Could you be our next school visit volunteer?

This piece originally appeared in Humanitie, Winter 2014 edition 

JOHN HOWIESON Do you enjoy working with young people? Have you ever worked in a school, or are you a parent or grandparent? What do you think should be done to ensure that the next generation of humanists comes along to sustain our membership into the future?

As the churches decline, how can society fill any moral or ethical gap that may develop, so that the citizens of the future can develop a rationally-based outlook on living happy and constructive lives?

For a number of years now, HSS has had a schools programme, and in various parts of Scotland volunteers have taken the message into primaries and secondaries. However, while a lot of very good work has been done by those individuals, the provision has been uneven across the country; some areas have been untouched, and comments I’ve heard have suggested to me that in places where volunteers have come forward the service to schools has varied.

Since coming into post as HSS Schools Officer, I’ve been turning my attention to such issues. In the course of my work. I’ve encountered enormous goodwill from members I’ve met and it’s clear that lots of people would like to be involved.

So, what’s happening?

The list of volunteer speakers throughout the country is growing all the time: at present our geographical coverage includes Aberdeen. Dundee. Perth. Glasgow, Edinburgh, Biggar, Peebles, Prestwick, Portpatrick, Thurso and Skye.

Some of our volunteers do indeed have experience as teachers, but there are plenty of others who don’t: the important thing is being comfortable working with young people.

An exciting development is the inclusion of a number of university students – people generally a little closer in age to the school pupils! Work is ongoing on formulating a bank of materials available for our speakers to use. Our speakers need to know that sound, classroom-ready resources arc there to support them, and schools need to know the range of topics from which they can choose, and then need to be reassured that the talks our speakers give will have a degree of consistency across the country.

Training is being offered to support our speakers, so they feel comfortable with the content and the methodologies – whether it’s for Primary 1 or Secondary 6, and whether it’s for a class of 20 or an assembly of 300.

I’ve written to all directors of education and all head teachers throughout the country, to alert them to the fact that we’re here, and available for school visits. Already, the response has been encouraging, as head teachers increasingly see in us a good way of meeting the needs of a number of their pupils, and satisfying the wishes of a number of their parents.

Working with young people can be great fun. Discussion with them is never dull, because they constantly bring new perspectives and interesting points of view. Will the P7’s be able to identify Charles Darwin? You bet they will! And some of the fourth- years will indeed recognise Richard Dawkins.

Whether you’re doing a short, introductory assembly or an in-depth discussion with a smaller group, there is great satisfaction to be got from seeing recognition or even enlightenment (if that’s not too religious a term) on the faces, as the message gets across.

I see work in schools as absolutely vital to the development of humanism in our country. From experience, I believe that lots of young people in our schools would be humanist if they just knew what the word meant, and I also believe many of them would be enormously relieved if someone told them it’s OK to think differently from the way some traditional assemblies may have told them to think.

Above all I believe that humanism gives a young person the freedom to question rationally, and therefore to have more chance of developing his or her own rationally-based, ethically-sound, caring life-stance. As adults and as humanists, I think we owe them this.

To find out more, please get in touch.

*John had over 30 years in secondary education, including nearly five years as Principal Teacher of English in Whitburn Academy. West Lothian, and nearly ten as Head Teacher of Portree High School, on the Isle of Skye. He then worked as a Development Officer for Literacy throughout Highland, before taking early retirement in 2009. and then training with HSS as a celebrant. After retiring, he also went back to classroom teaching for two spells – 11 months in Castlebay Community School. Barra, and three months In Hillhead High School. Glasgow. He combines his HSS work with studying Gaelic, and his hobbies include Gaelic songs and following his home town football team. Queen of the South.


Suggest an Article

Writers / Publishers: Submitting your own work is encouraged.

Know an article we should include on Humanitie? Make a suggestion.

The opinions expressed on the Humanitie platform do not necessarily reflect the policies of Humanist Society Scotland.

Take action now

Sign our petition

Sign our petition to end unelected religious representatives on education committees.

Sign today.

Learn more

Join us today

Why become a member of Scotland's Humanist charity?

We are a democratic membership charity. Join us today to get involved in our campaigns to make Scotland a more secular, rational and socially just country.

Learn more

New Pod- cast

Available now!

Have you heard we’ve started podcasting?!

You can listen to the first episode, plus two special editions now.

Learn more