Category Archives: 3.4 Prof. Reflection & Commitment

Bringing Mindfulness and Poetry Together

I smell the rain appearing in the damp air

I see the drear grey clouds with the winter sun peering through

I see red, orange, yellow

Crunch! I can hear my exaggerated footsteps

I feel confused as to how a form of death can be so beautiful, yet often go unnoticed.

This poem was created using a combination of a technique taught to us by Susan Buckman for teaching children how to write poetry, and mindfulness techniques I have been working on.

I was walking home from university today, being aware of my surroundings, my senses and my emotions, and this poem popped in to my head. I found this very interesting as it showed me just how an activity provided by a teacher can sneak into your everyday life, without even thinking about it.

I have never been one for poetry. I can appreciate poems and how poems can provide an array of emotions to a reader, but I’ve never really understood how to write a poem or what can inspire a poem to be written, only the composition of a poem – e.g. a haiku being 3 lines long, with 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second and 5 again in the third, and it doesn’t rhyme. Although basic, this idea of how to create an imagery poem really caught my attention, and here I am now, having rushed home to write down my thoughts, and currently sharing it on my blog.

This poem focuses entirely on your senses and emotions. In class, we were encouraged to think about a smell from our childhood, and then what we could see when we think back to that smell, and what we could hear, then what we could feel either at the time of the memory or how we felt as we thought back. I used this idea, and brought it in to the present moment, exactly what I could sense and feel at the current time. This is where I think mindfulness can become a powerful tool in writing poetry.

How did I go from not understanding much about poetry, to rushing home to write down a poem which had just randomly popped in to my head? How can I utilise these thoughts and adapt this in to a lesson of my own?

Mindful walking encourages you to close your mind to the flurry of thoughts rattling around your head, all the stresses of life and worries you may have. It does not encourage you to get rid of them entirely, but it does encourage you to focus your mind on something else, putting all other thoughts to the back of your mind. When practising mindfulness, you begin to notice everything in your environment, from the tiny bit of writing engraved on a pavement, to the slight whisper of wind in your ear. The poem technique fully compliments mindfulness in the sense of observing the area around you and the emotions present, and this is where I think it could be useful with a class.

My thought was that we could introduce the idea of imagery poetry, and use the technique of focusing on your environment and single senses to write our own poetry. Consider the work of William Wordsworth in “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”:

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

This was written while he was admiring the Lake District. What can children admire when in your classroom, your playground, a local area or even the lunch hall? We can encourage children in any environment to jot down anything they can sense and feel and turn this in to a simple poem like the one I created, or something more complex, using writing techniques such as similes and metaphors, to create a poem similar to that of Wordsworth.

Of course, the prospects of providing a lesson which allows true senses and emotions will support the learning of poetry writing and provide an understanding of how some poets were inspired to write, but how can the mindful aspect support children in learning?

Mindfulness teaches you how to focus, it is the art of preventing your thoughts from overwhelming you by focusing on the current environment rather than dwelling on the past or future. So, by bringing mindfulness in to the classroom, you are teaching children how to focus their minds on their learning. (Reach Out, 2018).

Mindfulness also has a strong emotional aspect. The Experiences and Outcomes regarding Health and Wellbeing ask that children are aware of their emotions, they can express them and they learn ways that emotions can be managed (Education Scotland, 2006). Mindfulness encourages you to go through an emotional process:

  1. you name the emotion you are feeling.
  2. Accept that you are feeling that emotion, understand that it is normal to feel emotions, but allow the emotion to be there without encouraging it, judging it or resisting it, just let it be there and release itself as it feels natural.
  3. Investigate what the emotion is really making you feel. For example, you are upset, how are you breathing? What can you feel? A tear rolling down your cheek, a tense muscle, a twist in your stomach. Is anything changing (nature, posture, intensity)?
  4. If you engage with any thoughts other than your focuses, notice that you did that, but regain your focus on your breathing. (Vivyan, 2010)

Okay, so the evidence for using mindfulness in the classroom isn’t really there yet (Centre for Educational Neuroscience, No Date), but after practising mindfulness myself, I know that I have a way to escape from my thoughts, I feel more connected with my body and my environment and I feel more in control of my emotions, I feel more calm. My experience is enough for me (alongside many other teachers) to feel as though teaching mindfulness in school is worthwhile, and if I can intertwine it with another subject to provide more meaningful learning, I definitely think it is worthwhile even just giving it a try.



Centre for Educational Neuroscience (No Date). Mindfulness Has a Place in the Classroom. [Blog] Centre for Educational Neuroscience. Available at: [Accessed 11 Oct. 2018].

Reach Out (2018). Mindfulness in the classroom. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Oct. 2018].

