Tanya Bower Head of Geography, Rogerson Tutor, Lieutenanct CCF
I am a Geographer through and through! After completing a BA (Kings College London), MSc (University of Toronto) and DPhil in Geography (University of Oxford) I became an academic Geographer researching and teaching Geography at a number of Universities including Bristol University, Keele University, Kings College London, and SOAS (the School of Oriental and African Studies – which included many years of working in Africa on mostly DfID funded research projects focusing on the urban poor, environmental sustainability, and political ecology). In about 2006, I moved with my family from the south of England up to Scotland and retrained as a school teacher.
After several years of teaching in state schools I chose to move to Merchiston – to move from teaching being a job with hours, to one which requires immersion in the school community and giving of my best both academically, in pastoral care, and co-curricular activities for the benefit of the pupils. This is now my eighth year as Teacher of Geography here, for the last 5 of which I have also been Head of Geography.
My main special responsibility in the Department is working with syllabus material and my colleagues, on an ongoing basis, to help meet the learning needs of each and every pupil in our classes. At Merchiston, I appreciate our ability to choose what content we feel best suits each year group, including which exam board we chose for GCSE and A Level. I like the fact that as a result, we have chosen in the International GCSE for its greater focus on case study material world-wide (in place of a greater focus on the UK only), preparing our pupils better for the increasingly interconnected and globalised world in which they live and will work. Led principally by the cutting-edge A Level syllabus we chose, we are able to focus more on understanding the rapidly changing world that Geography is increasingly central to, including such topics as Energy Security, Water Conflicts, Globalisation, the world challenge of controlling global carbon levels, the rise and fall of Superpowers and development of the Emerging Nations (e.g. the rise of China and the demise of the USA), the Regeneration of urban landscapes in the face of the global shift of manufacturing to Asia, Human Rights, the role Military and Development Interventions in shaping the new world order / maintaining the status quo, etc. – the type of topics that, to keep up with, scanning the daily newspapers and weekly Economist is apposite. What I love most is that every time I near the end of teaching our syllabuses for another year, I feel so much more educated about the world myself also!
I also love our focus on Geography learning being active, fun, and outdoors when possible. At Merchiston we have the freedom to run fieldwork for every year group, and having been responsible for undertaking research projects in various African countries for some 20 years when an Africanist at SOAS, I relish taking responsibility for organising and leading a range of school expeditions (specifically the popular biennial expedition to Iceland for 4TH Form and Shell pupils, which we dovetail with an even more adventurous sixth form only expedition to such places as Venezuela to live with the Pemon Indians in the Amazon Rainforest in 2015; Vietnam in 2017 which included sea kayaking in the South China Sea and mountain biking across the Mekong Delta).
To help develop the whole pupil, I also enjoy the challenge of the fact that at Merchiston I am not only responsible for the development and delivery of a stimulating, apposite, and fun syllabus to all year groups (and everything else our Geography Department is responsible for), but I can also impart my love of learning to others through my tutoring responsibilities in Rogerson. And my belief in teamwork, responsibility and leadership through my duties as Lieutenant in the school CCF. Being a keen runner for most of my life, I enjoy contributing to others loving fitness and sport also through helping coach Athletics. Being a keen reeler, Highland Balls are important social fixtures for all year groups here, I enjoy preparing the pupils for these, and guiding all participants (at some this means some 160 pupils, each Merchiston boy partnered by a girl from either St Georges or Kilgraston) through the reeling at the Balls themselves.
Here at Merchiston, whilst being responsible for the development of others, I continue to develop also, as both my subject, and our pupils, evolve as the years go by. There is no opportunity for boredom here – exhaustion possibly…. Boredom – no chance!
I love running and cycling across wild landscapes, and am lucky that, as I live in Crieff, I have many routes starting from either my front or back door! I love adventurous travel. For example, in Summer 2019 I spent a month in Vanuatu exploring the active volcanoes on many of the country’s 1000 islands, as well as sea kayaking and fishing for our supper (with my daughter who has just completed her second year at University reading Geography). I also enjoy theatre, music, reeling, and much more!
Habitually counting the same number of pupils back as out from some of our more adventurous expeditions.
I know what some of my pupils would choose – when my foot hooked the straps of a pupil’s school bag and I disappeared into the recycling bin of my classroom!