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).

Update Central

Deciding not to do placement. Bad decision? It could be. Wrong decision? It might be. Wise decision? For now – at least. I am most certainly not stopping teaching, as it is what I really do love. However, the time doesn’t work out to do placement and various circumstances have led me to this choice. (Dundee University, you need to know that you’re amazing and play zero part in this!)

It’s not been a decision that I’ve taken after having a headache one day. Nope. To be honest, I’ve already investigated the routes into teaching after leaving at the end of third year – and yes, there are options. I’m a tad disappointed as yes… there is nothing better than making a difference to a child’s life. However, my days in practice are not concluded come April next year. The lanyard may travel in zigzag but returning is on my agenda. Somehow.
And so how will I continue?

The blog has always been a crucial part of my journey. It has been. It still is. It will be. I may have to end my GLOW account with Dundee – most likely. Yet, there is now a new updated site (so my writing world isn’t over). Don’t cry, Claire… blogging can continue. The ability to check myself against different professional GTCS standards will remain online! Yipee! Future plan… when I graduate (in the foreseeable future)…I can look back at how my teaching has improved. It seems as if I will have to apply for the post-graduate option somewhere! However by that stage, I hope to have experience that will make me an owl of a teacher (with glasses because a -5 prescription calls for that!) I have looked into options whilst studying with Open University. Here they are:

TEFL;
Going across to Africa where I am trying to support an orphanage;

Working as a classroom assistant.

I know it sounds bizarre to an outsider to essentially stop a degree two-thirds in. But, well, life experience is needed. We are meant to teach our children – and I want to give my pupils the best knowledge I can. I owe that to them. I really do.

Learning for Life made me realise that the outside workplace can add another dimension, another aspect to your teaching which entering straight from school doesn’t let you have. I do quite fancy working as a classroom assistant where kids have challenging behaviour to put into practice the knowledge I have learnt. Then, in a few years, I hope to come back to some university (somewhere) to complete everything. I’m sad that Miss Smith may not be a full-time teacher to be honest – very sad in a way. But I know that through this blog… I shall keep my goal alive. It will happen. One. Day. It’s just not the right timing. Not for now 😊

This year, I am going to just go for it – and upload all my thoughts, lesson plans and ideas anyway. There are quite a few hiding in my document folder right now! I still tutor part-time. I am writing children’s books (cause yes, my brain is still five). And, I am making the most of what is offered during these next academic terms!

Health and Wellbeing: The Start of Lesson Planning

Blog Post Early Years

Above, you will see my first attempt (in ages) for lesson planning. Yes, it’s been a rather long time since the fingers have delicately hammered the keyboard to type up a lesson plan… and this is not exactly a full one! However – since learning from my first school placement last May – I have gone with the good old ‘keep things simple’ and started off with a PowerPoint.

For the slides, be warned. Really: be careful! The above link is full of magic and will erupt in glitter when you click on it (then unicorn emojis will fly out): I wish.

Sorry – but if you do desire to have a nosy, hover your mouse over the ‘Blog Post Early Years’ (above ‘above!) and voila, the attachment should pop up!

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!

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.

 

Keep your Chimp in the Cage!

January, you’ve caught me out again. Your presence inflicts upon me the sort of gloomy, stern feeling that tightly stretches out the hours of daylight and compresses the moonglow. I’m left hanging on until the end of month, desperate that a prince will rescue me into the romanticised February. This New Year seemed to shower me in confetti – but there was no bang. As a student-teacher, you would think that the entry of twenty-eighteen would push me into the fast-lane since my placement is a matter of weeks away, however it has reversed the dial. The high-speed, race car approach is to be left behind…like my learning-to-drive days. Instead, I’ve rationalised my views on yearly resolutions. Aren’t they as powerful as diesel in a patrol car? Seemingly great at first – until disaster seeps through.

There is no specific goal on my horizons because the calendar is renewed – yippee! Motivation should be able to strike at whatever midnight: do we ever predict the exact millisecond when power surges to a child? Never. (That’s why educational lightbulbs are so ironic.) Throughout my time at school, I achieved the academic expectations set upon me for entry to university. Tick in the box for that. But nowadays, the ‘baby’ needs more than food, sleep and water! A reflection on life outwith this nurturing nest has left me mind on spring-clean mode. There are many habits which don’t bore well with the kind of teacher – and person – I strive to be. Okay, at times we all envisage ourselves wearing gold, diamond teaching tiaras. But, I’m not aiming for that top-notch perfection… not now. My professional lanyard needs to be worn by a version of myself who is constantly organised. To reach that level, I cannot rely on external praise to keep my dinghy afloat in the rapids of the Tay. A change of mindset will give me the consistency to upgrade my sail. I see you, HMY Victoria and Albert; you’re in the distance.

