What the LUL?

If you’re new to LUL, been curious to know more about what kind of subjects our mentees are passionate about (spoiler: they are beautifully random), or want to hear more about the impact our work has, look no further.

Mentee Aspen made this short video about us, as her final LUL project: conceived, directed, filmed and edited single-handedly. We’re pretty darn chuffed.

A huge thanks and congratulations to Aspen, who has taken those video skills to her new university in China. Watch this space.

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We’ll be showcasing more of our mentees’ voices and work here in the near future, and you can also read more about our day-to-day stories on Twitter. Any questions or thoughts, drop Erin an email.

We celebrate our first ever LUL graduates!

CelebrationEvent1.jpg

“LUL has made me realise that my opinion is valid and that there are people that want to hear it.”

Aspen was speaking to a packed room, gathered to celebrate our first ever graduation. One of the original group of young people that we worked with, Aspen was just 13 when her and her mentor Richard, first met. Although she was clearly a bright person, hefty struggles with self-belief and self-expression had left Aspen drifting further and further from school life and learning. Three and a half years and many LUL sessions later, she confidently stood up to tell the room (which included some pretty Important Official People) about her imminent departure to study in China for a year, presenting a vlog all about her journey with LUL (look out for that in a couple of weeks).

With the type of work that we do, it can sometimes be hard to measure impact. People – and we include ourselves in this - often crave stats, a graph showing some kind of percentage climbing through the roof: we’ve found that whilst we can provide those, it’s the story behind the figures that provides any motivation needed on a dreich Monday morning. Hence taking over a classroom in Lasswade and filling it with the extended LUL community and a ridiculous amount of sausage rolls. Nothing communicates better the effect of the work we do – along with our partners - than hearing the mentees themselves stand up and enthusiastically tell you about their future plans; to see a parent so affected by witnessing the change in their child that they make a point of telling every person in the room about it; or perhaps best of all, having to (politely) tell the aforementioned Important Official People that they need to stop chatting to the mentees and the teachers and shift, so you can have your tea.

 Former mentee Thomas, and Dr Mary Smith

Former mentee Thomas, and Dr Mary Smith

The stories keep coming: Cameron (another of our original cohort) was inspired by his LUL sessions to see school through to the end, and is now off to study Travel and Tourism at Edinburgh College; Jamie achieved AAB at National 5 Level and was headhunted for a competitive apprenticeship; and Thomas spoke about how his relationship with his mentor helped him to turn an interest in rugby into a committed journey to study Sports Psychology at university – and when he’s not talking Scotland team stats, Thomas is talking about how he can become a LUL mentor himself.

It’s important to note that none of this – including the sausage rolls - would be possible without a whole host of supporters. Our celebration was also an opportunity to thank our committed and engaged funders, the teachers who work incredibly hard for the young people in their care, the outside professionals who give generously of their time and expertise, and the parents who support the programme at home. You’ll be hearing from our mentees again in the future, and needless to say, we’re proud of all the young people we’ve had the privilege to work with – thanks most of all to them.

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If you fancy coming to our next event (we’ll try and up the ante catering wise, promise), you can join our mailing list, or follow us on Twitter for the latest news. Any questions, drop Erin an email.

Looking for a bright spark to ignite our future*

WE'RE HIRING! The last 3 years have seen LUL grow from a passionate conversation between two friends about equity in education... to a team whose work is changing the lives of young people in Edinburgh and Midlothian. If you have bags of ambition, a community spirit, and fancy leading the next phase of our growth, we want to hear from you…. are you our new Director?

*The role will involve appreciating puns, just to warn you.

The LUL Blog is back! (We've been a little busy....)

 One of our graduating mentees speaks about his LUL experience to teachers, peers, funders and a VIP or two. 

One of our graduating mentees speaks about his LUL experience to teachers, peers, funders and a VIP or two. 

The last year has been a Big One: the LUL story has taken some unexpected (but exciting) turns, welcomed some new main characters, and seen us embark upon a whole new chapter with our mentoring. Our major plot points have included: 

  • Field trips involving an architectural tour of Edinburgh (designed and led by one of our mentees), a chat with former Scotland Rugby team member Ross Rennie and a one-on-one tutorial with Edinburgh College of Art’s Film & TV department. 
  • Growing our team from 4 to 6, with the arrival of two new mentors, Lisa and Mark
  • Joining the community at Castlebrae Community High School (they deserve us using the word twice)
  • The departure of one of our first ever mentees for an exchange year in China (good luck, Aspen!)
  • Renewing our programme at Lasswade High School, bringing the number of Light Up Learners (or mentees) from 12 to 19.
  • Our director Richard taking on Foxlake’s water-based assault course (pictures can’t do it justice).
  • The graduation of our first group of Light Up Learners, after 3 and a half years with their mentors: a proud and inspiring moment for all of us (see picture above - more to come on this).
  • An enormous amount of learning and LULs (geddit?) along the way.

