Head Teacher’s Blog

1st September 2013
We have now survived two school weeks and everyone is still smiling- most of the time. I would like to think this week about familiarity. We often hear that it breeds contempt but I would like to argue otherwise. I think the type of familiarity alluded to here is probably more accurately described as lack of respect. Interestingly the dictionary definition does mention this.
The type of familiarity I would like to explore is the more literal- knowing someone or something well. I am frequently impressed by how well the staff know the children in their care. This doesn’t just include the child, where he lives, siblings, family and so on, but more importantly likes, dislikes, areas of strength, areas needing developed, learning styles, support needs, character traits and quirks (and thank goodness for those!) It can even extend to handwriting, writing style and tone, which tables they are likely to know, who would be good at leading certain projects. The list is endless.
I have often heard a parent say-”yes, you have him/her to a tee!”
In many schools at this time of year, classes will be starting to get to know each other- it may be there is a new mix of children or that they are with a teacher who does not know them. When I worked in a large school, I used to set myself the task of getting to know all 30 odd names by the end of the second week- partly as a survival technique. I did this by having a plan of where everybody sat and seeing it as a map in my head. Of course there were some names you learned very quickly!
We are lucky in Humbie and Saltoun that all the staff know all the children and vice-versa. At the beginning of a year the make-up of the classes may be new but all children will be familiar to the staff. Because of this, transition into school and between year groups is easier and less time is required for settling in and familiarisation- work can begin almost immediately, much to the children’s delight!
Another benefit of small schools and composite class structures is that staff have the opportunity to teach children for more than one year- in the case of Humbie perhaps for 6 years! My experience of this as a class teacher ( I taught one particular year group for 5 years and they still speak to me!) has led me to the belief that this level of familiarity can be a very positive force. It is a little like being a family- you are well aware of each other’s foibles and habits but love each other still the same. There is some comfort in being able to predict who will react positively to suggestions, who will enthusiastically lead a project, who will need support in believing in their ability to manage certain tasks and even who will crack the funny remarks at the back of the class. All of this helps in dealing with and managing the many situations that arise in a school day or year and also adds to job satisfaction.
So I would suggest to you that familiarity of this kind does nor breed contempt, but rather engenders affection, tolerance, enjoyment, a sense of belonging and of course an extremely effective way of working. Perhaps you disagree- as always I look forward to a response.
Have a good week,
Lindy Lynn

Head Teacher’s Blog

25th August 2013

Well, we are all back and have survived the first week! We surely cannot complain about the weather this Summer- unlike the previous two- and I am hoping that we will all go into the winter more healthy and robust because of it.
It’s good to hit the ground running- refreshed from a great summer holiday, I am looking forward to another year in Humbie and Saltoun. So here are some challenging thoughts to kick us off.
One of the themes we would like to explore this year is responsibility. There exists already a sense of corporate responsibility amongst the staff and parents- it is our school, the problems are ours and together we will find solutions. Staff are very good at providing cover for each other to go to courses or meetings and there is no sense of clock-watching or minute counting when extra time is required. Likewise, if we need parent help for outings or events, we know we only have to ask.
We would like to build on this with the children this year and encourage them to take more responsibility for and ownership of the school and what happens in it. This could include very simple things like looking after playground equipment, and classroom resources to suggesting and leading learning experiences as a class or group.
The recent Mary’s Meals appeal at Saltoun has shown that there is a willingness to work together as a team to achieve a common goal- the support for that came from far and wide and across generations. Now that we have a growing number of older children in Humbie, there is more scope for opportunities for wider responsibilities.
We will start this off at assemblies by introducing ideas of belonging and ownership; develop it in class discussions and circle time and see what comes from the children- they are generally not short on ideas or opinions!
I now invite your ideas as parents on this subject. How do you think we can encourage your children to be more responsible for their school and their learning? What would you like them to have a greater involvement in at school? How can we best equip them with skills in this area, remembering their age and stage. What skills do you use as an adult at work or as a parent, which you think your children could begin to learn now?
I look forward to your response.

