Did you say ‘let’s read?’ Oh… I’d love to!

Reading week is here. (Almost.) And that reminds me of letters, words and sentences: are they the raw essentials for a book?

I think letters create words. I wonder if words can act as sentences alone? I see that most sentences need a verb. That’s how we all started learning English – and essentially, university reading week is the same mental process.

“I think this will structure my argument. I wonder if anyone else has written the same thing! I see that I need more evidence!” (Dundee University students, since essay writing existed.) So, what do students do?

We research more. We write more. And then we, the primary teachers, discover Paddington Bear on shelves – and decide that the thousands of black and white words in the other book have had their day. Done with, they are. Done and gone.No-one – not you, not your friend, not your long-removed cousin – would dispute that the real, right reason for reading is to meet this friendly fellow. Learn your ABCs for Paddington. He’s the bear who jumps in puddles, splashes up bubbles and stands with his sandwich in the huddle. Cute, is he. But, really he is a character that many children and adults alike can connect with. The little quirks give us deeper meaning: meaning that is invaluable for developing a love of literacy.

Reading stories: I can’t remember the official ‘start date’ of my love reading. It’s not brain-noteworthy like the first lecture at university – or tip-toed into the classroom in Primary One! Enjoying books is a gradual transition from a challenge (at first) to a mind-bubble bath. A busy day at the academic section of the library always reminds me why it is SO important that we ensure children delight in relaxing with a book at night. It not only leads to university (in weeks, months and years later) but is important for our own happiness… and life satisfaction. The National Literacy Trust (2018, p.4) research supports this: “64.3% of those who have higher levels of mental wellbeing consider themselves to be above average readers, compared with 46% of those who have low levels of mental wellbeing.” Isn’t it abhorrent to think that children who struggle with reading most likely have low-levels of confidence in our areas of their life?

It clouds my brain with rain, thunder and lightning.

You understand, kids’ books are rainbows. They teach you something. And, of course, fill your heart with something. That something is another perspective:

“What day is it? asked Pooh.”
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favourite day,” said Pooh.

Perhaps, I have a soft-spot for Pooh Bear? My twin is twenty: this optimistic bear travels everywhere with her! But, really that’s just a damn-silly and sentimental reason! The characters from One-Hundred Acre Woods each have their own personality – and we can explore this in the classroom. Common bonds create friendship: characters in stories can be pals with characters (or so, I believe!) This allows children to explore their emotions in a safe space – and learn about the ways of the world. (Eades, 2008.) After all, don’t we all do extra-curricular activities to find out more about ourselves? Discover new things and push ourselves to that uncomfortable yet super-focused zone… that’s hobbies for you. Reading is not just a classroom activity – but a hobby, a safe-space and a home wherever you are.

What if you’re in university? Earlier on (when I didn’t jump into child land) I mentioned that I am spending this week researching academic work to complete my assignments. Previously, this week never matched the ‘excitement’ criteria of my diary. What…why? No lectures: no flying a kite whilst dancing! Simply, it was never as fun as being in a dancing teaching class – but I’m pleased to say… officially… that this week has earned a smiley face stamp! It’s nice to have time, before placement, to stick myself in the planning folder – and dig for more diamond literacy facts and theories. Moreover, I’m trying to change my perspective on summative assignments. Instead of seeing them as ‘if you don’t achieve this…’ the proteins in my brain-cells will be pumped to their best and accept that’s all that can be done.’ Sport is already thought of in that light, so my brain needs to change for grading. A change is positive. A positive change wins the… you know… happy bracket and colon! On that note, are you up for an amusing game?

Thought so.

Here it is, boys and girls – oh, I do love classroom classes! It’s just the best when you’re sat on the carpet playing Sam Smith’s Suitcase… hint hint… that’s the one your away to find out about! It seemed fitting to leave it at the end of this blog. A suitcase is involved and well, we properly started off our literacy chat with Paddington Bear. The rules are not complex, thanks to the Mandwell (1972). Heads up, I’ve re-worded some of it as we teach children not to always copy text – and I’ve already put several quotes in this blog post!

