From one NQT to the next

Since its National Digital Learning Week (I know I haven’t blogged probably within the last year) but since reading my NQT final report and realising I have 6 short weeks left with my first ever class I thought I would share my advice for the new NQTs.

 

Don’t panic – just trust

 

For some NQTs they do not get their first choice of local authorities, others do not get their first choice of stage. I was in the second category, after an extremely enjoyable placement in P1 P3 in my third and fourth year of university, I really wanted to stay in the infant end of the school. My new school placed me in P6 and I think I spent most of my summer in blind panic at how I was going to cope. Whatever situation you are in do not panic. Your school have been doing this for years and they probably know the challenges you need more than you do yourself. I know can’t imagine being out of upper school, I probably wouldn’t have achieved half of the things I did this year with a younger class. Nevertheless, I look forward to the next challenge.

 

Do not spend your whole summer planning

 

The children will lead their own learning. This is one of the biggest things I have learnt this year. Now that you do not have to have paper plans to stick to, you will go off on tangents far more often when you get comfortable with your class and those hours you spent planning over summer will not be needed. Some school may give you set topics and you do not want to have drafted plans for a topic you do not even get to teach. Be patient, get to know your class and enjoy the journey and new experience of planning alongside them.

 

Do something to engage in your school journey

 

My school are on a big digital journey and it was my weakest area of practice going into my NQT year. I remember thinking the Google Drive and Classroom lecture I got a university was a big waste of time because I had never seen a school with enough computers for one each per child. Never did I think a year on Google Drive and Classroom would be an everyday feature in my class. It has had the biggest impact on my NQT just because I thought I better give this ago after a CPD/CLPL to engage with the school. My class now have their own set of Chromebooks to see how far we can develop their digital skills. Yes, I said we and by we, I mean the children and I because 9 times out of 10 they are leading their own learning. This last week alone I have had visitors from another primary school in to watch my practice, presented my practice at the Tayside Regional Collaborative (with my learners) and been featured three times on Education Scotland’s National Digital Learning Week Blog because I gave something I was scared of a go. Next week HMIE are coming to observe. The biggest message, even if you think it is going to go down like a lead balloon, at least give it a go first. You never know where it will end up. If it does go down in flame, great reflect on it with your mentor and use it as a learning opportunity. If it doesn’t, then let it flourish.

 

Ask for advice

 

This is what your mentor is there for. They want to help, support and guide you because they want the best for you. I cannot believe how lucky I got with my mentor, she has been amazing all year round and there’s been no silly questions or judgement because I didn’t know something. Just ask if you don’t know.

 

Appreciate your colleagues’ knowledge

Ask questions! Similar to your mentor, they have probably been doing this for several years or at the school for a year or many more. They know the way things work in the school. They have tried different things; they have resourced ready which my colleagues have been wonderful with sharing. If you don’t ask the answer will always be no.  I would not have achieved half as much without the support of my colleagues, they are fantastic and I am so fortunate to have been blessed with my school encouraging me along this year.

 

Get to know your learners and what works for them

Everyone is an individual. They all have things which work for them, spend time getting to know them all. I had 29 learners to begin with, all unique all with a different set of needs all needing to be challenged in a different way. I have become so proud of them all in different ways because I have got to know all their talents. They’re your first of many classes potential but give them your all, show them you care about them as individuals as well as about them as a whole class and they will do the same back for you. My class love the Chromebooks, they engage with them so well and that is the sole reason I continued to try out new things and go home in my own time to learn about it.

 

Make a to do list for your days out

Simple. And priorities it with what needs to be done first otherwise you will sit and procrastinate. I was fortunate to have two other NQTs in my school to learn alongside and support each other but on days out sometimes we had to separate ourselves to stop us from just chatting. You have to make the most of them, you only get them for one year. Observe good practice, take online CPD, mark your jotters, write reports whatever it is that needs doing use these days to their full potential.

 

Self-care is key

In the first term you will want to do EVERYTHING and you will soon come to realise it just isn’t possible even with the best will in the world your to do list now and will forever be endless. However, you need to make time for yourself. In the first term I got so consumed in work I forgot to have a work life balance. You need to work smarter not harder or you will burn out so quickly. It is a long but quick and exhausting year. Make sure you make plans with friends to force yourself to have time out because you will want to make a great impression on your school. You do not need to spend all your time working to do that. It isn’t a placement anymore, you have a whole year to prove yourself. Yes go in with great intentions and smash your goals but have time out and a time to leave work at work.

 

NQTs

You are all in the same position, whether this be your friends from university, other NQTs in your school or at the NQT days – ask each other questions, learn from each other and support one another. It isn’t a competition you will all have different ideas of what works in your class and it might work in yours as well.

 

Enjoy

It has been the hardest but most rewarding year of my life. I have enjoyed watching my class grow and learn new things. I cannot believe I am almost leaving them, but I hope each and every one of them have learnt or taken away something for their future. Just enjoy spending time getting to know them – you’ll never get another first class!

 

Good luck and enjoy your journey!

 

I apologise now if any of it doesn’t make sense, I am exhausted!

 

From Naughty Boy to ‘Outstanding’ Head Teacher; A Reflection on Educating Drew.

