Renewing students’ motivation to learn through a Retreat Program

SMA Lokon St. Nikolaus Tomohon is a private boarding school, established by Mr. Ronald Korompis and his wife Mary Wewengkang. It is located in Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. The school has 344 students and all of them stay in a dormitory. They come from various parts of Indonesia, bringing their unique customs and cultures. SMA Lokon runs a national curriculum, K-13 combined with “The Life Based Curriculum” developed by the school. The school’s motto is Veritas, Virtus, and Fides, Latin for Truth, Virtue, and Faith.

Character development is a main focus of SMA Lokon. Living in a dormitory is quite challenging for them. They need to adjust to many things, such as waking up at 4.30 am, cleaning the room, studying at school from 6.45 am to 3 pm, still having to join extracurricular activities until 5 pm, and personal study at 5.30 pm to 7 pm in the dormitory. This routine takes place from Monday to Friday. Students can only go home twice a month during weekends or school holidays.

There is a complex process which each year level goes through during each year of their schooling. In this article, I will focus on Year 12 students. As they are in their final year of school, they have to work on and pass the final school’s assessment, choose a major in university, as well as complete the application and undergo the entrance test. They also often have to navigate the challenges of having differing opinions to their parents about their next steps after high school.

These circumstances put a lot of pressure on them. Some students intentionally come late to school, some students skip classes, some break uniform rules. Discussion among the teachers about students' decreased motivation during classes has become a daily topic.

Students saying that they are bored, stressed, confused and that they need guidance and refreshment, were the motivation behind the Retreat Program. It is an annual program for the Year 12 students before the final school’s assessment.

The program is organised by guidance and counselling teachers in collaboration with religion teachers and dormitory staff. It is aimed to help students renew their motivation by getting some insights and inspiration from the Retreat’s facilitators, teachers, alumni, and their friends about how to end high school successfully, how to anticipate their difficulties, and how to be prepared for university life.

SMA Lokon usually runs the Retreat program in Alamanda Retreat house owned by Mr. Ronald Korompis. It is located on Mahawu mountain a few kilometers from school. Students, facilitators, teachers, and dormitory’s staff stay overnight. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest program was held only in the school.

The activities fall into two categories. The first is spiritual activities, such as worship, in which students sing and pray together, bible teachings facilitated by a priest, students sharing their faith experiences with one another, and reflection and self-reconciliation through an adoration to the Holy Sacrament and Eucharistic Prayer. The second is character and community building such as games, discussion, and reflection. Students are divided into 10 groups.

The first thing they have to do is create a group song and perform it. After that, each group will go to the game stations with eyes covered by a piece of cloth. They walk in line by holding each other’s shoulders, and the student in the front line will lead them to the game’s station. There are 10 stations, and each station has a game or a quiz. Each group will try to collect points and those who get the highest points are winners.

A facilitator usually prepares a fun game that students will really enjoy, for example, a fighting over seats game. This game is played by 2 groups. Some chairs are put on the circle, music is playing, and students are dancing around the chairs. Once the music stops, students rush to sit on chairs. Each group will try their best to win the seats and get points.

At the end of the game, a facilitator will ask each group about what values they learnt through that activity. Students discuss it in their groups and explain it in front of everyone around. Here students like to mention the value of collaboration, discipline, resilience, friendship etcetera.

There were 103 students at the most recent Retreat and half of them were able to respond to the post-Retreat survey. Most of the students gave four stars on average. It means the Retreat program was useful for them. After this program, students go back to their routine in school. They have renewed spirit and motivation as they do their best to complete their schooling. On May 5, 2022 they received the news that all students in their cohort had successfully graduated from high school.

In this article, Martha Goni says “students saying that they are bored, stressed, confused and that they need guidance and refreshment, were the motivation behind the Retreat Program”.

In your school, what initiatives do you have in place for supporting students who need guidance and refreshment? What impact do these initiatives have on students?