The leader of Sam Smith’s Suitcase is the teacher… at least for the first game! This person is responsible for asking the children what they want to bring with them. The student must bring an item that is the same letter as their first name… hence why your teaching name acts like an author’s pen name in a sense!

Teacher: “My name is Sam Smith. I’m going to take a trip and take along a suitcase. I’ll take some of you with me – but only if you take the right thing with you. Remember, I’m going to take a suitcase.”

Incorrect Response: “My name is Jane and I’m bringing a ribbon with me.”
Whereas the correct response has the object and proper noun with the same first letter.

Correct Response: “My name is Tim and I’m bring a tie with me.”

What will you bring? If your name Bella or Bryan…I know what you’ll bring…a book! 😊

References

Eades, J. (2006) Classroom Tales: Using Storytelling to Build Emotional, Social and Academic Skills Across the Primary Curriculum. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Mandwell, M. (1972) 101 Best Educational Games.  New York: Sterling Pub. Co.

National Literacy Trust (2018) Mental wellbeing, reading and writing. Available at: https://literacytrust.org.uk/research-services/research-reports/mental-wellbeing-reading-and-writing/ (Accessed: 11 October 2019).

The Telegraph (2016) 40 Quotes about Life (for an Optimist) Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/books/what-to-read/40-quotes-about-life-for-an-optimist/aa-milne/ (Accessed: 13 October 2019).

 

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).

Fractions! Did you just call for pizza – and a party?!

We have had a few inputs now on mathematics: and they have all been most useful in helping me to realise that imagination is maths and maths is imagination. Long way to say it; basically think to the limits of space. Endless? Yes. Claire needs to enter the classroom and not just see the earthly game of “ooo, where are the ticks and crosses on my worksheet?” Children need to be exclamation marks and rocket to the next planet of discovery. As Juliet Robertson (2011, 00.33) says: “Maths isn’t about a pencil and paper… it is about using numbers as a tool to understand the world around us. Our lecturers and Molina (2004) emphasise that children need to realise what the sum is about – and not just recite the steps required to reach the answer (conceptual – former vs. procedural – latter). The depth of understanding must be enough that the child can build their own marshmallow spaghetti tower to hold an egg… and not just to fit the ‘it’s a tower that stands.’ I appreciate that I need to understand how best to deliver subject knowledge in a way that caters for every student too, if my children want to leave as confident individuals. And, doesn’t such success start with consistence in the little habits? Here’s a bad stereotypical student habit: ordering the red and yellow triangles! That’s the pizza habit – that maths can actually solve my guilt with!

There are times to throw a party, celebrate and dive into a box of Dominos. Maybe student life? Perhaps (okay, true). But, a classroom also benefits from having pizza. Children like to socialise and discover things. So… why not ask them to budget for their own party and introduce fractions at the same time? I am back to developing confident, creative and conceptual-focused maths learners: remember the Scottish Government (2019) design principles are for children to have depth, relevance and choice in their learning. By holding a pizza party, a child can be introduced to the fairness of fractions as well as budgeting for their needs. Let me explain (whilst I distract my mind from its desire to seek out the nearest pizza shop). Perhaps I’ll use the technique that we were taught through a sweet story shared in our latest tutorial: count the objects around you! Whilst typing this up, you find myself counting all the flowers in my window view! Sadly, I’ve only found one. Dundee’s library has more leaves (better for symmetry, though!)