I put ‘Outstanding’ in quote marks as Harrop Fold, from the Povey’s book, has yet to be given Ofsted’s outstanding seal of approval. Nevertheless, I believe Povey to be an outstanding head teacher from what I have watched and read. He is committed to making ‘the’ difference to his school and it seems through this book and the Educating Greater Manchester series to be working.

I had fallen in love with the team and the teaching styles of Harrop Fold School in Little Hutton from the Educating Greater Manchester series and when I found out head teacher Drew Povey had written a book, it was the first thing on my Christmas list (alongside a guillotine paper cutter and a laminator – nothing screams soon to be Newly Qualified Teacher and broke student more). Fast forward to the day before my placement and I have finally finished reading the book. Personal commitments and university assignments overtook the importance of the book but nevertheless it was fantastic and I could not recommend it enough to anyone and when I got the chance, I simply could not put it down.

Drew Povey had inspired me from the minute I set eyes on Harrop Fold in Educating Greater Manchester but what was clear from the book is the are many of others who inspire him from his brothers and his teachers to people he quotes in his books such as Obama, Churchill, EM Kelly or Spiderman. There were many messages in the book anyone could relate to; business leaders, head teachers or school teachers. However, in this short post I wanted to pick out a few parts of the book I related to most and the messages that were prominent to me.

Anyone who knows me will know me as quite a sporty person growing up (ok that hasn’t stuck too much throughout university but I am known as the sporty one in my friend group) and the links Povey makes between education and school including a chapter on having a playbook as probably the message that rings through the whole book to me. Povey’s leadership style often comes back to what he had learnt from rugby training and coaching. He uses tactics from rugby to get the ‘difficult children’ on side, he set up a rugby team at Harrop Fold to give these something to commit to at school; having the ‘hard lads’ onside rippled through the school and there was a murmur that Mr Povey was a ’sound guy’. Povey noted the importance of keeping these students onside and committed to creating a no exclusion policy, he wanted to ensure no child was written off which was an incredibly warming feeling. The importance of understanding the student’s behaviour, the root problem and not just looking at the bad behaviour was something perhaps I overlooked the significance of before and I was quick when faced with challenging behaviour to look at this as a personal attack and deal with the behaviour and not seek out the issue behind it all. In all honestly, the last time I remember dealing with significantly challenging behaviour, which did not stem from an additional support need, was in first year of university and thus reflecting back I did not really know much at all at the time of the placement although it was a great learning curve.

Throughout university, any assignment has told me to reflect more which I have tried so hard over the last two years particularly to work on. I probably took it too far when I had five page weekly reflections on my third year placement and it is still a goal going into my final placement to work on. Throughout the last chapter of the book it was evident how reflective the whole book had been. The process Povey suggests at Harrop Fold is that the teachers take on a new challenge for a certain period of time, reflect and review. If the challenge is making a difference they continue to monitor but Povey makes clear not all of the challenges were worth the time and energy put that the school team put into them. The open and honest dialogue between the different teams in Povey’s four types of meetings are what I aspire to achieve to make sure I am not wasting time and energy on strategies that are not working but continuing to reflect and notice the positives in my practice as well.

Although this post only picked out two things, I wouldn’t want to give too much away about the book. However, this book made me think deeper about my practice; about different techniques and pedagogical strategies I perhaps never have come across otherwise. I am very intrigued for the second series of Educating Greater Manchester. I am ready to see if there is any more inspiration Povey and his team at Harrop Fold can continue to develop in me as a teacher and I am excited to see how the school is getting on. Mostly, I am excited to see how these inspirations can play out in my practice as an NQT. If you haven’t already, I would recommend any teacher to read Povey’s story.

Povey also talks about Harrop Fold’s no exclusion policy to the Education Select Committee in this short video; https://twitter.com/HarropFold/status/965159166997422080.

Reference:

Povey, D. (2017) Educating Drew: The Real Story of Harrop Fold School Woodbridge: John Catt Educational Limited.

Exploring Edinburgh!

Whilst Steph and I had Stephanie’s friend from America, Apshara, over for the week. We thought we should take a trip to the capital to show her a little more of Scotland. Perfect time for another Social Studies blog!

All ready for our trip to the capital with our tartan and irn bru, stereotypical Scots!

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When we arrived in Edinburgh, we decided to go to Princes’ Street Gardens and the Wallace Monument. What I had never realised until we were looking for things to do to show Apshara was that you can go up the Wallace Monument. This is something I had walked past numerous times and never even considered. It is however, now that I know it is an option, is something I would be very interested to do at a later day because we did not have long in Edinburgh.

The Wallace Monument

At the gardens, there was a World War II Remembrance Day memorial surrounding the Wallace Monument. The memorial was hundreds of poppies on little plaques to represent the fallen who had served our country during World War II. This, in my opinion, felt like a representation of Flanders Field. Although I had never studied the poem Flanders Field in school, the memorial gave a very apparent representation of the image I had in my mind of Flanders Field. It was, personally, a very touching memorial.

