Author Archives: Bethany Sharratt

Relationships – A Baby’s First Steps

One of the theories I have learnt about that most intrigues me is the ‘attachment theory’ by Dr. Suzanne Zeedyk.

Zeedyk argues that “babies come into the world already connected to other people, already looking for connection. They come into the world ready to be moulded by adults” (Education Scotland, 2016). What Zeedyk is claiming here is that children’s brains are fragile and can be shaped easily when they are very young, meaning that the adults they are surrounded by every day have a massive impact on their development. Her theory argues that babies adapt their brains to the type of environment they live in. For example, if a child is growing up in a loud and abusive household they may be scanning and looking out for danger constantly, rather than learning about new things and developing their language and social skills through things such as play.

Throughout her theory, Zeedyk sometimes describes children’s brain development as a sabretooth tiger (this is if their behaviour results from their fear of danger) or a teddy bear (emphasising the child’s need for comfort when going through these fears). Zeedyk’s theory shows that children learn best through social interaction and that they rely on others. This should be taken into consideration when teaching children, as building up that relationship of honesty and trust is key for children’s development. This can be through simple things such as ensuring the children I teach have a safe, welcoming and warm environment to play in. This can help with children’s confidence, independence and resilience as well as allowing children to build and grow as individuals through the use of creativity. This opportunity to communicate and build relationships with other children is prime for their future development and life-long learning.

References-
Education Scotland (2016) Pre-Birth to Three: Doctor Suzanne Zeedyk – Importance of relationships https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=258HVqtzgK8 (Date last accessed 15 Jan 2018)

Expressive Arts – Creativity and Confidence

Before my group’s Dance workshop on Friday the 11th of January, I was looking forward to seeing what would be involved. As a student who loved Drama in high school, I am a big fan of and believer in the Expressive Arts as a way of teaching many lessons to children.

To start the workshop, Eilidh began with some simple exercises that allowed us to not only warm up physically but prepared us mentally for the tasks we would be taking part in. This is an effective way of waking children up and motivating them to fully take part in Dance. Expressive Arts interpret a lot of other areas of the curriculum. For example, when doing the warm-up exercises we were also practicing Physical Education (PE) as we were exercising our bodies and muscles. Music was also playing during this which we did the movements to, showing that Dance can also teach children some basics of Music, beat and rhythm. The curriculum we teach children will always be interlinked in various ways, and the Expressive Arts can be a great way of showing this. As a student teacher and professional, it is significant that I am aware of the different areas of the curriculum and the ways that they connect so that this can be clearly communicated to the children.

After the warm up activities, we were told to get into pairs and to think of as many ways we could travel across the room as possible. My partner and I came up with things such as skipping, hopping, jumping, star-jumping and many more. This links closely to the Curriculum for Excellence: Expressive Arts EXA 1-08a that states ‘I enjoy creating short dance sequences, using travel, turn, jump, gesture, pause and fall, within safe practice’. Here Eilidh was showing that a simple exercise allows children to imagine and present the basics for their own sequences of movement, giving them opportunities to explore in an environment they know is safe to do so. We were then told to present our favourite movement to half the class so that if anyone liked the look of the movement they could interpret it into their own. This relates to EXA 1-09a / EXA 2-09a, stating that ‘Inspired by a range of stimuli, I can express my ideas, thoughts and feelings through creative work in dance’. This allows children to work collaboratively with one another and to use each others creations and ideas to inspire one another.

Towards the end of the workshop, we were teamed into slightly bigger groups so that we could create and perform a final dance piece. This involved a starting position, one of the movements practiced earlier, a turn, another movement and then a final pose. This allowed us to practice what we had learnt throughout the workshop and bring everything together so that we could perform it to the rest of the class. Joining the different aspects of the dance together was almost like a puzzle, as we had to think carefully about which movement should go where. EXA 1-10a states ‘I am becoming aware of different features of dance and can practice and perform steps, formations and short dance’. Short activities such as these allows children to gradually gain an understanding for Dance and it’s features by giving it a go themselves. When presenting and performing, Dance and other Expressive Arts can help to boost not only children’s confidence but also their self-esteem and resilience. These are only a few of the important features of Expressive Arts that I took away from this workshop.

