Teaching for Equity and Wellbeing: Lecture-related Post

 

(Sorry… the title today is rather uninspiring… so if you can think of one that’s utra-inspiring… feel free to inspire me!)

Reading. On. Poverty – and closing the attainment gap. Oh, and emotional and physical health in the classroom. It’s all weighty stuff because … as teachers… we do not possess the super-power of being able to sort out society alone. And, we aren’t that strong either. Perhaps it’s me still on those 4kg weights! Anyhow…! Thinking about health led me to consider what my responsibility is in the classroom: sadly it’s not as simple as telling our little ones not to eat apples like Snow White. Sadly not.

The Scottish Government (2019) see health and wellbeing as: [wait for it] … ensuring that pupils are able to make the most of their educational opportunities regardless of their background or financial circumstances and through promotion of attendance at school. So, this means that we ought to find a way around most problems, come to a reasonable solution. Interestingly: Mcleod and Mowat (2019) found that no large-funding or project will solve the poverty issues in education. Instead, incremental changes by everyone will result in a long-term systemic change in society. Isn’t it obvious, then, that teachers need to think of the everyday practical stuff. Start small: stop tall. The pencil after all is what’s needed to change the world – and of course, positive relationships. Let’s look at the list from the Department of Health and Social Care (2013) about … how our lanyards give us more power than making us into the mould of today’s teachers. (If you’re a ‘secret shopper’ from TurnItIn, don’t stress. I did ‘re-word-ify’ it!)

Practical Steps for a Practical Poverty-Beating Solution (DoHSC, 2013)

• Establish good relationships with your students’ parents/guardians;
• Ensure a child has a positive experience in at least one of the following:
– Their social circle – Academic work – Sporting goals
• Run breakfast clubs and after-school clubs;
• Focus on properly developing a child’s skillset;
• Establish a routine/structure (discipline must be fair);
• Set tasks for the child to do at home (to boost self-esteem).

Thinking back with my autobiographical lens (Brookfield, 2017) the highlight of my first-year placement (other than teaching) was running the after-school clubs. Honestly, it’s a real perk. To be able to do something you love and share your enthusiasm with the students always leaves you with glitter in your brain. However, more sparkle comes when pupils light the spark to a topic you previously disliked! Someone close to me told me:

How can you not be interested in something, if you know little or nothing about it.

Through spending time with children outside the classroom, you not only find out more about yourself – but also, positive relationships are built upon. (Brick laid. Cemented. Then another brick…voila Disney castle established!) Over my six weeks at the school, I witnessed the mending of half-broken friendships during a simple lunchtime pop-music session… the daisy chain was completed. Thinking ahead, I need to plan smartly to allow myself appropriate time to run such sessions – and to think about the tiny details that could affect students. A teacher’s response from an interview by Saul (2019) highlights the need for everything to be as accessible as possible:

We spoke to students why say they won’t go to free after-school football clubs because you can wear what you like, and so everybody is wearing the latest football kit. Some students have since said that for afterschool sports clubs, all children should only wear their p.e. kit.

Wow. Doesn’t that just show how the simplicity of uniform can have a ripple of an impact? Uniform is not a ‘maybe’ but a MUST. There are obviously a myriad more MUSTS out there too. But for now, it is a MUST that I leave the laptop and head for the paper to create a list: let me list the everyday things that could make the difference to student’s health and wellbeing! And then, yes, I can look at my upcoming assignment. Oh, lists are so satisfying when you can put a smiley face next to each item!

References for this Post:

Brook, S. (2017) Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. 2nd edn. San-Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.

Department of Health and Social Care. (2012) Our Children Deserve Better: Prevention Pays. Available at:
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/255237/2901304_CMO_complete_low_res_accessible.pdf (Accessed: 3 October 2019).

Macleod, G. and Mowat, J. (2019) Poverty, attainment and wellbeing: Making a difference to the lives of children and young people. Available at: https://www.scottishinsight.ac.uk/Portals/80/ReportsandEvaluation/Programme%20reports/Poverty%20Attainment%20and%20Wellbeing_Final%20Report.pdf (Accessed: 3 October 2019).

Saul, H. (2019) ‘Nine simple things teachers can do to ensure the poorest students don’t get left behind’, INews, 6 September. Available at: https://inews.co.uk/news/education/nine-ways-teachers-and-schools-can-poverty-proof-their-classrooms-290621 (Accessed: 3 October 2019)

Scottish Government (2019) Schools: Health and wellbeing in schools. Available at: https://www.gov.scot/policies/schools/wellbeing-in-schools/ (Accessed: 3 October 2019).

SO, Summer: LET’S MOVE FOWARD!

So, after learning about my learning placement (Lfl ’19) … I’ve decided to account myself to my learning more and uptake in the sport of writing a daily blog over summer. It’s not aiming to be a massive task, but something educationally amusing. A cocktail of words a day doesn’t do anyone any harm! It’s about time that I moved out of my comfort zone of posting occasionally – and made it into a real habit. A serious habit. A commitment (without the engagement ring of course!)


The discussion with my placement tutor has been sitting like the logs of a fire in my mind. Ready to be lit up! Just waiting, waiting… and well now? On fire, are they. I’ve understood the weakness which needs a more stable anchor in my personality: I like order a little too much; I love structure; I thrive when someone tells me what to do. Musing back to the days of study leave, a plan was created and the ‘chore’ of revising was undertaken at certain times. My brain, you see, is a bit odd sometimes: it will daydream if it is given no set timing or pressure. Annoying: but maybe that’s why my right and lefts still need to be written on my hand! Yes. I do that. Put me in the nursery – okay! What will move me out of my cot and into a full-size bed (academically, of course) is realising that you cannot wait for academic work to come to you. Don’t stay looking for educational food. Sometimes, well most of the time, you have to search. What better than using my TeachTodos university blog as an opportunity to explore new options? Let’s try. And be ready for failure too. A daily lesson plan and Early Years material post per day (when Wifi is accessible): that’s what myself shall do. That’s the new adventure.

YET WHY A BLOG?

During SQA days (uh-huh, I do kind of miss the ‘oooo it’s almost exams’ pressure a little) my brain adored the fact that you were told exactly which sentences to memorise. Really…truly…sincerely…and that homework was daily. Learn this, look up that. This blog has previously helped me to venture out into the real academic world, at least, where the notion of memorising to pass is long gone. Thinking? Ahh, yes myself does have a voice. Yet, speaking up can come with a price – and all the anxiety, fear and ‘what ifs?’ However, I love blogging. I just love this activity. So love it. (And I’m not just typing it because it’s part of my course). Why? It pushes you to put the past in a different light and cycle on in the correct gear.

When I started running years ago, I started the art of processing emotions and thinking positively through embracing the present (whilst pounding the streets). I see sport as the ‘resilience’ builder. But, missing something was I! Indeed. And, thanks to teaching… this blog has come along. And, another merci to my discussion (on LfL ’19) I will use my spare time to reflect and develop lesson plans. Writing learning intentions and success criteria is a matter of practice. On that same point, quite urgent practice is required! Hurry up to the desk, Claire.

