As part of their Personal Professional Conduct (PPC) studies, Year 1 Undergraduate students were asked to visit somewhere that would benefit students learning within our occupation as a teacher of RE.
Dominic blogged about his visit:
A few fellow students from my ITT course joined me to visit the Ganesh Temple in Liverpool and experience a few ritual blessings and learn a bit more about Hinduism as a faith on this day of Diwali. We were fortunate enough to meet the priest who lived within the temple and have him perform a ritual blessing on us with the use of White Holy Ash and the giving of an apple. We received a tour of the temple a brief overview of what every Deity shrine within the temple and what it represented. Moreover we were lucky enough to sample some traditional Indian foods that was prepared for us. Overall a very interesting and educational trip performed by very welcoming and educated Hindu women who is very much involved in day to day running of the temple.
It has now become a tradition for Year 1 Edge Hill University undergraduate students who are studying teaching and RE to visit Blackbrook St Mary’s Primary School.
Again this year we were asked to visit and perform the story of Diwali. We had prepared the week before learning our lines and setting up the props that we needed, however I was still very nervous as this was the first time I have ever been involved in any sort of play production. I was playing the brother called Lakshmi and even though I didn’t have any lines I was still an important role within the play. In my opinion I thought the production went very well the children enjoyed themselves and were really interacting with ourselves by booing and cheering the other characters on the stage. The week before this play when we first began rehearsing I knew very little about the story and celebrations of Diwali, however now I am very confident when telling the story and moreover I enjoy talking and telling the story.
The second stage of the morning, we spilt off into our own small groups of two or three and headed into the classroom for the first time. I have to admit that I was looking forward more to this part than the play. I entered a year three classroom where the pupils were brilliantly behaved and really reacted well to the starter and plenary we had previously planned. For the starter we handed around a hat with various questions in it and when they pulled the question out of the hat they would have to try and answer it. The children were then involved in a carousel of art and craft activities linked to the Diwali story. For the plenary which I created, there were various images that I uploaded, the children had the opportunity to guess if they didn’t know or if they did know to put their hands up and provide me with their answer.
Finally after playtime (for the pupils – not us!) we were given a tour of the school by the Headteacher. She was able to explain some of the philosophy behind the school’s approach to educating their children – including the outside classrooms, lots of play-based learning and phonics.
I felt that the whole visit: the assembly, classroom exercise and tour went extremely well and gave me confidence that I will be able to carry with me through to my placement next year.
On Thursday the 18th of September we had the privilege to visit the “Great and New Stenecourt” synagogue in Manchester, built in 1960. We were being educated on the insider’s version of what it is like to live the orthodox Jewish lifestyle by a member who regularly attends that particular synagogue.
Upon arrival we were introduced to our faith tutor, David Arnold who kindly had kosher refreshments prepared for us. At this point we were advised that any non-kosher food was to be left outside and not taken into the Shul. After refreshments we were taken into the Shul and shown around. We were told men and women have different seating arrangements in the room and women were to be covered by partitions. Seats are bought on rent in the Shul and each person can have a designated seating spot. Further we were shown where the Torah is kept and where the service takes place. The Torah is kept in the back and protected very carefully. David also explained the all the different locations in the Shul from the Pew to the Bimah (Platform).
David explained that Judaism is not seen as a religion but rather as a way of life. He explained the role of a man and women and how they differ in Judaism. He explained how the Jewish people are the ‘chosen people’ in a special covenant with God due to Abraham and renewed with Moses. He explained that not only do they pay a respect to God but also to the law of the land and in this case it would be the United Kingdom. This was very promising to see as it explains the way of life for a Jew especially in the light of the legacy of history.
David explained the Torah as the five books of Moses. He advised it can take years to compile. It is written by hand with a quill in Hebrew and on parchment. Further the cycle of reciting the Torah takes exactly a year and once finished the cycle starts again. To purchase a Torah would cost at an average of 20 – 30,000 pounds. The Torah is written on a scroll with wooden holders which symbolically mean ‘the tree of life.’