Racism and Patriarchy within Society and Schools

This week within our Values Lecture, we dug deeper into racism and patriarchy alongside their histories and sociological perspectives. The lecture aimed to make us think deeper into how far we have come with racism and patriarchy, and how we are still battling these matters in modern times. As a student who loved studying History in secondary school and whose favourite topic was the Civil Rights Movement in America, I was thoroughly interested by the lecture and it opened not only mine but everyone’s eyes as to how prominent racism and patriarchy are still to this very day.

In the first part of the lecture, we discussed the topic of racism and mostly how it has developed since the late 18th century. We discussed things such as the Ku Klux Klan, Martin Luther King Junior, and the Jim Crow laws set up due to what was called ‘blackface’. Derek really reinforced to me that although we have improved a lot since these times, racism is still prominent throughout society by showing us examples of it taking place on social media and throughout the news. It made me realise that racism can still be prominent within schools and it will be my duty as a teacher to prevent this from the earliest stages. As a teacher it will also be my responsibility to treat all children fairly and with the same amount of respect, no matter what their ethnicity or background may be.

We then went onto discuss patriarchy and how this has also developed through time. Derek touched on historical groups such as the Suffragettes and Suffragists who had to fight hard to win the vote for women, even in the very city of Dundee. This was inspiring to see how far equal rights for both genders has come. However, Derek again showed us video clips and posts from social media that highlighted to us how patriarchy is still evident nowadays. One of these being by the company Always. It portrayed different people of different ages acting out ‘female’ actions. Adults and adolescents were asked to do things such as ‘run like a girl’ and ‘fight like a girl’. Through this, females were portrayed as weak and useless. However, when younger children were asked to do the same actions, they portrayed women to be strong and hard working. This really opened my eyes to my responsibility as a teacher in teaching children to maintain that mind-set: that everyone can be strong if they try their hardest, no matter what your gender is. This lecture also made me realise how significant the feminism move is in the modern day and how grateful I am for the strong, powerful and influential people who have stood up for gender and racial equality within society.

 

Providing ALL Children with Equal Learning Opportunities

On Tuesday the 18th of September, we had our first workshop of the course. I was excited by the aspect of something a bit different, smaller and one-to-one. I had no idea what to expect, which was also part of the excitement.

Firstly, we were given the task of splitting ourselves into four groups of seven. Each group were then given an envelope full of a mixture of resources. The instructions given to us were to create a resource that could be used by a student who is also new to the University of Dundee. We were only able to use the resources within the envelope, and had about ten minutes to plan and prepare the item we were going to present to the rest of the class. The instructions were very brief, which allowed us to get our ‘creative caps’ on and share our ideas on what this student resource could be. At this point, I seemed to be the only person within my group that noticed that each group had a different pack of resources. I didn’t take much from this and continued with the activity as normal.

Having a range of resources in our envelop to choose from meant we were able to get on with activity quite easily once we had put our imagination to play. However, what we were unaware of was the fact that others may have been struggling with the activity as they had a lot less resources than us. Throughout our planning, Gillian was highly supportive whilst providing a range of feedback, tips and advice on how to make our idea the best it could possibly be. Our group were all so infatuated with our planning that what we didn’t notice was that Gillian was only giving two certain groups a lot of attention and advice, whilst the others with less resources were left to fend for themselves.

When it came to presenting our idea and creating the actual model of our resource, Gillian paid a lot of attention to us whilst nodding, praising and giving us lots of encouragement throughout and afterwards. However, what we began to notice was that Gillian listened more to certain groups than others. During one group’s presentation, Gillian got up to shut one of the windows as if she didn’t care about what the group were so enthusiastically presenting. The feedback after for the two groups with less resources was also quite negative and Gillian only gave them a small amount that wouldn’t really help them to improve. We were all a bit taken aback by this, but began to catch on to what Gillian was doing and wondered what the bigger meaning was to the whole activity.

