Little, you are ever so greater than big!

Warning… this is rather reflective and pretty (kind of) personal!

Sometimes one bad thing seems to come knocking at the door – and then many things happen. It’s best not to discuss these, as we all have our own hills to climb. But, sometimes amazing things occur too. After the past few months, the end of today brought joy: my Grandpa finally received his driving license back again. Sounds something tiny yet it meant the world to him. And, after a few scares for other reasons, it was a great relief for him to have his car… his home. He would take me to placement (yes, just five minutes away) and we would watch the sun head off to sleep together. It brought happiness like nothing else could have; he has taught me everything. Well, almost. About what? About life. And he is a gem – just like we all have people close to us! It’s great to hear he can be back on the road. It really is.
Our phone call made me think… how could I translate the things he has taught me into my classroom? The simple wisdom of everyday actions can go far. Some of the personality ‘qualities’ he tried to tell me about were love, peace, patience (all of which bring joy). And never giving up… that’s something else too! I was thinking about the mistakes I’ve made and how he has always led me back on track. For instance, prioritising work over studying – and thinking grades are everything! Oh… and skipping lectures. I keep doing that because the Earth has been moving rather fast lately. But, his joy brought a smile to my face. It was perfect timing (or felt like it!) Anyhow, what I need to write about is how his teachings can be brought into my classroom practice!

1. Never lift anything heavier than a pencil. This is ironic because I love carrying a Bergen (super fun to overcome the weight). Yet it’s true: if you don’t understand the theory, the other things are difficult to slot together. This is simply: how do we ensure our students have a deep desire to learn? Well, we find out their interests. Simple question post it notes or flying comments: “ooo, what do you want to know?” That would go a long way. Everyone wants to know a little more about something – they just might not tell you!

2. We each have our own horse and track to ride! I always wanted to be better at English. Always! Maths and me are friends – but English required hours of slog and in fact, I memorised my essays for the exam! Yet, he reminded me that we are each made for something different … and that’s what makes the world exciting. In the classroom, we should have a time in the day where someone can explain something they know to a group/the class. We can all learn from one another: a golden rule, that is!

3. Perspective is essential…That’s a tricky one, but I never understood it until lately. I don’t drink alcohol or fizzy drinks for personal medical reasons… and parties annoyed me! But, I remember meeting a girl who had a food allergy to everything apart from rice and potatoes! When my Grandpa reiterated  to me that someone is always worse off, my brain clocked that water and tea is perfect! At school, students will be frustrated when others have that designer bag or that ‘A’ grade: but I will stop them and ask them to fill in a flower of all the things they do have. Being grateful is an essential thought process (of which I still must practice DAILY!) So, here’s to making classroom flowers of thanks… perhaps I see a daisy chain coming!

4. Have patience and  just work hard. Stories of his war experiences are humbling. He was a child then, but they had so little. Yet, you must try and be content. They worked long hours and days were arduous! But, he said that giving yourself a day off duties worked magic! Every Saturday or Sunday, you deserve a rest. That is of upmost importance. Likewise, kids need an afternoon off every week (or even merely an hour) to relax and unwind. Even if they haven’t been ‘at their best,’ their brain still needs that time to go “ahhhhhhhh, I can chill now!”

These are merely a few wisdom points that he has given me – and there are many more. Yet, those are up there in the priority list as our classrooms should be like ‘the real world.’ I don’t wish for my students to live in a safety blanket or for their parents/guardians to cushion them up. If we let them fail then give them the advice and tools for coming back as lions, they will do find in Secondary School. That said, we are our students’ safety net, perhaps! It is important that everyday and practical advice is given to them. The small things add up to a massive change – and after all, we all want to be our best selves alongside our pupils.

However, please bear in mind that there will be days when kids can’t concentrate. You’ve had them; I’ve had them. Yet, well, if we take some time out and have a positive mantra and do all the little things, we will make it over the hill! Yes, there are fluffy and crispy golden clouds! (It’s an oxymoron, don’t worry!0 And finishing with my last quote for the semester, my Grandpa always says: You cannot rewrite time, but you can write the future. Every bell is a reminder that students can build themsleves a positive future. Doesn’t just sharpening the pencil show that?

Hope is Here

I arrived late for the lecture today after handing back my kit for my fundraising job. As much as I genuinely love the work – and will hopefully do some of it again in the future – having three jobs and university lectures was taking it’s tole. And studies come first: they are priority. A recent assignment was a wake-up call. I did ‘achieve’ a very low grade recently and it’s tempting to think negatively, but well that’s never wise. I remember receiving the picture book contract at a confusing time, so I always remember hope is close. It’s indeed possible to improve my grades – somehow, there is a way. And thankfully, the content of today’s university ‘lesson’ reminded me of that.