And so, let me start off this daily reflection habit (to-be!) by considering one of my colleague’s posts, Blaze Lambert, who wrote a lovely piece about daydreaming. She speaks of daydreaming as “increasing curiosity” and building the (ever so encouraged) growth-mindset. But, time is put in the drain? Or so, some of humanity believe. Lauren Child – author of the famously popular ‘Charlie and Lola’ – argues that daydreaming allows our children “to develop a sense of personality” however modern day society does, indeed, consider the act of letting your mind wander in a more negative light. Escape boredom in class? Daydream. Stressed by something? Just daydream. Worried? Daydream of the perfect existence. There does exist the rather dangerous mental health condition, maladaptive daydream, in which people are more occupied by their made-up thoughts than what is happening in front of their eyes. However, allowing kids to be creative and play imaginative games? That’s essentially daydreaming. Or I uphold that stance. That’s what our screen monsters need. Sorry for the slightly derogatory word there: I’m not any better myself when my iPhone gives me the heads up for wasting the day on Facebook!

After all, daydreaming allows us to take in our surrounding and relax. Take in the moment for what it is – and pause. Like a peaceful stream: thoughts come and leave as the current of our brain moves up and down.  Is it that harmful to let our five-year old students to be engrossed in their own thoughts every now and again? Don’t we do it as adults occasionally? (You know when you’re so hungry and imagine that gigantic margarita with a handful of cheese… instead of focusing….!) As long as: the work is done, boxes are satisfied with their ticks, and kids develop a vibrant and eager learning spirit… a dose of staring into the tranquil sky is happily on the cards in my classroom. Yes. Bring out the colouring pencils and let the students’ minds wonder. Adults are apparently prescribed it as healthcare solutions nowadays! I’d rather see a smile with their heads in the clouds than a face consumed by extreme artifical bright light.

Oh… and… here’s a photo to start you in the #daydreamingland!

Let’s think about (ma)thinking, okay?

Mathematics? Oh so fearful of it…are you? Or… look… there’s a sum! And… the answer? Let me spend time sourcing it. Right now. Some people leave education with this desire to crawl under the table when 5,6,7 and all the other numbers approach them. Others, well others, carry maths in their head – and would prefer to speak in digits if possible. The myth (according to the results of a 2013 research study) of ‘I’m right brained so call me a problem solver’ vs. ‘I’m the more rational leftie’ means that children should no longer be brought up to consider themselves as naturally mathematical or a born linguistic. Indeed: we have talents, we have strengths, we have preferences. But – of course, there’s a ‘but’ – mathinking is vital if we are to efficiently carry out everyday tasks. From recipe reading to saving our red squirrels ‘in the animal superhero cape,’ the digits that surround us must be of comfort. And, most certainly not, be treated as those spheres in bubble wrap. Our toddlers, our children, our adolescents ought to grow up ready to fail. Then succeed. Then… realise… that mathinking is about the effort and determination and less about the green-tick solution. That’s confidence-fuelled mathinking… in my head.

Recently (in fact only a matter of less than 72 hours ago) MA2 – that’s moi included – received their final STEM input. Nope… not how to arrange flowers for Valentine’s Day  or for the Chelsea Flower Show. However, we did receive a Happy Valentine’s on the top of our sign-in sheet from a lecturer with the last name of Valentine! And, that was topped off by creating our own game involving mathematical concepts. (Smiley face!) Lots of discussions were held on how to take maths out of the textbook and away from standardised assessments. A connectionist-belief approach involving open conversations was found to be the most effective way: and well, a recent starter-activity on consecutive numbers confirmed that. Sometimes, our inputs involve being the children – or attempting what the primary students have to do but with a university student’s mind on. Once (a very long time ago… not really, but I like to pretend I’m a storyteller sometimes) we had to figure out a word-problem involving consecutive numbers. At first, we all panicked. By the end, however, it was ‘Happy Ever After’ and everyone was wearing fairy-tale gowns. How lovely. Let me tell the story without imaging that a bunch of five-year olds were sitting beside my seat – here it goes:

Many of us stared. We realised there was no prince-charming. We put our hand up.#

The teacher (very friendly) told us to keep persevering through the rubber hail and rain.

We succeeded in writing down an answer.

 

And that’s the ending for you.

The latter may be more like reality, if we are setting the picture straight and not at an 89 degrees angle! At first, many of us in the lecture room were not at all sure about how to attempt the problem-solving question. Deliberately, purposefully and cleverly was the question slide jammed packed with information – and the only picture remained to be a table of consecutive numbers in blue and white. For me, lots of writing was the ‘tying the shoes tight enough’ hurdle. But, for others… the fear of making a mistake prevented them from taking the leap of faith. What reminisced with me was the impact sides, pictures, diagrams (and all the visual jazz) can have on a student’s learning. During my first year placement, my teacher advised me to keep it simple! Yes.. nothing like the Mona Lisa or a Magic Eye picture… from Miss Smith. And almost a year later, the same point was made again. Kids prefer simplicity when learning (although I personally believe that the occasional rainbow cannot go a miss). That pot of gold still does exist… Somewhere Over the Rainbow! Jokes aside, it’s easy enough to alter the layout of questions for our students however… calming a raging maths anxiety monster in them may take more than a few kind words (or a ROY G. BIV smiley – acronym lovers… you’ll know what I mean!)

The past few lessons, lecturers (or whatever name they should be termed) have taught me something more than ‘cut away’ all that text. As a future educator, I really do hope that my pupils will be like mathematical bees. Buzz, buzz, buzz… isn’t that algorithm so full of pollen? Understandably, some children will have a dislike for certain areas of maths (like me and symmetry and learning R and L) but overall, the wonder of maths must be ignited in them. A fire (with infinite logs) for problem solving does not always come from the pupil. Nope. Instead, as Ofsted writes, it is about the maths spirit adopted in the classroom:

“[Teachers] made conscious efforts to FOSTER A SPIRIT OF ENQUIRY [deliberate capitalization from your blog-post author], developing pupils’ reasoning skills through approaches that saw problem-solving and investigation as integral to learning mathematics. They checked that everyone was challenged to think hard and they adapted how they were teaching to achieve this. As a result, their classrooms were vibrant places of learning.” (Ofsted, 2008, p.12).

Spirit of enquiry. That is it. How do we develop that? Well, there would be many theories including Askew et al 1997’s research which deems that teachers tend to lean towards a particular set of believes (either connectionist, discovery or transmission). Most effective practice flourishes from the first mentioned belief-set, in which the most effective teaching happens when students can appreciate that all areas in maths are, in some way, related to each other. For instance: fraction word-problems are sometimes better solved by involving decimal conversion. It’s that simple thing like… why buy fresh bread when you already have some in the freezer? Enabling students to use the skills they already have is also of priority in the teaching of maths. Connectionist-orientated teachers set aside time (maybe in a circular fashion if Early Years students melt their hearts) to talk. Just openly talk.

