Category Archives: Scotland

A Steep Learning Curve

It’s Jack’s Wednesday guest post –

For twenty five years I was both a professional educator and a learner.

Lauder College, Dunfermline.

When I undertook teacher training in Glasgow some of our lectures concerned the difference between education and learning. Others encouraged us to examine to whom we were responsible – I was paid by the Scottish Government, most students were teenagers but some were mature. Many attended part-time because they were employees of local businesses. To whom did we owe our responsibility? Government, parents, employers or the students?

I progressed from lowly part-time house painting instructor to head of the construction trades department and, after a hard fought MBA, professor in management studies.

Through all this there was something that became a ‘buzz phrase’ – Life Long Learning.

I was an example because I was sent as part of my 6 year apprenticeship to the local college and found that they also ran evening classes where I finally got the qualifications I’d miserably failed at in school. The Scottish college system was an important second chance and eventually a life-long chance for me.

But – but – –

I realized that learning isn’t confined to the classroom. We all learn from the time we waken until we go back to bed at night. My students were learning in the bus on their way to the college, as they walked up the corridor, in the canteen at lunchtime, at the nightclub in the evening and at the soccer game on Saturday.

I also found that I wasn’t just teaching a curriculum. I was setting an example and being a role model. I remembered, when I was an apprentice and attended the same college, that there was a young new lecturer. I was impressed by him – his knowledge, his skills and even the way he dressed. He was my role model!

It was much same for me at high school – it was the characterful teachers that I learned most from, and not necessarily their particular subject.

So I introduced two exchange programs – one with a college in Denmark and another with a college in Slovakia. Although the official focus was on environmental issues, the real purpose of both was to provide an opportunity for students to experience a completely different culture. The difference in all the participants on their return was remarkable. It most likely changed their lives and was a great example of learning outside the curriculum.

At the same time I was managing a number of experimental environmental education projects funded by the EU and working with partners all over Europe, as well as traveling there with my folk band ‘Heritage’. So my horizons were also widening and my learning continued.

It’s been almost twenty years since I retired from Lauder College but it changed my life in many ways and it still does!

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Filed under between books, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

New Lang Syne – –

Jack manages to hit the deadline for a change with the guest post – –

Some disconnected recent events have got me thinking about American artists who successfully interpret Scottish music and songs.

Maura Shawn Scanlon
  1. John Turner – John runs the ‘Jink and Diddle’ series of Scottish fiddle classes in North Carolina and is a multiple winner of the US Scottish fiddle championship. My friend Randy who runs our local used book store gets lots of LPs and lets me know if there’s anything interesting among the recent arrivals. A few days ago he messaged me to say he had two by John Turner and Fiddletree. I had never heard of them but consulted Dr Google, which leads to the next performer –
  • Maura Shawn Scanlon – About six or seven years ago she won the US Scottish fiddle championships and I had her on my radio show. She was invited to compete in the Glenfiddich world championships in Scotland (which she also won) and I had her back. That’s when I found that she had studied at the ‘Jink and Diddle’ classes under John Turner! Since then she has moved to Boston to continue her studies and performs in various groups playing both classical and Scottish music. That leads me to another winner of the US championships –
  • Jamie Laval – I first met Jamie when we were both on the teaching staff at Swannanoa Gathering Celtic Week and we hit it off. Jamie is also an expert of Scottish fiddling, but he concentrates on the west coast style, so, very different from John or Maura Shawn. That style owes a lot to bagpipe influence – not just in the actual tunes but also the tunings and drone effects. Talking of the west coast of Scotland leads me to –
  • Rhiannon Giddens – Wendy and I met Rhiannon when we led workshops at ‘Common Ground on the Hill’ in Westminster, Maryland about ten year ago. She was part of ‘The Carolina Chocolate Drops’ at the time and they were a black string band playing jug band music. But one evening there was a gathering in our room and Rhiannon started singing Scots Gaelic songs. I was astonished. How could a young black woman from North Carolina be doing this? It was obvious that she wasn’t just parroting the sounds but actually knew the language.

There are many events around the US featuring Scottish music but most of them feature performers that just skim the surface and have done no real research or study. But every once in a while folk come along that really do dig deep.

Some of them are listed above – – –

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Filed under between books, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch