Category Archives: 1 Prof. Values & Personal Commitment

Teaching Controversial Issues in the Classroom.

Yesterday in my Social Studies Elective we were discussing teaching controversial issues within the classroom and it became clear that it was quite common for such issues to be shied away from, one of the reasons being the potential backlash from parents. It got me thinking about my experiencing with controversial issues during my time in primary and secondary school. One experience which stuck out was a modern studies class I had in first or second year of high school, we went in one day and without any prior discussion my teacher put on a clip from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I was horrified, I couldn’t believe it, despite being 3 years old at the time of the incident and seeing it on the news, I had no recollection and had managed to not come across it till then. Despite being shocked I was so intrigued by it, I remember going home and telling everyone, I was so fascinating by what I had seen that I spent that night on the computer researching, watching documentary after documentary on it. This soon became my favourite class, I wasn’t the biggest modern studies person, I didn’t even take it at standard grade level and yet I looked forward to these classes due to the fact we would explore controversial issues in every lesson, my teacher wasn’t afraid to explore them and I for one, enjoyed discussing them and learning more about them, I was so engaged as a result. This experience has shaped the teacher I have become as I believe quite strongly in teaching controversial issues within the classroom, more often than not pupils will be engaged and you as the teacher can provide a safe place for them to discover and discuss such issues. This being said there is always going to be a certain degree of risk involved but isn’t risk-taking important in teaching?

So, why teach controversial issues?

It could be argued that the reason for social studies is to teach young people the kind of substantive knowledge that promotes a deeper understanding of their world. So you could say that the best way to do this is to provide consistent opportunities for students to tackle controversial issues. Still don’t believe me? Well you don’t have to, esteemed social studies educators such as Edwin Fenton, Lawrence Metcalf, Hilda Taba, Anna Ochoa, Shirley Engle and more all advocate teaching through inquiry which promotes enduring questions, positive confusion, reflective thought and an understanding of differences in values, priorities and definitions of mortality. Teaching controversial issues does this, nothing in my whole 6 years at high school got me thinking more than that lesson on 9/11, yes I was confused, it is hard to comprehend how another human being could do something like that but that got me thinking – what would make someone do that? This lesson promoted reflective thought, I had experienced something (watching the clip), I had thought (a lot) about what had happened and I learnt from that experience (that everyone sees the world differently and things can happen that drive people to do bad things). Reflective thought is part of the critical thinking process, are these not the sort of higher order thinking skills we want our young people to be developing? As controversial issues prompt young people to think about why people do things that we perceive to be horrific (like I did), this provides a perfect opportunity to nurture a growth in tolerance for other points of view. This sort of cultural awareness and appreciation of diversity is essential if young people are to become responsible citizens. If there was more of a tolerance for others within our society then there might be less conflict. Doesn’t that sound great?

But won’t the children will be scared?

Most of the time, no. As a teacher, you should know your children well enough and research the topic you intend to discuss well to ensure this doesn’t happen. Controversial issues can be seen everywhere in the media and with the rise of the internet, it is likely a lot of children will encounter these issues outside of the classroom off their own accord. Therefore, it is even more important they have a place where they can discuss what they have seen and share their thoughts, learning the facts rather than being alerted by fake news. You could argue they aren’t controversial issues they are relevant issues, issues that affect our society and learning about these are relevant to young people’s understanding of the world.

But what if the parents don’t like it?

Most parents understand that controversial topics will come up at school, just like they will come up at home, you can’t avoid them. If you are going to be exploring such an issue, send home a note or email letting parents know, a lot of the time they just want a chance to share their views with their children and letting them know in advance means you already know if there will be upset and you can deal with this. Controversial issues are extremely valuable learning experiences and as such it requires some thought and advance preparation but the impact it will have on your students will be worth it. 8 years on and I still remember that lesson like it was yesterday, the experience has stayed with me and enabled me to make sense of the world we live in. It introduced me to a world I didn’t know existed and shouldn’t a child’s education expand their horizons?

Controversial issues can be uncomfortable and it can be easier to avoid the conflict and risk involved with teaching them but it is necessary. As teachers we have the power to provide a safe and nurturing environment in which to explore controversial issues and we need to use it.

Good Reflective Practice.

Today’s input was about our ePortfolios and how we can inspire and challenge our way of thinking in terms of certain approaches and methodologies of education in relation to good practice. We were given 8 examples from our fellow student’s blog which were all exhibiting good practice in their own unique ways. It was very inspirational to see our fellow students doing so well in contributing to and embracing the shared, collaborative culture that we’ve created together. It’s really inspirational to be able to see how others are developing their professional thoughts as it’s a fairly new concept for us all. In this particular post I will be reflecting on what I can learn from these posts.