Due to the fact that we had so many more resources than the other two groups, we were blind to the fact that these other groups were struggling and probably having to put a lot more effort into the activity than us. This began to make us think deeper, and I began to realise the implications of social statuses and the resources children have on the non-deliberate treatment they may receive. This relates closely to the attainment gap that is a current issue within Scottish Education. The Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy found an attainment gap of 14–17% for reading, 21% for writing, and 12-28% for numeracy from primary through to secondary school. Over time there have been many strategies put in place to try and improve the attainment gap, such as free school meals for children in Primary 1 – 3, however the issue has never gone away. As a teacher, and without even noticing it, the amount of resources a child has (such as pencils, paper etc that we had within the activity) may have an effect on the way you treat or support them. This links to the topic of the week’s lecture, the unconscious bias. This is where are aren’t aware we have a bias of someone or something, but because of society and social media we have these pre-conceptions built within us. This means we may treat people differently without even noticing.

Unforunately, the quantity of resources children have can have an effect on the quality of their learning and development within schools. So, as teachers, what are we meant to do about this? The General Teaching Council Scotland’s Standards for Registration state professional values that teachers must follow, as they are key to providing equal learning opportunities to all children. Within Section 1, when discussing Social Justice, it states “Committing to the principles of democracy and social justice through fair, transparent, inclusive and sustainable policies and practices in relation to: age, disability, gender and gender identity, race, ethnicity, religion and belief and sexual orientation”. This stresses the need for all teachers to provide equal learning opportunities to children and treat them with the same understanding.  Section 1 also states “Respecting the rights of all learners as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and their entitlement to be included in decisions regarding their learning experiences and have all aspects of their well-being developed and supported”. Without providing all children with learning opportunities, and the support and feedback needed to improve their individual learning, children are not going to be able to have all aspects of their well-being developed. This is why we must treat all children with the same respect and fairness.

As role models that children look up to, it is highly significant that teachers have a positive outlook on ALL children’s learning, no matter what their circumstances or backgrounds may be. It is time that everyone becomes conscious of their unconscious biases, and that we speak up about the things we are always so silent about. In doing this, we will be able to recognise where we are going wrong, and provide equal learning opportunities to children no matter what.

 

 

 

‘What made you want to teach?’

‘What made you want to teach?’

I get asked this question many times, and yet the answers are endless. There are so many reasons why I want to work with children and stem out into the world of collaborative teaching. However, my desire to become a primary teacher was first ignited when I was a young girl. My Granny told me stories about the rewarding warmth she felt when watching the children she taught grow into strong individuals. My goal one day is to also experience this worthwhile feeling.

Through this, I began to grasp at as many opportunities as possible to work with younger children, both within and out with my high school. I worked extremely hard at my subjects in school, making sure I was academically capable to study teaching at university. This included challenges in subjects I was never the most talented at, including maths, which eventually paid off in the end of my school career.

Although I had the grades to continue my education career at university, I was young for my year at school and felt mentally unprepared for the challenges I may experience away from home and in a new environment. While I also had practical experience in a variation of childhood settings, I wanted to take some time to branch out and experience more in the actual classroom setting. This led to my decision to train as a Childhood Practitioner at college for a year. This brought me so many vibrant learning opportunities, as I watched the children I worked with develop and flourish throughout the year.

Through my college course I learnt so much more about the responsibilities of a teacher in order to provide the best possible care and service for young people. I learnt valuable theory such as language development, the significance of safeguarding, and the most interesting to me which was the importance of play opportunities for children. Simply giving a child the chance to play outside can develop their sense of nature and resilience. It can also develop their ability to create stories, which can help to broaden their creativity and imagination. My growing love and interest for the topic of play was the centre of my University of Dundee interview presentation.

One experience from my college course that made me want to teach even more was when I was given the responsibility of planning a child-led learning and play activity for one of the children in my placement’s class. For this I had to use a range of planning tools such as Bloom’s Taxonomy, Tina Bruce’s 12 principles of free-flow play, narrative observation cards, the child’s personal learning profile and many more. Through this I noticed that the child thoroughly enjoyed drawing detailed pictures of dinosaur toys that they played with. I was able to pick out areas of development within the child’s learning, and set up an activity that was playful but also practised the child’s skills.

Planning activities and having that one-to-one time with children thoroughly secured my decision to go to university, as my passion for teaching continued to grow throughout my college experiences.