#Why do we solve it this way? Is there another mathematical route that we can take to reach our destination? What about a storyboard?

That leads me on another path to bringing up storyboards but before… I’ll let you know that I want to be a connectionist teacher. That’s a seed already sown – thanks Dundee University. (That phrase was most certainly not sarcastic bee the way).

Storyboards (in the past – okay!) reminded me of ‘how to stretch’ and satisfy the students whose brains make them wish to reach for the nearest paint pot and brush. They were a time-waster. Just show some grit and keep moving forward with the sum. Write the working out, Claire. (That what previously motivated me in maths). But, well, you live’n’learn and realise that 1 + 1 doesn’t always make a two. Sometimes, a window is the result!!! After hearing about the various strategies and understanding the purpose of drawing out the number sentences, storyboards are on my Pinterest. (Sorry, I’m one of THOSE teachers.) Uh-huh, daydreaming about my classroom (maths) displays can occasionally happen with moi. Back to the point now, it is important not to overlook resources that you didn’t enjoy as a child yourself. There’s no excuse for not using something in your classroom because it was futile to you as a learner. Open-mind please. Keep considering all the options, Miss Smith.

Maths, I’m admitting, has a soft-spot in my heart. Whenever I was stressed out about an essay, me would run to do maths. Yes, on occasions, scuttering down the stairs to the kitchen for my textbook… but well I loved when you just got the answer after trying hard. There was a tick or cross – and you knew the result. Maybe it was a sense of control in the subject? After all, sciences were my thing until long reports became involved. I have always been torn between the arts and maths, yet teachers need to be enthusiastic for them all. There is something good, something interesting, something positive in every subject: my own maths students who enter with a dislike for maths need to feel that way. Mathinking… thinking abstractly… can be done by everyone – not just males too. Hemree (1990) found that maths anxiety stems from previous failure in maths examinations and is more common among female students than male students. The gender gap in STEM subject is already evident and it is common knowledge that our generation is trying to remove the female electric fence that surrounds females in careers such as engineering. A survey (conducted for the United Kingdom WISE Campaign) highlighted that 89% of engineers were male in the workplace – and so carrying out a subtraction leaves us realising that only 11% were female. Only 11. As I see it, that is a gap that an elephant would struggle to sort out. It really is.

To finish off, it is clear that the style of teaching is all-important. As mentioned above, discussions are vital to student’s success in maths. However, we ought to consider our own underlying nervous system when we approach numbers? Do we shake? Our hands: do they turn red when seen by a thermal camera? Are we still (like I was) centred on achieving those ticks? Or… the process… do we strive when something makes us want to scribble or shred the paper into as many miniscule pieces as possible. According to Finlayson (2014) our own experiences can make us teach with a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’ style or be flexible. Bee like a ballerina who is trying to bee a flower. Don’t get me wrong… I’ve failed many times in maths (and still use the trick to remember my left and rights)… but well it’s amusing to buzz around afterwards. That’s what I want my students to do so I ought to love a struggle myself. That’s what teaching is really: setting a true example. But, someone please, is there a faster way to stop mixing up left and rights? Maybe my students could teach me that. I’m up for a role reversal every so often!

References:

Finlayson, M. (2014) ‘Addressing math anxiety in the classroom’, Improving Schools, 17(1), pp. 99-115. Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1365480214521457(Accessed: 18 February 2019).

Hemree, R. (1990) ‘The Nature, Effects, and Relief of Mathematics Anxiety’, Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 22(1), pp.33-46.

Nielson, J. (2013) ‘An Evaluation of the Left-Brain vs. Right-Brain Hypothesis with Resting State Functional Connectivity Magnetic Resonance Imaging’, PLoS ONE, 8(8). Available at: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0071275

Hobbies – and Work: Don’t Let Your Job Break the Seesaw!

University is a new chapter in life. Close school: open socialising, parties and lectures, of course! After sixth year, I was totally – and utterly – DONE with carrying round Costa cups, chasing after first years and scribbling ‘tick the box’ assignments. The days of fifth year saw my writing wrist almost in a sling… from studying for my grades… but sixth year made my hand rather floppy. Overdoing the study-life balance was apparently worth it because: “there would never be anything harder in your life.” Wow. Oh. Wow. Most of my hobbies were thrown into a dusty-box during that exam year. Education mattered; nothing else hit the centre of the dart board. Upon entering sixth year with grades in the basket, hobbies started up again – but my interest was lower; socialising was higher. I knew that by next Summer, most of my after-school activities would no longer be continued. Why not, then, spend time an increasing amount of time with your peers? After all, S6 was our final year as a bunch. We might bloom together by chilling, chatting and checking that every school bucket list item had been ticked off.

I was wrong. Maybe some of my teachers did reinstate a few too many times that taking what is easy to bag those As is the best way – but I should have thought, carefully thought and deeply thought. Having a blog at school would have been an asset!. The changes in my personal stances and my professional opinions can be followed through my e-Portfolio, however my school days have none of that. That’s if you don’t count my Leavers’ Book signatures! Nevertheless, the point is that I work best when something is a little too-hard. My squirrel would rather reach out for the more delicious nut further away than pick all around. Many people are that thinking, even if it’s risky.

But, the year spent studying for my National 5 H.E, Higher Spanish, Higher music and A.H. French was not a leap away. Or, a couple of steps away. The subjects were academically invigorating at points; however I was accustomed with how to pass the exams (apart from H.E… my starter dish face-planted into the oven door!) The general advice was taken on by myself – instead, I should have chosen new ventures. What about P.E.? Then, wasn’t DT worth taking? English… the eclipsis tells you my regret for the full stop at Higher! There is nothing new in wanting to make amendments to your past: forever, humans moan of their mistakes. Simply stated: moving out of my academic home would have made the transition to university – My and the professional life – a piece of fruit. I refuse to write cake: it does nothing for me apart from a five-minute mouthful of joy.

Now, after starting my full-blown scientific reflection, I’ve started to understand my difficulty with the work-life balance on placement. And, why less emphasis must be on… passing exams or putting scores through items on a list. Out of 14.something years of education, fifth year (that exam-testing one) somehow associates itself with the happy-machine in my brain. Not that first year of university wasn’t enjoyable, but my penultimate school year was gleefully busy. First year university was ultra-quiet during semester one: yet, the second part cut down my free-time as quickly as forests are destroyed around Christmas. I wish that I had set-up my life like fifth year. Cram studying in university term one does nothing for you and everything for Red Bull. Then… over teacher preparation… coke loves that. Yes, I arose after four hours sleep on my first-year placement – and then forced a fizzy can’s contents down me to see me to the bell. Not healthy – and never AGAIN. Sorry, lack of sleeps make you write bad sentences (joking, 8 hours is my sleep ‘silent jam’). Let’s consider fifth year for the *insert a millions number* time. Even though the Higher exam year counted, the pressure is reality. The workplace doesn’t accept errors or chill-time – and so must education teach us that. Money cannot be laid like chicken eggs. Nonetheless, too much focus on work can result in sleep deprivation. In my case (at least) the eyelids gained extra muscle on first-year placement.