The one that particularly stood out to me was Layla Dawson’s post on ‘Fear of Feedback’ as it was very detailed and clearly a lot of thought has gone in. The title is quite catchy and will draw anyone in as feedback is something everyone has to face in whatever career and can be a very daunting task. Layla starts off with the oxford definition of feedback which I think is very good idea for initially starting the post as it simply defines the topic of discussion. She also goes on to talk about what feedback means to her which informs the reader of a clear view of her knowledge and understanding. From reading the first paragraph you can see that she clearly has a detailed understanding and can link it to her understanding of criticism and praise as well.

I particularly liked the second paragraph as I feel it is one that many can relate to. I know I really struggle when it comes to feedback as I don’t want to be too critical or too nice, it’s about getting the right balance. I like how Layla goes on to talk about the effects of different types of feedback and how she feels about getting/giving feedback. It helps to give an inside into her professional view of feedback and her experiences. Further on she talks about her so far positive experience and how that made her feel. Additionally, where she’ll go from here now that she’s done this.

Layla goes on to tell us what she’s learnt about feedback which can be very beneficial for others as different people will take different things from the same task and I find it particularly interesting to find out other people’s perceptive of things. What I found very good was the fact she linked it to placement which shows us how she is linking her learning in a professional manner to her practice. I found this the most beneficial as it showed me how other people were using their TDT’s to gain knowledge for placement as it’s important to feel prepared!

Ending the post with a link was very useful for the reader also as they could go on to read further into feedback if that was of particular interest to them. Overall, I think Layla has written a very detailed post which shows a critical and reflective attitude towards her learning. I think we could learn something from this post as it has something for everyone, even the most knowledgeable on feedback! Personally, this post helped me to develop my understanding of feedback and give an inside into others thoughts on the topic.

Layla’s Post:


The Enquiring Practitioner.

To be an enquiring practitioner is to discover through a method which can be justified, therefore, holding more value than reflection. This normally involves working collaboratively with others in your profession, for example. Practitioner Enquiry is similar to reflection in the way that it involves on going learning and development.  However, it involves permanent qualities such as being flexible and willing to change. Part of being an enquiring practitioner involves being aware of the current news regarding your practice and involving yourself in ways to make sure your knowledge and understanding is up-to-date i.e. workshops. Furthermore, it involves being able to critically analyse your own beliefs, values, knowledge, understanding opinions, etc. The main point is that practitioner enquiry should lead to deep transformative learning: knowing what, why and how.

Being an enquiring practitioner is very important in teaching, as it involves being continuously reflective in your methods and constantly evaluating i.e. ‘Is there an easier way for my pupils to understand this?’. Therefore, it has a impact on the pupil’s learning. After Donaldson, teachers being an enquiring professional became the heart of teaching as it involves constantly improving. This is reflected in the GTCS standards for registration – “Committing to life-long enquiry, learning… (professional commitment)”, therefore, challenging past expectations of teachers. In my opinion to be able to be an enquiring practitioner in terms of teaching is essential and will provide rich benefits in the way that we teach today regarding children’s futures as members of society.

The benefits of practitioner enquiry are huge as it challenges and changes the way we think. For example, it can encourage teachers to become not just a better teacher but a good role model for the children to follow. Furthermore, as it involves investigating new, better ways of teaching, teachers will be well informed and up-to-date with current affairs around the world. Hopefully in the future, it will transform education as we see it for the better. Additionally, if children are surrounded by enquiring practitioners as the learn, grow and develop, it should reflect in their personality and enable them to become successful in reflection themselves.

In my opinion, a challenge regarding the practitioner enquiry is older, more experienced teachers may feel challenged by this new way of thinking that is now expected of them. Especially as it goes against the ‘traditional way of teaching’. They may find it hard to get their heads around it as they have been trained a different way and being an enquiring practitioner is a whole new way of thinking in terms of teaching. If enquiry is expected to be embedded deep into practice, this will take some time and a lot of support and expertise will be needed. Some may find it ‘uncomfortable’ as it is considerably different to previous methods. It can be challenging to understand the idea of an enquiring practitioner, however, without a good understanding it will become disengaging and disempowering. Additionally, it can be difficult to question your own methods and ability.

This implies for me, as a student teacher, that how to become an enquiring practitioner should be at the heart of my learning and kept in mind throughout my placement in order to obtain a greater understanding. Personally, I think as a student teacher I have it easier than current teachers as I can embed practitioner enquiry in the basis of my teaching ability from the start whereas it is hard to change your way of thinking and teaching after so many years. As a student teacher I will be able to start involving reflection in my learning so that I can develop a good understanding of practitioner enquiry by the time I leave university, where I will go on to continuously develop my practice as a professional.

