Well, week 1 in and 10 more to go! There are many comments about teachers and holidays and I cannot deny that I enjoy mine hugely and always know how far away the next one is. However the reason we have been counting out the weeks of the Summer term already is that there is so much to cram in to this term, which is relatively short because of the timing of Easter- which you all know falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal equinox- so is therefore a movable feast.
We hope to achieve much this term and the most important element is to round off the planned learning for the year. But also, due to circumstances outwith our control, we will be celebrating the Queen’s diamond jubilee- both schools are contributing to community events. Of course we will get the maximum benefit from this if the children understand why it is happening and a little of the history of our present monarchy.
Then there’s the Olympics- if Seb Coe had asked me about timing, I might have advised splitting the two events. However, we will at least be able to use the Union Jack bunting for both events!
The older children are off to camp for a week- and may well require another to recover. Then there’s Meadowbank sports, rugby festival, golf lessons, our own sports day- (21st June at Humbie), end of term assemblies and show, profiles to go out for the last time, classes to be finalised for next year…………….
You can see that it is a busy and full term ahead of us. The events I have mentioned are often as taxing for you the parents (who have to provide the right costume/sportskit/homebaking as well as turn up at the requisite time); the children (who, with lighter nights and hopefully better weather are outside more, and are increasingly tired and perhaps concerned about moving on to a new class; and staff, who may have to dig deep for reserves of energy and resilience to last till the end of June (and none of them are getting any younger!!).
My point in all of this is just to remind us all (myself included) not to get too tied up with schedules and deadlines. This is perhaps the best time of the year in terms of weather and countryside and we do need to occasionally stop and smell the flowers, enjoy where we are and what we are doing and just enjoy the moment. When I come out of Saltoun at night and look over towards the Garletons or come out of Humbie and look over Shilling Hill at the Lammermuirs, I realise how lucky I am to work where I do and live where I live.
I hope we can achieve all we want this term, but I hope we don’t lose sight of what’s important and valuable. If we seem to be focussing like Linford Christie on a finish line, please give us a nudge and remind us to enjoy the moment.
As mentioned a couple of weeks back, we have been thinking about learning experiences and outcomes and what exactly we would like our children to get from their time in school.
This has led me to consider the facts versus skills question. Of course we want to furnish children with both of these tools for life, but which is more valuable? I would be genuinely interested in your thoughts on this.
As a teacher of some 30 years, I have amassed a huge amount of facts and can bore for Scotland at dinner parties on phases of the moon, the five K’s of Sikhism, the Beaufort Scale and much, much more. There is a very valuable bank of knowledge and facts that our children need to know- number stories, conventions for writing, basic geography and history, healthy diet etc., etc,.etc.
Children of today face challenges very different from those of your generation (parents) and even more so from mine (grandparents). Accessing information is easy and convenient for them; they do however need to be able to judge the validity of what they find. At any given time they may have access to at least three calculators, but again will have to have a good grasp of place value to spot errors in pressing keys.
So reading, writing and basic number understanding are as vital now as ever, and our curriculum has to mirror this. But it must also take account of the many other challenges our children will face and perhaps the biggest of these will be the need to be enterprising and flexible, especially as regards the job market.
We are constantly looking for opportunities to encourage our children to acquire skills for life and work. Our main task in this is to work out what we do (what experiences we offer/how we organise these and the ethos and manner in which we operate) to enable our children to build on their attributes and skills. (All credit to staff who are willing to have these discussions over their cheese sandwich at lunchtime!)
What has emerged so far is that we think the best way to engineer this garnering of life skills for the children is to challenge them to meet a specific outcome and let them work out how to do it. To that end we have been planning for an Olympic themed event at Saltoun next term. The aim is that the children will choose, organise and run an event. The nature of the event will be up to them to decide. We are hoping this will produce: ideas-men, organisers, facilitators, inventors, communicators, problem solvers, publicists and reporters, health and safety officials, co-ordinators, arbitration experts, peacemakers- the list is endless.
Humbie has already made a start to this with their Community Cafes and are planning next term to branch into live broadcast- on radio and perhaps TV.
So, hopefully we are sowing seeds now which will stand the children in good stead for later life. Who knows- we may have a budding Richard Branson, Seb Coe, John Humphreys or Anita Roddick in our midst. I hope so.
Horsemanship and Leadership- an analogy
I have been thinking about horses this weekend- largely because my much-loved mare, Willow, has moved on to a new home. I have struggled to find time to ride out in the last couple of years and have an old creaky hip that is very painful when I do so. The logical and practical thing to do was to give up- a very easy statement to make, but very difficult to carry out.
