Islam in Preston

Year 1 Undergraduates at Edge Hill study a module on Islam and as part of that spend a day in the Muslim community in Preston.  One of the Year 1 students, Katie, reflected on the day.

We began the day with a talk about the aims of the day, and identifying what we already know, and what we would like to have found out by the end of the day. Everyone was so warm and inviting, I felt really comfortable asking questions, knowing that I would get a thorough response that would help me in my Islam module in university.

The highlight of the day for me, was crossing the road to Preston Muslim High School for Girls and being able to speak to actual students about Islam. I felt that speaking to a ‘normal’ person as opposed to someone who was extremely educated allowed me to identify basic points on which to develop my knowledge. All the girls I spoke to were really polite and answered any questions I had to the best of their abilities.

I also really enjoyed visiting the local Mosque and being able to sit and observe one of the daily prayers. It was such an amazing experience seeing a community come together to pray as one. It was also a good chance to see the diversity of Muslims that were in one small area. Their style of dress tended to show their heritage, and our speaker and guide was able to tell us where they were from based on their clothes.

After the prayer was finished, the Imam came to speak to us and answer anymore questions we had. He told us a little bit about what is was like for a child in Islam, and how they can attend a madrassa to help them learn more about Islam. The whole session was extremely informative and useful for me, as I am in the middle of writing my Islam assignment about Salah (the five daily prayers).

We were also lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to observe a man perform Wudu – the ritual cleansing and purifying a Muslim must do before praying. Again, this was more useful information to use in my assignment, as well  as just being really interesting to witness.

All in all, the trip was really eye-opening, and gave a great insight into Islam as both a religion, but also as how it is a way of life for its followers. It was such a worthwhile trip, I’m so glad I got the opportunity to go on it!

You can see more pictured from the day here

Lat in the Woodlands

To finish the year we were pleased to welcome Lat Blaylock of NATRE/RE Today to Edge Hill’s Woodlands Conference Centre for our Annual NATRE North West Conference for final year undergraduate and PGCE Secondary RE students. As well as Edge Hill students we were joined by MMU and Cumbria School Direct trainees.

The day began with a look at some of the best Spirited Art entries and an encouragement to run the competition in placement schools. Lat then turned our attention to how we might reach about modern socio-political RE. We thought about the Charlie Hebdo Murders of 2014 and who might be blamed by using the idea of a ‘responsibility pie’. We saw that this activity raised questions about Fundamental British Values and Lat showed how this study could lead to an extended written task. Finally we wondered about other contexts that a responsibility pie could be used and discussed how RE can objectively challenge prejudices

“My gospel text for today is hard concept,  simple activity” – Lat.

Before a coffee break we considered teaching the enquiry question ‘what does it mean for a building to reflect the glory of God?’ by looking at the Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, King’s College Cambridge and the Milton Keynes Tree Cathedral. Lat had demonstrated in this first session that RE can be creative, engaged with current socio-political issues and having a solid, conceptual base.

PIn the second session we considered RE as global. We considered some religious growth and decline statistics, including learning that worship of Ganesh is growing in popularity with Hindu devotees. We then were able to play a game about Evil and saw how this could help young people produce writing that shows ethical reasoning. Once we evaluated the resource we looked at Islam, and how the rituals of the Hajj have transformed as the numbers engaging in the pilgrimage have increased. We considered ways that the ritual of moral ambition can help pupils learn about the concept of forgiveness. Our final example of global RE was about global Christianity, starting with Keith Haring’s art, and the questions that his life story raises.

After lunch we thought about wholistic RE, using one of the BBC ‘A Question of Faith’ clips about revelation in a charismatic Christian Healing service which was compared with Derren Brown. By looking at these two stimuli, pupils are able to analyse the competing truth claims. We then thought about the statistics involved in Global religion, which we didn’t have time for in the morning!  Lat then talked briefly about different pedagogies of RE before adopting a Human Spiritual Development approach to consider whether the inner voice is real. To finish we had a brief look at how you might teach religious texts, with an example from Revelation.


Thanks to Lat, for an engaging and inspiring day, and to St Luke’s Trust and the Jerusalem Trust for their generous support of these regional RE conferences.

