Such a Darling

4th July 2008 at 01:00
Her name may sound as though it's straight out of Peter Pan and her pupils adore her, but Kirsten Darling's feet are firmly planted in reality

Her name may sound as though it's straight out of Peter Pan and her pupils adore her, but Kirsten Darling's feet are firmly planted in reality.

"She just goes that extra mile," Mrs Innes says.

Miss Darling's pupils in a P5-6 composite class at Foulford Primary in Cowdenbeath have benefited from her innovative use of information technology - but so have her colleagues, from her continuing professional development sessions on Smartboard technology.

"I didn't realise I knew as much as I did about IT. Then, when I came to Foulford, I realised I had knowledge that other teachers did not have and I was able to share that," says the 22-year-old, who graduated with a BEd from Aberdeen University last year.

She also runs an IT club for pupils, called Radiowaves. It is an online radio station - "a safe place for children to publish their stories". The chance to don headphones and record their stories for the internet using a microphone has been inspirational, says Miss Darling. Although the club is held out of class time, she encourages her pupils to write for it in class. In the last couple of weeks, her pupils recorded a play for Radiowaves and found it highly motivating. "Children who don't normally like writing write pages for Radiowaves."

"Natural and memorable" is how Mrs Innes describes Miss Darling's teaching. "Her pupils love her to bits. She has given them a special learning experience. Her IT skills are fantastic. She's a naturally gifted teacher, but also shows great commitment. If there's something she's not sure about, she doesn't hesitate to go the extra bit to get more background information about it. She researches on the internet and looks for CPD courses that will help her answer any queries or overcome any difficulties.

"Kirsten has a very challenging class, but she's gone out of her way to approach things in new ways. If something's not working, she'll research to find something that does."

Miss Darling had a pupil from Nepal in her class this year and went to lengths to find out from the council's support worker for English as an Additional Language how she could help her.

Her mother, Margaret Darling, is a former nursery teacher and now works as an education officer with Angus Council, and her aunt, Anne Darling, is an education officer with Aberdeen City Council.

"It's good to have people like my mum and aunt there to have a professional dialogue with," she says.

"My mum comes from the pre-school sector and has done a lot of active learning and outdoor learning. That's really inspired me and I try and use it in the upper school as well."

She has been offered a permanent contract at Foulford but has asked to work there part-time next year on a job-share basis. She will cover the remaining hours of next year's probationer as well as doing some additional development work for Foulford.

The rest of her time she hopes to fill with more research at Aberdeen University. She just missed being part of its Scottish Teachers for a New Era programme by a year, but has clearly been bitten by the action research bug.

"I just want to make as much of a difference as possible - that's why I want to do the research and keep a broad range of experience going. I would like to be a headteacher, maybe one day."

Mrs Innes sees Miss Darling as typical of a new generation of probationers who are more interested in research than when she started out in teaching. "But she also shares her experiences. She's a wonderful asset to the school and a very valued member of the school community."


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