There was discussion about reading/writing as essential tools for moving forward. Creating stories as humans has always been our way of expressing ourselves, finding meaning. (University of Nottingham, no date). Writing requires time and we all seem to run out of that. But, it also needs you to be on your own – and just think. J.K. Rowling says: “Develop a fondness for solitude if you can, because writing is one of the loneliest professions in the world.” I never aspire to be J.K. Rowling as money means little on your last day on Earth, but her way of working resonates very closely with me. Being alone and in a coffee shop is the most peaceful place on Earth – or a forest.

Back to the lecture, we were talking about how experience and choosing different paths leads you to various destinations. I think it’s very true that we are in control of our outcome. I remember being in S6 and studying at home was not the best place: I decided to head to coffee shops after my work shift before admiring the nature when walking home. After walking two hours each way, I thought: How can I make this trudge a positive? Let’s take up running and try a marathon (I had done a 5k before). Super, was it because I developed a love for the simple things. Oh and the best part was admiring the stars when it was dark … and my phone ran out of charge! Silly Claire! After a run here and there, I decided to try the Army and then well, the mouse character who learns from a tiger came along. Everything linked together in some way.

But most importantly, others helped me along the way… just as J.K. Rowling’s quote encourages me that solitude and coffee is indeed normal! People always teach you something, in some sort of way. I am philosophical – as you probably gather – and like to link one thing with another. People’s actions help you in discrete ways. For instance, it was my boss at my first ever workplace who ran marathons and inspired me (alongside my old P.E. teacher). Another important person is my Great Uncle. In our last conversation, he told me: “Join the Army, smile in the cold and travel to Antarctica.” I’ve done two… perhaps the third will find its way one day. He turned into the mouse creature that is in my picture book and is still alive in my mind. As Mary Poppins goes: “Nothing is gone forever, only out of place.” For three years, I missed him greatly: but my uncle is back in place. Alive again – and for good.

I can’t say too much about the picture book story but it relates to all my experiences. The mouse falls in love with the stars and discovers that no matter where you are, there is always light. During my fundraising shifts, the yellow glow of the streetlamps would guide me through the cold! The lecture today on reading reminded me to keep reading and keep writing. It was thanks to my AoS that I began to really love writing (blogs are ace). So, it is thanks to this lecture that I could leave the lovely people at sales and focus on these assignments properly. I worry about grades, but that’s not the purpose of education: intelligence is intelligence. It’s about trying out best. I may have the first D of my life but I have a choice, as Kluger and DeNisi’s (1996) research points out:

I can …. alter my behaviour, alter my goal, quit my dream or disregard feedback.

The easiest option would be to say that I will never improve, but everything is possible – somehow. And, so today it was time to take on the feedback and think positively. I did not officially fail (yay, I passed) and there is always a way up. Birds show you that.
You see, running taught me that you just need to keep moving forward. It is all to easy to blame others for failure, but the responsibility is on me. I didn’t achieve the F in my first third-year assignment so I ought to be happy. I know that I am not the quickest learner – from other activities – but persistence does pay off. Without the hours training to run, I woudn’t have developed a desire to submit my story and accept many rejections. My students need to learn that there is an answer if you keep believing. But, how does that translate into the classroom?

I believe that the most important aspect of teaching is to lead by example and show your students that the way you treat others is more important than intelligence. If you are kind, then someone may just be hopeful. And after all, it is hope that leads to studying and better grades. We cannot change our IQ, but we can alter our perspective. Pay is important, but sometimes the richest people are the rudest. I spent one night at someone’s door who had just come back from a funeral. The person wasn’t the wealthiest (and told us that) but made my night for smiling and not shutting our discussion down. It’s silly but I want to show kids that if you treat others right, nothing else matters. We have to power ourselves through life – independence is key – but humans ultimately rely on each other. If you keep positive, others will too. Isn’t that the most important aspect of teaching? Hope. Hope for not money – but a kinder world. And hope to be the best you as a person.

Back again to the lecture… if you want a story of your life, it’s about how you treat others. Possessions matter to a certain degree, but I desire for my students to be grateful with what you have. Let’ s move forward with a smile – and read, write with positivity. I have hope to improve my grade because the lecture was inspiring. It reminded me to write down ‘I can do it’ when I’m unsure about my essay. There is nothing worse than giving up believing, because after all, positivity is all we have in the world – and the stars of course.

References

Kluger, A.N. and DeNisi, A.S. (1996) ‘The Effects of Feedback Interventions on Performance: A Historical Review, a Meta-Analysis, and a Preliminary Feedback Intervention Theory’, Psychological Bulletin, 119(2), pp. 254-284. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.119.2.254

University of Nottingham (no date) Studying Effectively: Why do we write? Available at: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/studyingeffectively/studying/writer/whywrite/index.aspx (Accessed: 14 November 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!