Pupils inspire film-maker to teach

A scene from: Forces Kids - This is My Life. Picture: Screenshot
A scene from: Forces Kids - This is My Life. Picture: Screenshot
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A FILM-MAKER has swapped his camera for the blackboard after being inspired to become a teacher while making a movie with armed forces children.

Sam Forsyth, 42, decided to change careers after creating Forces Kids - This is My Life, for the Royal Caledonian Education Trust (RCET).

He visited schools around Scotland to create the film, which explores the emotions military children experience when a parent is deployed to a combat zone.

Mr Forsyth, who spent nearly two decades making wildlife and science documentaries and then social enterprise films, was so inspired by the experience that he retrained as a teacher.

He said: “It was quite an emotional journey making the film. It was a bit of an eye-opening experience realising the complexity of the emotions involved and also the fact that teachers had to be aware and able to deal with these complex emotions so that the children could be able to learn, because if you don’t have that emotional stability then learning is not going to happen.

“It was that realisation that led to me thinking I could benefit from crossing that border and becoming a teacher.”

The film, produced in 2012, features the experiences of more than 30 primary and secondary school children in Scotland who have a parent or family members serving in the army.

Schools which participated in the making of the film included Colinton Primary in Edinburgh, Ardvreck College in Crieff, Perthshire, Queen Victoria MoD boarding school in Dunblane, Leuchars Primary in Fife and Madras College in St Andrews.

It covers areas such as how the children deal with separation and loss, the support military children give each other, and coping mechanisms such as talking over concerns with friends, family and teachers.

Mr Forsyth, who lives in Teesdale in north-east England, enrolled on a year-long post-graduate teaching diploma at Durham University last year and will start working at Polam Hall Junior School in Darlington on June 19, the day after he graduates.

He has just started a two-week placement with the RCET to see what impact the film has had in schools across Scotland and to meet armed forces communities in Inverness to develop his understanding of the issues that affect military children in the classroom.

The film has also inspired some children to create their own short films and poetry.

Mr Forsyth said: “It has been very interesting seeing how the film has been used in schools that have a mix of forces children and children from civilian families as the children from civilian families are now very aware of some of the emotional complexity that is going on in their friends’ families and lives, and it’s been very interesting getting their reflections.”

Mr Forsyth, who set up social enterprise film company Teeny Tiny Films, said he may continue to do some film-making but doubts he will have time to miss it.

He said: “There is an awful lot of creativity in being a teacher and it’s totally absorbing, so I’m not sure I’ll have time to miss the film-making side of things and there will be plenty of outlets for it. I’m sure I’ll be making one or two small films with pupils.”

The RCET is an education trust which supports the children of Scots who are serving, or who have served, in the Armed Forces.

Moira Leslie, RCET education programme officer, said: “The film has given the trust a real tangible resource that has not only given a voice to the youngsters but has reassured them that they are not alone.

“It raises issues about the work the trust does and the issues facing the youngsters.”