Schools of Thought…

This week’s Provocative Question from Fandango asks:-

Do you believe that children should be required to return to school for the new school year?

Of my six grandchildren, the eldest is 18 and has already left school and the youngest is not quite two years old, so has not yet reached school age. But by the time our schools return here in Scotland on 11th August, we will have two five-year-olds due to make the important move from nursery to their first year in primary school, a seven-year-old with ongoing health problems beginning his third year, and a nine-year-old starting her fifth year in primary school.

All of our school-age grandchildren are really looking forward to attending school in person next month, but are understandably worried about the virus. They’ve missed their friends and have missed their teachers but know that lockdown happened to everyone to help stop people getting sick and dying. They have been keeping up as far as possible with schooling online, but it’s inevitably been a bit patchy over time and not quite the same as being full time in their purpose-built learning environment.

Scotland has chosen to have a much longer period of lockdown than England before starting to ease restrictions, and thankfully for now our levels of new infections and deaths are relatively low so we are in a position where schools returning full time is not such a contentious issue as it may be in some other countries. However contingency plans are still in place to allow for a differently organised ‘blended learning’ approach if this becomes necessary due to a resurgence of infection in the future.

So right now I must admit I feel pleased that schools here are returning soon, and as long as adequate safety measures are in place for all students and staff I think it is definitely the right thing to do here in Scotland. The children are keen to be back in their usual learning routine, five months has been a long time for them to feel like they have been missing out. They are happy to be at home, but are happy to be out at school too. They like their little bit of independence and the support of their peer group.

Too much longer away from school and I would probably fear their emotional health might begin to be seriously compromised, but children are generally resilient creatures with an elasticity of expectation and experience leading to an easy adaptability and acceptance of ‘what is’ that we have somehow lost as adults. The hope is they will catch up as their schooling progresses, make up for lost time, start to feel secure again in life. Hopefully lockdown will have provided a different type of lesson to be learned long-term.

But would I be feeling the same if I lived elsewhere? Probably not…

April A-Z: U is for University of Highlands and Islands

The new Inverness College building on the outskirts of the city is the largest of the 13 partnership colleges and research centres that make up the University of Highlands and Islands, which is the newest University in Scotland, having only been granted university status in 2012.

When I was growing up there was no higher education provision at all within the Highlands, and anyone wanting to study for a degree had to move away. All further education was delivered from the original Inverness Technical College building on Longman Road, which was in the process of being demolished when we arrived back in Inverness last August.

As an adult I actually studied a pre-nursing course at the old college, and my work placement on that course was at the old Royal Northern Infirmary hospital along the river, which at that time provided all geriatric nursing provision but now houses the UHI Executive Offices.

For this year’s A-Z I’m going to take you on a photographic tour of My Inverness, Past and Present. I grew up in the local area, I went to school here and brought up my three children here, but I moved away to London for 18 years before returning home for good at the end of last summer.

P.S. My initial plan for my A-Z posts has necessarily been curtailed somewhat due to the current coronavirus pandemic, but we’ll get through the alphabet one way or another, however creative my use of subjects may have to be – so thank you for visiting Inverness with me, and I hope you enjoy our trip!

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Strain

As well as my undergraduate degree (BA Hons in Psychosocial Studies – a deliberately cross-disciplined blend of psycholgy and sociology) I have also achieved a post-graduate certificate in Applied Positive Psychology. It was actually supposed to be a Masters Degree, but for varying reasons at that time I found studying a real strain so decided to knock it on the head only a third of the way through. The parts of the course I had already passed gave me enough credits to be to be awarded the PG Cert, so here we are.

The thing is, I was both working full time and studying part time (working Monday to Friday with weekend lectures), and after my 92-year-old grandmother died followed a couple of months later by my best friend’s husband (early 50s, cancer), my head was so full of new and unresolved stuff I just couldn’t concentrate properly, so initially took a break for a semester, and simply never went back to my studies. To be honest, I think had the course truly fulfilled the need I had for finding answers in my own life, I would probably have found a way to keep going, but as it was, I gave up.

In diametrical opposition to the intention of me studying Applied Positive Psychology, the whole experience left me feeling completely out of step with most of my classmates. Where they readily embraced many of the ideas fully and with a genuine enthusiasm, I felt resistant to many of the assumptions that were made as they simply didn’t resonate with my own life experience. I felt like the Eeyore of the group, an unintentional grey misery of negativity. The realities of my own disfunctions become glaringly obvious to me and I could see I was becoming depressed again, so withdrawing from the course seemed the best option for me at that time.

And I have no regrets – neither in relation to beginning the course nor ending it when I did. It did for me what I needed it to do, but not quite in the way I’d intended. I learned that I still had a long way to go to heal the psychological hurts of the past, and that Applied Positive Psychology was not going to be the way forward for me in this aim after all. But I still keep on looking for answers, and keep on keeping on – and I’m still here, plugging away at life, so I must be doing something right, mustn’t I? 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Strain