The World War II Remembrance Day Memorial in Edinburgh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The memorial did not immediately seem relevant to a blog post or my assignment but as I have sat down to write this post, the relevance to my assignment is indisputable. The critical viewpoint of history’s place in the Curriculum for Excellence in short can be argued in two lights. One by the postmodernist views which state that history and some sources validity must be questions as accounts are in their view simply stories and the relevance of those stories must therefore be questioned. On the other hand, the relevance of understanding our heritage, how society was formed and understanding key world events such as World War II is critical to children’s understanding of the world but must be taught with relevance to the world and their lives today for example through Interdisciplinary Learning topics which also focus on issues in current society. This has all come into my social studies assignment. I felt the memorial did a spectacular job of capturing the importance of World War II in today’s society and it really moved me personally.

Part of the memorial was the ‘Tree of Thanks’. The Tree was to allow for people to thank someone or the fallen for the things they do/have done for them. This, to me, allowed for a personal element to the memorial and there were a lot of beautiful messages to both people’s chosen person and the fallen. This allowed for time to think and reflect on what the fallen have done for our country and what other people do for you every day. My Tartan Heart (Tartan, anything piece of our Scottish heritage I did not immediately think so) was of course dedicated to my mum. My mum (and dad) have done so much for me especially over the last few years I have been at university and I always think it is important to thank them.

The memorial really got me thinking as I had never seen any World War II Remembrance Memorial like this before. Although it has not really helped me understand the significance of teaching World War II as a standalone topic still, it has helped me to acknowledge that this is still an important issue in contemporary society.

***

As a newfound big fan of the Scottish Museum, I thought this would be the perfect place to show Apshara a little bit more of Scotland and our heritage as a country. However, as a we got there quite late and they were closing from the top down, we never got to go to the ‘A Changing Nation’ section which I felt from my last trip here was the most relevant section to our lives and had the most information that would be interesting to Apshara.

However, this meant we went to a section of the Museum that Katie and I did not get to explore. Although we were only there for an hour and on top of the last trip, still did not feel like long enough. We went into the technology section on the ground and fifth floor which was purely for enjoyment and it was great fun. Stephanie had said previously ‘I am not sure I am going to enjoy a museum’ as I hyped up the place. This was the three of them after a great hour of fun!

Three clearly amused adults!

Stephanie’s parting words ‘this was great fun, we have to come back when it is fully open!’.

The clear enjoyment.

This comment alone only strengthened my opinion that although the museum is a huge place and there is a lot to do which makes it important, for the trip as a learning experience, to have a set area or task to focus on to keep control of the class and the experience. It is also important to allow children a chance to enjoy other sections that may interest them. These experiences, I feel from personal experience as a child on school trips, are what made me remember the trips and therefore the learning that took place. The fun and enjoyment as crucial parts to learning inside and out with the classroom but of course for risk assessments and health and safety especially outside need to be controlled by the teachers.

***

The trip to Edinburgh as a whole was unexpectedly really worthwhile. It was a great stimulus for some serious thought into issues which are relevant to my current learning regarding social studies and an opportunity to broaden my own opinions and knowledge.

“Everyone is different…”

“But that means everyone can fit in” (Paddington The Movie, 2014)

Just from one quote, Paddington the Movie could stem a lot of lessons about inclusion, respecting diversity and expressing feelings. However, this was not the reason behind watching this film. We had been told about Paddington the Movie in our social studies elective as it showed migration in a different way to looking at this from a crisis point of view for example in World War II. This quote just shows the diversity of the movie and how much can be taken from it. The film could be looked at with a class for health and wellbeing purposes or for social studies.

Whilst I was watching it I was thinking more from a social studies perspective as, as I have said, it was why we were prompted to watch it. Right from the beginning of the film there were a multitude of different topics in social studies that the film could act as a stimulus for. Therefore, I am going to go through the ideas I felt could be derived from the film.

Firstly, in the film the reason behind Paddington moving to London was due to a natural disaster. An earthquake hit “The Darkest Peru” and caused devastated in their jungle. The earthquake also killed Paddington’s uncle. This could be a stimulus for a class discussion of how  Paddington would be feeling at this time, what the class would do in Paddington’s situation: would they stay in a ruined home/dangerous place or would they move away? This can also be used as a stimulus to look into natural disasters, can these happen where the children live? Where is the closest or most recent natural disaster? How did this affect the people of those towns?

Paddington is then left to evacuate to London on his own because his auntie is too old to move away. This can be linked directly to World War II topic where the children are forced to leave their homes to move to the countryside without any of their family or knowing where they would end up but they knew it would be the safety option in the end. The movie does make this direct correlation to the war and therefore could be an interesting discussion point. Another way to make the human connection the Paddington in this situation, the class could be asked if they were to move today and could only take a small bag, what would they put in this bag? Would the class be practical and pack food like Paddington did with his Marmalade or warm clothing or would they choose to pack things that are more modern such as phones, iPads, make up etc. This could create a discussion as to why they would take these items? Where would they charge them if they did not have a home? This takes the lesson right back to the children and can create a sense that children could be materialistic and why in a time of crisis materialistic possession would not always be most helpful.

Another small link to WWII can come through artefacts. In Paddington the Movie, Millicent, who tries to capture and stuff Paddington can be seen wearing a gas mask similar to those that would have been worn in WWII. This can be a stimulus for discussing historic artefacts. The children could guess what she is wearing and why she is wearing it? If they already know what it is, the children could discuss where else they might have found out about this artefact.