Fractions Call for Fairness

Our lecturer was talking about making everything exciting for young children: the same goes for teenagers – which I realised when taking a group of 16-18-year-old Italian teenagers around a fairy trail this Summer! They. Loved it – seriously. Walking can be fun (if you don’t particularly enjoy it) when you have small goals to work towards: so, fractions can work the same way too, I presume! Here it goes (my plan for a pizza party at the end!).
Pre-lesson Activity (Starter):
We introduce what fairness is about – f for fractions and f for fairness. In the end, fair and equal are almost synonyms (kind of!). This could be done using a cake. Oops, food again! Give one student a bigger piece than the other… and watch the chaos unfold or cake end up in your face! Not really.
Lesson One:
The students could then explore the meaning of a whole (perhaps look at percentages.) What exactly is the meaning of the denominator compared to the numerator. How do you show how much of something you have using fractions? Visual resources are more important than worksheet questions for a start. Why? Penner-Wilger et al. (2007) found that finger representation whilst counting will increase a child’s ability to estimate well and understand the number-system. The same idea could be applied to fractions: mental representation goes along way. Maybe that’s why it’s the old-story that a face-to-face conversation is better than an email?! Anyway…
Lesson Two:
Recap fractions and introduce the idea of budgeting: that’s the next stage. Depending on the level of knowledge and depth of understanding of the students, the pupils could explore the cost of pizzas using greater than/less than signs or even percentages! It would be important to also look at some questions on fractions at the end as a formative assessment – okay, well just so you know what to plan next to teach them.
Sequential Lessons and the End Goal
Obviously, you cannot plan weeks and weeks in advance as you are unable to predict the students’ learning progress. UNLESS: a crystal ball has been inserted into your brain. I remember, when on my first-year placement, the teacher saying that they never plan longer than a few weeks because: you must change your plans; AND therefore, your time is most likely into space (and you use up fuel!) However, the end goal should try and remain the same or be appropriately adapted to the pupils. Hello, differentiation!
For instance, some complete the budgeting and other students just focus on fractions. Still, by the end, the class should come together to hold a pizza celebration. That would show that (I think) that we use maths all the time – and that you can have a choice in your learning. And, could a community of enquiry be created all whilst doing this? Maybe!

Now, back to circle time. Well, reflection! Our recent maths lectures have really cemented the idea of discarding textbooks more and more – and trying to make as many things applicable to real-life where necessary. Obviously not everything can be done in that way… but a lot could. Juliet Robertson (2011) discussed having an outdoors master-chef cooking lesson, involving mud and measurement! That does sound like a rocket-fuelled idea – that even astronauts might want to explore. I’m getting excited for teaching maths. Even more exited than I was before. If we make the students realise the everyday value of actually knowing why we carry out a mathematical operation, then our we are on the right route. Ollerton (2004, p.81) does a rather good summary for me: “The ultimate prize is for students to recognise they are learning for their own benefit.” That’s a tad better than pizza, I’d say.

References for this Post:

Molina, C. (2014) ‘Teaching Mathematics Conceptually ‘, SEDL Insights, 1, pp. 1-8. Available at: http://www.sedl.org/insights/1-4/teaching_mathematics_conceptually.pdf (Accessed: 26 September 2019)

Ollerton, M. (2004) Creating Positive Classrooms London: Continuum.

Penner-Wilger, M. et al. (2007). “The foundations of numeracy: subitizing, finger gnosia, and finemotor ability,” in Proceedings of the 29th Annual Cognitive Science Society, pp. 520-525. Available at: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/cc16/9648993eccb49088b511d37590f93e3fc1a2.pdf (Accessed: 27 September 2019)

Robertson, J. (2011) Messy Outdoor Maths. 31 March. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nh_4SEUpSrA (Accessed: 27 September 2019).

Scottish Government (2019) Scotland’s Curriculum: How We Do It. Available at: https://scotlandscurriculum.scot/5/ (Accessed: 27 September 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!

Well, c’est la vie – and it’s bonne!

I thought I would write. Write quickly – not a long post, but a “hello Summer, goodbye Second Semester” reflection. Time has passed and placement is now over. Over and done with, unfortunately. But, well, that’s it. This year has flown into history (too quickly) and even though my Lfl ’19 placement did not challenge me significantly, I learnt from it…and worked with such a lovely group of people that I miss! I learnt from this life placement something simple: do always challenge yourself (not just in certain aspects of your life!).

Ironically, the events that life threw me two months before placement helped me to develop as a teacher. Because, sometimes things don’t turn out the way you expect – and that’s not always bad. A couple of months prior to placement, I injured my leg (oops) then ended up misjudging the distance of a car on a main road island crossing… and was hit… then went to jury duty the following day (because one of my hobbies taught me to #nevergiveup) and as of March this year, potentially have two witness court cases. I’m extremely lucky (rather a miracle) to still be here…!

