RE at Edge Hill

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Juma Prayers at Quwwat Ul Islam Mosque

The PGCE cohort visited the Quwwat Ul Islam Mosque in Preston as part of their subject knowledge development.  In addition to touring the mosque and observing Friday prayers, the group also had a fantastic opportunity to speak to some Yr10 pupils from Preston Muslim Girls High School about their experiences of Islam and what their faith means to them. Thanks Waqaus for a great day as always!

Merseyside Buddhism

Year 2 QTS undergraduates spent a day looking at two forms of Buddhism in Merseyside. Our first visit was to the Triratna Buddhist Centre in Liverpool. Sumnadipa and Janet welcomed us and  offered us a drink. Sumnadipa explained her name meant graciousness and lamp, and she was given it when she was ordained. She reminded us that the five precepts have both negative and positive sides, for example the second precept, not taking the not given can also mean living with open handed generosity. She suggested that mindfulness meant taking notice of he things around us.  Normally we cannot do this adequately as our ‘monkey minds’ are full of noise and chatter. Meditating, just stopping and being is one was to still the mind and become mindful.  Sumnadipa explained some of the fundamental teaching of the Buddha, including the three jewels.

Sumnadipa gave us some of the historical background to the Triratna movement, starting with the life story of Sangharakshita. She explained that Sangharakshita realised that different schools of Buddhism may look quite different and teach different things, because they had taken on the culture of where they are.  Underlying his, he suggested there was a core Buddhism, of taking refuge in the three jewels. He set up the Western Buddhist Order to translate the Buddha’s teaching into a form that would appeal to the Modern Western mind. Since the 1960s it has spread worldwide and became the Triratna Community in 2010. Sangharakshita died a few weeks ago aged 93.

She explained some of the differences between the Triratna and other Buddhist schools. Right livelihood appears to be very important in many of their activities and involves both helping others and freeing themselves.  We heard how Sumnadipa became a Buddhist, through an initial desire to meditate.  She suggested that Sangharakshita might have been a bodhisatva, but people such as the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu may be enlightened beings.

We finished our time with a meditation session which Sumnadipa led.

A short minibus ride took us to the Wat Phra Singh UK Buddhist Centre in Runcorn. Tony welcomed us and explained that they are from the Thai Therevada tradition. He began by explaining how the two branches of Buddhism developed. Their parent temple is he Wat Phra Singh Chang Mai in Thailand.  Tony told us the story of his ordination and how he became Samart, meaning one who achieves. He was ordained in 2008 in Thailand – the first foreigner to be Ordained at Wat Phra Singh Chang Mai, and the last person to be ordained by Lonpornu. The Head monk arrived from Thailand in June 2012, staying with Tony who had a vision for a Temple in the North West of England. The temple opened in June 2014. They now have ambitious plans to build an ubersot – a consecrated Hall.

Every morning and evening the monks, who reside on the third floor of the temple, chant and meditate for 45 minutes. One of the rules of the monastic life is that they can only eat before midday. They do duties and learning during the day. There is a free weekly meditation class.

Tony says that he has always been a Buddhist, although he was raised as a Christian, and only became aware as he encountered Buddhist teachings.  Other religions say this is right and this is wrong; the dhamma says this is what the Buddha realised. Tony helpfully explained some of the Buddha’s teachings on diverse subjects including kamma, right living, intention and meditation.

A Hopeful school experience

Year 1 Undergraduates QTS students gained their first experience of school with a day at Hope Academy.  We were met in the foyer by Rachael Critchley (Head of RE), Catha Seddon (Assistant Head of RE) and Jayne Cantwell (A very experienced RE Curriculum Mentor) and given a tour of the school. We met the Head of Year 7 as we visited the Year 7 Inspire time. Each year group has their form-rooms grouped together.  We also had a quick look at the School Chapel, before we returned to our base in the conference room and briefly met the Academy Principal.

The next session was with Rachel Bradburn, the Professional Mentor, who looks after all trainees and NQTs as well as being an English and Media Studies teacher. Rachel helped us to think about what it means to be a professional.  She asked us how we would develop our own professional persona and we did a rank ordering exercise with elements of Part 2 of the Teachers’ Standards. We then looked at some scenarios, before Rachel gave us some tips on how she would expect a trainee to demonstrate professionalism.

We then had another hour with Rachael and Catha, focussing on RE. Hope Academy is Outstanding RE department and they explained some of the features of their department that enabled them to achieve this inspection outcome.  Hope Academy used the DTT approach to assessment, and so we were introduced to this.  Students do a multiple choice test every 5-6 lessons (3 weeks) which they use to track their own progress. This ensures that pupils have mastery of the required knowledge. GCSE assessment formats are used throughout the school.  Individual assessments are marked and then a class crib sheet is produced, which enables pupils to work on their own areas of weakness, something g which is being adopted across all subject areas now.  Thinking about the roles of the RE teacher, we worked in pairs to sort some cards, initially into five categories, before giving the categories headings and ranking them. We shared our ideas together before completing a take away consolidation sheet to give us good evidence for our standards folders.

At break we met the rest of the RE department and then Bradie Gallagher, an NQT who graduated last year from our course. She gave a number of tips on how to take best advantage of the course.  She helped us understand what would happen at the end of the course during our NQT year.  She explained that observing people teach might seem like a chore, but is really useful.

For the last part we divided into two groups, one to observe Nicola Lyon (another graduate of the course) teach a year 7 lesson, and the other group to watch Catha teach year 8 who were doing a ‘therapy’ session as part of the DTT process.  We were struck by how, in both classes, pupils were busily working independently with the guidance of the teacher. The year 7s were working on knowledge of the Ten Commandments which led up to a 5 mark Demonstrate Question. Pupils were given guidance on how to structure their answer.

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