The Rite Journey - An Enriching Programme in the Middle School

08 March 2012

Developed in Adelaide and customised by dedicated St Andrew’s Middle School teachers, The Rite Journey is a seven-step programme designed to celebrate students’ social, emotional and spiritual growth during adolescence. 2012 marks the inaugural year for The Rite Journey at St Andrew’s, which has been introduced as part of the Year 9 pastoral care programme. With a tailored approach that recognises the specific needs of Year 9 boys and girls, The Rite Journey has so far received very positive feedback from both the students and staff members involved. One of the teacher mentors, Miss Kate Scarfo says, “The girls in my group have been incredibly open to the programme. They have become involved in some very mature and sometimes challenging conversations and have been both engaged and involved throughout the sessions so far.”

The Programme allows for single-sex tutor groups to cover gender-specific issues surrounding adolescence and the development of identity. Together, these groups progress through the seven different stages of the journey, meeting each day within tutor groups of no more than 18 students. With their individually-customised ‘talking sticks’ (like the gorgeous Build-A-Bear in Miss Scarfo’s class), the groups work through each phase together. According to Year 9 Coordinator, Mr Michael Turton, the aim of the programme is to “offer a healthy rite of passage for adolescents and to challenge students with their own talents and abilities, while nurturing their self-esteem.”

Student/Teacher Experiences so far

The Rite Journey focusses on helping students to understand that individual rights should be balanced by reciprocal responsibilities and service to others. Indeed, Year 9 student Rachel Gammel says of her experience with the programme: “The Rite Journey has helped me to realise what adult life will be like.” According to Miss Scarfo, it also “encourages students to be grateful for what they have and to be resilient in their lives.”

Iva Skoko of Year 9 says, “I think it has been good because it aims to help us become better people and prepare us for adult life. It also allows us to let go of certain things and hold onto others.” This notion of letting go is both metaphorical and literal, as students venture to the harbourside to cast-away those aspects they choose to let go, symbolised by the throwing of a pebble into the ocean.

According to Miss Scarfo,“The Rite Journey Programme allows students to self-reflect regularly.” She says that it “encourages them to look for positive role models in their world.” For Year 9 student, Harry Sanderson, one of the best things about The Rite Journey is that “it has helped us to learn a bit more about our families and the family history that we didn’t know before.”

There are various topics and activities covered within the programme and the importance of family is just one of these aspects. “We were asked to interview a family member and find out things you didn’t already know about them,” says Year 9 student Hamish Waddell. “I interviewed my grandpa and thought that was really good.”

The Rite Journey – An Asset for the Future

2012 being The Rite Journey’s introductory year with St Andrew’s Cathedral School, its future impact still remains to be seen. The overwhelmingly positive response of students and staff members, however, speaks for itself as a testament to the Programme’s initial success. “The Rite Journey is a lot about discovering ourselves, so I look forward to seeing where that journey leads me,” says Harry, while his classmate Iva believes The Rite Journey will help her to make important decisions over the coming years, “like which electives I will take in the Senior College.

Miss Scarfo believes that, “The Rite Journey will give students a higher level of self-confidence, because the discussions we have will foster and enrich this quality immensely. There is so little time for us to think about the implications of being a young adult and for us to embrace this important time in life,” she says. “I think one of the main benefits (amongst many others) is that the girls in my group have recognised that many of the challenges they face are shared challenges. They are not alone in their feelings and anxieties and just by recognising this, I think it has eased their minds somewhat. I think the programme also gives students an opportunity to feel truly valued, as there is much sharing of life experiences in our sessions.”

“I hope to realise through The Rite Journey who I am and what I want to achieve for the future,” Rachel says of her hopes for the programme. Meanwhile, Hamish attests, “I think the Rite Journey is teaching us important lessons about how to deal with certain things in life, which will help us for the future.” According to Mr Turton, the main hope is that “students can develop a sense of who they want to be and the kind of morals they want to have – it’s about making the right decisions.” One of the programme’s most beneficial outcomes, though, is summed up by Harry Sanderson: “The Rite Journey has brought our year group and particularly our tutor groups much closer together,” he says, “because we are sharing things that we might not otherwise have shared.”

Words: Rosie Dalton

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