After visiting inside the Shul we took our seats in the meeting area where we had the opportunity to discuss the most important day in the Jewish week, Shabbat. We discussed the preparation for Shabbat and the religious meanings to why this day is known as the day of rest. David explained the importance of preparing the meals and drinking the special wine. He explained that once a week there is a special service at the Shul to commemorate the beginning of the holy day. We were told the lady of the house lights the candles to bring the light of Shabbat in to the house. We also had the opportunity to taste the special bread which is prepared for the meal. In all it was very clear that Shabbat is a family occasion and a day to thank God.
Moving on from Shabbat we discussed kosher food and the importance of it in the Jewish household. Separation of meat and dairy is very important to the extent dishes should be kept completely separate. No dairy and meat should be eaten together. David gave us examples of what is considered to be Kosher. Following on nicely from this we went for lunch at a kosher restaurant which was a great insight and first-hand experience.
Some RE reflections
Our visit to the Shul was definitely a first-hand insight to the thinking and reasoning of a Jewish tradition. It was interesting to find that their truth claim is still very much at the heart of their lives. We all may not agree with certain aspects of what may have been discussed but it is important to take away that every person, be it secular or religious is committed to and identifies with their truth claim and as civilised fellow humans we need to learn to accept and respect differing opinions. Speaking for myself this visit truly opened my eyes to the challenging of managing conflicting truth claims and beliefs which I may face as an RE teacher. I am looking forward to this challenge and resolving the issues this brings in my classroom by developing excellent RE for community cohesion.
RE PGCE Trainee Marianne Howe reports back on her groups experiences at the Triratna Buddhist centre in Manchester:
On the 16th of October, the secondary RE PGCE group was given the opportunity to visit Manchester Buddhist centre. The day began at University with a Buddhist subject knowledge enhancement course led by our course leader Francis Farrell. This provided us with an in depth theoretical knowledge of Buddhist Dharma.
We started the session with a fun game entitled ‘What would make you happy?’ This engaged our curiosity and brought to the fore central themes which lie at the heart of Buddhist dharma. Questions such as would money and material wealth make you happy as opposed to the spiritual wealth of love and ‘peace of mind’ was raised. Distinctions between what exactly we mean by happiness started to form and stimulated rich philosophical debate and insight. In particular distinctions between ‘quick fix’ and fleeting feelings of happiness were discussed as opposed to more fulfilling and everlasting feelings of happiness.
Throughout this session, Francis provided us with an in depth knowledge and understanding of the basic teachings of Buddhism, which was explored through the lens of the original Buddha- Siddhartha Gautama. We discovered that the original Buddha primarily concerned himself with one of life’s ultimate questions- what is the meaning and purpose of life? Throughout the session it became clear that Gautama’s quest involved deep exploration and meditative insights into concepts such as happiness, virtue and what it means to lead a good, happy and fulfilling life.
Our new knowledge and wisdom gained from this session was brought alive when we visited the Manchester Buddhist Centre in the afternoon. Situated in the lively and bustling Northern quarter of Manchester, the centre itself had a calming and tranquil feel. Upon entering the building, it was hard not to notice the three jewels or refuges of Buddhism which caught your eye instantly. Consisting of the Buddha (the enlightened one), Dharma (the teachings) and Sangha (the spiritual community), it was hard not to feel the presence of these three Buddhist treasures upon entering the centre for the very first time.
Beautiful golden statues of the Buddha surrounded us (reminding us of the enlightened one and his teachings). The sense of community was also clearly felt. Before beginning our tour we had a spot of lunch in the centres earth café, situated in the basement of the building. The earth café provided a relaxing and comfortable atmosphere to refuel/recharge our minds and bodies before we began the official tour of the centre.
After lunch we made our way to the main entrance, and received a warm welcome by our tour guide, Garavachitta who is an ordained Buddhist of the Triratna order. Garavachitta informed us that the meaning behind his name refers to one whose mind has turned to reverence. Surprisingly Garavachitta was not dressed in the usual monastic orange robes you would expect a Buddhist to wear. Instead he was dressed in ordinary clothes- reflecting the centre’s modern, friendly and informal approach to Buddhist teaching. Bringing the ancient and mystical traditions of Buddhist dharma alive to the Western modern world.