Are Teachers Professionals?

First to speak is Chris Christie, who is very passionate about the fact that teachers are hero’s and they care about their pupils. The fact he mentions ‘caring’ is very important as that leads me to believe that he does see teachers as professionals. As mentioned in my previous post (‘What makes a teacher who makes a difference’) caring about the children’s learning, development and general welfare is an essential part of what makes teaching a profession. Chris Christie also mentions how we value teachers which I think is important in today’s society as they are becoming more and more valued and seen as professionals. This may be because being educated and having qualifications/degrees is fast becoming the norm in order to get a good job. I also find it important how he mentions that teachers should be paid what they are deserved and more because in terms of a profession many would say they are underpaid especially considering they’re only paid for classroom hours, however, as established earlier teaching is very much a profession you take home. Therefore, in terms of how teachers pay is calculated you could argue that teaching isn’t a profession.

Next we heard from Karen Lewis who made it clear from her opening line that she thinks teachers aren’t professionals – “I am a worker…I used to say I am teacher.” This could suggest that previously she did regard her job (teaching) as a profession but now she sees herself as nothing more than a worker. Karen states very clearly that “if you punch a clock you are a worker”. I understand where she’s coming from as you would say a ‘worker’ is paid for the hours they are at work whereas for a professional it’s more complicated than that. A professional takes their work home at the end of the day; their work is a part of their life and who they are. Therefore, Karen thinks teachers aren’t professionals because they pay for the hours they’re in the classroom teaching.

Personally, I think there’s no right answer to whether teachers are professionals or not. There is no obvious line that allows you to differ professionals from workers. It’s very much a personal opinion and very complex to determine.

What makes a teacher who makes a difference?

One of the points made in ‘Being a Professional Teacher’ that really caught my attention was the ‘profession extending way beyond the walls of the classroom’. To me, a profession is the sort of job that you take home with you – it’s not one that stops as soon as you finish for the day. Therefore being a professional teacher and one who makes a difference involves teaching being a part of who you are and a big part of your life, not just a job. In my opinion ‘extending beyond…classroom’ is the perfect way to phrase this as it’s not just about what goes on in the classroom.

A ‘caring profession’ is also mentioned in relation to teaching. In order to make a difference, your heart must be in it and if you care about the pupils wellbeing and learning enough to go the extra mile, it’s bound to make an impact.

One of the doctors mentions that he gets a satisfaction out of treating patients which I think can relate to teaching. A teacher who makes a difference should get satisfaction from seeing their pupils succeed and do well. In the medical profession they need to give 100% all the time as lives are at risk. This can be relate to the teaching profession. Although they won’t physical die without a teacher who puts in 100%, it will effect their life, therefore, it makes a difference.

Teamwork is mentioned as making a difference which I think is very true as it’s important for the class as a whole to work as a team and also teachers to work as a team. Sacrifice was another word used which caught my attention as I think sacrifice is what makes a profession a profession, you’ve got to be willing to dedicate yourself.

One of the examples of someone who makes a difference was in South Africa where the teacher committed herself to the whole community not just her pupils. A teacher who makes a difference should be up-to-date with current education news as it is constantly changing. Additionally, they shouldn’t stop learning after they get their degree, there’s always workshops and education magazines to keep up with in order to update their skills.

My Academic Skills – the basics

I’ve always been a perfectionist so trying to be reasonably good at everything was quite important to me at school. I developed a love for maths and science at high school and if I didn’t want to be a primary school teacher, I would probably be doing a maths/science degree right now. Throughout high school I never really enjoyed English which was compulsory until 6th year. No matter how hard I worked to try and improve my grade, nothing seemed to work which was I didn’t enjoy it.

Since coming to university, I’ve been able to identify more specifically what was going wrong with my understanding of English through the OLA. Additionally, reading The Study Skills Book by Kathleen McMillan and Jonathan Weyers particularly improving your academic writing has enabled me to reflect more on the specifics of my weaknesses and since then I’ve hopefully been able to improve small parts of my writing through practicing.

Even though Maths has always been my strong point, doing the OMA has made sure that my basics Maths is still up to scratch and hasn’t been forgotten after doing Advanced Higher. It’s also allowed me to improve on sections that weren’t focused on that much throughout High School and I wasn’t as confident in.

Over the years of studying for exams, I’ve built up a handful of basic skills that are less important but make all the difference! For example, time management was essential in making sure I had allocated enough time for each subject, keeping stress to a minimum. Additionally, I’ve developed study habits and learning strategies which I know work for me and has enabled me to spend time studying effectively through various methods.

Knowing and understanding your academic skills is something I believe is very important and essential if you want to be a teacher. In order to teach the basic of academic skills, you must have a good understanding of yours and where you’re at with them. Over my years at university, I intend to gain a better understanding of my academic skill and constantly be developing them.

