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Maths has changed my thinking…

Maths has never really been a huge problem for me. In primary school, I was in the ‘top’ group and from what I remember, I generally only struggled with fractions and trial and error questions. My only issue was that if I were to get a question incorrect, I would feel as if I had failed and I hated the embarrassment of being handed my work back to correct (however, this was not specific to maths, it was a personal thing with almost everything). I remember I would try to be the third finished in the class (straight after my two best friends). I would never try to be the first or second, as I knew I would never overtake them in my academic abilities. I was a complete visual learner and still had to write out my times-tables on the side of my page when working out a problem. In fact, I think I would still do it now.

My favourite part of maths was probably symmetry, because I was one of the first to understand it and it was a fun topic, as I enjoyed art/drawing. My teacher used boards with stick out parts and elastic bands for one lesson and would make one side of the board a complicated shape with the elastic bands and I would have to replicate the other. I enjoyed this most probably because I was better at it than my two best friends who would usually overtake me and outshine me in reaching potential.

In high school, it was a big change. I started off in the top maths class but then in third year was moved to the 3rd class. When I asked my teacher about it, he admitted there had been some sort of mistake and would sort it. However, he failed to do this even after asking him again, so I assumed I was supposed to be in this class. All of my friends were in the top 2 classes and I supposed I felt a bit crushed they would be enjoying their class without me. As time went on, I began to hate maths. Before, I didn’t mind it, but the teacher I had was belittling and only wanted to talk about her favourite animal (polar bears – btw). The work was almost too easy for me and I would be finished a considerable amount of time before everyone else, so I would sit bored for about 20 minutes of the lesson while my teacher went around every individual, attempting to help them but eventually just getting frustrated asking, “how can you not understand this?”. She was small but probably one of the scariest teachers I know.

For me, as an upcoming teacher, there is every chance I will try to encourage active learning in maths, and not intimidate my pupils by putting them on the spot and expecting them to know every answer possible. Reflecting through this blog post on my personal experiences has allowed me to realise the type of teacher I would like to be, not just in maths, but in general. I want to engage and be an enthusiast about everything possible to entice my class, to make sure they are enjoying their lessons, and enjoy coming to school!

It’s time to accept critique.

I have come to realise that reflection is a crucial part of becoming a teacher. Taking constructive criticism has always been difficult for me, and over the first semester, peering into second, I am beginning to understand why it is essential, and why I should encourage people to watch over my practice and assess it. I understand that we cannot improve without critique. If we weren’t reviewed by others and ourselves, we would repeatedly be in the same position making the same mistakes, and for the interests of the children, we must use our professional development to benefit them and improve the quality of our practice. Education is an ever-changing profession, things such as the curriculum and legislation have changed over the years and it is up to us to stay in-date with relevant issues and topics, as well as policies and regulations to give future generations a good, informed education.

Reflecting becomes important after lessons in the sense that we should always evaluate what went well and what could have been better. We should continually ask ourselves “How have the class responded?” and “What are my next steps?”. Although you may be challenging some of the children, maybe for others it was too difficult, which caused them to be disengaged. If a lesson in misunderstood by the whole class, there is of course no logic in progressing further and deeper into the subject. Next steps should be to adapt the lesson and maybe even our style to engage the children and encourage their understanding. Reflection allows us to answer questions such as, “What from your teaching has prevented the children from understanding?”, “Have you challenged the children enough, or too much?”, “What could I have done better to improve the children’s learning?”. Pulling out our own abilities and developing qualities from the lesson can encourage our personal development in order to enhance children’s education.

In semester one during the working together module, I figured that speaking up and getting my voice heard wasn’t at all a bad thing. It was best for my group to get my opinion, as when we are qualified together, speaking up is important for the children and young people we will work with. Also in semester one, my involvement was restrictive and therefore restrictive to my learning. Moving forward, my confidence should continue to grow and I should ensure I get involved and keep up to date with reading, as I have found how much this can benefit my studies.

I feel my realisation for personal development and reflection was at the beginning of semester two. I only began truly reflecting when we started our second semester and had a dance workshop. When I realised in the dance workshop that actually, getting involved can be enjoyable and that everyone in my class was in the same boat, I no longer wanted to be the shy girl I was in primary school again. I wanted to enjoy every moment of my studies, including through dance. I decided there that I would try to give everything my maximum effort when possible and that I should stop being embarrassed to participate. My confidence was limited in semester one and I thought speaking out in a lecture was a rather daunting thing. However, semester two has already taught me that getting involved heightens my learning and that I should believe in myself more. I should try to speak up in a lecture if I have an answer, I should try to throw myself into new things when appropriate, and I should definitely take constructive criticism! Not everything will be perfect, and sometimes, some things change depending on the day. It is now crucial for me to regularly reflect, otherwise, I would still be that shy girl from primary school, and not the best version of myself.

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Welcome to your ePortfolio. This is where you will document and share your professional thoughts and experiences over the course of your study at the University of Dundee and beyond that when you begin teaching. You have the control over what you want to make public and what you would rather keep on a password protected page.

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Teacher, Lorraine Lapthorne conducts her class in the Grade Two room at the Drouin State School, Drouin, Victoria

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