Staying up to finish that piece even though my duvet was crying: put Miss Smith in Harry Potter’s ‘naughty’ cupboard. Unhealthy lifestyle, yes it was. Sustainable: not at all. Everyone says that your teaching placement is never like the real job. Apparently, it’s not imperative to write lesson plans for every lesson. Post—it notes, you’re a teacher’s secret weapon. And, no-one stays up to eleven filling out paperwork. I don’t know, but somehow I feel the profession could turn into those never-ending jobs. Placement paperwork is the same as the real teacher’s work: no caster-sugar from Tesco’s, thanks! Switching off from work can be tricky, but we must discipline ourselves to do so. At times, it may be necessary to work overtime or mark to midnight… but that should occur little (and not too often). I remember thinking that my school class were my life. Eat. Sleep. Mark – and repeat. However, putting everything aside for your job reduces your ability to effectively teach. Being productive, it’s a priority. Being clear, it’s the aim. Being me, it’s equally important. In order to uphold the GTC Standards, we need to maintain a work-life balance. And it can exist: sorry, rubbish to those who say it does not! Hobbies allow us to develop other skills which we can transfer to the classroom! Isn’t that a form of CPD?

On that note, my university hobbies have altered. I luckily made it through the (rather picky) army medical to join the university army reserve core. The training given to us is the same – or so they claim – as that of the authentic reserves but without a ‘true attestation.’ War countries… deploying me there? Not for now as we, the university bunch, are essentially vegetarian soldiers. We have a normal training diet but the meaty stuff (live fire in a war location) is substituted with our degree. Practising the teacher-stare takes up enough time in the library: enough said. The opportunity to receive army training couldn’t be skipped, although. Spending time helping at a Café and bookshop lets me play ‘bubble catch’ – or recite my alphabet – but I needed more to do. I ought to keep busy so that second semester placement (and the 9-5 life) doesn’t push me for coffee too much! And, extra activities are vital in la vida.

Hobbies sit in the second rank after your studies. Education must be saluted first! Scream that, blast such an opinion through a mega-phone or let a giant whisper such words to me: my bones may rattle but they certainly have enough calcium not to snap. (Blue milk, you are a wise drink choice!) Extra-curricular activities balance out your personality – and teachers, please “lest we forget” that along with our solders. It’s (only a fortnight – without the e or capital ‘f’) away from the penultimate month before Christmas. Santa signs will soon be as common as road signs; Christmas tree fairy lights will add some more light along with traffic lights! No elf will stop me from reflecting on my hobbies this year. Everyone sat in their primary class and thought: ‘does my teacher live in a cupboard?’ The question has been asked. Repeated. And maybe even written in an assignment. Hint, hint: SQA Higher English makers, imagine how many teabags would be saved by laughs. A comical discussion always arises when pupils find out that there is a gate out of the school, a road and a path to your front door. There is life out of the school grounds!

Teachers’ own interests can significantly affect their classroom practice. Nowadays, students certainly still refer to their teachers by their surname; however, other formalities fail to follow through in schools of this relaxed generation. On placement last semester, Miss Smith (that’s me during the professional hours) realised that children should be paid to work for Sherlock Holmes. That’s eleven-year olds gaining employment from the top detective: highly impressive! In the length of my observation week with a primary six class, all the students could have composed a profile that an author could use to turn into an auto-biography. Being aware of how children can be tagged with the adjective of ‘curious’ (sorry nosy, you’re a cheeky synonym) left me wanting to hide in a suitcase. The zip came undone quickly because: SPR goal 2.1.4 is more than a number needing a neat tick next to it. Experience – and using Schon’s reflection in-action during lessons – was invaluable in demonstrating the importance of a work-life balance for effective classroom practice.

Hobbies, we must remember, make us who we are. You remember. I remember. We all remember that one activity which kept our brains cells’ smiling. The ‘little’ break that eased off the pain of memorising ‘je, tu, il/elle’ conjugations or the fact there is ‘a rat’ in separate. (Isn’t it amusing that animals can be found in words?! A linguistic term will no doubt cover that.) Nevertheless, teachers have a duty to help set-up, run and inspire children to engage in activity groups held out of school hours. Maybe ‘duty’ is a little too soft: it’s the bonus of the profession. My first-year module (on societal values) explored the disparity across the city between children. Monetary, family and community issues can all prevent after-school time from being spent effectively e.g. at Rainbows, an orchestra or running group. An hour a week (that is not X-box centred) could be the pass in a violin exam. And who knows, the child may exercise their fingers to make a living one day? Job-hunting is not a single-digit year old concern, however! Ensuring students uphold a positive self-esteem whilst growing up is imperative: teachers can lead activities to help their pupils’ emotional development. Dimech and Seiler (2011) found that: “Children practising team sports exhibited a decrease in social anxiety over time.” Rindl, cited in Jewel 2008, also acknowledged that after-school clubs teach transferrable skills and a ‘can do’ mindset. She commented: “By offering after school activities our children get the chance to succeed in a different area, then they can take success and use it to overcome barriers in the subjects they find difficult.” Curriculum for Excellence, as sneakily implied by the name, puts “successful, responsible, effective and confident” to our learners’ names – but, meeting the four capacities requires more than knowledge transfer.

Information can be spoon-fed into our brain from “I hope you’ve eaten breakfast bell” to the flinging open of the doors bell at 3 (or so) in the afternoon. Yet, the art of using figures, facts and more figures is futile if our skillset is not furthered. Say that sentence again (at rapid-fire speed) for me. The art of using figures, facts and more figures is futile if our skillset is not furthered. Go on for a third time! The art of using figures, facts and more figures is… you are now officially tongue-tied and… breath… needing a sudden downpour of O2 into your lungs. After 14.something consecutive years in education, more of my confidence has come from extra-activities, inputs and talks compared to the necessary ‘office hours of learning.’ What would you call that additional schooling (because hobbies are a form of self-improvement) Active learning. Scotland’s Education Department defines such form of education as being “learning in which the learner is responsible for investigating, planning or managing what they do.” This ‘swapsie’ teaching approach is crucial if our students are to put theory into practise – and understand the importance of mistake making. Self-confidence arises, not only from succeeding, but *doesn’t want to repeat a cliché but is compelled* reactively sensibly to less well-made choices in the big, bad world. Who else pictures the scary grown-up ‘dog’ from Little Red Riding Hood when that “big, bad world” phrase is mentioned? See my view? If not, blame my prescription. We don’t all wear glasses!