In considering my years as a horse owner and rider, it struck me that there is a link to leadership. If asked what my leadership style is, I would be hard pressed to answer succinctly. So consider this:
Mostly when riding a horse, the animal does the hard work, the rider is there to steer the way. You know where you are aiming to get to and how to get there, so your job is to guide the way avoiding pitfalls.
Sometimes the horse may hesitate- at a scary looking jump or an obstacle on the road. A few words of encouragement and gentle kicking on usually does the trick.
On occasions, some hazard may cause the horse to stop altogether and be reluctant to go any further. Once for us, it was a shiny pulsating pipe pumping water for irrigating tatties. When that happened I would get off and take the lead, stepping over the obstacle to show it was possible and safe. That scenario left me with the problem of getting back on board-as the horse is quite big! So the hope is that next time you come to the same obstacle, the horse will have the confidence to have a go herself.
Once in a while you come across something that the horse simply refuses to contemplate- in our case it was a narrow stone bridge over a burn. There was no point in trying to force the issue- we had to compromise and find another route to where we were going.
Very occasionally during the excitement of a round of show-jumping, when Willow decided she might duck out the side and avoid the jump altogether, I had to lay my riding crop against her neck- just to remind her that I was (nominally) in charge and this was something that just had to be done whether she liked it or not. There was enough trust between us that she would do it even under duress.
As well as being an excuse to rabbit on about horses (and I accept that horsey people can be very single-minded and boring), this does to some extent sum up my approach to leadership. There has to be trust and confidence in the team, you have to talk to each other and communicate clearly and you have to be able to adapt your position according to the circumstances- sometimes leading from the front, sometimes alongside and sometimes giving a gentle push from the back.
I am expecting some lively comments from staff this week!!
As for Willow, she is very comfortably ensconced at Humbie Mains with Lois, aided ably by Sally and Magi.
And I can stay in bed a little longer in the mornings.
Next week- more about plans for next term.
Lindy Lynn (tall in the saddle!)
I am having a Miss Jean Brodie moment this week and thinking about the nature of education. Of course all our children in Humbie and Saltoun are the crème de la crème, this goes without saying!
My thoughts have come from two sources-I read Don Ledingham’s blog on CfE and the qualities children will need to cope with our rapidly changing world. The other was conversations with staff about a project for next term and how it should be tackled. We started with a discussion about what kind of people we would wish the children to be when they leave school. After much head-scratching and soul-searching, we could not better Don’s list-namely- the four capacities (successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors-team players and leaders). We agreed with the notion of resilience and added creativity and enterprise.
We will always need to read, write and count- at least for the foreseeable future, but I would argue that it is no longer the case that a fistful of paper qualifications will necessarily guarantee success- or more importantly happiness- in life. I call this my “happy shepherd” theory. I would far rather an ex-pupil was a happy shepherd than a disgruntled brain surgeon. I see value in doing a job well and conscientiously, no matter what the perceived status of that occupation is. There is more dignity and merit in being a good waitress than a surly or ineffectual diplomat. I mean no disrespect to either of these professions. I came out of school with a half a dozen Highers- 5 of them A passes and fared miserably at University because of lack of preparedness for the system and lifestyle. However, because my years as a member and leader in the Girl Guides had taught me “stickability”- what we might now call resilience- I was able to stick at it and come out with the necessary qualifications to teach. Once in the profession, it was again the experience and training as a guide that helped me through the first few years of teaching. I place more value on the experiences and moral code I gained as a guide than I do on my exam passes. However, without those passes (and they were hard-won) I would not have been able to pursue my chosen career, so they have their place.
I have bored and probably irritated many colleagues with my notion that Robert Baden Powell could have written the Curriculum for Excellence in 1910. For more than 100 years the Guide and Scout programme has embodied the notions of all-round achievement, citizenship, service to the community, outdoor activities, working as a team, self-responsibility–sound familiar?
Since I write this at the weekend, I feel justified in mounting a hobby horse!
This has been rather rambling this week and the thoughts contained are personal opinions. I would be happy to debate any points, share opinions or hear contrary views.
Next week, I would like to talk more about the aforementioned project for next term, how we plan to tackle it and how you can help.
My mother used to call me Miss Jean Brodie at times- for reasons known only to her. I have therefore shied away from Cramond and golf!
Science Week next week-enjoy the homework,