Through the film, Paddington’s idea of home and family changes. At first, Paddington does not feel like he belongs in London. He misses the Peruvian Jungle and his auntie dearly. He feels unwanted by Mr Brown but Mrs Brown tries to include Paddington into the family and find him a long term home. This could be related back to terrorist attacks or WWII through looking at how communities pull together in a time of need, how friendly Londoners/Mancunians have been in recent events to strike their city and take people in when necessary. The children could discuss how they can be helpful to their community or how they would feel taking in a stranger or being taken in by a strange family. By the end of the film, Paddington is finally settled into life in London and is now living with the Brown family permanently. Paddington says that although the Brown’s are a strange tribe and life in London is different to the Peruvian Jungle, he feels more at home now. And Mrs Brown tells him in London “Everyone is different, but that means everyone can fit in”. Even a bear.

Overall, I think throughout many points in the film it could be paused and used as a discussion piece. The movie as a whole could also be a great stimulus for many lessons regarding migration, crisis, natural disasters, inclusion, diversity and human connections.

Embracing my Inner Child (and the wind)!

Ok, so all my friends from the Central Belt of Scotland talked of great trips of the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh for class trips. Being a ‘Northern’, I had never been and was a little jealous. So, with the elective as a great excuse, Katie and I set off to Edinburgh for a day trip to the museum.

 

I walked into the museum and was overwhelmed by the size of the place, there isn’t anything up north quite as big. In the museum, there are sections for Scotland, Science and Technology, World Cultures, Art, Design and Fasion and the Natural World as well as the special exhibit section. There is so much in the Museum of Scotland, I as a 21-year-old adult, found it hard to focus at first. There was just so much to play with in the Technology section which we just so happened to walk into first. Another considerable difference, was the amount of children who were in the museum. Whenever I have been on any other of my trips, the children have been scarce. In the museum, there was a plethora of children in the technology section. This showed to me, this maybe a very good trip as the children would choose to come here but on the other hand, it may not be such a good trip if you worked in the local area as the children may have already been and therefore, may not be as interested in the museum.

 

This made me think as a teacher, there would have to a thorough plan in place for a trip to the Museum of Scotland as it would be quite easy to derail from the purpose of the trip. However, I would also not be opposed to timetabling in free time for the children to explore a section such as the technology section as it was highly interesting and I feel a class of primary 6’s or 7’s could be trusted to enjoy the free time sensible and come back to a designated point at a given time. This could be done with a younger class as well but I suppose it goes on how well you know and can trust your own class rather than a set age.

After spending probably a little too much time having fun, we only had two hours in the museum, Katie and I ventured up to the top of the museum for the section “Scotland: A Changing Nation”. This section I found really interesting as well. The majority of the exhibits in this section I could personally relate to. Although the exhibition was dated from 1900 to the present day, I felt like I knew most of the exhibits on show. This section really made me think about how much of Scottish History I have been a part of, from the best parts such as Glasgow 2014 to the worst drop in oil Aberdeen has ever seen, to exciting changes in history such as the voting aged being dropped for the Scottish Referendum to 16 years old.

 

A Changing Nation, I felt did really well at including the whole of Scotland in the exhibit which isn’t always the case in other museums, they tend to be focussed a particularly era or part of Scotland. In this section, Katie learnt I wasn’t lying when I asked Foos your doos? or fit like I’day? And told her these were real words when she watched a video from the people of Scotland. Both of us, were very fond of this video, it really encapsulated Scotland and our heritage. This section took us from more recent history straight through to the modern day. It helped me personally to understand where we had come from in perspective to where we are currently and how we as a nation have evolved over time. I feel to fully understand where we are, we must understand our heritage which in my own opinion is key in the rationale for teaching history.

As we ventured down the stairs into Industry and Empire, the 19th century section, we began to quickly get bored.

 

Whilst in the Industry and Empire section and even further down the Scottish history timeline and sections, although we did still feel there was a lot of information to take in and we did not see the significance to our lives as learners and questioned the relevance to children in our potential classes. We felt if we ourselves as learners were bored, we would struggle to engage children in a lesson in this section. Therefore, personally, if I were to take a class, unless it was specific to the topic they were learning about at the time, I would perhaps limit the Scotland section to only Scotland: A Changing Nation and the more modern history which children could relate to.

As I stated at the beginning, there were a variety of different sections and we unfortunately did not get to visit them all. However, we did have a quick look at the Art, Design and Fashion section. Katie had a class who were designing hats as part of a project with the V&A Dundee in her placement school last year and she felt they would have thoroughly enjoyed looking at the exhibits in this section. Katie felt this would have inspired their designs and inspired the children to be as creative as they liked with their hats. On the other hand, to myself, I wouldn’t have thought to take a class to this section as a teacher as although I thought the dresses and hats were pretty to look at, I did not feel myself gaining anything as a learner. Therefore, it shows, given the right topic this could be a great stimulus for learning and thus we must remain open minded to different sections of the museums for different topics and not just continue to use the same section or exhibits.

