In North East England there is a well-known saying: ‘Shy bairns get nowt,’ with ‘bairns’ meaning ‘children’ and ‘nowt’ meaning ‘nothing.’ Roughly translated into another idiom, it means ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get.’
The final cross-curricular project for my class before the summer holidays was about the 1950s. We learned about life back then and how different life is now. As the project progressed, it was clear that the children were very interested in the Queen’s coronation. This led to us organising a 1950s street party to celebrate the coronation back in 1953. However, I wanted to give them a wider experience. If we lived in London, I would have been able to take them to any of the royal palaces, but as we live in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, this isn’t really an option. Therefore, one lunchtime I decided to ring the Buckingham Palace switchboard. The call went something like this:
BP: Good afternoon, Buckingham Palace.
Me: Hello. Do you have an education team that deals with schools’ enquiries?
BP: Yes, one moment please.
After this, I was put through to Will Graham at the Royal Collection Trust, based at St James’ Palace. I explained to Will that I was a teacher in Newcastle and asked if they did Skype calls with schools to talk about the coronation. Will explained that they didn’t, but that it was on their to-do list, so this provided the perfect opportunity to explore the possibility of providing these. Over the next week or so, I liaised with Will to organise our Skype call. That’s how easy it was to organise. Simple! Shy bairns get nowt.
The Skype call was fantastic. Will was joined by Shiela, one of the educators at the Royal Collection Trust, who would usually run workshops for groups of schoolchildren visiting the palace. Together, Will and Shiela talked us through aspects of the coronation and answered the questions that the children had prepared. They were able to show us photos of the Queen on her coronation day, as well as a replica crown, orb and sceptre.
By speaking to experts, the children were able to learn much, much more. Their questions were answered with a lot of detail, beyond the detail that I would be able to provide. This is why inviting experts into the classroom via Skype is such an amazing opportunity and I am very grateful to Will and Shiela for the help they provided. Hopefully they will continue to explore offering Skype calls as an option to schools from further afield. I imagine that non-British schools, in particular, would relish the opportunity to speak to someone from the Royal Collection Trust!
The final week of term was a busy week for our school Skype account, as we also had a Skype call with Sarah Courtauld, who wrote the very funny children’s book ‘Buckle and Squash.’
In June, my class and I read ‘Buckle and Squash and the Monstrous Moat-Dragon‘ on the recommendation of the other Year 2 class in our school, having been sent a copy by Seven Stories. The story is very funny and tells the tale of two sisters on an adventure, one of whom is a wannabe princess, the other a tomboy. As we enjoyed the story so much, I thought it would be great if the children could tell the author about their favourite parts of the story. I searched Twitter for Sarah Courtauld, but Could not find her, so I tweeted her publisher, @MacmillanKidsUK. My tweet was very promptly followed up with an email, and before long Sarah was emailing me directly to arrange a time to speak to our Year 2 classes. Shy bairns get nowt!
The day of the Skype call came around and the children very excitedly told Sarah all their favourite parts of the story, a well as asking some very insightful questions about writing and about being an author. Most were surprised to learn that it took over 3 months to write the book that we had devoured in under a week! Sarah was great and really engaged the children. The most humbling aspect of this all was that she was Skyping from Spain, as she was on holiday! I am so thankful that Sarah took time out from her holiday to speak to our children, many of whom she inspired to be authors when they grow up.
I suppose the moral of my story is to ask for opportunities. The worst that can happen is that you can be told that it’s not possible. The best that can happen is written above! Shy bairns get nowt!
If you’re reading this and thinking that you’d like to learn more about using Skype in your classroom, visit the Skype In The Classroom website for lots of opportunities and more information. You can also check out my previous blog post from 2011.
Also, if you’re an Arctic explorer and you’re reading this, I’m on the lookout for someone to Skype my class in November to share their experiences of visiting the polar regions. If you think you can help, get in touch using the buttons at the top of this page!