The past is the past – but it’s what makes history so horribly captivating. I was always a geography enthusiast at school, however the tide has washed back some new shells. If a teacher hates contemplating their practice, their lessons will eventually push students to the countryside: out the school’s doors; past the hallways; and right out the exit. No, that’s never on our to-do-list! We may save our voices by axing a name or two off the ‘ceaseless’ registers – but our vocation entails the responsibility of protecting their future. These naïve, innocent students are the bull’s eye of our professional existence, aren’t they? My sight must be a precise twenty for my aim to be on point. (Don’t stress, glasses are firmly screwed to my head for that.) It’s the responsibility of all teachers to ensure their pupils are thirsty to learn. You are bound to have experienced the educator that made you feel dry to the bone from being ‘slumped’ at the box desks. The process of musing (but not during every waking minute) helps us to continually better our practice. So, who is up for combatting shrivelling brains? Are YOU ready to embark on a boot-camp efficiency course? Is it the time to mentally abseil down from your comfort zone (and reflect)? Maybe not, nope, never…

…That’s what my gut told me (many) months ago.

Idealistic me was floating in cotton-candy for the entire last year of school. All pressures were lifted; celebrations existed. After surviving the Hunger Games’ speed train of fifth year, I could dwindle away to the choo, choo of the steam train that was the journey of sixth year. The year passed, as time does, and that meant nothing other than a hard bump upon arrival. Ouch! The fluffy, sweetness of sixth year had eaten away at my time-management skills. I was left in a sticky situation. Washing my hands clean of my inadequacies was the best course of action – but I felt as wise as any primary one with their palms under the germ detector. I had the soap (i.e. my mind) but how did I put it to proper use? Improvement started by choosing Dundee to educate me… and is well under way with the world of words that now surround me. Who needs a Black Card when you have a library one? That is a fleeting thought when the beat of the union’s basement disrupts the tranquillity of nourishing your brain with knowledge ‘vitamins.’  It’s as if every time the music blasts, my cerebral cells shriek with panic and diffuse (from a state of concentration) like a gas being let out of its container. That’s not useful- not at all. Not in the slightest.

The books that have nourished my curiosity lately are real game-changers. Grab ‘Educating Drew’ and ‘The Chimp Paradox’ off the shelf… quick! You know, before owning these works of linguistic art, my time keeping skills were stuck in a rut. Then, as video-gamers do, I took the leap of faith and tried out a new move. Simply by turning the pages and focusing in on each author’s advice, my accomplishments have increased in number (albeit incrementally). Winning the ferocious battle against the gremlins of my mind will help me to be the teacher that I envisage myself as. My day-dreaming, airy-fairy nature can never be annihilated, but I can suppress it. Gremlins are the little creatures that are more often than not ‘bad-habits.’ Essentially, the chimp (more illogical area of our brain) is well- acquainted with these success-trapping parts of our personality; on the other hand, the human (the mind’s less expressive area) considers our impulsive, emotive actions as vermin. Finding the balance between these two will leave your as the passenger in life. But, is that enough?

An argument on what leads to life satisfaction would see me through my golden years. Decide on this for yourself, I beg you. Personally, I’m taking command of my wheel – and the gear stick. The automatic function has been alive long enough. Today is the time to push myself outside the dressing gown and hot water-bottle zone and embrace the cold. Creativity can learn to gear down to one, and organisation must up its level. When the clutch no longer fires back at me, I’ll know my chimp is content. Until then, bury me in all the daily planners. February can give me some love with an inner-clock and alarm. It’s a significantly better offer than January’s short, quick-fix of ‘New Year, New You.’ Eighteen, you sincerely are an insignificant figure after all. (Math teachers, vent your stress somewhere else; English is occasionally more reasonable.)


The texts referenced to in this post can be purchased from (super-speedy) Amazon:

‘Educating Drew’ by Drew Povey

  • This book led to me discover Peter’s book on regulating your emotions under pressure. Written by the inspirational headteacher of Harrop Fold School (from ‘Educating Greater Manchester’) this account of his experiences is very compelling and addicting to read! All the profits made are put towards trying to clear the school’s six-figure debt.

‘The Chimp Paradox’ by Professor Steve Peters

Also, this speech (by the author himself) explains your inner-chimp in detail.

  • Many athletes has sworn by this mind management programme. Even if you can easily juggle all the balls in life, it is still worth your time. Sir Chris Hoy describes the ideas in this book as being what “helped [him] win his Olympic Golds.”

As an aside, my first placement goal will be classroom organisation and management (SPR 3.2)! Simply writing this post has helped me to realise the most prominent area needing attention in terms of my personal and professional life.