Tag Archives: friends

Dreich weather and a sonnet: Argyll Weather⤴

from @ blethers

I haven't written a sonnet for 37 years. At that time, I thought I might be halfway through my allotted life span and wrote my first attempt at a sonnet about being at "life's watershed". You can hear the iambic feet, can't you? This afternoon, it being utterly miserable outside, and dark by 3.30pm, I thought I'd make my Christmas puddings and then - maybe - write some cards. Then I got a message from a good friend that he'd been shown a poem of mine on a window of St Andrew's bus station. In St Andrews. There was a photo - it's there, right enough, in black letters on the glass. Extraordinary.

In the comment thread that followed, others joined in. One of them threw down a challenge. "Write a sonnet about Argyll weather. Walking in the rain". This wasn't an entirely random challenge - I'd pointed out that I didn't participate as much as I might in the poetry scene because I was always walking about in the rain in Argyll.

Reader, I tried. Once the puddings were burbling and the (extensive) washing up done, I sat down with my preferred poetry-writing tools (the back of an envelope and a biro) and a copy of Edwin Morgan's Glasgow Sonnets for inspiration.

This is the result. I've dedicated it to my friend Jim Gordon, whose fault it was.

Argyll Weather

A Sonnet for Jim

The rain drifts in grey curtains from the hills
and turns the loch’s black surface into lace
before a random wind takes up the chase
that now obliterates the day it kills.
The burn beside me gurgles as it fills
and overflows. There’s water on my face,
the path I followed gone without a trace,
enthusiasm drowned in sudden chills.

But as I turn to make my sodden way
to shelter, warmth …dry feet … a sudden gleam
appears. It’s like another day.
The wet rock all around me starts to steam
and birdsong cuts the air as if to say
This is Argyll. Things are not what they seem.

C.M.M. 12/17

What helps young people feel included in school?⤴

from @ Reach

Hello, I’m Mark, I’m a 17-year-old pupil at school in Cumbernauld and I’m the Inclusion Ambassador for North Lanarkshire.

I went to Luxembourg to represent Scotland in a Europe-wide inclusive education conference. When we were there I got a good idea of what was important for pupils all over Europe – the key message is “Everything about us, with us”. We want to be heard and we want to have a say in anything that has to do with us. We are the experts in our own needs and we know what works and what doesn’t.

This is not just a message for politicians. It is the teachers that make the immediate difference to how inclusive a school is.

Take my school – before I moved up to high school my year head met with my parents and me. We worked out barriers for me in and around the school, spoke with teachers in private to make sure they understood my needs and made a clear plan for every type of situation at school. This might all seem quite a bit of work for one pupil, yet this only took three meetings and it was all made so much easier because of the talking and listening that went on between me and the teacher.

Sadly, some pupils do not have such a good experience as me, which is why I’m pleased to be one of the Inclusion Ambassadors for Education Scotland. We are a national group of young people who act as a ‘voice’ for pupils on inclusion. We share our views and experiences with Scottish Government Ministers, local authorities and schools. We are hoping to develop resources, a school pledge and a film in the coming months.

Here are three of our top priorities to make schools more inclusive:

  • Social Problems: being excluded at break times and not having enough chances to be included and make friends are big issues. My school found a way around this by setting up a club where pupils could play computer games and socialise. This helped pupils who were often quiet to come out of their shell.
  • Issues with Support staff: For some pupils (but not all), having support staff can sometimes feel like a barrier to their social life, and they might not need them as they get older.
  • Awareness: We feel that there isn’t enough done by schools to raise awareness of the issues that pupils face or the reasons they need support. The worst thing schools can do is to pick out a specific pupil – that’s just everyone’s worst nightmare – but what schools can do is to educate the year group that other people have different needs and promote the fact that you are a diverse and inclusive school so it’s great to have all types of pupils.

For me, talking and listening are the key to true inclusion because without this everything you might be doing could be entirely irrelevant to the pupil. After all, how can you include someone who isn’t involved in the conversation?



The post What helps young people feel included in school? appeared first on Reach.

Jordan’s story – autism, school, friends and other life lessons⤴

from @ Reach

Hello, this is Jordan . I’m 19 years old, live in Ardrossan and I am autistic. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 3. It affects my daily lifestyle in many ways. I also am the author of “JUST Jordan”, a newsletter that I write monthly about topics that affect me as an autistic person. I am passionate about raising awareness about autism, so much so I have won two awards for my voluntary work at the National Autistic Society.

When I was at school, I always felt the need to tell everyone I met, my classmates, about the fact I am autistic because I felt like sharing my diagnosis so that everyone knew why I acted differently from other people. Their reaction was mostly that they didn’t know what autism was so I explained it to them, in the most simple way I could. I guess you could say I got the odd inclusion from then on. However, it was probably harder to explain autism to my teachers because they would have to find out my needs for the classroom, schoolwork and other things like that. But there was one teacher from secondary school who completely understood me. He was my guidance teacher who would come to help me if need be, for example: helping me with social skills.