And that’s just the stuff that made it to the page*. 

One change to our team is the addition of Erin, our new Culture and Community Manager: she’ll be regularly collecting LUL stories to share here, so let us know if you have one to tell (or there’s something you want to hear about). You can also sign up to our quarterly newsletter (quality not quantity, we reckon), or join the conversation over on Twitter: here’s to the next 12 months.

 

*we won’t bore you with the tales of our epic wrestling bouts with the legendary monster that is GDPR
 

Why You Should Definitely Convince Your Mom to Buy You a Dog; or, Sherlock, Self-Confidence, and the Science of Stress

Steph Pethick, one of our fearless mentors, is on a mission: 1) to prove that math is FUN (I disagree); and 2) to prove that you can, in fact, justify getting paid to walk your dog if you bring in the scientific research to back you up. 

 This is work (allegedly). 

This is work (allegedly). 

Here’s what she had to say about how she brought her dog, Sherlock, into one of her mentoring sessions last year:

I had a very sweet student with some major stress and confidence issues. Having struggled with stress myself, I could definitely relate. One of the ways I decided to try and manage my stress was by getting my dog, Sherlock. After getting him, I really noticed a difference in my stress levels. 

I thought I’d do some research into the science behind this. Was there an actual scientific link between owning a dog and having less stress? Or was I just destined to be a dog lady? 

What I found was that petting a dog can decrease levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and increase levels of oxytocin (the stress-reducing hormone). So, it was true! Being around Sherlock was making me less stressed.

With my new knowledge, I took my stressed-out student for a dog walk with Sherlock near the school last year. Instantly, I saw a difference in my student. He was so chatty, and any self-confidence issues he had shown beforehand went straight out the window. Because he was so focused on playing with Sherlock and throwing Sherlock’s toy, my student was okay with opening up to me about his life. 

I felt that, if we hadn’t done this session, it would have taken me a lot longer to get my student to be as relaxed. Walking Sherlock worked as an ice breaker for us and helped my student to feel more confident and less stressed.

By the end of the year, he was receiving compliments from his teachers on how much he’d changed!

Thank you to Steph (for being an amazing mentor) and to Sherlock (for being so darn cute).

In other news, today, our Director (and resident hole-punch artist) Richard McLauchlan

 Richard shows me one of his masterpieces.

Richard shows me one of his masterpieces.

is attending “When Education Becomes Possible,” an event “on the transformative nature of education." Richard and a couple of our students will be there to talk about Light Up Learning and to hear the stories of other education-focused organisations in Scotland. Stop by if you’re in the neighbourhood; or, if you, like me, are marooned on a different continent and unable to attend this wonderful event, check back here in a couple of weeks for Richard’s recap!

Hiring: Operations Manager (15 Hours)

We’re looking for an organised, driven self-starter to join our team as our Operations Manager.

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Reporting to the Programme Director, the successful candidate will be charged with building a strong base of good operations and business practices for our growing programme. They will be responsible for finances, operations, administration, and relationship management.

This is a part-time contract position (15 hours) with potential for further responsibilities and hours as the charity continues to grow. Funding for the post has been secured for two years.

 

Main Responsibilities

  • work with the Programme Director to build and sustain relationships with funders, schools, community organisations, and local charities

  • manage programme finances and maintain financial records

  • prepare monthly programme activity and cash flow reports for the Programme Director and the Board

  • process monthly payroll

  • act as primary point of contact for legal, financial, and regulatory (OSCR) matters

  • ensure organisational policies adhere to UK legislation and best practice standards

  • work with our Strategy and Marketing Consultant on brand development and marketing matters

  • office management duties

 

Role Requirements

  • two or more years of experience working in operations management

  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills

  • experience drafting financial and budget documents

  • working understanding of Sage and Microsoft Office

  • able to effectively manage time and workload in a dynamic environment

  • experience building and sustaining relationships with funders

  • a passion for learning (desirable)

  • an understanding of and interest in equality and access issues in education (desirable)

 

Salary: £28,000.00 (pro rata)

 

If interested, please e-mail your CV and covering letter to our Programme Coordinator, Jillian Read, at: jillian@lightuplearning.org. The closing date for this application is 25 September 2017. Interviews will take place during the first week of October.

