Author Archives: John Muir

Week 1 at Somerset

What a quick first week complete! Early reflection has already distinguished the differences in the classroom environment, schedules and overall ethos for the schools I have been to in Scotland prior to this placement. Australia’s IB perspective on schooling has showed me that one thing which is vital to the success in the classroom is through trusting the children. The relaxing atmosphere in the classroom is completely opposite to the stresses which I have witnessed back in Scotland. Anyway, week 1 in a nutshell…

             

Somerset has just completed its yearly ‘Celebration of Literature’, a 3 day event which celebrates the reading and writing which surrounds us by involving all of the community, and inviting over 30 authors to come and hold interactive workshops for the children and adults. This festival is giving the children opportunities to meet the authors of some of their favourite books, discover new books and also gain an insight into the imaginative ways in which the authors plan their books. The children loved the excitement of meeting these authors, getting the opportunity to get their books signed and also enjoy the experience with their peers. Overall, the event was important for my class in particular as they are currently required to create different creations in class for the unit of inquiries – the structure of imagination from literature can be used here, and the enthusiasm which the event gives the children to then circulate back into the class is invaluable.

     

Friday was a different day for both Lauren and myself – we were asked to come along and supervise on the Year 5 trip to Saint Helena’s Island – an island off the coast of Brisbane, which was home to a high maximum security for Aboriginal and English prisoners during the 19th century. This was a fascinating opportunity to learn about the Australian history, but also to meet other staff and children who were on the trip from Somerset. It was certainly a different school trip in which I have been used to, and we learned all about the difficulties which prisoners faced whilst on the island – the duties which they were assigned, the struggles of having to work through the Australian heat and also the heartbreak that wardens had to face when their child died and was buried on the island.

Going down under!

For the past few years, the idea of going off to Australia has been one which seemed highly desirable, yet extremely unlikely. It was only when given the opportunity of choosing the International Baccalaureate module at University that it appeared this could my opportunity – study abroad, gain experience in an international school and receive an insight into the different culture in which so many people love!

Since arriving on Friday 10th March, the experience has already been incredible. The first trip prior to starting placement of course had to involve being a complete tourist: a visit to see the awesome Australian animals – and of course getting photographs and selfies with them too!

Monday 13th March brought about my first day of my 2nd year placement at Somerset College in Mudgereeba, a private college located in Queensland, Australia for both myself and my fellow student, Lauren. This college caters for over 1500 students, all the way from pre-prep up to senior school. The college has a huge emphasis on students actively participating in extra-curricular activities such as sports, music, technology and art.

One day has been enough to show the visible differences in the school environment, from which I have been used to in Scotland. From the readily available classroom teaching assistants to the variety of specialist teachers, it is a completely different environment in which to be working in – it’s almost a dream place, with plenty of time for personal planning!

As the end of our first day approached, the Junior School congregated together in the Great Hall to have an assembly – this was chaired by the Head of Junior School (HoJS), the school Headmaster and also the school captains, who had a extremely active role in the assembly and were constantly given the opportunity to lead the assembly, and give the HoJS a back seat to enjoy the assembly being student led. Lauren and I were both welcomed to the students and staff by being introduced, and it has given a great first impression for the next 8 weeks which we will be lucky enough to complete our placement (or ‘prac’ as it is known here!) and hopefully bring over a huge new approach to our teaching styles back in Scotland.

 

Banana’s in pyjamas? No – PARENTS in pyjamas!

A recent headline to hit the news was “Parents asked to stop wearing pyjamas on the school run” – of course, due to its unusualness, the story was circulated a lot around social media sites and it received both support and backlash from parents, pupils and staff.

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The story focused around a primary school in England which had sent out letters to parents and carers, asking them to stop doing the school drop off in their pyjamas and slippers – the school felt that this was not appropriate, and they wanted to help “raise standards” for the children, and to not lead them into the idea that it was acceptable to go out without having gotten changed from bed.

The letter argued that it was vital to ensure that children, from a young age, are made aware of what clothes to wear to suit the day e.g. a waterproof jacket if it’s raining, shorts/skirt for sunshine etc. It was feared that by ignoring the parents dress code, they may grow up believing that this is normal to wear pyjamas out in public. It was also noted about the personal hygiene behind this – many children have grown up in a routine where they wake up, have a shower in the morning and then put fresh clothes on. This encourages good habits for future. If a parent cannot be bothered to get changed properly, then how can the children be expected to?