At secondary school, my favourite subjects were Art and Design (I was and still am pretty artistic as you will see from my newsletter), Games Development (gaming is one of my favorite things to do and I wanted to learn more about how to make one) and Maths (I am quite bright and was really good at Maths). Another hobby of mine is to go out for a drive in my car since I passed my driving test last year and now I can go visit my friends whenever I please. I am also very much into helping my mother organize fundraising events for the National Autistic Society and Jo’s Cervical Cancer trust, both charities that mean a lot to us.

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-11-24-19When I was still in school, I didn’t really feel a lot of social pressure because I usually went to a room where pupils with learning difficulties or anything similar would socialize in the school break and lunch time. It was called the “Social Base” and this is where I found my best friends and we have remained friends ever since. As a result, I never really experienced my personal struggles, which are noise and the smell of certain things. I think social bases in schools really help pupils fit in, make new friends and help with communication skills. However, I eventually got the confidence to leave the “Social Base” to socialize with other pupils but ended up just watching people socializing around me instead of getting involved myself.

School wasn’t exactly all sunshine as I did have to confront bullies. If school life could be made better for young people with autism in one way, it would have to be how to deal with bullies. Bullies would need to understand how they upset others from the victim’s point of view and would need to be educated that others are different in their own way and that they should not be criticised on their differences. If they are curious about someone, then the bullies should ask an appropriate question which doesn’t offend the other person.

At least the big move from primary to secondary school was not a problem for me as everything was well planned, for example the bus routes from my house to school were already in place as was the introductory tour of the school, in which we experienced a full week of secondary school with our future classmates and teachers. I also got all of my new school supplies and uniform. Also, the headteacher from the secondary school came to explain what it would be like there.

Now that I have graduated from school and passed my exams, I spend my time by doing voluntary work as a young campaigner, also at the One Stop Shop where I supervise group activities, and doing admin at the local radio station 3TFM.

What I am most proud of though is my newsletter JUST Jordan, which you can read here.

You can join Jordan’s Facebook page here.

Or follow Jordan on twitter.


The post Jordan’s story – autism, school, friends and other life lessons appeared first on Reach.

Our say: Young refugees on learning in a new country⤴

from @ Reach

Can you imagine having to leave behind your home, friends and family to go on your own to a new country? That’s what some young refugees have experienced. Read their story…

Reach spoke to 3 young people from Eritrea, Somalia and the Republic of the Congo about their experiences of arriving in a new country. Despite the hard times they have gone through, all three were really keen to learn.

Young refugees - Scottish Guardianship Service

They said that the classes at Anniesland had made a big difference in their lives – not just in helping them to learn English and adapt to life in a new country, but also giving them the chance to make new friends. “I’m happy to understand the people and to share conversations”, one young refugee told us, “We feel like a family… We trust each other. And we work very hard, we help each other.”

It’s not easy getting used to so much change though: “the thing is, our country we learn some kind of different things than is here and the questions is different, teacher is different, everything is different”, one boy said. In fact, school is so different here in Scotland that even the timetable feels like a big change – apparently in Congo and Somalia, school starts at 7.30am! One girl from Africa had good things to say about how easy it had been to approach teachers in Scotland: “there is good communication here between teacher and student: here you are free, you can talk to your teacher, you can share something with your teacher”.

Another thing that has been hard for these young refugees is waiting to find out if they are allowed to stay in Scotland: “It’s very difficult to concentrate for the learning because you just think about the answer Home Office gonna give you”, we were told. One of our interviewees explained that she has been given a lot of support by the Scottish Guardianship service, which works with young people who arrive in Scotland unaccompanied and separated from their families: “When I arrived here, and she take me to my social worker and I think she helped me, everything! She gave me support, not only for education, for all my personal things, like appointments. When I have like bad mood, I called her and she will came and take me out … we can meet new friends, new people, so we don’t feel alone. Like, I stay without family but they make me happy and forget all of things like the back history”.

Learning a whole new language with a different alphabet and different pronunciation is a big challenge too: “the difficult was the pronunciation and it’s not our first language – it was difficult when I came here”. The young refugees we interviewed were all taking ESOL classes – classes in English for Speakers of Other Languages. They explained that the ESOL classes aren’t just about learning the language, they are also learning about citizenship, democracy and what life is like in Scotland.

When asked what advice they would give to other young refugees in Scotland, the young people said that two of their top tips are to study hard and to learn English.”Don’t give up, just keep going and have a choice” one advised. “Don’t forget where you come from”, said another. And what were these young people dreaming of doing in the future? They spoke with one voice when they replied: “to go to uni and get a good job so I can help in my own country and the people who need help also”.

If you’re affected by any of the issues in this post, call the Scottish Refugee Council on 0141 248 9799

The young people wanted to take this chance to thank  the Scottish Guardianship Service, the Red Cross, the A.S.I.S.T project, and their families, who have helped them so much.

The post Our say: Young refugees on learning in a new country appeared first on Reach.