We also had brief look at the Age of Oil special exhibit. The Age of Oil exhibit was looking at the Oil industry mainly with the focus on Aberdeen. The Oil industry is a significant part of my life. I grew up spending my weekends playing at the Harbour with my grandparents. Both my dad, sister and at least one of my best friends, Findlay, currently work in the oil industry. It is hugely significant in Aberdeen. It is a big employer and has many jobs, to the point my dad, sister and Findlay all work in oil but neither work in the same company and neither of them even have similar jobs. However, neither of them work off shore either. Baring this in mind, here are my thoughts of the exhibit.

So far, I feel I enjoyed this trip the most out of all of the previous trips. There is so much that can be done in the museum and we couldn’t have possibly looked in depth at everything in the short amount of time we went so we did focus on Technology and Science and Scotland: A Changing Nation. We chose to do that as we felt those sections were most relevant to ourselves as learners and felt they would be most relevant to the children in our future classes.

 

Overall, here are our thoughts from the trip:

 

It was a very educational but fun day out! I had a great time embracing my inner child. Definitely recommend a visit!

Discovering a Preserved City.

Although I said in a previous post, Aberdeen and the Shire is a quickly changing city, so much so that I sometimes barely know my own local surroundings. However, ‘up North’ we do have some national treasures that are preserved in the town and surrounding areas history. As I had said previously, I was adamant to discover something different about my local area when I came to visit this weekend after failing to notice the beauty of everything surrounding me last weekend. Therefore, this morning I headed off on a little trip further North onto the Visit Scotland (2016) Castle Trail. I headed towards Dunecht to Castle Fraser.

Last weekend on my drive home from Inverurie, I had spotted the Castle Trail tourist information sign. After researching this trail when I got home, it turns out the castle it could have been directing me towards was Castle Fraser, therefore that was the one from the trail I choose to visit today.

Before leaving, I had chosen to do no research into Castle Fraser apart from the little snippet of information that was on the Castle Trail booklet. This was so when I arrived at the Castle I would have the same experience children would most likely have if I was to use this as a class trip.

(The little snippet of information I had before the trip (left) and part of the Castle Trail (right) (Visit Scotland, 2016) in Aberdeenshire.)

Much to my surprise, when I arrived there, the car park was quite full. Normally whenever I head to Dunnottar Castle, excluding once in the peak of summer, the car park is always empty. The castle was very busy with at least two other visitors in every room I went in. There were castle guides in 3 of the rooms as well who were very knowledgeable not only about the castle and the artefacts in the castle but also about the Victorian period in general. The majority of the visitors in the castle were older ladies and there was only one family with children. There were other families on the castle grounds doing the walking trails and in the play park.

When I first got to the castle, I took a wonder around the grounds. Castle Fraser is surrounded by copious green space: there are trails to walk around the grounds, the walled garden, play park, cafe and a visitor shop. At the shop, prior to going into the castle, I bought a Castle Fraser booklet. The information booklet would be fantastic for a teacher before going on the trip as it gives a wealth of information about the castle in general, each room in the castle, the Fraser families who occupied the castle and general Scottish history surrounding the castle. The castle dates back to first being built in 1454, around the time of the Scottish reformation, when the Fraser family was granted the land in exchange for Thomas Fraser’s land at Cornton (National Trust for Scotland, 2016, Pp. 3-6). The castle has since been renovated several times and is preserved, in the second to last renovation, in the early eighteenth century layout and decoration (National Trust for Scotland, 2016, p.8). The last renovation was in the nineteenth century but no inventory for how the castle looked then has been discovered (National Trust for Scotland, 2016, p.8).

(The Walled Garden in the grounds surrounding the castle (above).)

The booklet gives an in depth information of the tour around the castle. There are also information cards in each room going into more depth about the room and all the artefacts you can see in the room including the paintings and wallpaper. These go alongside, as previously mentioned, the fantastic castle guides. With the artefacts being the Fraser families’s belongings, it is a great way to show people, especially children who may never have had the chance to see these artefacts, primary sources from this time period. The artefacts have been incredibly well maintained over the years, which gives a more realistic understanding of these possessions than looking at photographs in my opinion.

 

(The Great Hall (above) and some artefacts, of the Fraser families’ belongings, from inside the castle (above and below))

I feel Castle Fraser would lend itself nicely to topics of Victorians or the Jacobites as it is maintained in the 18th and 19th century renovations with artefacts from the Fraser family dating back to those periods (National Trust for Scotland, 2016). The Dining Room in the castle, for example, has a Victorian table with the Fraser family silverware, glass and china on the table (National Trust for Scotland, 2016, p.14). Due to the wealth of information, the fantastic green space and the surrounding grounds, I feel this would be a suitable place for a school trip for those topics.

(The information cards that can be found in each room).

Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the castle, I feel it helped me discover something about Aberdeenshire in my bid to develop my local knowledge. The visit has made me more interested in local history and where possible, I want to carry on the Castle Trail (Visit Scotland, 2016) as there are still many more castles in Aberdeenshire to discover. When I was in the castle, I spoke to a lady, who was also visiting the castle, she was so enthusiastic and passionate about the fantastic history and castles we have in Aberdeenshire that it inspired me to visit more soon!

(The view of the castle grounds from the castle tower.)

References:

National Trust for Scotland (2016) Castle Fraser, Garden and Estate Scotland: GPS

Visit Scotland (2016) Scotland’s Castle Trail: Explore Aberdeenshire Available at: https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/media/10248/scotlandscastletrail.pdf (Accessed on: 30/9/17)

Tales Twisted in Time

On Thursday evening, myself and my two friends (Katie and Katy, just to confuse things) ventured on a Dark Dundee walking tour.