 

 

Hiring: Part-Time Mentor (8 Hours)

Are you passionate about working with young people, interested in access and equality issues in education, and excited about the potential of learning to change lives? If so, Light Up Learning is looking for a new Mentor to join our growing team!

 Richard, one of our co-founders and mentors, in action (Photo credit: Rachel Hein Photography).

Richard, one of our co-founders and mentors, in action (Photo credit: Rachel Hein Photography).

The Role

Reporting to the Programme Director, the successful candidate will be tasked with mentoring five students at Lasswade High School. They will facilitate student learning by developing activities based around individual student interests and by guiding students as they take charge of their own learning experiences through self-directed projects. Successful candidates will also be expected to do some minor administrative tasks.

This is a part-time contract position (8 hours) with funding secured for two years.

To get a little insight into what our mentors get up to in their sessions and how our students feel about working with us, read our last blog post, "Mentor Magic."

 

Main Responsibilities

  • mentor five students

  • liaise with school staff, parents, and community members, as needed

  • partake in monthly meetings with the Mentoring Team

  • partake in bi-annual parent evenings at Lasswade High School

  • contribute content for the organization’s social media channels

 

Role Requirements

  • a passion for learning

  • an understanding of and interest in equality and access issues in education

  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills

  • able to effectively manage time and workload in a dynamic environment

  • able to work both independently and in a team

  • working knowledge of Google Drive and Microsoft Office

  • educated to a degree level or equivalent experience

  • experience working with young people (desirable)

 

Job Type: Part-time (8 hours)

Salary: £12/hour

If interested, please e-mail your CV and covering letter to our Programme Coordinator, Jillian Read, at: jillian@lightuplearning.org. The closing date for this position is 20 August 2017. Interviews will take place during the last week of August.

Mentor Magic

Richard McLauchlan is a busy guy. When he is not attempting to learn Ancient Greek for fun

 FOR FUN (Photo credit: http://ow.ly/wUBY30c4zfr).

FOR FUN (Photo credit: http://ow.ly/wUBY30c4zfr).

or explaining to me (a very confused and ill-informed Canadian) that one does not simply blow into a bagpipe to make that special sound that we all know and love, he is the co-founder of Light Up Learning, one of the charity's trustees, and a mentor to five students at Lasswade High School.

These five students, as well as the other young people Richard has worked with throughout Light Up Learning's partnership with Lasswade, have taught him about everything from American football to ligers.

 The Liger: apparently a thing that actually exists in the world (Photo credit: http://ow.ly/NRgK30c4CSQ).

The Liger: apparently a thing that actually exists in the world (Photo credit: http://ow.ly/NRgK30c4CSQ).

Here’s what Aspen, an S5 student who once showed I-like-to-read-Ancient-Greek-for-fun Richard the world of anime, had to say about her most recent sessions with him:

“During my Light Up Learning sessions with Richard, I have spent a lot of time researching Psychology. I have found this very useful and interesting, as I have been thinking of studying Psychology at university. 

Richard and I used these sessions to watch videos on YouTube called "Crash Course: Psychology," which contained almost everything to know about the topic and conveyed it in an fun and upbeat way, making it easy to get immersed in it. We even got in touch with a psychologist through email. She explained her route to becoming a psychologist and told us about the work that she does. 

By doing this, I have discovered many things that I didn't know before, which has further developed my interest in Psychology. I find the Light Up Learning sessions fun. They help me get a break from the seriousness of school and let me research the things that interest me in a less stressful environment.”

 Richard and Aspen learning together (Photo credit: Rachel Hein Photography).

Richard and Aspen learning together (Photo credit: Rachel Hein Photography).

Thomas, another S5 student who is so well-versed in the world of UFC and so well-spoken in his assertion of its merits that he easily convinced me (a very confused and ill-informed Canadian) that Conor McGregor is someone worth knowing about, had this to say about his Light Up Learning sessions with Richard:

“Light Up Learning has been my gateway to find out the best way I can learn. Before LuL, I found it difficult to focus on standard subjects. They had no significant link to what I planned on doing after leaving school. However, my weekly sessions with Richard have allowed me to have an underlying background in the subject I intend to excel in. This is something school has not offered me. 