Pervixi … in memoriam ABF⤴

from @ blethers

ABF and Mr B, 2012

I don't know what prompted me to take the above photo, but today I'm glad that I halted, called to the others to stop and smile in Great Western Road on a suddenly chilly Corpus Christi evening last year. It was my last but one meeting with one of my oldest friends. Alastair Fulton - forever ABF in my memory - died last week, and as I shall miss his funeral, in St Mary's Cathedral which we had just left when that photo was taken, this is my memory.

ABF was one of the first people I met outwith the 60-strong contingent of undergraduates from my old school when I went to Glasgow University as a fresher. He was a leading light in the Cecilian Society, and it was there that I realised what a wonderful comic actor he was - to say nothing of the wonderful tenor singing voice that years later joined the New Consort of Voices and brought him, memorably, to the Cathedral of The Isles on Cumbrae. On that occasion, he appeared at breakfast in the North College wearing yellow ochre pyjamas decorously covered by his borrowed surplice, having forgotten a dressing gown. Strangely, another ineradicable memory involves Alastair singing The Judge's Song from Trial by Jury wearing a white cardigan on his head: the Cecilian concert party used to perform for such oddly-named organisations as The Scottish Girls' Friendly Society (can this be real?) and in this particular concert performance ABF obviously felt the lack of costume and seized the cardi from one of the sopranos.

One year I invited him as my partner to the QM Ball; he was a splendid dancer and I've never been so entertained by any dance partner since (sorry, Mr B!).
The evening fled past on a wave of hilarity. Decades later, ABF loved to recount the memory of my father, appearing in his dressing gown at 3am to see his eldest daughter safely into the house and to engage this amusing young man in the kind of conversation he too loved. As ABF prepared to leave, my father told him that he would find "the usual offices", should he care to avail himself, on the landing.

Later, when I had left university and was a student at Jordanhill College, my school placement for teaching practice in Latin took me to Jordanhill College School, where ABF was now on the staff of the Classics department - a strange sense of continuity, of nothing really changing - and, five years further on, we found ourselves both on the staff of Hillhead High School, a happy coincidence that had Alastair turning up outside our marital home every morning to give me a lift to work and found us practising Byrd in a corner of the music department.

Over the years, the contact remained, intermittent but easy. ABF regarded Dunoon as dangerously rural; on one visit he became agitated as we walked along the (pavementless) coastal road at Toward. "There's someone coming," he hissed. There was indeed a distant figure, on the other side of the road, heading our way. "Do you know this person? Should we greet him?" More recently, sitting in the sun in our garden, it was he who realised that there was a thrush nesting in one of our shrubs, and carefully assisted me to retrieve the laundry from the line to avoid disturbing it. And constantly, over the years since I retired from teaching and took up blogging, he has been an assiduous and hilarious poster of comments - erudite, irascible, argumentative, hilarious. As he shared my tendency to midnight computing, I would often laugh myself into a state that rendered sleep impossible.

I realise I've only given a snapshot of a life here - the bits I saw and enjoyed. I know Alastair had his difficult times, and I know my mother used to enjoy meeting him in the cafés around Byres Road. I appreciated hugely his presence at her funeral, as I enjoyed sharing him with my family and friends at our Ruby Wedding party. I saw him twice last year - at the afore-mentioned occasion in St Mary's, and at the funeral of a friend's mother. He phoned me in Holy Week, amazingly upbeat and as amusing as ever despite the illness I'd only just heard about. His death came as a horrible surprise.

It's hard to write this in the knowledge that one of my favourite readers will not be commenting on it this evening; it's hard to think I have lost yet another person who would always have the answer to the difficult - or merely crazy - linguistic query. The heavenly choir may even now be rejoicing in the song of a new tenor - but down here the gap is immense.

Make sure they get the Latin right, Alastair ...

Pervixi; neque enim fortuna malignior unquam
Eripiet nobis quod prior hora dedit.

Petronius Arbiter

We are all different colours but together we can make a rainbow⤴

from @ Enquire - young people's blog

Last year 88 young people from all over Europe, including Scotland (from the RNIB youth group Haggeye and the Scottish Youth Parliament), met in Brussels. They visited the European Parliament to talk about inclusive education. Some young people had additional support needs and some had disabilities. Some young people had additional support needs and disabilities. All were being taught in mainstream schools.

The European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education arranged the event and have now produced a report – Young Views on Inclusive Education. Here are some things that the young people said:


Inclusive education should be about breaking down barriers.

It is learning to live together and respecting everybody with and without disabilities.

Inclusive education is good for friendships.

Inclusive education is an investment, we must invest in people; people are our only resource.

It is important to receive support without needing to fight for it.

We are all different colours but together we can make a rainbow.

The young people also made posters about inclusion. The Scottish entry was blank; the delegates said:

The poster is deliberately blank. We wish to show that for many children and young people living with sight loss, posters and other learning materials are not accessible. For many of us, the printed word cannot be recognised and visual displays, like this, appear completely clear. This, it can be argued, is in itself not inclusive. We believe this is the strongest message we can give.

Have a look at the other posters here.

You can get a copy of the report from Children in Scotland.