This last week has been very busy for our undergraduate students, who have benefitted from meeting and engaging with local faith communities.
Year 2 Ethnography students are currently engaged in their own fieldwork projects, exploring a range of topics including witchcraft, perspectives on the after life in a care home, life in a convent, challenges and controversies in contemporary religion, digital ethnography, as well as engaging with Paganism, Christianity, Sikhism and Islam. The principle of the module is to allow students to go out and find out more about how living religion is experienced as part of every day life.
Year 2 Judaism students and their module tutor, Dr Chris Greenough, visited Southport and District Reform Synagogue on Wednesday 7th November. They received a very warm welcome from the team there, especially Selwyn and Anne who gave an informative talk about the Jewish way of life and particularly the differences between the Orthodox and Reform movements. On Tuesday 13th November, the same group of students visited Southport Orthodox synagogue, where they were able to consolidate their subject knowledge about Jewish worship practices and the design of a synagogue.
Year 3 students, with Maggie Webster, were welcomed by Swaminarayan Hindu temple in Preston to mark the celebration of Diwali and new year.
On Thursday we ventured up the M6 to visit the Gujurat Hindu Temple and Preston Buddhist centre as part of developing our subject knowledge about the Dharmic traditions.
At the Gujurat Temple, we were able to learn about the importance of the temple in Hindu puja (worship) and the significance and stories of some of the many gods that live there. Students ejoying asking lots of questions on everything from Hindu attitudes towards homosexuality to the belief in reincarnation and karma. Some were eagle-eyed enough to spot an image of the Buddha – raising interesting questions about the links between Buddhist and Hindu belief.
It was lovely to see Pagba on our visit to the Vajravarahi Kadampa Meditation Centre. As always, he was able to offer real insight into what it means to be a practicing Buddhist and how he was drawn to Buddhism and made the choice to become a monk. Some very deep philosophical discussions about the nature of ‘the mind’ were had!
As part of their pre-NQT enrichment week, RE PGCE trainees visited Bradford as part of an interfaith visit to a number of places of worship.
The day began with a visit to the Gurdwara Singh Sabha where trainees were given a tour of the worship hall and able to see the rituals and practices associated with the Sikh Holy Book, the Guru Granth Sahib. Trainees enjoyed asking questions and experiencing some of the sounds of Sikh worship.
Next it was onto the Shree Laxmi Narayan Hindu Temple where trainees were able to observe the daily Aarti worship and meet with Seema, who discussed her experiences and beliefs as a Hindu. Ready for a rest, we thoroughly enjoyed our vegetarian lunch!
Before making our way back to Ormskirk, we ended the day with an insight into Reform Judaism at the Bradford Reform Synagogue, learning about the history of the Jewish community in Bradford and some of the differences between reform and orthodox practice.
A wonderful (very hot!) day and a lovely end to the PGCE course.
As part of their Hindu Dharma Module Year 1 Undergraduates visited the Swaminarayan Mandir in Preston. Here is what Hailey thought of the day:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Life in places of learning tends to follow a seasonal pattern and each year in late summer just prior to the new academic year commencing the RE team at Edge Hill along with eminent visiting tutors delivers a subject knowledge enhancement course . The course is designed to give our new PGCE students a refresher in the basic beliefs and practises of the main world religions and an opportunity to visit local faith communities.
For me, this aspect of the enhancement course really brings what we try to do as RE teachers to life. It puts flesh on the bones of our classroom teaching and allows for honest inquiry and genuine human interaction with living, breathing people of faith communities.
Year 1 Undergraduates recently had the privilege to go and not only see what a Hindu temple looks like, but were lucky enough as a class to witness how worship happens in the Hindu Mandir.
Mary wrote this on her blog page:
It doesn’t matter how many books you read or how many assignments you can do on a religion like Hinduism, nothing compares to actually visually seeing what happens. I felt extremely lucky to have been given the opportunity to expand my understanding on the Hindu culture, and I feel like it has widened and developed my passion for finding out more about the religion as a whole.
As soon as we entered the Mandir we were able to be taught and have a lesson with a regular Hindu of the temple. This was brilliant because he didn’t just give us information on his religion, but he actually gave us the opportunity to share what we have learnt so far on the course. I felt like I contributed well in this discussion, and I believe it really helped me in widening my knowledge as every answer that I shared with the group he expanded on it and gave examples from his own experiences within the Hindu community. For example he shared with us that he prefers to perform puja in his home in the morning as it makes him feel ready to tackle the day ahead of him. Not only did he share his own knowledge but he also showed us how to perform Yoga worship by repeating the sacred chant oum. This was extremely interesting to see up close as it is something I have never experienced before. Although I am by no means Hindu, or in fact religious in any way, by taking part in this chant it did create an emotion I haven’t felt before. Somehow the vibration of the chant made me feel somehow connected to the religion.