We had chosen to go on their least dark tour Twisted in Time as we wanted to know more information about Dundee’s history that we could use in our classes (and social studies assignment) and if this would be a suitable thing to use as a class trip. The Dark Dundee tour guides said whilst we were walking they had only worked with secondary school pupils before, giving them not only the tales and facts they know about Dundee’s history but also knowledge about travel and tourism and running a business. They showed great interdisciplinary learning ideas but sadly they had never worked with primary schools. However, before we were even half way round the tour, the three of us had decided this would be a fantastic trip to do with children, if the tour guides would have a younger class and miss some parts of the stories out to keep it PG. We felt as a group, children would be much more engaged in this than going round a museum. Katie and I had previously already said, that although there would be a lot you could do, we would find a trip to the McManus Galleries (Rennie, 2017) hard to plan for and managed therefore at our stage of development we would not take a class there. On the other hand, we definitely felt we could take a class easily on a Dark Dundee walking tour.

Why did we decide this? To the tour, we go.

The Twisted in Time tour took us on a walking tour around things: statues, plaques, streets, in Dundee which I knew nothing about, things that I have never even

noticed in Dundee before but are all critical in the history of Dundee. As we walked around these different spots, the Dark Dundee tour guides, told us the famous tales that had been slightly twisted over time but took those tales back to what they could prove to be true.

We started at the tour at the Dragon statue in the city centre. The tour began here as this statue is actually Twisted in Time itself. The Dragon came to be here after the tale of the nine daughters of a Dundonian farmer. The farmer had sent one of his daughters to the well to get water one evening, after a while when the daughter never came back, he sent another of his daughters to find out what was going on, this continued until all nine daughters never came back. The farmer then went down to the well to see a serpent at the well and all nine of his daughter dead. The farmer, alongside one of his daughter’s lover, Martin and the rest of the town, went to find and kill the serpent. The town tried to drown the serpent but this did not harm the serpent eventually the crowd yelled for Martin to slay the serpent with the club he had. This apparently took place on Strathmartine Road in Dundee and it has been named after Martin striking the ‘dragon’ which killed his lover and her sisters.

The tour continued down to Castlehill. Yes there is no Castle or Hill in Dundee city centre, you are right. However, well before the city centre was what it is today, there was apparently a castle situated on a very high hill which was incredibly difficult to attack. The castle was eventually ordered to be torn down by the old town mayor. The rubble and remnants created Castle Street. Along Castle street, the site of the first known pub in Dundee, The Lion Tavren, was situated along one Dundee’s old, narrow, windy streets – the layout of old Dundee was vaguely shown on a very old plaque on the side.

 

 

 

The plaque showing the old and current streets of Dundee on the old Castlehill, now known as Castle Street.

 

 

Listening intently at the site of Dundee’s first known Pub.

 

 

 

 

Further down Shore Terrace, which was where the River Tay used to flow to, we learnt about Greasy Johnny and the Whale. A humpback whale once was spotted in Scotland, many people tried to kill and claim the whale but eventually the whale was auctioned off. Greasy Johnny outbid an Aberdeen University Professor, John Wood who wanted to dissect the whale, to have the whale. Johnny, made a business out of the Whale by keeping it in a warehouse, selling tickets to people, at least 10,000 on the first day alone, to view the whale. After the whale was clearly dead, Johnny invited Professor John Wood to Dundee to dissect the whale as he could sell more tickets for people to view the dissection of the whale. After the whale was dissected and all that was left was the whale skin, Greasy Johnny took the skin on a trailer around the country, getting yet more money for people to see the skin of the humpback whale. 

 

We were lead up to St Paul’s Cathedral in the city centre were the tour unpicked the plaque that states William Wallace started the battle for Independence here. The guides said it was an over exaggerated claim. What is supposed to have happened is Wallace stabbed and murdered a governor’s son, Selby, after an argument at school. Wallace left Dundee and hid out in Perth before he was returned to Siege of Dundee, hailed a hero as he got rid of King Edward and his troops from Scotland. 

A final memorable tale, was about the witch, Grissell Jaffery, who was supposedly burnt alive at the Seagate on this cross. There are two mosaics down one of the closes where the memorial plaque is, one of fire and one of water to symbolise that they tried to drown Grissell which did not work and then burnt her as the last known witch in Dundee.

The plaque and fire mosaic at the close remember Grissell Jaffery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tour ended with Grissell’s death. Both the tour guides gave fantastic accounts of historic Dundonian tales. This was a highly engaging way to learn about different stories of Dundee. I think older primary classes, perhaps primary 6 or 7, would thoroughly enjoy this experience compared to a museum or learning from textbooks. This can meet a lot of the experiences and outcomes in People, Past Events and Society, particularly SOC 2-03a and SOC 2-10a in People, Place and Environment (Scottish Government, 2009). Being able to walk around and physically be at the sites, see the plaques, mosaics and statues made the tales far more interesting in my opinion than seeing photographs or reading the stories. The three of us felt that children would take a lot more in from being on a Dark Dundee tour than being in a museum or the guides coming into the class to do a talk about the history of Dundee. This allows them, through active learning, to see different kinds of sources regarding Dundee’s history to build a picture and story of Dundee from the earliest years (the guides suggested the earliest story they knew they could place between the year 0 and 1000) to bring this back to the what they know as the present, for example from Castlehill to Castle Street. Again, this can help them meet different social studies outcomes such as SOC 2-01a.

