29th April 2012
As you know, the older children from Humbie and Saltoun have been off to camp last week and a great success it was too. They were down at Hexham near Hadrian’s Wall taking part in such activities as quad biking, abseiling, laser quest, climbing and various team challenges.
I am an advocate for residential experiences for kids- as many of you know I am steeped in the Girl Guide tradition where such forays were a regular occurrence. I have been taking children away on camps and holidays since about the age of 20- so a few years! These have ranged from camping in the field of a local friendly farmer- we slept in tents, dug fires and cooked for ourselves, and thought that chemical toilets had been sent from heaven!; to trips abroad to the battlefields of Belgium and the Swiss Alps where we stayed in what could be described as Heidi’s holiday home.
It is my personal opinion- as is always the case in this blog- that the location and activities are an important factor in these experiences, but the most significant aspects are in going away together as a group, being responsible for yourself and your immediate companions and in challenging yourself to try things that might be difficult, scary, new or maybe outwith your “comfort zone”. This could be anything from abseiling off a rock face to sharing a small tent with someone you don’t know that well- and maybe would choose in other circumstances not to get to know!
Our children were engaged in all of that this week- for some being away from home and family was hard- some of them could tell us when they were feeling a bit homesick and we reached into the first aid kit and dished out a cuddle; others dealt with it on their own. For some, a few of the activities were daunting- they were encouraged by the instructors to adopt the approach of “challenge by choice” and push themselves to do as much as they felt they could cope with. For a few children, this also involved recognising that they were way outside their comfort zone and should withdraw from the activity- this is an important lesson to learn- you will NEVER see me in a micro light (in my opinion a Boeing 747 can look flimsy!).
All of them were challenged in some way last week. For some it was a challenge to persevere with the fitted sheet, pillowcase and duvet cover (one child, as a last resort, assured me that he slept on a bare mattress at home!); for others it was looking over the edge of the high tower and then putting their trust in the ropes that attached them to the instructor; for others it was sharing a room with others with all that can entail. They all rose to the challenge and come home tired, dirty but hopefully with a little more self awareness and confidence.
As a staff we are committed to these camps and plans are already afoot for next year for both schools- it will be a less expensive visit next time, but hopefuly equally as rewarding.
I leave you with two pictures of Charlotte to illustrate my point. In the first she is contemplating the abseil (it could not have rained harder) in the second she is on the ground- it speaks for itself.
With special thanks to Beth Leslie and Pamela Currie, who willingly gave up time to make this happen.
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.
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,
I am being lazy about the thought for this week and simply giving you something to look at. You may have realised I fancy myself as a bit of an amateur photographer with my point and shoot camera. A group of my friends share a theme for the month for our photographs- it is not a competition, we simply put them on a website and admire each other’s. At the beginning of the year we agree on a theme for each month. January was doors, this month is F. So far we have had pics of fish, friends, fungus, full moon, fountains, feet, frogs…….. I would appreciate a few suggestions.
I love to take pictures of children’s faces when they are absorbed in a task or just enjoying themselves. So, for you exclusively on the Humbie and Saltoun blogs, here are a few faces you may recognise. A Few Familiar Faces on PhotoPeach
I apologise that every child is not there- yet- it is a work in progress. I hope you had a good week and are looking forward to Monday.
Slightly random and disjointed thoughts this week. Most weeks there is an obvious, pertinent or pressing topic bumping around in my brain, but sometimes I struggle. In essence I have to think of a topic or theme that I can talk about that I think you might be interested in. On top of which it needs to be an issue that you would give a fig about my opinion of- if you understand this very poor English. So, what would you like me to chunter on about in the near future- or would someone else like a guest slot? We all have time to think about this during this week’s holiday.
On another note- if you go down to the woods this week- I hope you meet someone else from Humbie or Saltoun. The week before last was Health Week and both schools spent sometime in the woods. It was nothing clever or expensive it was simply a walk in the woods and was voted one of the best bits of the week- after making your own healthy sandwich. So if you are looking for something to do in the next few days, try a walk in the woods. If you are in Humbie Wood, your child will be able to show you a badger latrine and if you are lucky maybe dig up some badger poo. It doesn’t get much better!
