Tag Archives: reflections

End of an era, dawn of something new

August 31st marks the official end of an era for @priorygeography as our once illustrious leader David Rogers has headed off to Patcham High for new adventures and I take over from him. Big shoes to fill, big footprints left to either follow or forget.

I started at Priory as a naive, ‘pink and fluffy’, fairly clueless NQT in 2008. Now, 5 years later, I have just seen my first tutor group successfully complete their GCSEs and leave the nest…and I am sure others’ will testify that I am still fairly clueless, generally pink and fluffy, but maybe a little less naive! It’s been an absolute privilege working with David and the team he has carved out over the years. It’s been a mission as well, but such an amazing learning curve. Two months into my NQT I thought I would be out of there as soon as I passed, that I wasn’t good enough or up to the challenge of what the kids needed. But I’ve never regretted the decision to join, nor the decision to stay so long. There seems to be an unspoken assumption that as soon as a teacher hits the three year marker they should be a head of department. When I attended conferences/CPD, especially being in the shadow of Mr R, I would get questions about why I wasn’t stepping out on my own, as if it was a sign of weakness or inability. Truth is, I just enjoyed being where I was. I loved the team I was in and that is something that is hard to find. We had adventures, played pranks, challenged ourselves, did crazy stuff like chalk graffiti over the school walls, and we were on a mission to improve the department and give learners a better experience. Why move when you can be part of something special?

It’s been a hard but epic few years, and with happy endings. I’m proud of the department and of whatever small part I played in helping to build it, and hope that we can continue to build on this and go from strength to strength while I am at the reins. Luckily I have the immense foundation of Sam Atkins to work with in the next year – though I know it won’t be long before he’s looking to lead his own department.

2013_14 is going to be an interesting challenge. We have a new member of the department fresh over from Canada who will keep us youthful and on our toes I’m sure. GCSE and KS3 changes to consider. There are the usual stresses of improving achievement and results, especially while the whole school goes through turbulent times. I was happy to see our Geography results improve nicely again this summer, with some notable success stories, and we need to build on this. We hope to reacquire the GA SGQM this year, and have been asked to take part in the Global Learning Programme as a leading department. We are also working on the Prince’s Teaching Institute quality mark and I’ve been asked to be a subject leader for this inspiring programme which is exciting. There is the Teaching, Learning and Assessment Conference at Berkhamsted to look forward to (will figure out something to talk about one day hopefully!) in March – see #tlab14 and lanyrd for more info. I’m hoping to get more involved in the Geography Collective and we will be continuing to work with other schools and local teachmeets as well, starting with #tmpompey on 17th September. Sign up here!

I’ll be honest. I’m dead nervous about the next year. It’s a scary thing to keep the momentum on a department that has been so much in the headlights and on such an improving curve. Stepping into those footsteps is a little overwhelming, but I am reminded that those shoes are just shoes, that path just one way of many. I don’t want to be the leader that sees the department I love and helped build slip into decline, but I’m confident we’ll battle through. I’m sad to see the team change, but excited for the new beginnings. I’d better say official congratulations and good luck to the old boss as well 😉

In case you fancy something cheesy, here’s our goodbye video celebrating five years of fun. Thanks for the journey, it’s been intense! Now let’s find the next path.

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” (Semisonic, ‘Closing Time’)

Prince’s Teaching Institute Day 3 lectures

Jonathan Darling : population & migration

I wasn’t always the keenest on ‘human geography’ but there are so many interesting topics that are relevant for our students. We teach migration in KS3 as well as for GCSE and it can lead to great discussions and debates on politics, population control, democracy, human rights, geopolitical boundaries, quality of life – and to challenging misconceptions and potential racism / discrimination.

Darling commented on the rising number of international migrants – approx 3.1% of world population is migrant – but that the dispersal is uneven throughout the globe. Immigration accounts for 40% of population growth in OECD countries during 2001-2011, but the impact on their GDP was negligible therefore going against those who argue migrants can have negative impact on economy. Migrants are disproportionately affected by financial crisis / recession so there is a geography here. He stated most refugees remain within their region of origin, that only 17% of refugees will make asylum requests outside of origin (due to lack of resources etc,) so those who do make it further are likely to be better educated / better resource. In fact refugees to the UK tend to be disproportionately better skilled relative to the wider UK population (23% skilled vs 12% of pre-existing residents).