Perspective (she writes whilst wiping the specks off her glasses) is every. thing. (Score: compound word used.) Improvement in everything brings a combination of positives and negatives. We can assess a situation ourselves: 180-degree angle maximum. Humans aren’t Camera Obscura, although. Brookfield’s autobiographical lens – for instance, reflecting by writing – is effective in our own analysis of our teaching practise and our self-esteem. That said, our ears must be open to receiving constructive criticism if we are to improve ourselves. Teachers who run activity clubs have the chance to learn more about their children – and any ‘less-welcomed’ feedback can be exchanged between the pupil in a relaxed fashion. On my first-year placement, discipline was an issue which picked away at me. Being someone who prefers not to raise their voice, there were a few times when my authority was put to the test: my self-esteem enamel was a little chipped. During the six weeks, I tried to be involved in as many lunch-clubs and set-up activities from my own childhood, my own personal life. Not only did that help fill the gap, but at the end a student (who persistently adored the lavatory in Miss Smith’s lesson time) said: “I will actually miss you, Miss Smith.” Actually is self-explanatory. Love-hate relationship for me? I think so. And… a group of girls came to me with a box but the words were really the Sellotape:

“You were the best [all kids say that!] because you tried.”

I think, I consider, I know that behaviour management that placement is quite like my flexibility in yoga – or that Pilates class. (I’ve been advised by the elderly to attend an easier flexibility class!) Not the best: I accept. Into Semester Two … now undergoing some ‘washed-down’ army training, my approach might well be stricter, but the bun updo won’t fill me with the desire to take notes from Miss Trunchbull’s practice. Nope *echoed by the splintering of desk wood.* The GTCS’ 3.4.2 standard is: “ to engage in reflective practice to develop and advance career-long professional learning and expertise.” Professional learning, I believe, extends further than the library books, lecture theatres and CPD workshops. It is not just about essays; it’s about your changing views. My out-of-school hobbies fill my self-esteem glass with water. Not just because it develops myself; newly learnt skills can be transferred into my practice and experience can be shared with students. Completing my piano grades allowed me to help any students learning an instrument: due thanks goes to my parents. Sport, on the other hand, is a new extra-curricular venture – and my p.e. teacher was right about how wonderful it is. Years ago, young Claire ambled in the annual 1.5 metre race and bird-spotted because her gifts were not tying trainers or splashing water. But, my teacher’s words stayed put in my sole. There is no such thing as: “I can’t.” There is a theory; there is a famous researcher. Carol Dweck, that’s the woman who believes in the transformation powers of positivity. Look up The Growth Mindset if you’re an alien (sorry, most educators know if it already!)

On that cheerful end to the other paragraph, I’m ready to post this blog. I’ve clung onto my writing for too long now! The easiest attitude, I’ve found, is to paddle into everything and dry yourself off after any big waves. Sixth-year comfort zone attitude? That’s been reflected on. First year focus on perfecting my work? Not worth it. Care, I do about my grades but they’re not something to hug onto. (Claire has never owned a Care Bear!) I’ve matriculated into Second Year to actively learn – and that means that for every success, there might be a failure. I don’t bother myself, however. It’s about try … ING.


Reference for the Seiler (2011) Harvard-Style:

Dimech, A.S. and Seiler, R. (2011) ‘Extra-curricular sport participation: A potential buffer against social anxiety symptoms in primary school children’, Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 12 (2011), pp. 347-354. doi: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2011.03.007.

 

Running 26.2 for One (VERY IMPORTANT) Realisation

The amateur runner has grabbed a rubber – and not another Cliff Bar. Never would I have thought that four hours and forty-six minutes (seconds don’t matter) of running would result in the action of erasing my social media account. Delete: my life on Instagram is gone. Some black hole online… you’ll find Claire Smith’s profile there. Just after a few mouse clicks, she no longer Instaexists – well, it’s a few presses more complicated. Oh sorry, let me pause the music (or perhaps not) of my words in your head. Hello, my name is Claire and I’m back on the blog – this time, as a second year. Studying what, you’re asking? I analyse stationary, more stationary and stickers. Not really! Apologies: me does like to (ever so occasionally) jazz up my sentences. Education is my field of study with the desire to become a lady in a lanyard (minus the posh aspect).

It’s the 10th of October. Yes, I know. Tell me off or put my name on the red face. A blog post really ought to have been uploaded by now (and my conscience did put on a lion mask and argue with me)! Oh my…the autumn leaf display is long gone; we are welcoming Mr. Pumpkin now! Time has PAST. Usually, my blog posts are a little more frequent, however the start of term seems to have just swept by like dust – vanished in a touch. Whether it was repeatedly angering the pavements (run, run, run) or ensuring my schedule was jam-packed, the e-Portfolio has been left to fend for itself. Too long and too lonely, it has been. A previous module, ‘Working Together,’ and several digital inputs during my initial year taught me that the arrow of progress requires you to go back down. Yes, go down to your seat – and write. So: here I am. Back again. Ready to tell you about an experience which taught me more than: my flesh, bones and heart are proud to be painted in blue and white with a ‘x’ pattern.

A few weeks ago, the Converse were traded for Brooks to quickly wander 26ish miles for CHAS (a children’s hospice charity in Scotland). The 2018 Loch Ness marathon, for sure, took a toll on my poor feet. The tiny, sign-up box covered all the after-pain and blisters: that aspect didn’t bother me. Although, legislation never confirmed that a relationship would be broken afterwards. Devastating times, these were. Running supposedly ‘improves’ your blood-pumping muscle, yet my heart was broken mine into several segments! How glad should we be that our organs aren’t made of china… Spending four hours (and exactly 46 minutes more) pounding resulted in a realisation, an epiphany about social media. Owls have never required it…so why have I constantly been feeding my time this perpetually hungry monster! Let’s say this: I’m glad that an extra half hour is slotted back into my day. More natural daylight can allow my pupils to dilate. Or, I can (also) glance over my books for a little longer.

I broke up with Instagram. Not sure if that was made clear. Thanks Loch Ness.
Are you an Instragrammer? Are you a face on the online book? Or, is Twitter sending your stream of thoughts flying? I love those websites – but, enough was enough. We all have different personalities; we all use social media to a different extent. However, my constant addiction to informing the world of my ideas was equating to #teninstastories a day. I’m aware that Facebook is much more common, so for those whose brains are searching for light in SPACE… Instagram stories are simply snapshots of your adventures in the world. Trip down Tesco’s stationary isle: imperative to inform my teaching pals about the Sharpie deal! Met a friend for coffee: aesthetical mug must be shared. Quickly wandering around a loch: better make everyone thirsty to visit Scotland. Share, share, shared my life. I guess… you could have easily given me the label of a ‘social media’ addict. And, I no longer needed that.

The marathon was rather long and… like anything that is long… you have time to contemplate. Running does count as your sixty minutes of exercise of day – as reminded by the NHS – but it also allows me to plan ahead (and not merely the route home). For this reason, my phone is left indoors to stay cosy and rest. Yes, material objects do need cared for! On the other hand, some marathon enthusiasts (because they kept grinning) went to the extent of taking a photo to share – or even Facetiming to inform that: “Mummy is doing fine but will not win the race.” What a laugh! Indeed… the pain in my feet eased upon my ears picking up on such a comment! But, such words also reminded me: Instagram was my shadow during the day. If I can run 26 miles free of music or a device, I ought to make it through daylight without this clutch.