Kamma in the Lakes

The kamma appeared to be working against us as we battled against the gods of the M6. A few of the hardy year 2 undergraduates made it on the coach to the Coniston Priory and Manjushri meditation centre where we met our guide, Geoff.

We walked around the old house, a fantastic piece of 19th Century architecture, before rounding the corner to see the temple itself, a very simple, modern building. We removed our shoes and felt the warmth of the underfloor heating.

There are two foci of the temple, Buddha shakyamuni, and Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Shakyamuni is pictured at the moment in India, when he achieved enlightenment. He is sitting in meditation pose, with the touching the ground mudra, Either side of him are two Rupas of his disciples, but they too are Buddhas.

Geoff explained how the movement started in the 1960s as people encountered Buddhism in the East and brought it back over to the West. We heard the story of how Geshe-la became the teacher and leader of the movement. He is now 83 and still completing his 22 volumes of Buddhist teaching. Over time the group, the New Kadampa Tradition became less Tibetan and Modern Buddhism developed. There are 1200 centres worldwide and Ulverston is the worldwide centre. At the summer festival around 3,000 believers speaking 52 languages gathered here, but there are larger gatherings in other centres.

 

Geoff spoke about his own practice, his life of meditation and study. And then we were able to join in with the 15 minute meditation class that takes place everyday at 12.30.

Geoff then spoke about the Lam-rim which are stages on the path to becoming a Buddha and how to overcome negative minds. They are part of the Mahayana tradition and so like to help others. After a few more questions, we looked at more detail at the statues, and Geoff talked about offerings, the seven traditional offerings which are represented by the bowls in front of the rupas.

To finish the trip, we headed off to the cafe for a little late lunch!

Visiting the Swaminarayan Mandir

As part of their Hindu Dharma Module Year 1 Undergraduates visited the Swaminarayan Mandir in Preston.  Here is what Hailey thought of the day:

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Out of all the places of worship we have visited over the past 2 weeks I was probably the most excited to go and visit this one. For the past 8/9 weeks we have been studying someone and now it was time to see it practised in real life. Taking our shoes off I was so thankful for the under floor heating. When we met out guide I was surprised at how young she was but yet how much she knew and had to tell us. We spent around half an hour all sat together in the main hall while our guide told us all of the main beliefs of her faith and also told us a personal story of how a couple of weeks ago she burnt all of her neck and face. What was impeccable about this story was that she just put it down to karma, she never once doubted her faith instead she accepted it as something she had to deal with in order to achieve liberation. She must have a strong belief system in order to never say a bad word about the God that let this happen. When it came down to asking questions about Hinduism our guide never tried to avoid any questions and was completely open with her responses even down to telling us about honour killings, something I thought that she might feel uncomfortable talking about with us.

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Moving onto the prayer room we were asked to stay silent within the room. As we all sat down on the floor our guide stood at the door explaining what this room is used for. This room is used for meditation, for reflection and also to asking the gods questions. We were told that only the soul really enters this room. When talking about the soul she told us that this is the main part of the body, when a person dies their body is let behind and that is why they cremate bodies. She used the analogy of a car, you can have the most beautiful car, but if it hasn’t got a full working engine that is clean and is perfect that the car is now use. I thought that this analogy would be useful to use when it comes to teaching a class about the soul in Hinduism.

Moving into the room where they keep all the statues of the gods and the guru’s I was in complete awe. Before entering the room we were given a bracelet that we placed on our right hands, this symbolises the relationship with God and then also we were given a bindi, we were told that they have these in the middle of the head to protect their third eye but it is also the main symbol of Hinduism. When in this room the priest came in and he gave us all a blessing asking that we became good teachers that told nothing but the truth. The priest actually stays at the Mandir 24/7. All of the statues were so grand and were all painted in such might and beautiful colours with lots of gold. You could really tell that this is big deal to them. Just after we left the priest was going to offer food to the Gods and is something that he does 3 times a day.

Today was everything that I thought it was going to be and I cannot wait to visit another Mandir again soon.