Education Scotland (2006). Health and Wellbeing. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Oct 2018]

Vivyan, C. (2010). Mindfulness of Emotions. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Oct. 2018]

Health and Wellbeing Module, What am I Looking for?

So I’m half way through my first week of semester one, year three. I’m at the point in my studies where everything counts towards the degree I have been working so hard for, and my chosen module for this year is Health and Wellbeing.

I have a little bit of knowledge about this subject from my time at college, but that understanding relies mostly on safeguarding and GIRFEC, using the Wellbeing Indicators as a method of seeing if there is a cause for concern. How do I teach HWB effectively?

Why did I choose Health and Wellbeing? 

I chose Health and Wellbeing because I didn’t really understand a lot about it. I know how to do a P.E lesson, but that isn’t all of the subject. I was very confused, as I knew H&W was supposed to be approached holistically, yet the entire subject area has been separated, and broken down into different areas, then even more areas again. I know that this is an incredibly important subject area to learn about, know about and to teach, but I just wasn’t too sure how to go about that.

What do I want to learn in Health and Wellbeing?

  1. As mentioned before, how do you effectively teach a curriculum area, that has been split into so many different areas, holistically?
  2. How do western countries teach Health and Wellbeing differently, and why?
  3. What are the pitfalls of the current CfE Health and Wellbeing subject area, and in what potential ways could this be changed?


Throughout the module, I will return back to these questions, hopefully with an answer, but also with my own opinions on the answers I have.

Almond Valley Heritage Centre


When attending University to become a Primary teacher, you don’t expect to have a placement that is not in a school, but when you attend the University of Dundee, this is the case for second year.

My placement is in Almond Valley Heritage Centre, and I have been designing an entire topic plan around the Shale Oil industry in Scotland.


When I first started, I have no clue what Shale Oil was… I feel that this is the case for many, yet it is actually a fairly major part of Scottish history – especially the local history in West Lothian.

A chemist called James Young found that you can extract paraffin oil from shale rocks and this led to what is called the Shale Boom. Young opened refineries across West Lothian with the main refinery being in Bathgate. West Lothian was a prime location as there are a number of areas where Shale can be mined.

Young’s Bathgate Chemical Works were arguably the first in the world to refine mineral oil on a commercial scale.

I have found it very interesting so far learning about the history of my local area, but it has also been fantastic to have the opportunity to plan on a long scale basis for an entire topic which can be handed straight to teachers without them having to think too much about it.

Although I am only half way through my placement, I have completed my first full draft of the topic and I am excited to share it with other museums to gain some feedback and new ideas that can be added.

I am particularly excited to visit the Open Museum today to see their loan boxes in the hope that I can create some of my own at AVHC which can be used to aid the teaching during a visit to the museum.

Fibromyalgia and Me

Not many people know, but in the past few months, I was diagnosed with a condition called “Fibromyalgia”. The NHS describes fibromyalgia as “a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body”. Although this is the basis of the condition, it does not quite capture all that I need to live with. I thought I would write this post to promote an understanding of a fairly unknown condition, even though everyone with fibromyalgia suffers differently.

I think the most important thing to understand about fibromyalgia is that symptoms vary from day-to-day, sometimes even hourly. There are some things I may be able to do one day that just aren’t physically possible the next.

The worst symptom of the condition certainly is the pain. Fibromyalgia pain is musculoskeletal. This is pain which affects muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones. This basically means everything can hurt! Some mornings it only feels like a stiff pain, like I’ve slept in a funny position, yet other mornings it can feel like I was lifting hundreds of weights the day before. Yes, I have been prescribed medicines to control the pain, but it never goes away, it just eases ever so slightly.

Pain often feels worse after over-doing myself the day before. This can be especially difficult as a student teacher, I noticed this most whilst I was on placement. Over-doing myself can be as simple as not giving myself a chance to breathe, working myself to the ground without thinking about a proper sleeping pattern and the inability to take even half an hour to myself to relax.

I read a post online about exercise easing fibromyalgia pain. This sounds really silly, most people think exercise causes more pain, but I thought I would try this. I got my gym membership sorted and started going, I managed to fit a minimum of 4 days a week in just going to a class or two. Since starting, I have felt a real difference in the pain I feel and also my energy levels throughout the day. I do still have days where I really am too tired to go and decide just to leave it… I think everyone has those feelings though.

That leads me on to the next symptom which really affects my life. Fatigue. Have you ever woken up in the morning and just thought “Nope, not today. I’m too tired to adult today”? That is me every morning. No matter how much or how little sleep I get, I will always be tired. This is probably one of the hardest symptoms to manage as I literally just want to nap all of the time. Unfortunately, in the teaching profession, napping isn’t an option, not even in the nursery. This means I often rely on caffeine and sugar to get me through the day, even though these aren’t recommended by doctors at all. Doctors recommend a superb sleeping pattern as if getting to sleep at night is easy. It is quite often forgotten that one of the other symptoms is the inability to get to sleep at night. To work with fatigue, I just have to push through, encourage myself throughout the day, avoid caffeine and sugar before bed and consider what I eat during the day. As I previously mentioned, exercise often helps to energise as well.