Have a great week,
Lindy Lynn

Head Teacher’s Blog

23rd June 2013

Apologies first of all for the lack of blogs over the last few weeks. May and June are incredibly busy months in school and seem to get busier each year- or maybe it is just my advancing years. We have had 2 spells away at school camp, summer fairs, sports days, reports to write, end of year assemblies to consider, sponsored events- add to that the Athelstaneford Open Garden afternoon, for which my large garden was supposed to be weed-free, and you may understand why the blog had to be sacrificed for a couple of Sundays.
Since this is probably the last of the session, I would like to dedicate it to the staff. They do try my patience at times! BUT….as a team they are the best. I know that many of you appreciate the efforts they make on behalf of your children- you tell us so and it is very welcome. There are many aspects of school life that are not seen by parents and perhaps not appreciated. Events like school camp, sports days, sponsored events do not happen without a considerable amount of planning and forethought. That is often done at staff meetings before or after school. This involves staff having to arrange busy schedules at home to accommodate demands in school- in my two years at Humbie and Saltoun, no one has ever said no to a request to put in extra time for these.
Schools are expected to have “champions” for various subjects- Literacy and Numeracy coordinators, Eco Committee, Forest Schools leaders, Walk to School week/Junior Road Safety officers, pupil council leaders, coordinators for the themed weeks- Health/Science/Book week etc. In large schools there is scope to spread the load in terms of these responsibilities and each member of staff would do no more than one. In our schools, there is no room for manoeuvre and staff take on all of these roles gladly- Karen Prudence in Humbie has more hats than the Queen!
The supply situation this year has been tricky, but staff have stepped up and voluntarily covered for colleagues even if it meant rearranging their planned day. The alternative for this would have been to send children home if cover was unavailable. Our staff are unfailingly adaptable and prepared to be flexible in approach. They do this for the good of the schools but also because they are committed to the children in their care.
100% of end-of-year reports went out on time- I read them all, they contained more information and were more detailed than agreed, but staff felt they wanted to give as much information as possible to parents. As usual I was impressed by the depth of knowledge about the children. It is disappointing that, so far, less then 50% of parents have acknowledged receipt of the reports- that is a wee nag but the only one for this week!
If you were at sports day this week you would have seen a good team in action- everyone knew what their job was and had done it in good time, so as not to let the side down. Of course we do not get it right all the time- as has already been pointed out to us- we could have had the children sitting in the shade in the afternoon- but we do learn from our mistakes and listen constructively to criticism. As head teacher, I can only hope that the children pick up on the ethos of team-spirit and commitment to a common goal. Speaking as a shared head teacher, the staff are very understanding of my flitting in and out like a demented bag lady- no one complains about my bursting into classrooms to interrupt lessons to say “I’m here” or “I’m away”. Often they will deal with things in my absence and always keep me up to speed on what has been happening while I have been in the “other place“.
And finally- they always laugh at my terrible jokes- even though they know it only encourages me to tell more.
My personal thanks to all the staff at Humbie and Saltoun- you do a great job; you have planned another good year for 2013/14; I look forward to helping you to carry it through.
Have a great last week,
Lindy Lynn

Head Teacher’s Blog

3rd June ’13
A thought this week about competition. This comes from having had to judge the fancy dress competition at the excellent Saltoun Fair. Now that truly is the poisoned chalice of all jobs! How do you look at all those earnest faces- even amongst the adults- and say you get a prize and you don’t. I did wonder if we should just give everyone a prize for taking part. But does that reflect real life and teach valuable life skills? For much of life is competitive. One person gets the job and all the others don’t; the highest bidder gets the house and all the others don’t; the winning team gets the cup; the bird that sings the loudest/sweetest or displays the best gets the choice of mate.
When I decided that I should get back into full-time teaching and go for a Principal Teacher post, I had to survive many interviews and rejections (including those from both Humbie and Saltoun!) before winning a post. So life is competitive; you have to give of your best and be measured alongside other people for a variety of purposes or roles. You also have to be able to handle the knock-backs.
But does that all equate to the disappointment on little faces when their fancy dress doesn’t quite make the grade? I would be interested in your ideas and opinions. When is the best time to introduce competition to children and when can they best handle not winning or being the best?
Humans are, in general, competitive to some degree or other. With a group of friends we pick a theme for each month of the year, take pictures and put our best ones on a web-site. It is not a competition- but…. one friend who doesn’t take photographs but frequently looks at the site refutes vehemently the idea that it is not a competition and there is a lot of banter about whose pictures are the best and who has the best opportunities for capturing photographs on a particular month. I like to think that I am not particularly competitive, but I confess that I enjoy sneaking in a picture I think the others won’t be able to better! The theme for June is J- how about some snappy ideas so that I can get ahead?

Have a great week,
Lindy Lynn

Football Club

Progressive Football – Football club @ Saltoun Primary every Wednesday
The following club is available:
THE PROGRESSIVE ACADEMY – P3 – P7 – Every Wednesday
3:30-4:30pm
“A structured program of training and competition. PROGRESSIVE Academy creates an ideal environment for footballer guided by our experienced and high quality coaches. They ensure continual progression and development for all players enabling them to reach their full potential.”
Each session costs £3 each. This can be paid weekly or in full until the end of term at a cost of £21.00. If you are interested in your child taking part, please contact Progressive Football Development ‎[progressivefootballdevelopment@gmail.com]‎-