You can read more of Hailey’s blogposts here

Back in the Sixth Form

Final year students spent a day at Carmel College, a large Sixth Form College that Edge Hill works with, to find  out more about teaching A level RS, and what life is like in a Sixth Form College, including the compulsory Ethics and Values lessons for all students.

The day began with us being privileged to join in the staff briefing. This was quite unlike briefings in Schools, and much more like a school assembly. It was held in the college theatre and led by the College Principal. Sarah gave a ‘Thought for the day’ and there were a number of other announcements about events going on, special services and some encouraging words about ensuring that teaching staff are not working too much, with the mantra #50isplently suggesting that a working week of 50 hours (including time at college and working time at home) is a maximum.

We then observed Sarah teaching an A level Buddhism class and were surprised that it began with a period of silent reading after which the students were invited to talk briefly about what they had read and what they had learnt.
There was then a key word test on 12 Buddhist terms. These were then peer marked and scores recorded. Students were to work on the terms that they did not know.
Students were then reminded about an upcoming file check and guided as to what was expected.
Next was a kahoot quiz testing how well the students had engaged with their prescribed reading from last lesson which had been posted on the students’ VLE. Sarah was able to use the answers to set relevant homework questions in the future.
There followed a discussion about hagiography in the texts of the Buddha’s enlightenment, and then groupwork on the hagiography of the four watches of the Buddha. At the end students were given a practice question to do at home. The students have a WhatsApp group chat which they shared the question.

After a break in the staffroom we had a tour of the college, meeting the pastoral tutor team and Foundation provision, where post 16 students with learning difficulties are educated in a practical way, with some vocational courses. We also got to see the canteen, the chaplaincy and the whole college.

Sarah then talked about some of the differences between a school sixth form and a sixth form college. She highlighted the way hat the college is trying to develop in their students a ‘Carmel Mindset’, trying to develop independent learners who make progress towards high achievement at A level, based on the VESPA model.

Nathan, a former graduate of our course, then talked about how to survive the NQT year. Some students were pleasantly surprised that it was possible to do the NQT year in a Sixth Form College. He also had some wise advice about not taking the ‘reputation’ of a school too seriously, as sometimes a school with a bad reputation can be a great school to teach, or do a placement in.

After lunch we got to observe and take part in more lessons.  In the A2 class there were over 20 students who were working on the philosophy paper. The lesson began by students selecting a lollipop stick that had a philosophical question on it to discuss. Glen then took in the essays that students had completed over the weekend and then introduced students to the Westphal essay. As part of this we were able to contribute brief sections on scholasticism and deism. In Lexy’s AS Philosophy class we helped the students reconnect with the learning they had been doing focussing on Hulme’s criticisms of the teleological argument. Whilst in Glen’s AS RE lesson we gave brief overviews of the three central Buddhist concepts of dukkha, anicca, and anatta. It was interesting to see how he used the material of the subject content about the social setting of the Buddha to teach the academic skill of note taking in a cohesive way.

We were also able to observe and take part in the Ethics &Values lessons, which are compulsory core RE lessons which all students at the College take part in. Nathan was teaching issues involved in IVF, whilst Heather was asking pupils to think about the ethics of France’s burka ban.

“Really Useful in terms of seeing how sixth formers are taught”

You can see more photos from the day on Flickr.

“It made the idea of teaching in a college not as daunting”

Deanery Day 2016

Third year Undergraduate QTS students have been regular visitors to Deanery High school for a number of years.  The main purpose of the visit is to fins out about teaching A level in a school sixth form, but over the years we have added more features to get the best out of the day.

This year’s trip began with a tour of the school, including the sixth form centre and the portable buildings that the school is temporarily housed in whist a new building is constructed on the same site.  Taco – who did his PGCE with Edge Hill a number of years ago and is now Head of department, then spoke to us about the joys of teaching a level.  He explained that it was very similar to teaching Key Stage 4, but that teachers tried to encourage the development of independent learning skills as part of their preparation for University.

We could see all this in action as we observed Taco teach his year 13 students – and we got to have a try ourselves! We were very impresed with the quality of the student’s presentations – they were a clever bunch!