It’s not the course of events I expected over these past months: and I’m glad for it (in a way). There are always positives in negative situations – and you have to find them (thanks sport for teaching me that).

After the car accident, I very, very, very narrowly escaped head injury however my leg was still playing tricks. I didn’t realise, until about four weeks later that my leg was fractured from a separate accident a few weeks prior to the motor because… compared to my sister’s operations, it seemed minor. Take a day at a time – and by some miracle, the leg healed up well (and I escaped the cast/boot because it was too late!) I missed sport then, and was so grateful to be given the ‘okay’ in February. I have realised that, in the future, I wish to work with primary kids in a sport environment (or even abroad): I’m not athletic but physical activity teaches you to keep moving forward. Press on when the tough drills through your reserves. Life requires you to #carefullyreflect BUT: look forward, hope to the future and be grateful for today. Being optimistic, maybe my fourth year research could be related to health and wellbeing in primary schools?

Anyhow… on a separate yet kind of related note.. this 2019 placement taught me to really be patient – and be grateful (but for the small things.) The little aspects count. Count massively.

People are writing this week about mental health and #thepowerofpositivity. Thinking with a smile is not something school teaches you. Life teaches you that (including my previous two placements). What I want to throw out into the teaching community is this next question: how can we implement ‘let’s think on the bright side’ when kids are institutionalised? For me, it’s about taking the tiny parts of school life and making them light up your face – you have to do that with everything. You see, even in A and E, there is something to smile and hope about. You can ask for a glove to be made into a smiley face (yes 😉). Without training your mind to look on the upside and push through difficulties, life will pass. Quickly. Time doesn’t stop ao: grab every opportunity, see to your loved ones and well, do life as you like to. There is no right way, wrong way… but as long as you learn from mistakes, you are sure to be a better practitioner.

As my Grandpa told me this year: “You cannot stop the hand from writing life!”

Let’s bubble about – right now!

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps… we should play. Why don’t we collect our pennies, count them up and link hands in a chain to the toy shop? Hand in hand, we trot (and try not gallop) to Smyths. Who doesn’t adore an hour in the den of all dens, shops of all shops? Some adults. But, for those delightful in simplicity, when the trip is over… Walt Disney does remind us that: “Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.” Anyway, he has a theory here. A theory that is much more than a theory: reality. That’s my (no laughter) Mickey Mouse take on it. I better go fetch my ears and put them on right now. Here we…. GO. Are you friends with Mary Poppins too?

Thought so. Let’s bubble on, now.

Pish posh to stern philosophical outlooks for two seconds. “Disney, as ever, is rather inspirational….!” I don’t believe that (and that’s only my view). I don’t see any person being fit to be called that word over another person as we all – in our own book – make a blank page have character. In teaching, you see one student who grapples with a concept grinning from one side of the rainbow to the other when the ‘oh-yeah’ moment gives them the educational gold. For another, the ‘graphite’ hexagons neatly fitting together in his or her brain might be significantly easier – and so “ooooo… that’s it” is emitted out of audible speech. That is why, well, for me inspiration must come from yourself. And, blatantly, your own progress is for no other single person to comment on. I remember starting University…concerned about achieving As… but well, for me it isn’t a priority. Trying matters. That’s part of the assembly of the toy, of an idea, of a book.

And, Walt Disney did fail many times. But he kept with his idea, his own little ‘toy.’ That’s why I rather believe we are all very much inclined to love his art – and undeniably, his story books. Books, you see, are an essential part of teacher education. From Vygotsky to Piaget, we learn. And learn. And, secretly try to figure out how we are developing ourselves as educators. But. Library days can only take you to a certain level of understanding. Lecturers constantly tell us of the imperativeness of writing about your strengths, your weakness and the movements forward. I agree; I do try to read factual works for enhancement: I do try to take an upwards approach to learning. However, some realisation has led me back to another square that I’m convinced is more of a triangle with another line to it. Not to another course is it bringing me, but to a moment of pause in my professional journey. After all, toy cars from Smyths aren’t intended to withstand several batters and bashes daily. We do need  ‘wait’ and ‘recapture’ time.