Then came the recovery. After the run, I took the moment to pause and reflect – and not just because the muscles demanded some time off. Lectures commenced the following day, so it was only natural to consider things related to teaching. Oh, I did consider whether I could swap my train (to the super-speed one in Hunger Games) to save arriving back just before teaching began. Fiction will never be fact, however. The worry that our children are missing out on a real childhood… due to a (potentially poisoning) digital age… is of concern to me. Blisters heal, but a stolen 18 years (okay, less than that!) leaves permeant scars. And, can we recover from a lost childhood? Communication, it’s a face- to face matter.

What if our toddlers fasten their ‘digital shoes’ and never grow out of playing on Mummy’s Ipad? That may be hypothetical, but my brain cells fizzle at the prospect of it soon being a plain and harsh truth. A report – sent out to our Primary Teaching cohort – came back into the less dusty part of my cerebrum and confirmed my thoughts. Sometimes social media traps you: The Life in Likes 2018 report by the Children’s Commissioner wrote of the digital platforms as being advantage for holding “fun conversations” with friends yet many children felt forced to remain online… even if they desired to fiddle with their toys. The same emotion expressed as me earlier: helpless. The bubble of social media is rather comforting. I accept that. Nonetheless, there comes a time when you must see the real world for what it is. For me, the marathon was the needle in the balloon. Social media was my superglue. We all know how powerful that chemical is: no wonder Prit Stick occupies the shelf!

So, what am I saying? I am saying that as an educator, it is essential that we drill into the students’ heads the impact of too much social media usage. A recent campaign called the ‘Digital 5 A Day’ is a carbon-copy of our infamous fruit and vegetable diet suggestion – and it certainly of interest. It suggests five different points to help us take advantage of the networking sites (and our phones). Although munching through five apples a day will likely spike up your glucose-chart, it certainly is healthier than letting your digestive proteins work through the meat of McNuggets. (P.S. Everyone desires to change ‘five-day’ to every second one!) Anyway, back to squirting more info for you: ketchup (i.e. constant gadget usage) can also be applied to the computer – but such actions must mean an acting degree and job as a ‘toddler’ is on your CV. Emotional issues can result if we indulge beyond sensible boundaries, as you will soon read about! Overusing social media, like anything, can cause considerable issues – as I’ve discovered myself. Balance is key. Sorry, that’s actually an ‘overused’ statement. Oh no, better be back at the desk to find more linguistic devices. Let me turn off my phone first.

Having no technology around me was beautiful (even more bonnie than the hills of the Highlands). Although, life in the cobbled streets of fundee (deliberate mistake!) requires more than a horse and carriage. Loch Lomond, without my mobile, was just as AMUSING as life in Dundee with a block that receives signals. In the classroom, the same sort of situation is happening. One day there may be a ‘no phone’ fundraiser – and happiness cannot be measured. Yet, rules mean that any more than 24 hours without devices… and our human rights have been breached. This ‘logic’ even applies to the kids, the people who ought to p.l.a.y. Infants don’t need to learn how to type ‘play’ quickly on a keyboard! Despite the SPR wanting teachers to “include a variety of media” – hint, hint… digital, that is – in the lessons, being given a proper lanyard will only make me want to do the opposite. Arrogant: that adjective may fit me…oops. It’s merely that evidence implies our children are needing more than a ‘time-out’ from digital devices.

Social media is a problem: common knowledge, that is – so I hope your thumbs are up. What we need to consider is the seed that was responsible for the weeds (and time in the bin). Hands down…with or without gardening gloves on…I declare the mobile phone to be accountable. Evidence agrees. Zaheem (2014) writes of scientists finding detrimental health effects – that includes changes in brain activity, reaction times, and sleep patterns – being associated with mobile phone usage. Thinking reflectively, there are many times in which my Snapchat Bitmoji will have taken longer gain zzzs next to its face – and my human productivity level will have certainly decreased as the sun rose again! Lack of sleep (from mobile phone usage) is a short-term consequence, however. Take the long-term consequence, that being poorer academic performance and emotional regulation, and the minefield has become substantially greater. Kuznekoff, J. and Titsworth, S. (2013) carried out an interesting study which highlights the aforementioned point. During a video lecture, the students who did not have access to a digital device took in 62 percent more information than their counterpoints. An average higher grade (by one and a half) was also achieved by the group without technology at hand. Soul-destroying: an over-reliance to our phones is essentially lowering our chances in life. A phone bucket can surely sit in a locked-away cupboard with an opening and closing time of THE SCHOOL BELL. It’s not torture, this idea: having a pet taught me something about cruelty being kind. Or, so I learnt.

A famous figure who helps push forward the devices to host the (sometimes) parasite of social media pats my back. Interestingly, Tim Cook (now head of Apple) remarked of not wanting his nephew to have a social media account. Could this perhaps be a result studies warning us of the lack of self-esteem as well as identity-crisis that children are facing? Maybe so. According to Ahmad, Soomro and Jan (2017) there is a linear relationship between increased time on Facebook and a lower self-esteem. If there was an emoji button on scientific studies, I’d put the tear-faced one next to the following finding in a social media study by Burrow and Rainone (2017): the number of likes for your profile picture partly determines how positively you think of yourself. Ssh…shh…shoking. I just want my students (potentially our future teachers) to let themselves thrive from experiences – and not the number of likes. And, does your opinion match with mine?

Call me ‘outdated’ or a crazy runner that is trying to teach: but, push yourself to live without a phone and you’ll (maybe) see why. Running the marathon taught me more about social media than the constant newsfeed. Why? First-hand experiences always wins. VisitScotland and Google if you ought to learn more: I better go for a walk. Another adventure may be calling, but it won’t be running through the wheat fields of Instagram. Nah. As the Scots say, “Naw, thank ye.”

After all I’ve said, no photos of the run should appear on this blog … except this is a rare find! After all, how often does Nessie come out from her den?                                                                       After all, there is no ‘like’ this post self-esteem candy!


Blog Post References (Harvard Style)

Ahmad, N., Soomro, A.S. and Jan, M. (2017) ‘Impact of Social Media on Self-Esteem’, European Scientific Journal, 13(23), pp. 329-341. doi: 10.19044/esj.2017.v13n23p329

Burrow, A. L., & Rainone, N. (2017). ‘How many likes did I get?: Purpose moderates links between positive social media feedback and self-esteem.’ Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 69, 232-236. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2016.09.005

Gibbs, S. (2008) Apple’s Tim Cook: ‘I don’t want my nephew on a social network.’ Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jan/19/tim-cook-i-dont-want-my-nephew-on-a-social-network (Accessed: 4 October 2018)

Kuznekoff, J. and Titsworth, S. (2013) ‘The Impact of Mobile Phone Usage on Student Learning’, Communication Education, 62(3), pp. 233-252. doi: 10.1080/03634523.2013.767917.