The RE department at Deanery is almost totally staffed by former Edge Hill people and we got to observe four simultaneous Year 11 revision lessons taking place at the same time.  It was brilliant to see the same thing taught so differently, but in all cases taught very well!

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Finally the day was rounded off by Leanne giving us some helpful advice about applications and how to avoid some common pitfalls when applying for jobs.

“I thought the interview advice was very useful”

Dharma Day

Our latest cohort of Year 3 Undergraduates spent a day in Manchester as part of their Sikhism and Jainism Module.

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At the Jain Samaj Manchester, our host Suresh explained about the beliefs, history and practices of the faith, and allowed us to explore their fantastic temple, handmade in Indian Marble.

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We then journeyed across the City to the Guru Harkrishan Sahib Gurdwara. As it was Guru Nanak’s Birthday it was a very busy Temple.  We were treated to a fantastic langar, before entering the diwan hall where the female granthi was singing beautifully.

Our host CJ talked us through the basics of Sikhism, but really the best part was being able to experience the community worshipping at first hand. CJ accompanied us on the accordian and help us to joyfully recite the name of Waheguru!  Happ Birthday Guru Nanak Ji!

 

Questioning RE

Our final year Secondary RE undergraduates are are a fantastic group of students and their three year degree has prepared them to teach high school pupils of all ages and abilities.  Recently they had chance to show off their skills when a group of pupils from Savio High School’s Bosco Unit visited Edge Hill for a morning of questioning RE.

The Edge Hill students had worked in groups to plan and prepare for three sessions each focussing on enquiring into a a big question.

The first topic was ‘Does God Exist?’ which included  a Philosophy for Children (P4C) styled activity examining an image on the board of the Auschwitz ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ sign and an Auschwitz inmates’ photo. Each pupil had to then choose a question they would ask in response to images presented, and finally (as a group) choose one of their questions to lead the enquiry. By allowing the pupils to take responsibility for this task ensured that they were engaged and made the task feel more relevant to them. By planning a task which focused on pupil led learning with an emphasis on discussing/debating ensured that behaviour was managed effectively as they had something to do at all times. This task produced excellent prior knowledge and discussions regarding the images on the board which contributed to the pupil’s opinions on the lesson focus of whether God really exists.

The second session was helping pupils to think about how people make the ‘right’ decisions, including a real dilemma for the pupils to grapple with as they began to get an understanding of Situation ethics. Pupils were able to articulate their answers and acknowledge other points of view.

Finally we looked at what it means to be religious in the 21st century, thinking about everything from Scientology to Roman Catholicism.

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The pupils were superb and engaged with the questions in a mature way, and left us looking forward to a lunch in the hub!  One of the students reflected on the morning, noting the well mannered behaviour and attitudes of all pupils present. He wondered if this was mainly down to the change of learning environment that the pupils were able to experience, which shows how this could be an effective tool in managing/helping pupils.

Interfaith Week in Liverpool

For Inter-faith week, the University’s  Chaplaincy team organised a trip to visit the three Abrahamic faiths’ places of worship in Liverpool. Thre years of Undergraduate students and the PGCE students came together for this fantastic trip.

First year Undergraduate Hailey wrote this about the day:

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Arriving at the Cathedral I thought that we had turned up at the wrong place. I had never been to a Cathedral before but this wasn’t the picture that I had in my head as to what it was meant to look like. In my head it was meant to look exactly like a church with an old brown building just much much bigger. I was in for a shock with a white building which resembled that of a large tent. Everything about this Cathedral is very modern. Going inside I was in awe.

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The whole place was lit blue and I really couldn’t understand why until our very nice tour guide explained to us that this was due to the architect of the building and that the stain glass windows make the whole place change colour throughout the day symbolising that Jesus is the light. The next thing to catch my eye was a large silver sculpture just hanging from the ceiling, usually going into a church you would never see anything like this which just made this Cathedral much more interesting. This actually symbolises Jesus’ crown he wore when he was crucified. Our guide talked to us a lot about the different roles you can take within the Roman Catholic Church and also about the difference in the different types of Christians explaining why and how they were all so different.