Time to separate the key words from the text, is it now. What for me is most crucial during this stage of my teacher education is figuring out the nuances to teaching – and classroom experience stories are all that is required. Remember when the nursery staff would come and give you a tip to be help make that tower look less like Italy’s (famous or infamous… I’m not entirely sure!) Pisa? Well, that is what I’m mentally making a note these days. Writing for assignments gives me the knowledge, but the breadth comes with the ‘you assist the child with the zip, yet leave them to attempt it if possible’ comments. That is why I am here. These pieces of advice mould me into a teacher who will (hopefully) as many of us wrote in our application… make a difference. Everyone, or so I wish to think, goes into the profession to bring out the best in others. By sharing a piece of humanity, of your own experiences, the heart in education beats on with the same rhythm.

The policies, lack of funding and health and safety – which we hear through the news more than word of mouth – puts on the rain too heavily sometimes. The career, of being a teacher, is being destroyed (sometimes) by what the child must achieve, must do and must obtain. Without stating the obvious, qualifications are extremely crucial but so is contact with others, so is PLAYTIME. And…health and safety is creating a gigantic wall…like that of Mexico.

After hearing that a former headteacher couldn’t obtain a swing for health and safety reasons, I desired to scribble : with frustration, with fury, with flaming anger. Sounds a tad over the top… but… well society needs to take a breather. Health and safety: uh-huh, the Law is imperative. But, what is wrong with a swing? For all you know, you could be hit on the road from misjudging a car speed or land awkwardly after a (as safe as possible) wall jump. Honestly. A swing moves up and down and let’s the child take control of their movement and emotions. Bare not, can I, to see a playground without such apparatus, without such necessities. Accidents happen. It’s life. And yes, we can avoid some but not every. single. One.

Play (and relaxed play) is what we need more of. Have a read of the Scottish Government’s 2013 Play Strategy: please do. To save you leaving to fetch it right now, here’s Scotland’s play vision: “A nation which values play as a life-enhancing daily experience for all our children and young people; in their homes, nurseries, schools and communities.” (Scottish Government, 2013, p. 2) Within merely opening the booklet, we see the phrase ‘LIFE-ENHANCING.’ Then, why is it that: our children are using i-Pads to clock up that screen time; our outdoors have no door; and our older ones play with the rubbers on their desks? I still play. Yes, I do. I am legally an adult, yet the amusement of following the yellow lines until they stop (in a quiet area!) or throwing up and down a ball will never leave moi. I do doodle: and well, at least it helps me with creative writing of some sort.

Early Years children become excited over miniscule parts of life – but that is what is crucial to the LOVE of teaching. That is why we must never treat play as only a reward. That home corner where you learned that hoovers make a noise: yes, it was really only fake plastic beads. But, imagination can become reality. That clean-up with my friends translates into ‘let’s tidy the classroom in P7!’ Play gives children hope, belief and an ‘I can do this’ attitude. Bring Smyths back to the classroom. Please do. Adults, it’s time to be silly but with a sprinkling of prudency (and sugar too!). We all have that inner-child that can be effectively controlled. I know we do.

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/

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:

 

Rudolph, I’ve got a letter for you (and Santa too, of course)!

Before you immerse yourself in these words for a few minutes, you will be all the wiser from knowing that this blog post is my Christmas Eve letter to Santa (and Rudolph). Don’t worry, I’m old enough to realise that Santa is a fictional character, but the magic can still exist- right?! Merry Christmas for 2018! Have a lovely time (and be sure to save some mince pies for our jolly old fellow, Mr. Claus.)


Dear Rudolph,

Even though your nose resembles blinding scarlet laser pens, my heart still bursts with love for you. Love is a thrown-away word nowadays but Rudolph, I am not prancing around here. Your co-worker, Cupid, would forecast that we’re never been destined for a relationship- and I presume the stars shine in that direction too. However, my dear friend, my attraction to you continues to live on, unlike romantic relationships which are as delicate as the intricacy of snowflakes. Your festive vibes encapsulate me from some of humanity’s ill spirits. It is your story, the true lived tale of bullying, that puts you on the highest pedestal for me – me, and the teaching community at large.