Head Teacher’s Blog

20th May 2013
Well, we all survived Innerwick-round 1 and are looking forward to round 2 with P5-7. The P4’s had a great time and I was proud of the way they overcame the difficulties met along the way. One or two knew that they were a little anxious about being away from home but they talked it through and coped really well. Having planned the menu together I didn’t anticipate any problems about eating and they certainly enjoyed their food! Thanks to those who sent goodies to share- it was much appreciated. A chocolate brownie is a great comforter when you are flagging a little.
I was impressed by the ability the children showed in making up their beds and in keeping their dorms in order. They also managed, more or less, to pack their bags for the way home- some sleeping bags and duvets had to be wrestled into submission with the help of a friend or two.
Some children were absolute stars about helping in the kitchen or laying tables or in tidying the garden- all credit to you as parents for that.
We had a few house rules- one was to smile when it got tough and I can say that everybody managed that one- even the staff! We also had a rule of one request whereby we expected children to do as they were asked without us having to repeat the request. This cuts out the need to nag- good for those of us who do it and for those who have to listen to it.
In thinking about these basic house rules I realised that we have a need in both schools to remind ourselves of rules for in class too. This rule of one request worked very well in general and it is something we will use in both schools to cut down on unnecessary repetition and waste of teaching time. The children saw the sense in this rule and there is a universal acceptance that what they are asked to do is sensible, reasonable, has a point and is above all fair.
One area we have to work on is listening when required and not talking when instructions are being given. This leads to a considerable waste of teaching time in repeating instructions or answering unnecessary questions. There are times when children will need repetition or clarification of teaching points and that is absolutely fine. It is not fine if this is done because children were talking at the wrong time or not listening. I will be talking to all the children about this in the next couple of weeks.
I am sorry if this is a bit of a rant but I have noticed in the last few weeks how much time is lost in teachers having to repeat themselves unnecessarily or in asking children not to talk over them. Our children are well-mannered and polite on the whole and this is just a bad habit they have slipped into. Perhaps if both home and school are giving the same message in the next few weeks, we can improve on performance in this. Ultimately it will help teaching and learning in every class.
If you wildly disagree with this, please let me know- you know I love a spirited debate! If you have ideas of your own for raising the levels of polite behaviour, we would be interested to hear them.
This is a short week for children, resuming on Wednesday. Staff meet tomorrow to audit our performance this year, plan the calendar for next and to agree on a school improvement plan for 2013/14. If you have any thoughts on these matters, let me know and I can share them with staff- I am sure they will listen politely and not interrupt!

Have a great week,
Lindy Lynn

Head Teacher’s Blog

The excitement is rising-P4 off to Innerwick next week and P5-7 in two weeks time. Last year we went on a managed activity holiday with a commercial company. This year these trips are “homemade”- we organise everything ourselves- food, activities, resources and staffing. Apart from keeping the cost down, trips such as Innerwick offer a different experience for the children. The focus is not primarily on the activities on offer but more on being together and looking after ourselves and each other. I believe that this is an equally valuable experience for children. They learn to be away from home, to live and co-operate with others- sometimes people they might not choose to work with-to be a part of a group and responsible for the work of that group- if you don’t pull your weight in the kitchen, nobody eats!
If I didn’t have a firm belief in this, I would not have spent so much time (as a Guide leader I should add) sleeping in tents in fields around East Lothian, digging latrine pits and trying to wash myself in water heated in an old metal dustbin- Innerwick is the Ritz in comparison! I have taken hundreds of girls to camp and could tell a myriad of stories about it. We always prepared lots of activities- crafts and treasure hunts and orienteering and pioneering and…… The thing the girls enjoyed most, after they had become used to being a bit unwashed (there was general horror initially over lack of sockets for the hair-straighteners) was cooking for themselves over an open-fire which they had dug out and built and which would only burn if they had gathered enough wood and covered it the night before to keep it dry. The best bit for me was seeing youngsters struggle with the issues of friendship groups or homesickness or fitting into a role in a group- generally they got there- they coped, handled the situation (usually with help from their friends) and learned something about themselves in the process. Many parents told us about children who went home and were tearful about leaving friends (new and old) behind. It is an odd experience to live so closely with others in that setting and then suddenly to go back to “normal” life.
I hope your children will enjoy Innerwick, I hope the experience will be valuable and I hope that they will take something away that they will use in the future- (if it is someone else’s socks, please return).
I have managed to resurrect the Twitter account we used last time and will attempt to tweet. The username is saltounprimary and the password is saltoun. I will also get uploads onto the blog if possible to keep you informed about our adventures.
A note for next year: we have booked a stay at Lockerbie Manor- see the website- for P4-7. We go on 9th May 2014 and return on 12th May. This is a weekend stay- this halves the cost (around £120). We didn’t think you would mind your children being away over a weekend!
Treacle and I have our sleeping bags looked out.
Lindy Lynn