Educator Issue 18 Sandra McDowall

Sandra McDowall is a lecturer in shorthand at the City of Glasgow College. DANIEL COLE is asking the questions.

What university did you attend and what course did you study?

I attended Glasgow Caledonian University and I studied business management

What options were available to you after you completed university?

There weren’t many options when I left university. I actually took a job in this college as a PA so that I could use my admin/business skills and that’s where I started.

Did you enjoy your course?

Thoroughly. I think the shorthand part of the course was probably, no definitely, my best subject.

I didn’t know at the time I’d teach it but it was a skill of mines like a duck taking to water.

I also enjoyed the business management side of it but probably not looking on those aspects of the course that I was going to be involved in management.

Where does shorthand take its place in a business management course?

It was just part of the whole business course and a module I could take was shorthand so I did.

What made you want to pursue a career in teaching shorthand?

I was doing the PA job in here for years. I started teaching part-time computing and then the HND Broadcast and Print Journalism course was being re-evaluated and the powers that be were looking for someone who could teach Teeline shorthand.

There’s not too many out there who have those skills and I suppose I happened to be in the right place at the right time.

IS there a massive difference between teeline shorthand and other forms of shorthand?

I know there’s a Gregg shorthand system but I have no idea of its background.

Pitman’s advanced shorthand is completely different. It’s all about dark strokes and light strokes, meaning completely different things for the same character just in the way they’re written.

Teeline is more logical as it derives from the long hand alphabet and every letter has it’s own symbol making it much easier to learn.

Has teaching shorthand improved your own skills?

Definitely. I have thoroughly enjoyed shorthand even since I was behind the desk. I’ll go as far as saying I was the teacher’s pet. I thought my knowledge when I started teaching was really good but I found out quickly it wasn’t.

Now, though, I have a shorthand brain and it’s there all the time and I can’t get away from it. I know that sounds pretty sad but I just can’t get away from it.

DO you find yourself writing in shorthand all the time, even to folk who don’t know teeline?

All the time. I actually start writing the outlines and think ‘what am I doing here?’ I think because a big part of my teaching is strictly shorthand, I do it everyday.

It’s constantly coming up to me during the day every day. I’ll look at registration plates on cars and turn them into outlines. I use it all the time.

Would you say shortland is like another language to learn like French or German?

What I would say is that it takes that dedication to learn a new language, like most students did when they were at school. What I have found in the past, and students agree, is that if you studied a language at school and excelled at it, shorthand becomes easier due to the familiarity of learning a new language.

Does shorthand still have a place in today’s journalism?

I would say. Shorthand will never go away. Every single journalist out there says you need to have the full package to make it as a professional journalist.

The biggest testament would be to go court, you can’t take in a recorder. You have to use your shorthand skills to get the information down.

What advantages of being skilled at shorthand gives a journalist?

Say you are required to go to a gig. You get there and interview the band and you record it. You play it back to type it up for your article and you keep having to start and stop your recording to keep up with the recording.

Using shorthand, you may not get every word but if used along with the recording you can sit with your laptop, your recording and your notes and type it up and send it quickly.

DO you encourage students to use shorthand outside of the subject?

When learning shorthand I’d go to ASDA and put the logo into shorthand and then do the same with a loaf of bread.

I encourage the class to even go as far as when in the pub asking for drinks to put it into shorthand in their minds as they ask for it.