There are times where fatigue can flare up massively. Others around me often notice when this happens because I can’t even pretend to be wide awake. I get very dizzy when I walk, I start talking really slowly and I find it extremely difficult to keep my eyes open. If you are talking to me and I look as though I am falling asleep or I’m in a world of my own, I promise you, I am not being rude and I am listening (if I’m not I will say after, apologise and ask you to repeat.) I do find this has a massive impact on me socially as I struggle to keep up with others, I just need to sit down.

Fatigue flare-ups come from a condition called “alpha wave sleep disorder” which is basically where the brain decides to send bursts of these alpha waves throughout the night even though they are only supposed to be released during the day. These waves take you out of the deep sleep cycle and can even wake you up fully. This becomes a massive issue because the human body needs deep sleep in order to repair itself for the next day. This will happen on a nightly basis however it is far more noticeable during a fatigue flare up.

Although it is not strong evidence, here is my Fitbit data showing an average week of sleep where the dark blue is restful sleep, light blue is when my sleep is restless and red is when I have woken. I like to use this as an example as I think it shows nicely how awake I really am when I’m asleep.

What was I talking about again? Oh yes, symptoms, like memory.

Research at the University of Michigan found that patients with fibromyalgia have cognitive performance which is the equivalent to that of adults 20 years older than them (Bradley & Matallana, 2009).

This has been found not to affect the speed of cognition, which means that fibromyalgia does not affect the memory in the same way age does. Those with the condition often use the term “fibro-fog”.

Fibro-fog is extremely frustrating. It’s like you’re fighting your way through heavy fog trying to grab a specific thought, you know exactly what you’re looking for but trying to find it is extremely difficult, and when you finally get to it, you put one hand on it, and it slips away from you once again.

As a teacher, this becomes really challenging as I can forget where my sentences are going or I will ask a question but forget the question by the time I get an answer. Sometimes I can be reading or listening, but the words are just words. They go into my head but don’t make any sense, it’s almost as if they don’t connect and they don’t make sense. Sometimes I just can’t sentence. I will be speaking and complete jibberish will come out of my mouth, sentences will be jumbled, somehow creating new portmanteau that no one has ever heard of before. It becomes very frustrating.

So, I guess at this point, you can see this condition is very frustrating. This is only the beginning, I am still in my first 6 months after diagnosis. I know that it is going to take discipline, patience and determination to get through and I have already started my lifestyle change. I can already see such an improvement in myself and I am much happier now than when I didn’t know what was wrong. I have had to learn my physical limitations and I have had to work with a number of specialists to get myself back on track, but I know now that I am definitely on the road to “recovery” in the best way we can put it.

I may not have chosen to have fibromyalgia, but I am grateful for the life changes I have made due to it. I know that with the right combination of medication and lifestyle I will be able to adapt to living with fibromyalgia, I will be at peace with my health and it will not affect my life or my future career. This is only the start of my journey but I am excited to carry on.

I hope this post has given you a deeper understanding of fibromyalgia and its effects…

Image result for fibromyalgia

Bradley, L. and Matallana, L. (2009) The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fibromyalgia, 2nd Edition. New York: Alpha, p.170.




The University of Dundee have been promoting the awareness of Fibromyalgia with the Dundee Comic Space at DJCAD. They have created this fantastic comic to raise awareness and to share the stories of those with Fibromyalgia to help others to understand they are not alone.

Please take a look, it is useful for everyone to see!


Fibromyalgia and Us  comic

Chinese Schools, How Different Can They Really Be?


In sixth year, I was lucky enough to go on an exchange trip to China… Okay yes, we did all the touristy things first, visiting The Great Wall and the Olympic Stadium, but my favourite bit was going to visit the schools. We got to experience classes, morning routines and the lengthy hours of education.

In the UK we often start school around 8.30am and finish around 3.30pm, gatherinI’m sure we all complained at some point about how long some of these days felt. Well, when you visit China you soon learn not to complain. Students in China often start school at 7am where they need to attend the morning assembly. There is an assembly every morning where the students sing their school song and do morning exercises; kind of like some of the primary schools in Scotland doing their Daily Mile. This is also where any announcements are made and where we were welcomed to the school.

Chinese Morning Exercises in UK School

Lessons would commence at 8am and finish at 4pm; still just a little bit longer than ours, however the students had to stay in school until 6-11pm every day in order to do homework, see tutors and take part in their school’s different sports clubs.

