Category Archives: edushare

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

First Ever Lesson

So, today I taught my first ever lesson in a school. Although only a group lesson, it was just as nerve wracking.  We were learning about maths, in particular calculations using money.

Now, when students hear “get out your maths jotters”, the majority never seem to excited by it. Obviously this is then our job as the teacher to make their maths as exciting as possible.

I didn’t overly enjoy maths at school. At primary school, I wasn’t keen but somehow I was good at it. I took the approach of “the quicker I do it, the sooner I can stop doing it, however this is not often the approach taken by children.

I found that many of the pupils in my group were disengaged before they even sat down. This was very daunting for me, as a brand new student teacher, how on earth was I going to engage these children with this activity.

I managed to catch their interest by using every day objects and pricing them to allow me to encourage each pupil to work out how much my shopping list would total. This went further in depth when I would say “oh actually I’ve changed my mind, I don’t want the soup anymore, I have plenty at home” which encourage the children to then subtract the value and so on.

This all worked very well, but then we had to go on to the textbook exercise. This is where I got to see every single thing that went through each child’s mind as they were working through their equations. I found it very interesting to see some of the mistakes made, and how understandable the mistake were. It allowed me to understand any gaps in their knowledge and showed me where each child needed to improve.

At the end, I had a fair idea of where each child struggled, however I wanted to ensure that they could self-assess their strengths and weaknessed. To do this, I simply asked what they found “easy-peasy” and what they struggled with. This confirmed that they felt the same way.

My teacher has given me the follow-up lesson to do tomorrow where I will be revising multiplying decimals. I feel more comfortable now in taking the lesson, however I am anxious about the fact that this lesson will be assessed.

Active Learning & Cooperative Working

“[Curriculum for Excellence] is designed to provide the breadth and depth of education to develop flexible and adaptable young people with the knowledge and skills they will need to thrive now and in the future. It aims to support young people in achieving and attaining the best they possibly can.” (Education Scotland, No Date)

The new curriculum in Scotland is based entirely around active learning, focusing on how children learn, not just what they learn. This is key to get the best from every child, and the definition of active learning. The question is, how do we go about this?

Well, to begin with, you can’t just shower someone with information. Imagine sitting in your lecture and just having to listen for 2 hours, no discussions, no take a moment to think, not even a chance to reflect. You just have to sit, listen and somehow retain…  

What you teach should be relevant and meaningful. I know for myself, when I understand why I need to know something, it is easier for me to understand what I have to do. I also find it easier to learn in a hands on way, where I can actually learn how to do something whilst doing it. This allows me to see the benefits of what I am doing and also get to put two steps together rather than just learning and remembering then later on doing.

Maria Montessori (1870-1952) believed the same in many ways. She believed in an education which can emphasise individuality and independence in learning.  Children are known to be curious creatures, ready to explore and learn from what they find. This is why active learning is so important, as it works coherently with each child’s own development in a holistic way.

Active learning is not only about the content that each child is learning, but also about the process. It teaches children to become lifelong learners as they have control over their own learning. This gives everyone a better chance after school as they go through life, learning on their own.

Most importantly of all, active learning is fun. It draws each child’s attention to their learning rather than their phones. There isn’t room for boredom when you’re making a bottle greenhouse or a model volcano.

With active learning, another thing to look into is cooperative working. This is something everyone needs to know, whether you be a child or adult. As a teacher it is about how you work with your class, however as a student it is how they work and learn together. Cooperative learning aids class discussions, benefits the class to come together and share ideas and helps to develop original thoughts allowing the class to have a stronger knowledge of a subject.

If a class can work together effectively, it means they can work as a team, this can become useful in building the relationships of the students in the classroom. Teamwork also has  individual benefits, not only helping for their future but also developing their communication skills, collective effort and even the difficult skill of compromising.


Looking through all of this, we can now go on and hopefully have a full class excited and ready to learn in the classroom!





My First OLA and NOMA

I completed my first NOMA back in October, but my first OLA today (due to some technical errors with the sound not working). I originally wasn’t too fussed with the idea of a literacy assessment as I’ve always seemed to be rather good with my grammar and punctuation, I wasn’t too keen on the idea of a maths assessment though.

In the end, I got 66% on my first OLA and 85% on my NOMA. This was the complete opposite of what I expected.

The NOMA was quite tricky, even though it’s only primary school level maths. I think I made it more difficult for myself as throughout secondary school, you get a more in depth understanding of maths, you learn how to work out angles and lengths and areas in all new ways. So when you go back to the basics, you try to apply your most recent knowledge to solve the simple task in front of you.

In my OLA, I did well with the spelling, but I realised that I overuse commas and get a bit confused as to which word is a verb or adverb in the sentence. Unfortunately, the answers at the end don’t let you see your performance throughout the Queen’s speech as I would have liked to see my errors there. Maybe this is something that can be introduced in the future.


After seeing my performance on both tests, I will continue to improve my performance and see my improvement through the use of these tests. I will also keep a note of each score as I hope to see a great difference. Maybe one day I’ll even get 100%.


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