Naheem, Z. (2014) ‘Health risks associated with mobile phone use’, International Journal of Health Sciences, 8(4), pp. 5-6. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4350886/

Evolutionary Experiences

My learning experience (so far) has been examined under a microscope, with the results below. You’ll also learn a little on behaviour (but only if you are eager to)!


When a word in a dictionary ‘spots’ a new reader: Hello, my name is Floccinaucinihilipilification.Nice to meet you – what’s yours?

The reaction when the reader struggles to comprehend the word: Bonjour, je m’appelle Claire. Encantada de conecerte.

That feeling. Complete bewilderment. The first time I encountered the above 29-letter word, that is indeed English, my neurons fooled me by befriending my breakfast cereal. Snap. Crackle. Pop. The native fuse had blown within grapheme number two: mother tongue was forced to re-circuit to the foreign languages, before realising that wire was also home to many flaws. No conduction shut access to the main street, so information alleyways were ‘helpfully’ blocked off too! The logical words inside me were spat out as jargon. To (temporarily) swap my brain matter- like we swiftly switch between our WIFI and 3G – would have removed the obstacles; evolution is a placid tortoise, however. I suppose that’s better than this biological process being like an over-zealous, super jealous (MacDonald loving) ‘rabbit.’ Slow and steady wins the…
…but, the race was cancelled. For stormy weather, that is. The next sun ray never beamed down until Semester Two. Poor tortoise and her many miles left to doddle. Left foot, right foot, left foot – and so it went on. Just if trudging one foot in front of the other was so weightless! Looking on the bright side, the weather-proof shell provided more than sufficient shelter whilst my brain muscles went through the trek of adapting to my first term at university.

As we all do, you are now most likely donning your black Sherlock Homes’ coat with ‘evidence’ of this slog as merely the typical freshers’ homesickness. Stop now. Claire’s brain has a mobile home, the shell – remember? Leaving family never threw me off kilt, yet surprisingly penning my first academic essay did. Informative essays – the dry mixture – were never flavour of the month for me but throughout school, I had learnt to cope with them. English teachers only insisted on one being written every academic year (bearable) but I was soon to realise that university has its own agenda. Higher educational establishments, in general, treat these fact-driven essays like classroom Starters of the Day. Draft one for this project; scribble another for that. I knew brushing these aside would only surmount to another pile of problems, especially since they constitute as our summative assessments. A failure to submit sets off vexatious alarms: no-one craves a crab-pinching headache or the prospect of a degree bursting into snake-tongue flames.

The robotic, methodological approach to academic writing boxes up any expressionist. Jack (my brain’s creative animal) is not easily dispelled, however – oh yes, his nostrils catch those oxygen bubbles every time. Air forcefully weaves through the mouse-nibbled holes in the wafer-like layers of carboard for ventilation. His spring’s metal remains sturdy and shining, but four years of these conditions could be idealistic for rot and rust. Dead. Jack would be… Isn’t it a (table)spoon full of sugar that my degree programme has, in a way, ‘adopted’ him? In clearer (and other) words, personal reflection has become embedded into my coursework through GLOW Blogs. The online space starts out as bare ‘walls,’ but slowly and steadily we can hang up ‘pictures’ to create a gallery of our progress as teachers-in-training. Seeing others’ exhibited work twists any frown around as honest answers are given to hot-topic issues. This platform puts Brookfield’s Lenses into this cheetah-paced, techno-centred century; the truth magnified in everyone’s discourse considerably helps to settle any teaching niggles. Pinning up my first post… with the hammer of a mouse… made me realise that points can be argued in other ways than emotionless (but logical) essays. Jack hardly needed any ice to recover from this mental ordeal – literally, his rest and recovery constituted army-style star jump drills. Up and out, simply stretch about. Was he pretending to morph into a starfish in my head? At least he can gain credit for knowing seventy-percent of our brains are water-tanks. It’s only sad he loses my brownie point for idolising a brainless species.

The fear of harnessing in my creativity eased off by the end of my first term at university. Tortoise (or to the biologists, evolution) had gained courage – and for sure, some strong ‘biceps’. Today, tackling academic essays isn’t an arduous adventure into the unknown because expanding my blog and writing skills is more of a hobby. Assuredly people will judge my opinions, my style, my whole empire: irrelevant. As much as feedback is any author’s energy drink, it is the mental stimulation, clarification and justification that continually sharpen our pencils. Recently, three learning theories – behaviourism, constructivism and social constructivism – peaked my interest. (Fun fact: the suffix -ism is also the noun for a distinctive theory, doctrine or practice.) These theories must be underlined more often; our preferred learning styles as teachers affect our success in classroom management ( Wray, 2010). No identification as to how I best assimilate knowledge could quickly escalate into a convergent earthquake: the entrance of placement would powerfully rise, and time could do little but subduct. Since the earthquake’s focus would be myself, my students would dreadfully be at the epicentre of this disaster. What a magnitude of a problem. Aren’t we all just glad it wasn’t under the watchful eye of nature? Preventative research and reflection: taken.

As by literacy’s (more than ten) commandments, the next paragraph would succinctly follow on with a written debate as to which teacher-ism approach I will adopt on placement. However, the floccinaucinihilipilification of words sitting row upon row is evident when I then admit that my learning style weighs up to be that of a social constructivist. People who are like-minded hold this worldview because we are satisfied by actively seeking out information collaboratively; transmission of knowledge constructs didactic robots. A chance to extend beyond the margins of the paper is when our brains’ glue guns heat up. So, for that reason, this blog post will have a line drawn under it soon. Fret not, lovely readers: my Sway presentation is the firefighter ready to rescue those confused and curious neurons from sparking to extreme explosions. Cliff-hangers are everyone’s bug-bearers, so respectfully sharing my reflections is simply of common courtesy. Don’t let it slip your mind to hold down that ‘off’ button on your mobile phone (copyright rules do apply!) and enjoy the silent ‘movie.’ It’s never too late to dash for that bag of popcorn – or bowl of Rice Krispies!

Dry: This word is notoriously synonymous with derogatory terms – boring, uninspiring, fruitless – however my usage does not aim to convey that academic writing is tedious. In fact, factual essays are the golden sponge in a Victoria sandwich. Regarding other literature styles, personal compositions fill us up like the oozing jam and cream whereas creative pieces dust the icing sugar on top (with a pick of strawberries if we’re lucky.) As a constructivist, my preference lies in creating subjective-based work that is less associated with a specific end-goal. Nonetheless, there are still hundreds and thousands of sprinkles in the reading of informative work by those who kindly lead knowledge discovery: my mind’s schema is like Rainbow land. Point is: saying you prefer blog writing is not scientific proof for your peers’ believing you loathe studying the ‘meaty’ works, the protein.


Due acknowledgements for this blog post:

Arthur and Cremin’s book (2nd edition)-  Learning to Teach in the Primary School 

Wray, D. (2010) ‘Looking at Learning’ in Arthur, J. and Cremin, T. (eds.) Learning to Teach in the Primary School. 2nd edn. Oxon: Routledge, 2010, pp.129-145.

