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My Week in Dumfries: Castles, Livestock, and Vikings

I am in front of the Caerlaverock Castle outside of Dumfries.

Monday was the day we were supposed to go to the school for the first time.  Due to all the corona-virus issues, we needed to make sure that we were still allowed in the school and was not able to go to the school Monday morning. Instead, we walked around downtown and went to a castle. The castle was so much fun and I feel like everybody turn into a five-year-old the moment we got there. Moments like those are the ones that make me want to travel even more. Everyone was so excited to just get out and explore. The moment we could go in the castle, everyone was running around, taking pictures, and seeing everything they could. When we went to lunch at this farmhouse type restaurant. I got to try Iron Bru, a classic Scottish soda. It’s not for me. It tastes like bubblegum fluoride at the dentist. Then, we went on the farm tours at a local agricultural college, Scotland’s Rural College.  We got to see dairy cows and sheep. It was very interesting to be able to see the similarities in the way they run their dairy and lambing facilities. I haven’t had much experience with dairy and sheep, but I have had a little bit and it seemed very similar to how we run things in the US. I only ever learn about Poultry and I know the differences and similarities between those. It was very interesting to look at the other industries as well. Also, we were able to hear their philosophies on how they teach and their views on the best way to teach agriculture. They were extremely hands-on with their students. The students are required to work on the farms and not just show up to a two-hour lab one day a week for their hands-on experience.

Learning about Scotland’s Rural College’s dairy and lambing facilities.

Tuesday was our first official day at the school. When we got there, we were given a tour around the school. After the first block of classes, we went into the assembly. It was very different than any school assembly I ever had in elementary school. They sang songs about Christianity as a school at every assembly. We did not sing as a school and we did not sing about Jesus as a school. We talk to Luke and Natalie, Scottish education students, afterwards as well and they said that people aren’t as religious there as people are in America. So, it didn’t matter if you were Christian or not, singing about Jesus was just part of the day and you did it. Also, they gave their students a lot of responsibility. There were children running the sound and technology. They also put a big emphasis on their students’ accomplishments that weekend at a speech competition. It was very interesting to see because in the states, we do not give students that much responsibility to run things and do things without the expectation of them messing up. After lunch, we continue to go over our lesson plans and we also talked with Luke and Natalie, my Scottish group members, about pretty much everything. We talked a lot about grades and grading papers as a teacher in Scotland. They said that grading papers is not a thing that they do very much because it’s not important for the students to know where they are. They said that the teachers only need to be able to group the students, but the students do not need to know how they’re being grouped or where they fall within those groups. It was a very different philosophy than in America. Everything is graded and number based in our education system. We must have minimum grades that we meet and if you’re not meeting those grades, you and your parents know about it. Wednesday was our second day at the school and my group’s first day teaching. My group taught a lesson about vikings. Our lesson focused on trade and the success of the viking’s craftsmanship in boat building. Our lessons went over well and the students loved our activities. We had some hiccups due to never teaching this before and having to teach a wide range of ages. We learned that our lesson was perfect for the younger students. I really enjoyed the teacher of the younger class. You could tell he had a special bond with those students, and they respected him and listen to him completely. Thursday was our last day at the school. First thing in morning, we observed peer focus groups. These peer focus groups are groups of students that are given tasks and responsibility to plan and carry out events and projects in the school with minimal help from teachers. This was very interesting for me to go and watch. I was shocked at how much responsibility they give their students to be able to plan and carry out events and long-term projects for the school. In America, we do not give our students that much power. Teachers might ask for ideas from students, but the teachers and the principals are the ones that carry out the planning of the events. I know I wouldn’t be able to plan and carry out half the things that the students do at their age. Then, we started teaching our last two lessons for this trip. By the end of our lessons, we were having so much fun with the students. We were able to really fit our lesson to those students and learn so much from them. They ended up teaching us stuff about the vikings.

Selfies with Amelia Payne (UGA student), Luke, and Natalie (UoG students).

During the week, we also were able to hang out with the Scottish students and build amazing relations with them. We went to dinner with them multiple times, as well as, playing a lot of pool and darts with them. It was a great way for all of us to be able to relax and get to know each other without any school pressures. The friendships that I made with them are ones that will last for a long time. I still talk to some of them everyday.