Arriving at the synagogue I was surprised. Walking into the little hallway for some reason I imagined that when he opened the door it would look very similar to inside a Church. How naïve of me. As soon as the two men opened the doors everyone in our group all made a very similar ‘wow’ noise.

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It was a lot bigger than I thought it would be and I was completely surprised at how grand the whole place was, also how different it was to a church. Straight away the man started to tell us all of the different things that a Jew would believe in and do within his/her life.

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He explained the whole synagogue to us, even down to explaining how the Torah was made and telling us about a fire they had in the late ‘60s. During our trip to the synagogue the university rabbi joined us and he didn’t shy away from telling us everything from marriage in Judaism to the decline that has faced its followers following World War 2. I would personally say that the synagogue was the building I was most in awe at during the trip.

Finally we arrived at the mosque (the first university group that has been allowed in to view it), this being the shortest of the three but they didn’t lack to tell us any information. While they didn’t go into depth with the beliefs involved in Islam they told us all about the building we were in and the founder of the whole thing.

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Abdullah Qwilliam was the founder of this mosque, more interestingly this was the first mosque in England. Abdullah Qwilliam was an English convert who wanted to spread his faith among other people within his culture at home. The mosque was closed for a while after Abdullah’s death and Liverpool council opened it as a registry office but more recently has been reopened and they are now working on making it a fully working mosque again and replacing the old traditional things that were there at the beginning such as the organ which Abdullah used to play.

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After being there a short while we were asked to move to a different room as it was time to do the call for prayer, I had never heard this before and thought that it was amazing. I would to go back again soon when they have finished restoring it back to the way it used to be.

You can read the rest of Hailey’s blogs here: https://haileyhill14.wordpress.com/

Doing Diwali

Our Year 1 Undergraduates visited a Primary school recently to deliver a day on Diwali as part of their Hindu Dharma Unit.  Here is what one of them, Amy, wrote about the experience:

The day started with meeting in the staff room to make sure that we had everything ready and organized for the day and from there led into the school hall with a stage. IMG_4778

We then rehearsed the play of Diwali that we had been practicing in class for about half an hour. Soon after the pupils came in we preformed our play which taught the pupils about where the festival Diwali came from and why Hindu’s celebrate it. The play went smoothly and the pupils had engaged in the play by saying things such as ‘boo’ and ‘aww’, they laughed along as well, showing that they were happy and engaged in the play and clearly took things away with them. This was a great experience that I and the pupils really enjoyed.

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Later on after wet play, which is when the weather is to bad to go out for play time, I helped them to clean up the classroom before we started the lesson. The lesson which had been planned by me and Hailey was about Brahman the one Hindu God and the festivals in which Hindu people celebrate their God. The lesson started by giving the students a piece of A5 paper and told them to write the most important thing in the world to them, then they screwed it up like a snowball and threw it to the front to us.

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We then read it out loud and discussed what they had written, and said our most important thing to us. We then went through the Trimurti of Brahman; Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. We then gave the pupils a body template on which they had to create their own Hindu God, what they would be like as a Hindu God. Most of the things that the pupils drew, included things such as a clown as they wanted to make many people laugh and happy all over the world, some of them were the peace keepers which they told me they had based on Vishnu and other people were God’s that made it so that there was a disco everyday. The pupils had a good laugh and we were able to properly interact with the pupils, find out more about them. They then presented their own to the class if they wanted to, which most of them did. We then went through the festivals which celebrate the God’s and then related them to their own Gods that they have previously created. we then did a fill the gaps plenary where the children answered the questions that related to the whole lesson that helped us to understand what they struggled with and what they were good at. When we showed the children a video that was a nursery rhyme for Diwali that had been translated into English. The pupils really enjoyed the short video as a treat at the end of their lesson.

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The lesson seemed to go much smoothly than expected with Primary school children, the only hard bit was getting the video to work after a bit. I really enjoyed the experience, however I definitely realized that secondary school is for me and not primary, however I enjoyed teaching Hinduism so much and can’t wait to teach it more in the future.

You can read more from Amy’s blog here: https://amshepherdblog.wordpress.com/