Archive for the “Knox Academy” Category
Recently in Higher RMPS we have been looking at the Buddhist practice of Meditation. Meditation is often a difficult concept for pupils to understand as, understandably, very few have encountered it before and any knowledge and understanding they do have is usually of meditation for relaxation purposes (which is quite different from Buddhist Meditation).
Pupils have been exploring the differences between Samatha (stilling) meditation and Vipassana (insight) meditation. As an introduction we looked at various calming images and thankas before trying a period of focussed meditation, concentrating on our breathing. As a stimulus I showed a meditation video downloaded from YouTube. As expected, several pupils found it all too much, but the majority of the class said, although it was hard, they could see the benefits of meditation as a regular practice.
For Vipassana meditation we discussed how hard it is to ‘strip away’ layers of reality (or the illusion of reality). This is a hard concept for pupils to understand and the best way I could think of to demonstrate it was by showing the Robbie Williams Rock DJ music video – surprisingly it worked well and pupils seem to now understand the differences between these two different forms of Buddhist meditation.
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After teaching the Intermediate2 Free Standing Unit ‘Justice in the World’ for several years we are piloting a new S5 core RMPS course this year at Knox Academy called ‘A Matrix of Meanings’. I was inspired to introduce this course after seeing North Berwick High School implement a similar course whilst I was a student there.
S5 core RMPS, as some readers may be aware of, has the potential to be a tricky business. Pupils have a heavy workload with certificated courses, which they have chosen to take, and often core RMPS is not, understandably, a priority for them. Therefore, the subject, I believe at this stage, must more than ever be engaging and inspiring. A Matrix of Meanings, from my experience of teaching it so far, is proving to be just that. Every teacher is taking a different approach and using a variety of film and media case studies. Some films we’ve looked at in my classes so far include:
o Saved! (directed by Brian Dannelly)
o Crash (directed by Paul Haggis)
o The Edukators (directed by Hans Weingartner)
Importantly, this course isn’t just about watching films. After every viewing at least one lesson is spent discussing the religious, moral and philosophical issues the film raises. Once we had watched Saved pupils’ discussed the dangers of fundamentalism, issues relating to sexuality and sexual freedom, as well as relationships. Crash stirred ups issues relating to race, human nature and conflict. Marxism and consumerism were debated (at length I might add) after viewing the Edukators.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas we are hoping to take these lessons even further by entering pupils into Philosophy Slam, a global essay based competition. The question which pupils have to answer this year is ‘Is global warming the greatest challenge facing humankind?’ Hopefully Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth will spark some discussion.
If any readers have suggestions of other titles we could look at in this course, please leave a comment.
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Last Wednesday the Knox Academy Higher RMPS class were ambassadors for their school when they visited New College, Edinburgh University’s School of Divinity & Religious Studies. All pupils thoroughly enjoyed the day and earnestly took notes whilst listening to lectures on topics ranging from Evil in Harry Potter to Shamanism.
Teaching and support staff from New College commented on the professionalism and enthusiasm of Knox pupils since many were keen to ask further questions at the end of lectures.
I have to say the excursion left me feeling slightly nostalgic about by own university experience and I was extremely proud to share my academic past with present pupils (some of whom, I hope, will study at New College).
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An idea being floated at the moment in our ‘faculty’ is integration. Its becoming a bit of a dirty word in some respects as all members of staff are worried about the negative effects it would have on learning and teaching.
At first, I have to admit, I was quite excited about the prospect of working more closely with other departments, sharing ideas and developing new materials etc. However, the more I reflect on integration I find myself becoming somewhat unsettled. I think, deep down, I’m a traditionalist when it comes to education. I see education as being a journey which allows the learner to specialise in a particular field as they develop interests and show particular flare in different areas.
In the primary years, non-specialist teachers help pupils learn via a project based approach whereby pupils’ touch on issues such as science, history, geography and religion in a topic, for example ‘Ancient Rome’. As pupils progress in High School they begin to develop skills learnt in the primary sector but are propelled further by subject specialist teachers who have a passion for their subject area. This is not to say no links are made between subjects; for example both History and RMPS at Knox address the Civil Rights Movement. However, the emphasis is very different. History looks at the key figures, analyses and weighs up the evidence. RMPS, conversely, looks at the spiritual nature of protest and the immorality of segregation.