Kefi for the Kids

Health and Wellbeing: This blog post is written as a reflection on a lecture about keeping our students active, fit and healthy.


Diet? What’s that word? Remind me again.

Children should never hear those four letters blended together in the perimeters of a classroom – unless it’s for The Times National Spelling Bee (for tiny-tots, surely!) Eating sensibly ought to replace the commonplace calorie counting. However, healthy eating is no mean feat when the processed-food list is growing at an unprecedented rate since the boycott of rationing. The detrimental impact of sugar, not just on our dental health, but attention span has been flagged to us many times. This tiny, little granule is drilling cavities in our systems, yet none of us appear to have speed-dialled 9-9-9. No gnawing aches, it seems to be.

If we were to really stretch our brains outside their plasterboard skulls, we could start regarding this addictive molecule as one of sand’s long-lost cousins. Transport yourself back to the afternoons when the sun invited you to the beach, the hub of sandcastle construction. Oh, happy days. Pure bliss. The joinery involved in creating bucket ‘masterpieces’ almost edged me on to apply for an apprenticeship in the trade profession! CVs (of well-thought out, genius scribbles) were devastatingly considered Japanese to any Scotsman. Plan: failed. However, experience sharpened my chisel (again.) Sand wasn’t that amusing when the remainder of your day was occupied by exterminating those grains tickling your toes, almost like ice pleasures in ‘burning’ dogs’ paws. Sugar acts as its double. This sweet rush we seek (as if it’s enlightenment) is a local anaesthetic. Numbs out surface thoughts in your mind, it does. That’s until the mighty grains are ‘resuscitated’… and our decrepit bodies are left scrambling to clear up the mess. Build a sand-castle whenever sugar cuts your line of thought short. Why? It magnificently magnifies the dots, the dots of those life-changing connections. These simple links could transform your final ‘picture’.

Since everyone concludes that life is better in colour, we would be very wise ‘owls’ to clean our palettes of the blacks and whites. The nation doesn’t have to be spotless, nevertheless. For most people, a radical food overhaul would pull the bristles out of their only brush – and there puts an end to their ‘painting’ too. The aim of altering our food consumption habits is also comparable to an attempt in recreating the Mona Lisa, for some. Simplicity is golden. Changes to our plates should be gradual because many top figures have proven that this is how success operates. So, where do we start – and who with? Babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, the twenty-dreamers, thirty-doers, middle-aged and elderly… what a mouthful: they all need educating. Today.

Scientific experts from ‘The Sugar Crash’ documentary alluded to the reality that what we put on our forks as children in fact is cut by our knifes as adults. Slightly scarily, grown-ups exert as much influence on food-intake as that of the children themselves. These findings have undoubtedly provoked me to reconsider my approach in teaching my (soon-to-be) students about health eating. Delivering a series of lessons in which pupils “understand that [their] body needs energy to function and that this comes from the food [they] eat” will rarely result in a desirable outcome if their guardians don’t appreciate this too (based on the CfE E & O HWB 1-27a). A whole school approach sets the scaffolding for implementing positives adjustments. To lay the bricks requires the cement of an equally encouraging home situation. Guarantees for that are limited, especially considering the probability of receiving all the class’ permission slips back the next day is seldom above zero. A universal learning intention sounds like the payment to such a bill; though no-one ever pays with the same change. It’s futile reinforcing knowledge to guardians with impeccable lifestyles (they’re probably wearing invisible ear muffs) yet others may delight in advice and support. Differentiation – in the content and our teaching-style – is the staple in this scutter of a Health and Wellbeing improvement ‘recipe.’

The ingredients: there are many. Teachers, alongside numerous other professionals, are the aliments that could boil together to make a ‘broth’ – without too many ideas spoiling it, of course! Sourcing the method will only be feasible by taking advantage of social media. Those (generally) time-sucking online platforms can be invaluable. Tweeting, hooting and whoo-ing about effective health approaches would help put our hidden owls to bed earlier! Many minutes can fly away into those vast black holes if we constantly ignore other people’s suggestions. My Google tiger had recently built up quite an appetite, so to speak. R became synonymous with ravenous. A pounce upon Search equated to the human thrill of passing Go in Monopoly. In fact, it’s outrageous that I wasn’t more elated. Two-hundred (and counting) free ideas are teachers’ version of winning a million pounds. I would estimate that as being fourth-fifths more joyful than collecting your two-hundred pounds. (Kids, fractions aren’t exclusively for dishing up Dominos.)

The endorphins that waltz around our brains are of paramount importance to our wellbeing too. After firing up those muscle fibres, we are left in a calm-state (no, not from subsequently feeling less guilty about that cheese-dripping margherita pizza last night.) Physical education is a subject that some teachers majorly focus on -or hate. Just as we have zoomed in on the crumbs lying on our plate, teachers are collaborating on ways to motivate pupils to engage in exercise daily. The British Heart Foundation published a report in 2015 with the following recommendation:

“All children and young people should engage in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity for at least 60 minutes and up to several hours every day.” (The British Heart Foundation, 2015.)

Extensive. Effort. Demanded. But, so does: assessing; marking; and planning. Telling a child to run around the lush playing fields for an hour could welcome many sneers and scowls; pretend they’re smiles! All students, at some point, squealed and screamed (with excitement) in the playground as their ‘tigs’ became tags. Why has it reached the stage that we never question our reluctant students? Carefully converse with any pupil only exercising their finger limbs exhaustively. Tread with caution, however, as this is not small talk. I know. Those sitting-out, or ‘resting benches could have easily moulded to me. Gyms didn’t support radiators, however. (Totalling up the number of sports lessons that little me wasted would give rise to a cracker of a statistics lesson.) Back then, the notion of participating in sports drove me mad; I was as wound up as marathon runner with a pulled hamstring. How the days have turned… my calendar boxes are bursting with running events. Blame it on Carol Dweck.

Low outputs rise inputs: no exercise, more hunger. The United Kingdom needs to keep moving – in the right direction (and closer to Europe, preferably!) Sugar is travelling too close to home; it’s time we lock our doors for good. That would be the best pest control when any diet tries to intrude. Exercise and proper nutrition are as integral as attending school. In my practice, kids will leave the classroom suitably fatigued. Guardians, parents and grand-parents should see kids’ eyes sparkling with that zest for life. That kefi.  But when it’s bed-time, it’s bed-time! Curling up with the duvet after a day of commendable choices is the ribbon to the medal. Reward yourself with a run in the morning; the chocolate bars can practice some patience.


Kefi: This is a Greek word with no direct translation (in English). It is essentially the ability to persevere through the storm and see the all-anticipated rainbow. Someone who is upbeat and has a positive outlook in life could be referred to as having that kefiI haven’t actually travelled to Greece, but learnt this word from reading ‘To the Island’ by Meaghan Delahunt.


Due acknowledgments for this blog post: