Someone finally stuck up for me. To quote Maya Angelou - “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel,” so Cheers Olde.
You don’t know what someone is going through on a daily basis. We have become so used to fake book and Instagram and snapchat showing us always smiling having the best old time. We have a big school, there will be people here who have lost someone to cancer, who live in an abusive home, have terrible confidence issues, have daily physical challenges, whose family have lost their business, who has just lost a grandparent. And that’s just on a normal day.
No. 2: Be open minded, support people regardless of their weaknesses.
Some of us can play the violin, the piano or trumpet. Most of us can’t. Some of us can run faster than any other 18 year old in the country. Most of us can’t. Some of us can do maths really easily. Some of us can’t. Some of us can tackle Francis running full steam, No actually, no one can. Some of us can paint, build things, play tennis, calculate things. Some of us can’t. The point is, there are incredibly diverse talents and skills and interests at Kings. There will be hidden talents that no one will even know. And some of us may not even have a clue about what we are good at yet.
Un peel the layers, get out of YOUR box, talk to someone who is NOT in your friend group, or house or class. Make an effort. Be open minded. You never know how or where you will meet that person again, but they could be your future boss, they could be your future partner’s sibling, they COULD just be a good sort and you might just make their day by saying hi.
No. 3: Always say yes - well no, that could be controversial. What I mean is……Try everything, and take up your opportunities, because you never know when you might get another chance.
Through my intermediate years, I got the opportunity to join the Gisborne Intermediate Kapa haka extension group……yep extension group! The only blonde headed boy in the group down in Gizzy. The boys and girls welcomed me with open arms, no one cared that my chest was bright pink every performance and we performed at some amazing cultural festivals. The opportunity to partake in a true kapa haka experience is something I will never forget…..
Take your opportunities.
No. 4: No matter what, empty the tank, nothing is impossible.
This may sound cliche, and as much as you hear this message on repeat, it is mostly true.. After placing 167th in cross country in year 9 and 163rd in Year 10, there would be nothing in the world that could convince me or anyone else I know that I would come in the top 50 ever, let alone the top 10. And no one ever would have believed that let’s face it that pretty chubby year 9 kid in the moon boot from Gizvegas, would ever be in that position. But I was. If you want it, you can do it. It takes discipline and effort and that’s all.
Empty the tank.
No. 5: Have an opinion – stand out.
Grow a spine, have an opinion. Nothing is more sickly and frustrating than someone who sits on the fence and doesn’t want to say what they think because they don’t want to stand out. Stand out, be interesting, ……..
Have an opinion.
No. 6: Be resilient – know your worth.
You are all going to be rejected at some point in your life. You probably already have been. You may not be selected for that team, group, or invited to that party. You may not get the test mark that you wanted. Someone may make a comment that upsets you. Your teacher might be extra tough. Your feelings get hurt.
Be resilient. Know your worth. You can only control what you do and how you react. You cannot control what others do and what they say. So I say challenge yourself to control how you respond to what’s happening. Therein lies your power.
I have not made so many teams. But I’ve also made teams. I have not been included in many different things. But I have also been included. People have made bad comments to me but lots of people haven’t.
Confidence is not “They will like me.” Confidence is “I will be fine if they don’t.”
Be resilient – know your worth
No. 7: Learn to speak to adults.
My mother always said to us before we were going somewhere, take one minute out of your day to look an adult in the eye and ask them one…maybe two questions - make conversation. 60 seconds is all it takes. One minute for adults to think - you are the most engaging young person they have ever met. Remember their experience with teenagers is not great today – the bar is low because we are always on a phone, grunting, not really engaging. SHOCK THEM. Take 60 seconds to look up from your phone and stop mindlessly scrolling through tiktok, snapchat and Instagram to ask them a question and you will be amazed at the response.
Learn to speak to adults…
I say to adults, but actually I mean to anyone. As a boarder this is really important. You will be living with some people for five years. You don’t have to like everything they do and you don’t have to live in each others’ pockets, but you do need to be especially open minded and tolerant. Just remember there will be things about you that others may not appreciate too – after all - no one is perfect.