Vital information has just whizzed around the circuits of my brain… these words… must be of very little value to you. That’s unless I’m mistaken, and reindeers secretly have a Google Translate to decipher our human-talk by. Santa may be able to lend you a hand with that one afterwards but I’m afraid the rest of this letter will be addressed to your friendly, red-hat, long-bearded master. Don’t stomp your hooves until the snow flings in every direction with fury; blame my people’s government for their failure in bringing up a multi (animal) lingual nation. Now then, pass this letter over to Mr. Claus if you may. (Your Tesco’s Finest carrot is already at my fire-place- as ever, royalty deserves nothing less.)

Ho, ho, ho, Santa: sorry to eat into your precious time although this letter will cheer you up just as a bucket-load of mince pies do. It is with ounces of delight that I can assist you with your naughty and nice lists this year: Rudolph, your ‘best-man,’ deserves a permanent (not fixed or temporary) post in your good books. The upmarket, front-row position on your sleigh may comfort his ego, but remember it is imperative that we tingle your companion’s heart strings. Put an end to your omniscient persona, Santa, and give my fellow the right recognition. Undoubtedly, you treat every single one of your reindeers the same – it’s standard practice – yet your heart must ache ever so more upon musing of the troubles of his past. Must I (painfully) recall those ‘oh so fun’ games when your (now) sleigh captain was belittled like six-foot ‘monsters’ boss around three- feet elves? No, I guessed not. Rant over: it’s time to harmoniously sing his praises – call for the choir… that’s if the eminent Michael Bublé is on strike.

Hold on a second- apologies are well and truly due. Now my fast and furious (seventy-mile per hour) hurricane attitude has settled to a breezy blizzard, I can write with sense – and not blanket everything in lethal, icy remarks. My thoughts led to me to a slippery slope when I addressed you quite forcefully in the previous paragraph, however I now am admitting to my wrongdoings. It’s just thinking of such an empathetic person like you – who is most comparable to the Christmas Big Friendly Giant – raises the hairs on my goose bumps to the point you’d think they meticulously practised yoga every day of their life. That’s not an understatement, believe me. Whilst on the topic of forgiveness, it’s fitting to mention that I’m partaking in the joys of greeting children queuing to meet you. You may not have hired me in Lapland (Claire calls for a man-size box of tissues) but Aberdeen needs me. ‘Elfing’ is truly a privilege that you have endowed me with; I can only but seize the chance to share my adoration for Rudolph and… take an #elfie.

Hurry on the days when society deems it acceptable, presentable and respectable to attire joker hats with jingle bells and slipper-soft shoes!

I’ve deviated off on a tangent again, Santa. Let’s toast our glasses to the fact I’m not your GPS navigation… swiftly back on track, if we may. Please do me of the honour of allowing myself to properly explain my feelings towards your wingman. Rudolph, he’s a strong piece of meat: I’m not a vegetarian, but equally I’d never even consume a slither of reindeer-meat. That’s a high-court crime, especially for someone who is meant to be Rudolph’s guardian! With hefty muscles- peaked to perfection for his annual present-delivery endurance marathon- comes determination, and that is what we need to install in our children. Instant gratification is as common as plastic money notes. Should we ever wonder why our kids are ‘besties’ with sheets of illuminated-glass? In with the old Tamagotchi; out with the new Siri. (Oh, that’s a deliberate ‘mistake’ in my phrasing.)