Have a great week off and see you Monday 20th.
Thought for week
Well, the profiles have gone out and most of you have dutifully returned your responses. I have read, digested and considered all your points (and there were a couple of places where I couldn’t read the handwriting!) and also talked them over with members of the staff team. To summarise:
• Seeing examples of your child’s work.
• Evidence of cross curricular learning- the topic of a writing exercise may have been linked to a history study; graphs of snack preferences meet both maths and health outcomes.
• Time to talk about the work with the child.
• Evidence of self assessment and target setting by your child.
• Next steps- you could see what was coming next and so could help out at home.
• Seeing the range of curricular areas and the experiences and outcomes contained in a level.
You would have liked: (and this is how we will address this)
Clearer explanation of what the various highlighted areas meant and a key to the colours used. (We will insert in the front cover a guide to this. Highlighted targets/outcomes are those we plan to cover in each teaching block. In the next academic year we will all use the same colour for the specific block- so Aug to Oct might be blue for example. Also, as each outcome is met or covered it will be dated or ticked and show an indication of whether the target was achieved or should be revisited.)
More teacher comment.( From now each piece of the child’s work which goes into the profile will include an evaluative comment from the teacher. This may mean slightly less work is included, but should show how the teacher has assessed the piece.)
An indication of your child’s progress in relation to his classmates. (This is something we will not do. Reporting of progress is about each individual child and his or her journey through the curriculum. Teachers can tell you about your child’s strengths and help identify areas where (s)he may need extra support. The profile contains (and we will make this more prominent) an indication of where your child should be in the CfE levels for his age/year group. This is assessed against similar cohorts in Scotland. E.g. broadly speaking a P4 child should be working in the later stages (secure) of First Level.)
I apologise if this is a bit wordy or dry, but I felt you should know that we do value your thoughts and opinions and will act on them where we can. I am happy to discuss this further – you know where I am and also intend to air the issue at Parent Council meetings in both schools.
I promise something a little more light-hearted next week- I will be in holiday mode by then.
Have a good week,
Very sober thoughts this week. All of us have been affected by the death of Liane in East Saltoun. It is a difficult issue for all of us to come to terms with and our thoughts are with Amber, Amy, Kieran and the rest of the family. Sometimes, even for adults, it is hard to know how to react in situations and often we take our cue from others around us. As a staff, it’s part of our job to show children a caring, thoughtful, balanced approach in our day-to-day life and that’s what we tried for this week. I hope we got it right. It seemed to mirror what as happening in the community.
Everyone has a desire to help but may not know how. I was sent some information from John Muir House on bereavement counselling, which may be of some use at some point. But actually in small communities like ours the best resource we have is each other- we become an extended family. That is what happened in Saltoun this week and it is my personal feeling that that is the best comfort we can offer. There are times when living in a small community can feel a bit like being in a goldfish bowl, but most of the time the familiarity is bred from genuine interest and caring. It has certainly been friends and neighbours who have helped me through life’s lumpy bits- and also the routine and business of being at work.
Now, either you are a hugger or not. I am, and in my opinion, a hug is worth a hundred words. So, if you see someone in need of a hug for whatever reason this week- go for it. Most times you will be doing the right thing, if not blame me!
My thought for this week is about a vision statement for the school. I had seen mention of this somewhere and wasn’t sure that we had one and if so how up-to-date it was. So I looked online for the definition of vision statements and advice on what they should contain. I found out that they should be short and snappy (Jack Russells spring to mind) and should say what your establishment stands for and where it is going. Armed with this thought, I approached staff for their views and am about to speak to the children at assembly this week. It seems only fair that parents should be included in this hard question–so what do you think? In a maximum of four sentences, what do you think our school is about and what should our aspirations be?
I have given it a lot of thought as I walked the dog and mucked out the stable-it’s good to be distracted from that task! My personal feeling is that our statement should include the following elements:
That the school is an integral part of the community
We are inclusive
We all strive to give of our best–that’s the girl guide in me
We hope to equip children with experiences and skills for life and work
What would you add, take out, argue with……………
I will gather and collate the responses from all parties this week and let you know.
Have a good week-only three to go.