History: It’s Not Just About The Past
Interview & Images by: Rhys Heppenstall, Class of 2020
Did you know that most students attending Bournemouth University will get an opportunity during their degree course to take a placement opportunity with an employer, typically for a minimum of four weeks?
At Magna, we are all for a scheme like that because it provides every student with practical, hands-on experiences to help them put their learned skills and knowledge to good use.
And how thrilled we were when we learned that Chloe Neilson, a former student of ours and a member of the Magna Alumni Group, wanted to come back to us and spend her placement month with the History Department at Magna.
We caught up with Chloe for a chat this week. We were delighted to discover that she had brought along with her Mrs Ritchie, our lovely Head of History, who has been acting as Chloe’s mentor while she has been on placement.
To kick things off, we asked Chloe if she was a student at the school when the whole Magna project began - way back in September 2013. And she was! She told us that she was starting Year 10 that September. She said she had a clear memory of the nature of the ‘Magna Effect’ on the student population. “It was strict,'' she said. “Disruptive kids couldn’t get away with what they had done before,” she remembered.
For Chloe, this was a real benefit. “Suddenly, there was structure and focus,” she recalled. She got the chance to knuckle down, work hard and it paid off. She sailed through GCSEs and gained 12 passes before moving on to A-Level at the academy.
Chloe studied History, Psychology and Photography with Magna and she even took a fourth subject, Chemistry, for a while before letting it go to focus on the three core subjects.
Now in her second year at BU, Chloe has chosen to take her placement with us in order to explore the possibility that teaching may be her chosen profession after she graduates. That said, she is also thinking of perhaps extending her History studies by taking a Masters and maybe moving towards a career in Heritage Management.
For Chloe, History is clearly not just a thing of the past but a very contemporary line of work to fulfil 21st Century career ambitions.
We asked Mrs Ritchie what Chloe had been up to over these four weeks. She was eager to share the good news:
“Chloe has been amazing. She has been patiently observing lessons from a teacher perspective and from the viewpoint of a Year 7 student. She has experienced how Mr Kidman works to manage students’ needs in a Tutor Group setting too.
She has worked through her own free time, she stays late and she’s always determined to get things done. If there’s one part of teaching I least like it’s making up display boards, so I was more than happy to ask Chloe to make a display for the GCSE course on Germany. I couldn’t have been more delighted. Key events, key terms and a clear, well articulated timeline came together very quickly.
Chloe has done some marking of work with me and has sat in on the History Department’s team meetings too. It’s been really wonderful having her around. We shall all miss her being here.”
We turned the microphone on Chloe and asked her what her reflections were on the Magna experience:
“Oh my word, teachers do so much work. Inside and outside lessons. It’s really eye-opening to see how dedicated they are. In the Departmental meetings, I’ve been struck by just how positive and energised they all are.
Listening to the discussions they have on teaching and the different teaching styles that positively influence the dynamic of the group has been so helpful to me in understanding the profession and the nature of the people who choose to teach.
Having experienced Magna through the lens of being a student, it has been incredible to come back and see it from another perspective entirely. It’s funny to reflect that I’m benefitting from working with the subject of History and that my own history as a student is informing this valuable learning experience.”
Our time was up and we had to move on to the next job, so we said our thank you’s and wished Chloe well for the future. Of course, we thanked Mrs Ritchie too for her time. As we left, and as if to prove the point Mrs Ritchie made about Chloe’s enthusiasm, the two historians had started discussing ‘what-if’ scenarios in History - What if Hitler had never been born? What if the D-Day landings had failed?
It looks like you can maybe take the teacher out of the history, but you can never, ever take the history out of the teacher.