Mental stamina is not developed enough amongst the majority of our young people these modern days. Sir, with your magical work, we could help share the story of Rudolph’s battles and give our students a lecture about the grit that they all so need to carry with them throughout their lives. Wish lists of happiness feeders are driving you out of pocket – and the elves…well, their array of talents are spectacularly wasted with the infinitely increasing output of gadgets ongoing. As a student teacher – and part-time Lapland aspiring elf- I’d hope it wouldn’t be deemed ‘immature’ and too out of place for me to remark that parents must continue bringing up their children with time-limits on their gadget usage. Despite Rudolph being in a turmoil of teasing from his red nose, he danced and pranced through the traditional party games – and won over every cell beating in your unmeasurable heart. Our cherished fluffy Christmas ‘horse’ flies around with the magic of (almost) everlasting happiness, all whilst demonstrating to our young ones that being unique is as special and worthy as the rare pennies living on the ground. He’s a man…with just a slightly alternative twig-like hairstyle. A man needs no gadgets; the classic board games are the ultimate deal (if you’re also not forgetting about the gel for anything like antler-hair of course!)

Dear me… my inner-elf has outshone itself again. These festive characters really like to bounce around to the sound of their jingle bells (and blether away until their cheeks inflate like mini red-balloons). Aren’t elves just secretly human versions of Rudolph? Seriously speaking, that’s my Christmas wish for you, Santa. Give me the chance to be an elf from Monday to Sunday. (Yes, I’m enrolling for the atypical seven-day job- uh huh, not the nine-to-five Monday to Friday.) If I’m blessed with my elf-tunic and plane tickets to Lapland, I’ll know my teaching will improve vastly. My students will learn the key to healthy happiness- and maybe the odd few will become your minions too (or as English-lovers joke, your subordinate-clauses). It’s a wicked myth that people fall to the trick of believing that you are born as an elf: W.Huittt and J.Hummell (1999) are behaviour theorists who would one-hundred percent support elf-school as they define learning as “the relatively permanent change in behaviour brought about as a result of experience or practice.” We can all be elves, can’t we?

I guess you’ll reveal the truth tomorrow, Santa.

That’s me for Christmas 2017,

Lots of love from Claire Xx (The 18-year old girl who should really be an elf, especially since she has left out your all-time favourite of a beer and a mince pie!)


This PowerPoint (which is available online) was of assistance to me in the writing of this blog post. The quote by W.Huitt and J.Hummel (1999) is found on the second slide.

 

Ciao, adios, we’re done.

(Before reading, please be aware that this post strongly discusses my views on western feminism. All views are my own- I completely appreciate if you don’t support them.)

Boys,I could tell you that I love being a female. I could boast day and night to the apparently ‘strong’ species that you are, exclaiming that being part of the girls’ club is the best decision of my life. I could shout, using the loudest of all (near) deafening megaphones, that “nothing else is -or will ever be- comparable to our flower-power, pink-loving gang.” Yet, I won’t. I pinkie-promise on that. Sorry radical feminists… I feel it’s time to initiate some practice of self-control. For the first time in forever, my willpower is required for something other than resisting a beloved Frozen movie night; it’s control myself maturely time! Resorting to the simple wonders of scribbling words on a page is all that’s needed to push forward my argument surrounding patriarchy. Even though I could be such a forceful feminist right now, my wisdom has concluded that it’s best to stay far clear of the police and their ASBOs for noise disruption. Instead, I’ll make my own jam on feminism and gender right here. Listen up, friends: we’re in for a discordant ‘tune’ of pinks and blues.

You’ve heard it everywhere: boys are better than girls. It’s surreptitiously implied wherever you go. I’m often left wondering if there’s a little gender ghost constantly chasing after us girls; we can never quite shake off the feeling of inferiority in this male-dominated society. From tops to toys, our retail markets are despairingly flooded by patriarchal merchandise. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g on the shelf is designed with slogans set to boost the male’s (already) sky-high ego: “She can soak in the beauty of planet Earth; he can bask in the glory of conquering it.” How ridiculous! Come on- let’s call a boycott on all this tragic use of English! Our Sir William Shakespeare would be absolutely mortified of our word-choice. I’m putting BOTH feet (and hands) down on this one –  not only for his sake. These female-pitying phrases no longer penetrate right through to my core. I’m a solid, lava rock. That said, my humanly instincts still crave to protect every other human from this futile battle (regardless of gender).

