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!”

Evolutionary Experiences

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Due acknowledgements for this blog post:

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

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

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.