On the other hand, it was noted by others about the personal choice regarding the clothing. If a parent wants to come and drop their children off in pyjamas, what exactly is the problem? Are they having an effect on others? Does it jeopardise the children education? Parents who had commented on Facebook posts had noted that surely “children getting into school safely was more a priority, not what the parents are wearing” and also that there was the possibility of underlying issues linking to the parents, in situations where they might not be coping/have mental health issues.

stream_img-3While turning up in pyjamas is not something which should be encouraged, it’s important to focus on the main aspect here – the child is at school; they are receiving an education, regardless of whether their parent is wearing a onesie or a pair of jeans.

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(Source: ITV News, 2016)

What is Science Literacy?

As Science is a major part of the curriculum, the tutor directed task we were set was to find out what exactly science literacy is, within approximately 600 words. Many people, if asked, would be able to tell you exactly what is meant by being ‘literate’, so it was interesting to know what the difference would be in being ‘science literate’?

To find out, the class was split into small groups of 4 to be able to do collaborative working. There were 3 sections within the criteria, which were:

  1. What is the concept of science literacy?
  2. What examples are there of a lack of understanding about scientific literacy has meant inaccurate media reporting?
  3. How does teaching fair testing in school science lessons links to scientific literacy?

The following paper was composed by Danielle Mackay, Rachel Billes, Shaun Finnigan and myself.

16720760-Abstract-word-cloud-for-Scientific-literacy-with-related-tags-and-terms-Stock-PhotoWhat is Scientific Literacy?

The term ‘Scientific Literacy’ is one that can often be heard in academic conversation but what does it actually mean? To be literate is having the “ability to read and write” (Oxford Dictionary, no date), therefore it would be assumed that being ‘scientifically literate’ is about having the knowledge to be able to understand different scientific concepts. However, scientific literacy is not just about knowing how to carry out a range of different experiments. It refers to having a knowledge of scientific concepts and being able to apply what we know to decisions that we make throughout our daily lives, regarding “personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs and economic productivity” (Literacy.net, no date). This entails that being scientifically literate gives you the proficiency to be able to “ask (about), find and determine” (NSES, no date) scientific experiments, and establish whether information that has been shared is of a reliable background. From this we can use individual methods to judge and evaluate the experiments, resulting in conclusions which have come from personal knowledge and research.

The best and most well-known example of scientific literacy, or a lack of scientific literacy- leading to inaccurate reporting- is the MMR vaccine scare. This started when a paper was published in 1998 and reported that twelve children had been found to have bowel syndrome and signs of autism after receiving the vaccine. However, the report provided no hard evidence to support the argument that there was any link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The main author of the report, Dr Andrew Wakefield, initially stated at a press conference that parents should avoid the MMR vaccine. It was later found that the author of the report did not have the medical qualifications to assess the risk of the MMR vaccine, and he was found guilty of four counts of dishonesty. These events had a major effect on public confidence in the MMR vaccine. Vaccination rates continued to fall, even after there were many reports showing that there was no link between the vaccine and autism. When it was found that Wakefield had actually been funded by a lawyer firm that wanted litigation against MMR, confidence eventually returned but a combination of poor scientific practice and lack of scientific literacy led to inaccurate reporting in the media for several years.

In terms of scientific literacy in the classroom, the process of fair testing is an important part to any science-based activity that you may be conducting with your pupils. Therefore, it is vital that you teach them just how important this element is. Fair testing means that only one factor is changed at any one time ensuring that all the other conditions are left the same throughout. In scientific terms, changing a factor is known as changing a variable. It is essential that children understand the effects that changing one or more variables has in order to fully understand the experiments you teach them. But how does teaching fair testing link to scientific literacy? By making your children aware of fair testing, you are stating that an experiment will have no deliberate advantages or disadvantages as they follow a procedure that will provide a legitimate outcome. Through this, students will then be able to “identify questions and draw evidence-based conclusions”. Fair testing ensures that there is less of a bias within the experiment. Scientific literacy is linked to fair testing through the fact that it is “evidence-based” and not simply an answer that people are to believe. Fair testing helps to reduce this idea of “bad science” in schools. It will help your pupils to progress within their scientific literacy and encourage them to become more questioning, providing results that have evidence to back up the findings.

 

Professionalism

The video clips used for discussion gave feedback and comments from different people, who gave their opinion on what it takes to be a professional. The clips focused on the views of how many professional occupations can have similar outlooks and characteristics, as that of a teacher. On a whole, the issues that were raised throughout the clips did pinpoint what was needed to be a professional, but they did not fully delve into all the negative viewpoints of being referred to as a professional.

Within the video, there were several comments made which reinforced that teaching requires you to be constantly trying to update your professional skills, and develop these. Teaching was referred to as a “calling” and a “caring profession”. Both the medics and teachers questioned believed that if you did not keep up with the new advances in the profession, then you would not be providing an adequate service to your patient/pupil. If someone within your community of professions was not doing the same amount of work, then the system would break down as there could be a lack of understanding between each professional.