I guess I’m worried about potentially diluting the learners’ experience and presenting a shallow, stretched and restricted overview on some really interesting and, of course, complex subjects areas. I love what I do, I love my subject and, at the end of the day, is it wrong that I’m not really turned on by ox bow lakes?
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Today I had the opportunity to organise anti-bullying sessions as part of the S1 induction day. The task, although daunting, was worthwhile and I feel pupils found the sessions I ran challenging. I decided that, rather than formally present the schools anti-bullying policy to the pupils, it would be more helpful to have an informal discussion about the causes and effects of bullying. All classes were open and honest and appeared to display real empathy with the topic in hand. However, a question which kept on being raised was ‘are teachers doing enough to eliminate bullying?’ and ‘What does a zero tolerance approach to bullying look like in practice?’
See www.bullying.co.uk for more information.
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I’ve just returned from a fantastic Educational Excursion to the South of France with a group of S2 pupils. We travelled with PGL and stayed at two resorts. The first resort was Domaine de Segries closely located to the nearby the Ardeche Valley. Here we canoed down the Ardeche for three days, allowing the pupils to achieve their one star canoeing award. We then travelled to Club Mimosa, a PGL centre near the Mediterranean specialising in water sports. Throughout our stay here we had the opportunity to windsurf, snorkel, body board, as well as being offered the chance to complete our star sailing qualification with the RYA. During the evenings PGL staff entertained pupils with a range of games and activities, before accompanying them to the disco. I thoroughly recommend this trip to any schools thinking about taking pupils abroad; not only is it great fun, pupils walk away with two highly regarded outdoor qualifications.
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Often in my Intermediate2 RMPS class I hear pupils discussing BEBO – who has added a new post, what comical picture has been drawn on someone’s wall, what new poll has been added etc. Taking their passion for ICT and communication outside of school hours we’ve decided to start an Intermediate2 RMPS learning log.
At our weekly revision/homework club this topic became our priority. Pupils led the discussion and came up with aims and objectives about what the learning log should be like. So, without further ado, here is what they came up with:
• Inspiring others to take RMPS/challenging peoples’ perception of the subject
• Not too much text
• Well laid out – you know where everything is
• Personal – reports on trips, pupil work and photos
• Links to other useful sites
• Open up to wider than our class: finding out more about RMPS
As soon as the site goes live I’ll post the address.
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‘Two hundred years ago, William Wilberforce was one of those who realised the true horror of the slave trade. It was right under his nose. It was the backbone of the British economy. It was wrong. And it was growing…’ Daniel Bedingfield reminds us in a Stop the Traffik promotional video. The fact that the slave trade is still very much alive is one which is extremely frightening. 2.4 million people are involved in this industry and are prevented from possessing the basic dignity and human rights they deserve.
In several of my lessons this week I’ve been focussing on the issue of Human trafficking, its causes and its effects. Pupils are engaging well with the issue and many, like myself, have been stirred to action. Please feel free to use a PowerPoint I have made to accompany the campaign. Also, I urge you to sign an online petition calling for an end to slavery once and for all. Visit www.stopthetraffik.org. Thanks!
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Knox Academy has once again triumphed in the annual East Lothian inter-school RMPS quiz. S1 and S2 Pupils were ecstatic when they received news of their victory. Individual rounds were based on information learnt from a number of websites, including BBC Religion & Ethics and Show Racism the Red Card. We are looking forward to celebrating pupil success (and keeping the impressive RMPS Quaich for another year!).
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I’m currently updating and enhancing a unit on ‘War’. The topic is fascinating me and one which pupils are engaging well with. So far we’ve discussed the value of warfare as a means of conflict resolution (using Saving Private Ryan, Omaha Beach scene as a resource), analysed the cause and effect of war (including both social and environmental implications), and examined Just War Theory (critiquing the classic Bob Dylan song ‘Masters of War’). One resource I’m finding invaluable in aiding me to successfully teach this unit is www.dailywarnews.blogspot.com. This blog, informs users of the daily events in Iraq (be warned, it will shock and disturb). Pupils are also using this blog to track and critique developments. Please let me know if you have any further suggestions or comments.
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