Monthly Archives: September 2016

“Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

When I was younger, primary 5 age to be exact, I had a really influential teacher who taught me my first understandings of segregation and racism, particularly at the time of Martin Luther King Jr’s existence. It was a time, the first time, that I saw the harrowing, poignant image of the Ku Klux Klan. I distinctly remember having nightmares for weeks. I mean yes, some feel that I was too young to see those images, however, the story and message behind it, made a huge impact on why I feel so strongly against not only the historic treatment of black people, but how they are being treated currently….in the 21st century.

What particularly hit me during the Values lecture on Tuesday, was the case of Emmett Till. A young, innocent 14 year old boy, out with his cousins in the state of Mississippi. After allegations that he “whistled at and touched” a women’s hand, her partner and her brother took Emmett away from his home, savagely beat up, shot and killed him. His body was then wrapped in barbed wire and tossed into a nearby river. Why? Because he was black. Did they get jailed for it? No. They were let away free. Despite the overwhelming amount of evidence. However, it was the decision his mother took that made the case go down in American

“I said I want the world to see this because, there is no way I could tell this story and give them the visual picture of what my son looked like,” Mobley said. 

At Emmett’s funeral, his mother decided to expose his body in an open lid coffin, so that the people of the country could see the damage the men had done to Emmett, to the point that it made him almost unrecognizable. This devastating image created an outrage across the globe and sparked the beginning of a Civil Rights movement. It was said that when Rosa Parks iconically refused to give up her seat on the bus, it was because she saw Till’s face in her mind and she knew then that it was the right thing to do.

But have we really moved forward?!….Yes, it could be argued that it’s not at the extent it used to be, e.g we can all use the same bathrooms now. However, each week we see more and more unarmed, black men and women (particularly men) shot and hurt/killed by the American police force. Los Angeles Police Department for example, “To Protect and to serve” – at least that’s their slogan. Second highest in a ratings poll for shooting unarmed citizens. 73% of which were black. (Calculated by

Alton Sterling. Trayvon Martin. Sandra Bland. Keith Lamont Scott. Philando Castile.

Remember those names?


I was also shocked into reality when I decided to watch a documentary by the BBC on the modern day Ku Klux Klan. The haunting image of the soulless, white spear on top of the blank figure. The image that took me back to my primary 5 self. The image that left me tense, terrified and tearful. An organisation that I just assumed had grown out. How ignorant I was. Young children, younger than 3 I would say, saluting to the racist, barbaric, malevolent culture that is the KKK.

Children. Innocent children.

I remembered the thoughts in my head as a child, what had these people done wrong for this organisation to act so violently against them? I am still, frustratingly, asking myself the same question now as I sit here writing this blog. I also sit and I think about those who live in fear. Scared to go out their door every morning. The fear of the unknown. “Am I going to get stopped and killed as I drive my child to school?” 


I think, as teachers, we have a duty to teach as much about equality, respect and fairness that we can in the classroom. Learn to respect not only those around us, but those outwith the classroom environment. It is vital to practice this and hope that in return, although it may be a small change, that we can take baby steps towards a more positive, fair and equal society.

“I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

Martin Luther King Jr

“I Have a Dream” speech, at the Lincoln Memorial, 28th August 1963


Our first values workshop: Experiencing inequality and how it effected the group

On Tuesday, we had our first of the values workshops. For this, we were split into 4 groups. I, unaware of what was to come, was put into group 4. All four groups were handed an envelope, that included items in which we had to use to make a resource for freshers coming into the university that they may find useful. In our envelope, we had an elastic band, one post-it note and a pencil. That was it. Immediately ideas started circling round the table. A map? A game? What could we possibly do with these extremely limited resources?!

As a group we started discussing what we could have benefitted from when we first arrived at uni. For me, it was simple: people to speak to and become friends with. This was something I seriously struggled with when I first came to university. What we discovered while discussing topics was that: a) Every other group had more resources than us and b) they were getting far more encouragement from Carrie than what we were. This (despite knowing it was an exercise of some sort) disheartened the group. It also made us question if what we were doing was correct.

