Reflections – Day 1

It has been quite a while since I used my blog but I am going to reinstate it for December 2020. As many of you already know I leave Argyll and Bute Education Service formally on the 31st of December 2020. I have many thoughts and reflections at this time and over the next few weeks I am going to share some of these via my blog. So here goes with Reflections Day 1

Being Me – Being connected, being curious and being creative.

So who am I and what are my connections??

I grew up in the rural community of Kilberry, in Mid Argyll,  surrounded by love and connection not only to my family but also to the wider community, My mother and father were both hard working and neither had been given the opportunity to extend their own education. My father left school at 14 and instantly began working on a farm and then on to serve his national service. He was a farm worker and we lived in a tied house on the farm. The house was part of the agricultural wage which was a low wage. My mother had worked in the hospitality trade in a café which was of first generation Italians. This background had led her own interest in cooking and especially baking. She was a homemaker and worked in the local “Big house” – castle on the estate. Today I would have ticked all boxes for receiving Pupil Equity Funding (PEF). Growing up in rural poverty would have been a term attributed to me but I certainly was rich in love, aspirations and community support.

These are all important factors as we try to take forward the national policy on Excellence and Equity.

Scottish Government Achieving Excellence and Equity – click here

Understanding rural poverty, childcare and education, Prof Chris Chapman – click here

My early childhood was spent mainly with adults my parents, grandparents and community “aunty and uncles” My grandfather became my childminder as both my mother and father worked hard to make both ends meet. He was a great man of the countryside and knew so much about reading the weather through nature, taught me so much about reading the sky, watching nature to predict weather patterns and looking after our natural world. Both he and my father truly nurtured in me my own deep interest in the connections we have to the natural world. The creativity element from nature is deep rooted within me and these connections are integral to being me and have shaped my own views of the world.

I began my link with Argyll and Bute Education Service in 1965 when I attended Kilberry Primary School.  I was delighted to get to school and have the opportunity to meet with other children and to have peers to play with and interact with. Needless to say my interactions were often a source of discussion at home. I seemed to spend more time talking than learning!!  My position at the front of the class indicates not only me being the youngest but also perhaps the most disruptive. Even at that age I enjoyed networking.

During my school years I loved learning and my own links to the natural world were extended again by the local community. The HT (only teacher in the school) had a husband who was a gamekeeper and again he was a source of knowledge to us and our learning. I will always remember the day I found a wildcat who had been hit on the road lying at the side on the verge. The cat was still alive but obviously stunned. The gamekeeper collected the cat and brought it back to look after. We watched the amazing animal become well and eventually released back into the natural environment. The compassion and respect shown to the animal who was majestic but very vulnerable is something which has always stuck with me.

My love for books was born from the school and from my mother, and grandfather. Interestingly they all brought different skills to reading which today I now see in my own reading. Mrs MacArthur my teacher opened up the world of learning from text books and from reference books. She taught me the skills and functions of reading and for that I am always entirely indebted. My mother loved to read fiction from which she could escape the world around her and I watched and witnessed that sheer joy that a book can bring. She also read the newspaper daily inside out. My father read agricultural press. My grandfather interestingly had not had any formal schooling from the age of 10 was one of my greatest literacy influences. His own reading was limited but he spent hours with me looking at story books and telling me orally the stories. We entered a magic world together and made up stories. We continued this on our many walks and explorations of the community. Visiting these places today.  I can still envisage the rich story contexts that he created for me. I literally read all that I could in my formative years from magazines, catalogues, adverts to all types of books.

My love of books continued and my mother was housekeeper at Kilberry Castle. Marion Campbell who owned the castle was a historian and author and was very supportive in opening up my world further to literature. In my later primary years I was often permitted to go with my mother to work and to go into the working den of Marion Campbell. She let me look at the range of books and get lost in their worlds from Celts to Modern Agriculture. The cigarette fog of the room is a distinct smell which lingers with me to this day and I associate with books. She often talked about her own education and had never attended university but had so desperately wanted to and her hopes for Scotland. She was strong nationalist and I had the joy of listening to many friendly but robust debates between her and my grandfather who was a very firm conservative.

The influences from both Mrs MacArthur and Marion Campbell instilled in me the love of learning and the aspiration to become a teacher. I was keen to follow my desire to become a teacher and reflecting back my now strong commitment to rural education was born from the culture and ethos I grew up in a strong community.

It is clear that our formative years are so important and a couple of important links for us all are.

Education Scotland Realising the Ambition – Being me – click here

Joining the dots, Prof. Susan Deacon – click here