Year one Secondary RE with QTS Undergraduates had an opportunity, as part of their work on Hindu Dharma, to go into a local Primary School and get their first taste of teaching. Feliciity wrote this in her blog:
We were introduced as ‘The teachers from Edge Hill’ today, we officially became teachers!
I don’t think I could have possibly been more nervous on the drive to the school we were going to, the awful rain and bad traffic didn’t help though. Upon arrival we signed in and got our lanyards to say who we were shown to the staff room where we gathered ourselves, prepared for our assembly and got our lesson plans finalised with our groups.
Then came the assembly on Diwali. From all the practices we had in class, I felt we were doomed from the start, oh how wrong I was! We all laughed together and performed the story of Diwali so well, I could not have been more proud of everyone, we really pulled through as a class and *hopefully* the children enjoyed our performance, especially a blue faced Shannon as Rama and a Monty Python homage from Joe as Sita.
Then came the actual teaching…
In our separate groups we were led to our classroom, where we were about to meet what can only be described as the most lovely, well behaved Year 6 children. To start with we planned a game of Hindu God themed Top Trumps, something I had enjoyed from our first lesson, and the children took to the game so well. I went round all the tables asking the children which God was their favourite and why, with some choosing those represented in our play of Diwali. 3,2,1 and they were silent, tidying up the cards back into the envelopes to listen to the PowerPoint presentation, in turns we began to go through the slides, deviating to ask questions and add in more information. The stop at slide 7 of 14 wasn’t in the plan but if someone else in a group deviates from the plan, you go with it! With the groups they were sat in, we gave each table a body length strip of paper to draw around a nominated child to create a version of a Hindu God that they worked together to draw, name and paint. Walking round and talking to the children was such an experience:
I actually felt like a real teacher!
The children listened and responded so well, with some taking aspects of Gods like Ganesh and Matsya to create their God. I spoke with some children about Holi Day and how Hindus throw bright colours at each other in celebration to help them be as colourful and creative as they wanted. We also spoke more of other different aspects of Hinduism as they were fascinated, I really believe they took in and actually learnt something. The plenary was the final slide and we asked the children questions on Hinduism, Samsara, Karma (which they gave us real life scenarios from their own lives to show their understanding) and Aum. Our final part of the lesson was a small video from My Life, My Religion: Hinduism by BBC2 which shows a brother and sister aged 11-14 showing a glimpse into Hinduism in a child friendly way. Of course the link on the presentation didn’t work, but what would a lesson plan be without some failings and whist it was fixed we spoke about what the childrens’ Gods would be protectors of. Thankfully YouTube gave us our video but we had to show from the beginning of the half an hour programme rather than the selected clip, but I rate this video highly as it is children explain their religion, highlighting key terms and showing it in its real life experience; my life, my religion is also available for other religions too – I highly recommend viewing.
The most valuable thing to take away from today apart from the amazing first teaching experience was how this one morning brought our Undergraduate class closer together, the next day it felt like we all knew each other that bit better, enough where we went from sitting in small groups, to sitting and laughing together.
A huge thank you to MA and Mrs JA for providing this opportunity and experience.
Year 1 undergraduates visited the Gujerati Hindu community in Preston as part of their module studying Hindu Dharma. This visit gave the group opportunity to ask a practising Hindu about the philosophical aspects of Hindu Dharma, to have a tour around the temple and to practice meditation.
Francesca blogged about the visit:
In our small discussion session we were given an overview of the core principles of Hindu Dharma. One of the most interesting points that was made was the belief that Hinduism is not religion. Thifs is because the term “religion” is westernised terminology used to fulfil the governments need for categorisation. He stressed that the best way to describe Hinduism is dharma which means the path to self discovery and to find Brahman- their one and only god. However in order for Hindus to be able to comprehend their divinity they have created different avatars/forms of their god otherwise known as the “spirits of god” and this explains why on the surface Hinduism looks like a polytheistic religion.
Additionally he went into detail about the scriptures in Hinduism (known as the Vedas) and the concept of Karma. I found the teaching of karma especially interesting as it sparked areas of controversy. He stated that suffering itself is not intrinsically bad and it simply reflects the karmic energy built up throughout your previous lives. For example, if a person has a good education, employment and healthy family they have “punya” which is good karmic energy but if a person suffers then they have “pap” bad karmic energy. However it leads to me to question whether this religious belief is genuine or simply justifies and acts as a coping mechanism for those that genuinely do suffer. As this teaching affects so many individuals lifestyle I believe it would make a good project title for my assignment.
To conclude this visit has widened my understanding of the core Hindu beliefs and I have even began questioning them. I hope to use the topic of karma for my assignment and therefore I will need to research more into the principle and the issues surrounding it.
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.