In the end, despite the lack of supplies, we had created two (pretty genius, if I don’t say so myself) inventions for freshers to use when they first come to university, using a combination of experiences and contributions from within the group. The first was a map, using the envelope, post-it and pencil, displaying what building each lecture would be in for our course. The second was a friendship bracelet. The idea would be that the bracelet would be placed on the chair next to you in a lecture, so someone potentially feeling the same way, or just wants to sit with you, would know that you’re looking to meet new people. Both of these ideas seemed well received from the groups, but Carrie gave us no support or encouragement throughout the presentation. Again, we questioned our motives; had we completely lost the point?! As the rest of the groups presented, she showed a variety of interest. It was noticeable that it increased from group 4 up to group 1 to which it came across that she loved their idea.


The message behind this workshop was that despite lack of resources in an environment, a childs’ social background, ability, race or even what kind of socks they chose to wear that day, everyone has the right to being treated equally and with respect. It raised a whole range of issues, from social divisions to being appreciated in society for being who you are. What I also took from it, was that to always trust your instinct. As we received next to no encouragement, we started to doubt our own, perfectly valid judgements. I found it, overall, a very interesting and beneficial workshop.

Why music is so important in the teaching profession

I have always been a firm believer that extra curricular activities are as important for a child as having academic skills. I believe this, not only because it’s important for future CV reference, but also because as a child develops, it is vital for them to adapt skills outwith an academic environment, to feel different emotions and develop their own individual skills and qualities.

When mum was pregnant with me, she used to sing to me in the womb. Once I was born, she sang to me in the bath, when I went to bed and even during the day. Music has always been around me and I’ve always been interested in it.  In an age where music is one of the most celebrated cultures worldwide, I feel that it is vital that children get taught about music in the teaching profession and that the rewards and opportunities that come from it are endless.


Where I’m from (the Orkney Islands) we are extremely lucky when it comes to music tuition. First off, that the teaching staff are idols for all of us in the music department. Teachers that are not only inspirational but show sheer dedication and commitment to their area of work that I have never seen before. A scheme introduced by the Orkney Islands Council, means that from primary age upwards, there are many opportunities for a pupil to receive free lessons in school time with an instrument. In time, providing that the pupil sticks with the tuition, playing an instrument can reap benefits. Meeting new friends, gaining confidence but also, due to the complexity of music reading, it trains the brain to deal with other aspects of life.

In a primary school environment, children are so keen and willing to learn. They soak up everything like a sponge. Simple songs, rhythms and musical exercises can liven up a classroom and make learning enjoyable. Having a wee story behind songs as well can also be an extra idea.


However, I do understand that music isn’t every teacher’s cup of tea. But that is okay. You don’t have to have done music before to do as good a job as someone who knows Mozart’s Fifth Symphony backwards. It’s about engaging with it and embracing the enjoyment that comes out of it.


Why teaching?

Well, it’s amazing to think that this time last year, I was making one of the biggest decisions of my life; what was I going to do once I left 6th year? Now, a whole year later, here I am at the University of Dundee about to start my big adventure into the world of teaching.

It was pretty easy for me to make my choice of career. Having done work experience over the course of last year and the year before, it was clear in my mind that teaching was definitely what I wanted to do. It was, however, one lesson in particular that influenced my decision. I was on placement in a nursery, and there were several children struggling with sellotape. I showed them a fun technique on how to find the edge of the tape. It was when I came back the following week, the group of kids that I’d showed it to the week prior, were then teaching their own friends and classmates how to do it. It gave me a positive clarification that yes Gemma, you can do this (or at least give it a good go)!

I have also been a member of Girlguiding Orkney for 13 years. Doing volunteering with the younger Brownies and Guides furthered my ambition to work with children. I absolutely loved it. Teaching them extra curricular skills that they can use in not only different aspects of life, but also as they progress through Girlguiding itself.

Music and drama are two extra passions of mine. Using the skills gained from that particular subjects in a classroom environment has come at a huge advantage, especially when communicating with younger children.

I would say that I am most looking forward to going on placement, and the reason that is is because during the year, I will develop new skills and qualities that I can then try out in the classroom once more. I’m really hoping that I can improve my academic writing and organisational skills. These are crucial to have as a teacher. Being in a classroom and engaging with the young minds of children is what I have enjoyed doing in work experience, so I can’t wait to see how this year goes. Just hoping that Miss Harcus has a good ring to it!