British girls and boys, don’t you realise how time-zapping, energy-depleting this gender war is? Gender is only a socially-constructed concept (that’s biological sex minus the scientific evidence.) So… please, please, please halt with this nonsense: once our nation frees itself of these masculine and feminine stereotypes, we can work on the actual mess. Welcome to the mess abroad in which girls endure bloodshed whilst fighting for their basic UN rights- and it’s all because of men. Some of us are so mollycoddled that the word ‘gratitude’ lives in our thesaurus rather than remaining in our everyday vocabulary. (I’m addressing my girls here.)  We are extremely privileged to have an entirely free education – free of expense, free of judgement, free of violence. You name it: it’s all free.  Still, my whining British girls have the nerve to send snapchats in precious class-time. Western feminists, we have to put on our big boots and drastically change our outlook: here’s why.

Look, just look at Malala Yousafzai’s work. A girl, shot for learning her ABCs, is currently the leading figure in the global campaign that battles for girls to have a safe, liberal education- all whilst pursuing further education herself. Inspiring, Malala is. Honest, she is. A strong girl, she is.  She doesn’t contradict herself; she is deserving feminist. Remember the days when you had two gold stars and that so magical (but dreaded) wish in primary school- well those days still exist. Indeed, they do. Can I wish for every single girl in my country to seriously appreciate their education? Can my wish be taken with a whole pinch of chilli powder- and not the simple, old salt? I want a girl-gang of ‘Malalas’ (just if clones were legally allowed…!)

Guess what? My mind already knows the next question that you are desperately wanting to throw at me. (Please note though that I’m a student-teacher, not a psychic.) “Are you really a feminist Claire, and what does gender mean in your world?” curiously considers many of my readers. That’s the million-pound question. This is the billion-pound answer: I’m the feminist, that despites acknowledging British gender-discrimination, feels a stronger pull to support feminist-movements overseas. Girls there need me… not for a pay rise, but for life rights. Moving rather swiftly on to gender (to avoid further distressing some readers) I believe that we should still have the ‘framework’ of gender in our society. However, a framework doesn’t give rise to any sort of (organised) discrimination by any means. A girl should be nurtured as boy is nourished …and vice-versa. We are all free to have a religion, so why can’t we choose our gender without it being forced upon us?

You’ll thankfully find that my next statement provides a concise summary of my thoughts. Concepts like gender-neutral classrooms are our exit out of this vicious circle. I’m not trying to be sarcastic, but honestly these ideas are worth it. They would teach society’s future girls that they don’t have to dress up as hulk and boys, you can be pretty (or handsome!) in pink. Any transphobic creature could pin me to a post in disagreement – and I’d still stay firm on my stance. Gender must not be such a rigid, controlling term: if we all loosened up and disregarded masculine and feminine stereotypes, there would be no need for feminism. Consequently, we wouldn’t give any regard to the multitude of preconceived gender attributes which lead to many issues today. What’s the action plan then? I’ll tell you, tell you outright. Move out of your comfort zone, broaden your horizons and extend your view. Our world is a gargantuan (but also small) place and we cannot, must not AND will not create any more barriers. I’m up for truly uniting girls and boys; we are all one happy family…I hope.

The time has come. I’ve had it with this British feminism. I’ve handed in my notice to the girls’ club. We are too Eurocentric for my liking. Neither am I joining the boys although. I’ll ride it solo: solo until you decide to join me too. Goodbye girls, it’s been an interesting ride.

Ciao, adios, we’re done.


If you are dying to know, the text-colours were deliberately changed- boys being pink and girls with the blue. What was your initial reaction upon seeing this? I believe it’s so easy to think of ourselves as being open-minded. From personal experience, I can tell you how quickly I used to make assumptions based on biological sex. If you automatically questioned the colour difference, I can understand why. It’s maybe a sign that you are more judgemental than you consider yourself to be. Don’t panic if that’s the case… it’s best that we find out this information sooner than later!


Due acknowledgments for this blog post:

  • The University of Dundee for their lectures on the topics of gender, feminism and patriarchy;
  • Malala Yousafzai’s documentary on her experiences;
  • Anne-Marie’s song (inspiration taken from the title/main lyrics).