One of my favourite things about the Chinese schools were the fact that they got to wear wall
tracksuits every day; this allowed the students to be comfortable throughout the day as well as avoiding having to get changed for P.E. There were some days during which the students had to wear a proper shirt and trousers with their tie, but this was more for when they were representing the school or when pictures were being taken. The school we visited kindly gifted each one of us with one of their tracksuit tops.

All exercise took place outdoors, this allowed the students to get enough fresh air throughout the day to ensure their brain was ready for their next lesson. Chinese schools ensure that everyone gets at least 1 hour of P.E a day, excluding their compulsory exercises throughout the day. In Scotland, we only look to provide 2 hours of compulsory P.E per week, is this because we have so much to teach in so little time?

science-wallsPrimary schools in China also allow for learning in the corridors.  With full length murals filled with facts and interactive questions where you can open the flap to find out the answer. These change regularly to keep up to date with the topics within the school. Each display also had the writing in both Mandarin and English allowing the pupils to see the translation, but also allowing us to understand what had been written on these walls, I wish my future classroom could look like that.


In China, education isn’t compulsory until the age of 6, whereas in Scotland you start age 5. They also only do 6 years of primary education, similar to schools in England.  There are different types of secondary schools in China, this means they can choose the career they wish to pursue and go to the school that is best for them, however they do need to get specific grades to get into specific schools.

colligraphyThe curriculum is also very different to ours. When we do handwriting, they do calligraphy. Their English lessons would be where we would do the likes of French or any other modern language, however rather than just learning the language, they will read novels and analyse them the same way we do in our own English lessons. The school I visited also have a special bell which rings telling the teachers that it is time to do eye exercises. The eye exercises are used in order to prevent too much of a strain on the eyes and to prevent students from getting sore heads. It also allows for a short interval where the students can take a breather.

student-artThe student’s work is also taken very seriously in China. Where we would put our students work on a wall display or find a shelf to display  creations, the Chinese school I visited had a room filled with school awards and pupils art work. Their work was fascinating and so creative, we all believed a teacher had created them.

Documentaries have been created on whether the Chinese Education System would work in the UK, these are extremely insightful, however they all start at an older age, so whether they would work or not may eventually depend on the age at which we start the new system.  One head teacher used it in his school as a social experiment to see which group of children would get better results in a test. This was a BBC documentary called “Are Our Kids Tough Enough”.

I definitely recommend watching the documentary to really see how vast the comparison is.



Starting My Own Learner’s Journey

Teaching? If you had asked me about becoming a teacher 5 years ago, I would have laughed. I had my heart set on becoming a lawyer, but then I realised…

I started helping out at my local Rainbow Guiding unit, where I would be around 5 year olds for an hour every week. I would spend my time outwith school scouring through Pinterest for new ideas meeting the themes the rainbows were learning about that week. Whilst in Rainbows I would be helping these children to read and write. I would also inspire them to draw and crete. This inspired me, it made me realise that I wanted to encourage, I wanted to inspire and most of all, I wanted to teach.

After I left school, I decided to go to college to ensure this career choice was the one for me. I knew it would be hard work, but taking that year out gave me an insight into the course, the career and how to work with children of all different ages.

I was unsure to begin with, when I was put into a private nursery setting. The first day I left with sick and pee on me, and I did not think it was right, but then I realised it was only two year olds and I wasn’t looking to work with two year olds.

After the private nursery, I went into a local authority nursery. This was fantastic.caterpillars I adored the children, I didn’t feel like going in was a task or a chore, I knew I would enjoy every day I was there, and I did. I also got to do a lot more,  I got to do more complex crafts and activities which was great fun. We made little caterpillars as one of the crafts which linked in with the theme the nursery had at the time, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”.  This was then followed with a tasting session of all the different fruit mentioned in the story. It was fascinating to see the types fruit a lot of the children hadn’t tried before, and the fruit that loads of the children later asked their parents to buy for them after nursery. I found both these ideas again on Pinterest, which has been my key tool throughout childcare.

My favourite placement had to be my primary school one. I got to go to a Primary 1 class, Primary 3 and Primary 6, and I must say, Primary 6 was my favourite. I loved the cheek and the jokes, but also how the children could read more complex novels and do more complex subjects. Nothing had to be simplified but things did have to be taught well. I got to take groups to teach politics and to do reading and maths. It was fantastic.

At the end of the day, I know I want to teach, I have had experiences which have reminded me how much I want to teach, but I also want to learn. The teaching profession allows me to learn something new everyday, big or small. I want to be able to learn and teach what I have just learned in order to shape our future graduates. Image from Denise Krebs Flickr