The Construction of the Professional.

Firstly, I think fairness plays a very important role in the teaching profession. All children come from different backgrounds, upbringings, financial situations, etc. therefore it is crucial that every child is treated the same. Not necessarily taught the same as every individual learns different but treated with the same amount of respect and given equal attention. It’s important not to think that just because a pupil can produce great work without help that they don’t need attention as this could develop other issues. Similarly, it’s important not to spend all your time helping the one or two pupils who can’t work on there own as this way they’ll never learn how to write their name themselves, for example.

Patience is a quality I think every teacher needs. When doing my work experience with the primary ones, I learnt all about why patience was needed! Its extremely important to be able to keep calm even if they get the same question wrong ten times in a row or get green paint all over you when doing art! I think patience is an important quality for anyone to have but especially a teacher as a child shouldn’t feel like they can’t do something wrong just because it’ll make you angry. Learning is all about making mistakes because how else would you learn? That’s why I think its important to feel comfortable enough to have a go at everything even if you fail and that’s where patience in a teacher comes in.

Another quality which I find to be important is honesty. In order for a child to learn and develop as a person they need an honest teacher. It may build there confidence in that particular moment to say they’re doing great when in actual fact they’re not but it won’t help long-term. Therefore, in the future they may still not be able to do something right. I find it’s better to have a teacher who can be honest and upfront with you about strengths, weaknesses and ways to improve therefore you’re aware and can develop all aspects of your learning.

Additionally, I think integrity plays an important role in teaching and relates to honesty. It’s very important to have strong moral principles and therefore a teacher should be able to inspire the children to have their own beliefs. Part of growing up and finding who you are involves being an individual and having your own beliefs. I don’t think a teacher should teach what they believe in but rather to have our own beliefs, that’s where integrity comes in. No two people are the same, not even twins, therefore, I believe integrity to be a very important quality and one that should be imbedded from the start. To have strong moral principles also enables self-confidence.

Finally, I think respect is one of the most important qualities a teacher can have. Respecting your pupils as individuals is bond to have a huge effect on their learning and confidence growing up. A teacher should respect a child’s strengths, weaknesses, talents, personality, background, opinions, etc. It’s very important for anyone to be able to express their opinion with confidence and I think having a teacher who respects you for who you are is really beneficial for self-confidence. Not being able to be yourself or believe in the things you want can be damaging at a young age, therefore, it’s important that from the start they are respected and also learn to respect their peers. I believe that being respectful of other people is an important quality to have in life for anyone.

Professionalism and the Online World.

Personally, I think it’s very hard to maintain one account on social media for both personal and professional use. It is possible but it’s only going to make things more difficult! Therefore I think it’s best to keep them separate to avoid more challenges than is already being faced. For example, celebrities tend to have one account for family and friends where they can share personal and private things, plus another account for fans to follow where they share upcoming events and can be professional. This is something teachers and other professionals can relate to as its an easy way to keep your personal and professional life separate. However, pupils or parents may still be able to find your personal account, that’s why its crucial to think before you post and make sure you use strict privacy settings.

Having a professional account is a great way of sharing class related topics with parents and a very easy way to keep them informed. For example, when I went to Berlin with the school, my teacher had a blog where she wrote about what we did that day and added pictures. This meant that family back home could see what was going on and were kept well informed. On the other hand, a pupil should only be able to contact you during class time and if they were to try over social media, the situation would need to be addressed.

These days, I think social media gets quite a negative viewpoint when it comes to the professional world as it’s easy for the line of professionalism to be blurred, therefore, people have this stereotypical view that it’ll only end bad. Having grown up with social media, I can tell you, it’s not all bad and there are many benefits to using it professionally. Therefore, I will frame things in a positive viewpoint as I think many opportunities can arise through the use of social media. As a teacher, I will keep my personal account separate from my professional one which could be used as a learning environment as well as a source of information and quick communication. I’m aware challenges may arise through doing this but I’d rather not pretend it doesn’t exist when it’s such a big part of the modern life today.


Welcome to your WordPress eportfolio

Welcome to your eportfolio. This is where you will document and share your professional thoughts and experiences over the course of your study at the University of Dundee and beyond that when you begin teaching. You have the control over what you want to make public and what you would rather keep on a password protected page.

The eportfolio in the form of this WordPress blog allows you to pull in material from other digital sources:

You can pull in a YouTube video:

You can pull in a Soundcloud audio track:

You can pull in a Flickr page

Teacher, Lorraine Lapthorne conducts her class in the Grade Two room at the Drouin State School, Drouin, Victoria

You can just about pull in anything that you think will add substance and depth to your writing.