Richard has showed me new ways I can learn both by myself and in a classroom environment, which has been massively beneficial. LuL has also taught me more about myself than I think any classroom ever could and has given me the confidence to reach for my aspirations instead of settling for mediocrity. Every time I begin a new piece of work in my LuL sessions, I look to improve from my last piece.

It has also been incredibly motivating to have Richard genuinely believe I can do well in further education; in turn, this has inspired me to prove him right and not let him down. Light Up Learning has been the best thing Lasswade High School has enrolled me in.”

 "Light Up Learning has been the best thing Lasswade High School has enrolled me in" (Photo credit: Rachel Hein Photography).

"Light Up Learning has been the best thing Lasswade High School has enrolled me in" (Photo credit: Rachel Hein Photography).

Thank you to Richard for doing a good enough job at mentoring these wonderful students that I didn’t have to make up nice things to say about him for this profile. And thank you to Thomas and Aspen, whose words have been edited and condensed for the purposes of length and clarity.

Unpacking Orwell's "Politics and the English Language"

Every Light Up Learning mentor gets a set amount of "LuL Time" each week, in which they can investigate a topic close to their heart and periodically present what they've been working on to the rest of the team.

Mentor and trustee Will Ferguson kicked things off last month by presenting on George Orwell's 1946 essay, "Politics and the English Language." Here's what he had to say about it:


Orwell’s "Politics and the English Language" is probably my favourite essay. Writing is one of my great loves, and I have been thinking quite a lot about essay structure recently, so it seemed natural to use my LuL Time to look at how Orwell structured this essay.

 George Orwell. (Photo credit: http://ow.ly/MYFF30aYYvU)

George Orwell. (Photo credit: http://ow.ly/MYFF30aYYvU)

Orwell argues that unclear political writing is both a symptom and a cause of unclear political thinking, but both can be avoided through attention and awareness. This is a deceptively complex idea, so I'll break it down. Orwell uses a good analogy: somebody might start drinking because they're sad, but ultimately become more sad because of drinking. Similarly, you might start using meaningless political jargon because you're scared of saying something that will make you look bad, but then you'll get used to using that jargon, and it will affect your ability to think clearly about politics.

One way in which many of us encounter this kind of murky language is actually through office politics. Management speak words and phrases like 'streamlining', 'global sense', and 'ongoing enterprise' can all hide difficult truths by being vague or stale through overuse.

 Just ask Michael Scott. (Photo credit: http://ow.ly/oL9n30aYVyT)

Just ask Michael Scott. (Photo credit: http://ow.ly/oL9n30aYVyT)

I liked the clarity of the essay's structure and its prose. There are three parts. The first introduces Orwell's argument and a possible counter-argument to it. The second gives five examples of unclear political writing, lists four faults common to all of them, and analyses why people write like this, before finally offering four questions you can ask yourself to help you avoid such writing. The third and final part restates his argument and gives six rules for writing clearly. There is a logical progression between sentences and paragraphs: a general point is often followed by an example and a development from that example. This structuring seemed almost scientific to me.

However, the essay is perhaps deceptively clear and prescriptive, and, after some discussion with another mentor, I realised that it’s not actually scientific. Orwell gave a hypothesis at the beginning and presented evidence, but he was more arguing for the hypothesis than testing it. What’s more, Orwell is far from the ideally impartial figure of the scientist. Indeed, his partiality and emotional bias reverberate through the piece in forceful statements that sound good but, on closer inspection, actually fall into one of the categories that Orwell criticised: vague terms of approval or disapproval that don't really mean anything. Orwell was, however, honest enough to recognise that he was frequently breaking his own rules in the essay.

 George Orwell: rule-breaker (and heartbreaker). (Photo credit: http://ow.ly/KaEx30aYWVA)

George Orwell: rule-breaker (and heartbreaker). (Photo credit: http://ow.ly/KaEx30aYWVA)

At the end of the session, I was asked how what I'd learned would affect my own writing. Oftentimes, I try to summarise all of the information in a paragraph in its first sentence. I saw that Orwell wasn't following this rule, putting what seemed like first-sentence-worthy ideas in the middle of paragraphs. Yet, his writing didn't seem to suffer because of it. This has given me the idea of being a bit more free in my own writing, which I'm excited about.