He stated that migration is likely to continue to rise due to continued global inequalities, political disturbances, unpredictable conflict, resource depletion and climate change, and that as the global south develops it provides resources to enable those populations to then be more mobile and migrate – therefore relocating.

Interestingly there are future climate refugees in Alaska. Many settlements in Alaska are built near rivers and coastlines to enable access to resources, but these areas are at risk of climate change and therefore future is uncertain. So while migration units often focus on LEDCs as examples, why not focus on modern day and alternative refugee situations? Decision making scenarios?

There is apparently an increasing death toll annually for Mexican to USA migrants as the routes have become increasingly more dangerous ; the natural geography of the area has been exploited as a geopolitical tool, ie. officials can police key areas which then forces migrants to attempt other routes which are geographically more difficult (mountainous, rivers, etc,.) What I found fascinating is that there is an emergence of resistance groups, e.g. Humane Borders, No More Deaths, Brinco trainers, etc,. The Brinco trainers is a great potential resource for migration decision making exercises / debates / the role of social enterprise action as they can be bought as ‘charity’ to be given out to migrants and they include a map of the area, compass, etc,.! Love it. See here for details.


Klaus Dodds : polar scrambles

A great topic for looking at resource management, environmental responsibility, conflict, etc,. contesting the sovereignty and governance of Arctic and Antarctic regions and all the geopolitical issues involved with this.

Dodds noted how the Arctic had been seen as a ‘last frontier’ but it is increasingly accessible and is also a resource treasure chest. This has therefore led to geopolitical scrambles to claim territory / rights to resources and governance. With rapid environmental change in Arctic regions, particularly the decline of Greenland ice sheet and Northern Europe glaciers, and the impact of increasing freshwater, this is a cross-theme topic. There are concerns about resource exploitation & tourism: potential for becoming the ‘Polar Mediterranean’ with all the potential knock-on consequences. There are also implications that other nations (eg. UK, China, etc.) will be able to stake a claim to these Arctic areas if it becomes a thoroughfare; with increasing accessibility and increasing awareness of this ‘global commons’ there is a debate about whether the area ‘belongs’ to the Arctic states or who owns the ocean (and its resources) etc,. So this leads to an interesting sociopolitical discourse on the rights of indigenous populations. There is also the issue of contesting sovereignty in coastal states : that sovereignty doesn’t end at the beach, there are claims for resources and access to oceans off-coast which go beyond the traditional political boundaries. There are also disputes over access to transport routes such as North West Passage and Northern Trade Route; with Russia becoming increasingly concerned about security if increasing shipping through these routes.

Dodds commented on the considerable potential resources still to be realised in these areas (e.g. Gas and oil deposits off shore in Greenland, etc). These resources are essential to Greenland’s aim to become independent. Again a political-environmental topic. Furthermore there is conflict between Greenpeace and Arctic communities. To many, the Arctic is a global space because of its intrinsic links to global issues (such as freshwater, sea level change, climate change, resource potential, etc,.) but Arctic communities such as in Greenland do not like outside agencies / NGOs coming in and saying what should or should not happen in their backyard.

The issues are similar for the Antarctic and Southern Ocean regions managed by the Antarctic Treaty, i.e. concerns about environmental change, particularly uncertainty on scale and rate of ice melt, and resource exploitation, the regulation of Antarctic tourism in response to increasing accessibility & mobility, resource use and rights, etc,.
There is potential for activities regarding Greenpeace involvement on whaling, protecting the ‘park’ status of the wilderness, illegal fishing, arguments over fishing rights, e.g. ‘Illegal’ whaling by Japan vs Australia , and over mineral rights.

Dodds conclusions:

– Polar regions remain an ironic hotbed of geopolitical scrambles for knowledge, access, governance, and resources
– the contesting and confusing issue of sovereignty, security and stewardship is likely to increase