After explaining to us the history of the building (the centre was once an old Victorian workhouse) and the various meditation classes/courses which are on offer at the center, we were led up a beautiful spiral wooden staircase to the second floor of the building. On this floor various meditation classes were taking place and we were told to be as quiet as possible. We were led into one of the main meditation rooms of the building and asked to take our shoes off before entering. A beautiful and awe inspiring golden statue of the Buddha awaited us.
We were asked to take a cushion and sit on the floor facing the beautiful shrine to the enlightened one or Buddha. Here we got the chance to find out more about Buddhist dharma and to also hear Garavachitta’s story/background- learning about and from religion. We were able to explore and experience first-hand. Buddhist dharma in an open and non-dogmatic way. The session ended with a calming mediation led by Garavachitta. This was a wonderful opportunity to experience Buddhist meditative practice and fully absorb/assimilate our previous learning & knowledge. After our mediation we had the chance to do a spot of shopping and browse all things ‘Buddha’ in the centre’s shop- from books to incense sticks, and mini Buddha statues.
This informative and enlightening trip provided us with deep subject knowledge of Buddhism- it awakened our consciousness & awareness of Buddhism and provided invaluable ideas/resources to bring the RE classroom alive! On a personal note, Buddhism for me has truths that speak to everyone irrespective of religious persuasions or not. The truths and insights offered by this religion are ones that I can not only value but also carry with me on my own journey of personal development, insight and awareness of how to live a happy, fulfilling and meaningful life.
There is no substitute for seeing good RE practice in action so RE PGCE trainees were given a taste of what makes a really effective RE team at Cowley International College on September 5th. Trainees met senior staff and heard an enthusiastic endorsement of RE by the Head Teacher. We were treated to presentations by Edge Hill RE PGCE graduates Rachel, Chelsea and Ashley and Edge Hill Professional Mentor, Sue. Trainee feedback speaks for itself, enjoy the comments!
Joe Murphy writes:
Our PGCE group was lucky enough to have an insight to a successful Religious Education department last week. The trip was very insightful and encouraging.
The morning started with a brief introduction from the Head of the RE department followed by a briefing from the Deputy Headmaster. The information that we were given during this time was exactly what we needed as we started in a school such as this one the following Monday. Here we received great advice how to remain professional in and out of the classroom and staffroom. We had information previous to this in Edge Hill, however it was good to hear it from the staff at the school as they take pride in their professionalism and have had some experience with the consequences of teachers not adhering to the laws of professionalism.
After this we went to an RE classroom, here we took part in a discussion with the Head of RE and completed some tasks in pairs. This was a great exercise as it involved me working with people in my PGCE group that I have not had the chance to work with yet. During the activity we prioritised the jobs and responsibilities of a teacher. The results were very insightful as each group had a different answer, showing us that all of these attributes are equally important.
Next on our to-do list was to liaise with some RE students within the school. This was a major help and a great activity as it gave us hints and tips from the children themselves about what they like to do in a RE lesson, why they enjoy RE and what they have learned from RE. Speaking to the children was a great idea as it solidified my decision to become an RE teacher, it had taught these kids some very valuable lessons that they use in everyday life.
Lastly we had a chance to talk to some of the staff of the school that had graduated from the course that we are about to embark on. For me this was a very worthwhile exercise as it answered some of the questions that I had about the course from a previous student’s point of view. The girls who finished this course are now in their first teaching job and to see that was encouraging and it silenced some of the doubts that were forming in my head.
To finish what was an excellent experience, we done some meditation with another teacher who had graduated from Edge Hill two years previous. She showed us the process that she had undertaken with some of her classes after it proved to be very successful. This was a great idea and very rewarding, it had a great effect on the children that took part and it is something that I could see myself doing in the future. This idea allows the children to express themselves and it can also create a good relationship with a class, and in some cases could make a difficult class easier to teach.For me the day at Cowley high school was an extremely worthwhile experience and it made me feel a bit more confident about the PGCE.
Shabana writes: Sharing dialogue with Religious Education pupils reinforced the validity of the subject amongst today’s youth.
Nasira writes: They helped calm any nerves about the impending placement and assessments. I also found the meditation session wonderful and will definitely be using it in my lessons!
Final words go to Rosanna who sums up the experience for us all when she says: Overall it was a fantastic experience. It was truly inspiring to see a successful RE department, and meet teachers who very clearly believe in the value of Religious Education