Hagrid’s armpits smell of chocolate

I first read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when I was 22 in a backpackers’ hostel somewhere in Canada. I could perhaps be a little embarrassed to reveal that I was reading Harry Potter at the age of 22, but the reality was up until that point I had never found reading enjoyable. Throughout school, college and university I experienced reading to be perfunctory, just about tolerable, and always dictated by someone else.

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What do we do now?

Not knowing what to do can be uncomfortable – if left long enough it can be distressing. We like knowing what happens next; cliff hangers only work because they suspend time encouraging us to come back for more to discover what happens next. We love weather forecasts to discover if it will be sunny tomorrow. We want things to be calm and peaceful as it suggests certainty. Disturbing images only last a finite time within the media as they present a ‘not knowing how to deal with it’ or ‘but what can I do?’ scenario. We tie things into a bow and go to sleep knowing that tomorrow will be like today and much similar to yesterday. Continue reading

CPD in a Shopping Centre

Hidden Giants and West Lothian Creative Learning Network will dare to take an alternative approach to addressing the current big issues in education: curriculum design, raising attainment, and participation. We invite education professionals to join us, to collectively reposition our thinking and challenge our core beliefs. We propose meeting in everyday spaces on three different days.

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The Missing Part

My step-son, amongst a number of other conditions, is diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). He finds it difficult to deal with uncertainty and change. Hence, as I sit here and type this blog we are dealing with heightened confusion arising from school being cancelled due to the snow. As other children find fun in the white stuff we must remember those who struggle with moments of significant disruption like this.

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Optimism of the action

“Optimism of the action, is better than the pessimism of the thought”  Greenpeace

Engrained in our work is the belief we need to embrace failure and accept risk as part of the every day.  This mind-set can only be actioned from a position of strength and confidence.  We must believe in the risk before we take it.  Failure is then accepted as ‘worth it’ and something to be learned from.   Preaching this message in a CPD session with teachers or in front of 30 P4’s is easy for me.  As a practitioner I know I have to put myself in situations that scare me and expose my vulnerability.  This belief has contributed to the decision made by myself and partner to leave Scotland for two months to live and work in a small town in Chile called Frutillar.

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The Hidden Curriculum

Hidden Giants has worked in partnership with Dunning primary in Perth & Kinross since January 2015.  The residency has generated incredible conversations in the classrooms, the staff room and further afield.  It has provoked my thinking and refined my approach.    Through our work there are two key strands which I thought it would be worth sharing:

  1. The role of questions in the classroom
  2. Finding the hidden curriculum

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Will this be in the test?

A few years ago I was producing a theatre company in residence at a school in Inverclyde.  We had been working closely with the English department who suggested the 5th year pupils could do with a different approach to understanding Chekov.  In response we invited a highly regarded and experienced director to work with the class for a day to bring their set text (Cherry Orchard) to life.  After 45 minutes into the workshop it was clear the pupils seemed disinterested.  The director intervened and asked if everything was alright.  One pupil simply said “how will this help us pass the exam?”  The workshop continued but the comment stayed with me.

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Why do I dig holes in the sand?

Ever since I was a young boy I recall digging holes in the sand.  Any beach, any country, and any time of the year – I would dig holes.  Sometimes they were no deeper than my wrist.  Others could fit my entire body. I once dug a hole so deep that both my brother and sister could fit in it standing up.  I love digging holes but until recently I’d never stop to wonder why – why do I dig holes in the sand? Continue reading

Creative and Employability Skills: Auchterarder

It is predicted by 2030 global youth unemployment will hit 60%.  This is coupled with 47% of jobs being automated.  The shift away from mass industry to a culture of freelance employment is unarguable.  The world of work is changing unlike anything ever experienced and with these monumental changes comes a new set of challenges for the next generations.  A future world full of uncertainty demands learners must be equipped with higher-order creativity skills that, as Education Scotland suggests:  will help children and young people not just understand the world, but be sufficiently equipped to influence its shape.
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A spectrum of uncomfortable truths

Change can be difficult.  We all have our favourite supermarket, a preferred route to work and choice of tipple on a Friday night.  In many ways the world asks us to find the things we like and stick with them.  Familiarity and safety can be a comforting feeling.   However the problem occurs when we forget to stray from our path – I call this creative disruption and unapologetically love it.

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Raising Attainment through Pupil Engagement

Paul and long time collaborator of Hidden Giants Matthew Sowerby worked with six teachers and more than 80 pupils in two primary schools over the space of 8 months on a research project with three aims:

  • We wanted to know how creativity could enhance pupil engagement in the primary school classroom.
  • We wanted to better understand what occurs when pupils take an active role in proposing, developing and deciding the focus and practicalities of their own learning.
  • Additionally we wanted to explore how teachers react and respond to enhanced pupil agency.

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Just Google It

I recall wandering through the back streets of Barcelona in 2008 at 1am with a fellow traveler and her friend on one of my European adventures.  We were lost but didn’t want to admit it.  We were searching for somewhere to have a final drink.  The streets became tighter, darker and occupied by shadows intent on selling us their mind altering products.  I loved it.  Dangerous cities are more fun.

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La Trace

A mystery has lain dormant for centuries in the heart of Dunning.  As children play between the gravestones of the local church something far more revealing lies underneath its steeple.  Historians have always believed the markings on the Dupplin Cross connected Scotland to France but were unable to find the key that would unlock its mysteries.  Sometimes it takes the eyes of a child to see what adults are blind to.

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A man walks into morning assembly; he looks confused and has obviously been sleeping rough.  He stumbles to the front of the room. He begins to speak, his voice is slurred and words aren’t making sense.  He speaks of an experiment in the local hospital, something he signed up for but didn’t appreciate the consequences.  He has been trying to escape the research team for the past two days.  They want him back.

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Save our Fossoway

Imagine a world without a regular power source: no hot water for your shower, no light to do your homework, and no electricity to play your new Xbox game.  This fictional nightmare will one day be reality if we don’t take action today. The area of Fossoway has been identified as an ideal location for the newest form of renewable energy – Hydromatic power.  It’s clean, highly effective and top secret.

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