After the Twisted in Time tour, the three of us decided we would definitely go on another and recommend the Dark Dundee tours. The guides were fantastics, the stories were entertaining and the whole evening was engaging and interesting to learn about the history in different way. This post has merely been a brief overview of the tour and if you wanted to hear the full stories, more tales and learn about Dundee’s history I would recommend going on one of their tours. We are considering their special event in Claypotts Castle next!

A video of my experience of the walking tour!

References: 

Scottish Government (2009) Curriculum for Excellence: Social Studies Experiences and Outcomes Available at: https://www.education.gov.scot/Documents/social-studies-eo.pdf (Accessed on: 06/10/17)

A Changing City.

Today, I drove from my parents house, where I have grown up for the last 21 years, in Portlethen through Aberdeen City to other other side of Aberdeenshire heading to Inverurie. Now although I have been to Inverurie before and out in this general direction, it is not a direction I usual travel in and an area of Aberdeenshire I am unfamiliar with.

Within the Social Studies Experiences and Outcomes, ‘local environment’ and ‘my/our community’ are reoccuring words throughout early to second level in the People, Place and Environment section (Scottish Government 2009, Pp. 6-11). However, as I have said in a previous blog post (Rennie, 2017a), I spent my summer this year, 2017, traveling Scotland seeing a variety of different landmarks and also traveling further such as New York, Paris, Berlin and Dublin. I have also spent the last three years, exploring a variety of different places in and around Dundee whilst I have been at university. The days I have spent exploring these various sites, such as Kirriemuir’s Neverland park (Rennie, 2017b), Crombie and Monikie Park (Rennie, 2017c), McManus Gallery (Rennie, 2017d) and Dundee in general (Rennie, 2017e), have been amongst my favourite days in Dundee. I always have a great day when I am out exploring somewhere new with friends. It has left me feeling very at home in Dundee but also as if I know more about Dundee than my home town lately.

This has left me with a wonderful sense of wanderlust and a desire to know more about our planet. On the other hand, it has meant I have neglected my home town. As I drove this route today, I realise how little I really knew about Aberdeen now. Aberdeen had been a city in which any kind of development never really occurred in as I grew up. As a city, we rejected new plans for the Union Terrace Gardens revival (BBC News, 2012) and have been waiting 17 years for a new football stadium (Say No to Kingsford Stadium, 2016), in my opinion, the place was slowly fading away due to the recession and Aberdonians’ unwillingness for change. Today, despite this, it is no longer the case. We still have not accepted plans for a new Union Terrace Gardens or football stadium but there is currently the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route development with sections slowly opening (Transport Scotland, 2017) and others well underway (Transport Scotland, No Date) and a new Exhibition and Conference Centre being built (Evolves, No Date).

On my way home from my course in Inverurie, I noticed as I drove along, there were so many tourist attraction signs for places I never even knew existed. I drove past them without even thinking until I past a sign for a Castle Trail. I thought to myself after passing it, that would have been very interesting for my social studies elective. In class, we had been looking at trails around the university campus in small groups, we were asked to create a trail. My group had opted to do a trail of places for relaxation or time out around the campus, we found places of nature such as the two university gardens or the mini bandstand gardens, the gym, the pool, the tennis courts and DUSA the union. Following this idea and to reconnect to my own home town, after passing the sign, I told myself I would stop at the next tourist attraction and look around.

Unsurprisingly with my luck, the only other tourist information on my route home, was a hotel. I am not sure this would have been of any interest to my social studies elective. Therefore, I decided once I was home and I still hadn’t been on any kind of trail or got to know my city any better that I would look into the castle trail sign that I had saw. Unknown to me, this castle trail took in all of the castles in Aberdeenshire. In 21 years, I had only visited 5 of the 18 on the trail (Visit Scotland, 2016). My favourite castle, Dunnottar Castle, was on this trail and I still had no idea it existed.

I felt adamant that I would not find another castle like Dunnottar, it is simply stunning scenery. However, I am ready to go and explore and see some more beautiful castles. Therefore, when I am home next weekend, I will go on a drive to one of the the other castles I have not seen on the trail to explore my city a little bit more. There will be another post, very soon, about my exploration and the castle I chose!