One comment made suggested that in order to be a successful professional teacher, then you must ensure that you are becoming integrated into society. This means that believing that just because you have a diploma, that this is all the work needed to be done. The teachers believed that you must be reachable to the parents, pupils, community and the police, and that you must be prepared to go the extra mile. This could be done by discussing issues with other teachers or subject support groups, which was created to emphasise the huge benefits that came from discussing with others, in turn allowing you to develop other people’s skills and educate the communities.

Another comment that was made was very direct in stating that teachers need to be held accountable for their actions. It was clear they thought that teachers must be positive role models, and this was done by the way we speak and act, as our behaviours can be rubbed off on to others. The comment made also described that teachers must be held accountable for their own actions and they should be  benchmarking grades, in order to see how well their students are progressing.

Professionalism in regards to social media

Social media and the hype around it have been a major topic of conversation within the backdrop of professionals lives. Will this comment I post be frowned upon? Is it okay to add this picture to Facebook? Would my manager be alright with the content of this tweet?

As professionals we are constantly having to double check on what impact our online actions could have on our own personal and professional lives. There is a constant reminder to consider the following:
• Will it reflect poorly on you, the school, employer or teaching profession?
• Is the intention to post this comment driven by professional or personal reasons?
• Are you confident that the comment, if accessed by others, would be considered reasonable and appropriate?

With a growing number of children being on social media websites, and parents being keen to have a snoop at the person who is educating their child each day, there is a higher demand for privacy settings online. Public trust in a teacher is key for a good, working relationship with others and with different upbringings for people, there can be significant differences in what is deemed acceptable or not.

As technology is becoming more and more present within school settings, it is vital that boundaries are set in regards to what is acceptable for a pupil/staff online relationship. This is why a safety barrier can be to only communicate through websites such as GLOW, or official email addresses for the school. Communicating through these tools allows for clear boundaries, and can mean that there is less risk of people forgetting the boundaries of pupil/staff.

Whilst social media and the use of the internet can help children’s education thrive, there are also barriers which come from the use of it. Many people will post comments, tweets, pictures etc. without realising the full implications of what they have done. It can often be forgotten that even once a post or picture has been deleted, the file information is archived on to the website and is never fully gone. This is why there should never be any derogatory comments made in regards to pupils, parents or colleagues, which can easily be done whilst venting comments on sites such as Twitter or Facebook, and may lead to a concern over the teacher’s fitness to teach.

On the other hand, social media and the internet also benefits staff, parents and children. It allows for access to new teaching materials and assignments, whilst also being able to communicate with a huge host of other professionals in a real-time manner and discuss subjects.

5 Values for a Professional

As a professional, we are constantly questioning the skills and traits that we possess in order to aim to be the best possible teacher. Our values are key in the way that we deal with our emotions and also how we deal with those around us. From the list provided, 5 values have been chosen and a description of how they relate to the role of a teacher has been given:

1. Patience – As a teacher, this is a vital skill to have. With the needs of children constantly changing, and additional support needs being given a higher recognition within the class, patience can be a key factor in supporting development. It allows for there to be time to educate to a quality standard, whilst understanding that learning styles/rates will mean that each child will learn at a different pace – the end result of a child being able to understand is key though, regardless of the time.

2. Respect – Teachers are meant to be respected. They are after all educating the future generation? Correct? Wrong. Respect is something which must be earned, and is in a two way street – the child must learn to respect the teacher, and the teacher must learn to respect the child. Respect is an attitude of admiration for someone, which shows that you regard them in a high manner. As a teacher, we are able to show respect to the children in the classroom to the children, but also to other members of staff, parents and professionals. This can be key for providing the best possible care for children, as many schools host weekly meetings with other organisations such as Social Work, police and NHS professionals should there be any kind of concern for a child’s welfare.

3. Fairness – This is the personal quality of making judgements about situations without being purposefully discriminatory towards someone. Within a school setting, it is extremely important to be fair towards the children so that they do not feel as though they have been individually picked on. Whilst it is easy to have a favourite and least favourite child, for whatever reason, this should be discouraged to ensure each child is treated the same.

4. Empathy – This is when you are able to enter and relate into a mutual understanding of another person’s feelings. Whilst acting as a professional, the role of a teacher would effect this as we must consider a range of people such as the parents, children and staff’s feelings when in discussion about different matters. This is because we must consider how we would feel if we were in that particular situation, so that we can be approachable for anyone to come and speak to us.

5. Integrity – This relates to our own moral soundness as a professional. To work within schools, we are constantly reminded and encouraged to be having independent professional development. If we are aware of what our own aims are, and what we expect, then we are then able to conform our educating around this to be able to allow the children to see our expectations. By knowing what we would like to achieve, we can then set goals and hope to achieve this.