References:

BBC News (2012) Timeline: Aberdeen’s City Garden Project Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-19332252 (Accessed on: 30/9/17)

Evolves (No Date) AECC Evolves Available at: http://www.aeccevolves.co.uk/ (Accessed on: 30/9/17)

Rennie, K. (2017) A Summer of Scottish Studies Available at: https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/glowblogs/krennieuodeportfolio/2017/09/30/a-summer-of-scottish-studies/ (Accessed on: 30/9/17)

Rennie, K. (2017b) Take Me to Neverland Available at: https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/glowblogs/krennieuodeportfolio/2017/01/21/take-me-to-neverland/ (Accessed on: 06/10/17)

Rennie, K. (2017c) Take a Wonder Into The Woods Available at: https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/glowblogs/krennieuodeportfolio/2016/11/02/take-a-wonder-into-the-woods/ (Accessed on: 06/10/17)

Rennie, K. (2017d) To Trip or Not To Trip: The McManus Gallery Available at: https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/glowblogs/krennieuodeportfolio/2016/10/21/to-trip-or-not-to-trip-the-mcmanus-gallery/ (Accessed on: 06/10/17)

Rennie, K. (2017e) History and Literacy Outdoors! Available at: https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/glowblogs/krennieuodeportfolio/2015/12/03/history-and-literacy-outdoors/ (Accessed on: 06/10/17)

Say No to Kingsford Stadium (2016) Aberdeen FC and the ‘New Stadium’ – A History of Propaganda, Myth and Failure Available at: http://www.nokingsfordstadium.org.uk/2016/08/12/aberdeen-fc-and-the-new-stadium-a-history-of-propaganda-myth-and-failure/ (Accessed on: 30/9/17)

Visit Scotland (2016) Scotland’s Castle Trail: Explore Aberdeenshire Available at: https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/media/10248/scotlandscastletrail.pdf (Accessed on: 30/9/17)

Scottish Government (2009) Curriculum for Excellence Social Studies Experiences and Outcomes Edinburgh: Scottish Government

Transport Scotland (2017) AWPR – New South Section Bridge Set to Open Permanently Available at https://www.transport.gov.scot/news/awpr-new-south-section-bridge-set-to-open-permanently/ (Accessed on: 30/9/17)

Transport Scotland (No Date) Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route – Balmedie to Tipperty Available at: https://www.transport.gov.scot/projects/aberdeen-western-peripheral-route-balmedie-to-tipperty/aberdeen-western-peripheral-route-balmedie-to-tipperty/ (Accessed on: 30/9/17)

Take Me To Neverland!

Quite literally.

Today, I decided to go on a bit of an exploration around Kirriemuir. Why not have a road trip which can also be deemed educational, right? The road trip lead me to Camera Obsura which is located in Kirriehill.

Kirriehill is a centre with a play park (Neverland), Millennium Woodlands, JM Barrie’s (the author of Peter Pan) grave, Wilkie’s Shelter and Camera Obsura. A small walk around Kirriehill and the Millennium Woodland gave me a bit of information and history about Kirriemuir.

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The walk taught me a bit about JM Barrie who was a famous playwright born in Kirriemuir and his life is very celebrated in the local community. The Camera Obsura, which was unfortunately shut in the winter months, is dedicated to Barrie and is one of only three remaining in Scotland. Barrie and his family are also buried in the graveyard at Kirriehill.

The playground “Neverland” named from the story Peter Pan, was incredible. We may have had a little play until we realised it was supposed to only be for children aged between 3 and 12 years old sadly. I could have imagined taken my primary 1’s here for outdoor learning and play.

Once I returned home, I continued on the educational and productive Saturday and started my placement file. Whilst looking at my school’s website, I read that Kirriehill is where the school take the children for outdoor learning. Therefore, I felt that that a post about Kirriehill should be included in my file to show I have been here before and in the instance that my class were to go here for outdoor learning and play then I have evidence that I am aware of the location and some of the facilities it offers.

Pictured below: the play park entrance and important health and safety (no adults, sadly).

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The Start of Another Placement

We have finally been given our third year placement schools. After having a fantastic last day at Claypotts Castle nursery, getting my third year school and nursery was a great excitement to be able to know I am going back into school so soon.

This excitement may have taken over a little bit as my desire to go and see the school quickly overcame my lack of motivation to proof read my assignment for the hundredth time. Before I knew it, I was in my car and off on a road trip to go and have a look at the area. I have driven past the signs on the dual carriage way for Kirriemuir countless times however I have never went in past and I knew nothing about the area. I knew that this was an area I need to develop my knowledge on for my placement folder. Therefore, I thought having a drive could do no harm.

I had a bit of a look around Kirriemuir itself. The setting is surrounded by the Angus Glen’s and one of the Cairngorm Mountain ranges. Kirriemuir is an absolutely gorgeous place and I can only hope that my school takes full potential of the setting they are in to develop their outdoor learning.

Just by chance on the way back to Dundee we drove through Kirriemuir town centre and there was a little Tourist Information centre which I thought may have some leaflets or information for me to further develop my knowledge of the town. The two ladies who worked in their could not have been more helpful, they allowed me to look around, take a selection of leaflets about Kirriemuir and Angus in general (as although I drive through it a lot, I did not know a lot about Angus either), and the ladies let me know that the are very accommodating to have classes come to the Tourist Information as they have a lot of resources to help. They were very excited that I had a primary 1 class as they do not often get ‘the little ones’ in to visit and it is normally just primary fours or primary sevens. This is something that I will be well aware of when I am on placement and if the children are learning about something relevant to the town that could spark a trip to the tourist centre then it would definitely be something I would suggest to the class teacher.

Overall, as my previous blog and this one has clearly shown I am so excited to get back into school. The transition project has greatly influenced my confidence and my (lack of) nerves going into this placement. It is one of the reasons I am ready to get back into school. If February could just hurry along, then that would be great!