Reflection on Semester 1

 

Semester 1 was new and exciting for us all as a cohort, and many of us were surprised when we had a significantly smaller number of timetabled classes than other courses. Although sometimes I got bored, looking back I think this was really beneficial for me as it allowed me to get involved with co-curricular activities such as hockey and allowed me to settle in and socialize with this brand-new group of people I was surrounded by.

However, I would say the most challenging part of semester 1 was the essays and assignments which were due towards the end of the year.

I took sustainable development and the environment as my elective and I enjoyed it, however the report deadline was very close to the Values module essay. This forced me to be organised and start my report in plenty of time. My sustainable development report was my first piece of university writing I had ever done; which I found challenging as I had never tackled referencing before, which I was slightly concerned about. I was also concerned about this with my values essay which came shortly after my report, in which I struggled with the referencing. However, the most challenging part of the values essay for myself, was just navigating my way through my first Education essay and combining the right amount of reading and creativeness (and keeping it within the word count!), to create a coherent essay which answered the question being asked. I actually really enjoyed the process of writing my values essay and I am proud of the grade I received in the end.

Overall, the aspect which I struggled with the most in semester 1 would have to be working through December. This is because, I’m from Glasgow and moved to Dundee to come to University, which I have absolutely loved, however, Christmas is my favorite time of year which I usually spend with my family. I found not being home and partaking in the usual festivities really difficult and found myself quite homesick especially whilst completing the working together module assessments as all of my flat mates were back at home and the university became very quiet. However, it made the reward of seeing my family at Christmas even greater and the fact I very happy with my overall grade.

Upon reflection, I am very happy and proud of how I tackled my first few pieces of university work as it is so different to school; where you are spoon-fed and given an abundance of information. This shows me I am capable of handling the workload, and the key to being able to do this is time management and organization. I will take this learning experience forward with me into semester 2 when these two aspects will become even more apparent with essays to be completed on top of placement and the professional practice file.

For me I am beginning to see the importance of reflection particularly from the start of semester two as I have been posting reflections of my learning experiences on my blog and it is making me more aware of where I am as a learner, and where I am in terms of becoming a teacher and what areas I might need to put a bit more work and focus into; such as mathematics. I am going to continue with my blog posts to continue my ongoing reflection and to better my learning and practice.

Tackling Mathematics

 

What is the definition of maths? It could be the literal definition which is , ” The study of numbers, shapes and space ” (Cambridge dictionaries, 2019). However, every person will have a different definition and experience of maths, for myself, words that I associate with maths would be; anxiety, inadequate, slow and scary. It might be obvious, but i have not had an easy experience when it comes to maths.

Language and art based subjects have always come more naturally to me and I always gravitated towards them more.  My favourite part of topics was the creative side of making posters about the sun and an Anderson shelter model; as for me it brought the learning to life and really helped me as I am a visual learner. This also ran into reading which i enjoyed anyway but  the visual aids in books such as Bif and Chip really helped me stay focused.

On the other hand, ever since primary 2 my teachers and parents has noticed  took a slow approach to maths, and I struggled to keep up with my classmates. I was isolated into a support group with 4 others from primary 3 onwards, I found myself overcome with relief; as I was finally in an ability group that went at my pace and I was not stressing about my peers thinking I was incapable or stupid. In particular, I remember the support for learning teacher, Mrs Trainer,  created this supportive and safe environment where mistakes could be made without judgement, and this was the first time I truly saw the impact of a teacher who cares and who is passionate, as towards the end of primary school, dare I say it, I enjoyed maths; even if only a little bit.

Transitioning from Primary to Secondary is never easy for any child, as there was an aspect for every pupil which they had not experienced before. This could be from new subjects that had not been explored in primary school, or being surrounded by new people and a new environment. The transition from primary school maths to secondary was a big jump for me, with the content, but also with the lack of support my school provided for people like me who struggled with maths. The more assessment and attainment tests were introduced; the more pressure and anxiety from when I was younger was introduced back. However,  I was lucky enough to be able to get the support that helped me so much through primary school back. This helped me so much and I created a lasting bond with my maths tutor and we still keep in touch to this day. She created a safe environment for mistakes and learning , much like Mrs Trainer, Yet, without the collaboration of my school I still really struggled.

A huge part of my negative view on maths derives from my teachers in secondary school.  I strongly believe that a teacher, and the relationship you have with them has a direct impact on whether you enjoy that said subject, which was the case for me with my maths teachers. The mathematics department was a place of discomfort for myself and every year, I found myself dreading to see whatever teacher I had for parents evening.  Especially, during my National 5 qualification from S3-S4, my teacher had a nature of not explaining/ helping any further after the topic had been introduced and he also did not believe in me or many others in my class and repeatedly belittle us by making our questions and queries seem stupid. A real turning point for me was when my dad had arranged a meeting with my maths teacher, and came away with the advise that my teacher strongly advises I do not sit the exam. This made me feel like a complete lost cause; as the department did not want a fail reflecting badly on them and it was evident they did not believe in or truly care about me. At first, I was discouraged, however as I reflected on the advise, all it made me want to do was pass my National 5 maths exam, which I knew was not going to be easy. I was lucky enough to have my dad and my tutor who worked so hard with me, doing mocks and going through the content over and over and in the end, I was one of the only people in my teachers class to pass.  For me this is one of my greatest achievements still to this date, and it also showed me a valuable lesson which I know will have shaped not only the way I will teach maths, but my approach to teaching overall; it showed me to never give up on a child no matter how long it takes for them to understand a concept, as they might not have the same support out-with school as I luckily did. I even re-sat National 5 maths; so I could attend the University of Dundee which I am currently enrolled at, by bumping up my grade from a C to an A, which reinforces that by going over topics and content until they are understood is so important, as that is how I got an A at the end of it all.

 

Although, at the time I thought my journey with maths was over; I realise now it will never be over as it is in everyday life but also, now I will be faced with the challenge teaching mathematics to children in Scotland. However, as I have struggled so much first hand, I feel I will be equipt with not only the knowledge, but the empathy and understanding to teach maths and support the children, no matter their ability. To overcome my anxieties about teaching maths I will resort back to the strategies used during my National 5 maths journey, but also combine this with help from my lecturers and further reading and materials to best deliver the level of maths education children deserve.

Why I want to be a teacher

Like many other teachers to be, i was inspired by my own experiences in school with my teachers. After struggling with mathematics for years and having teachers who just did not support me, it made me appreciate when i finally was taught by a teacher who took many different approaches and put in the time to make things click in my head. My maths teacher and a few other educators helped me see the impact a good teacher can have on an individuals life, as i got into university from my maths grade. However, i also learned from the bad experiences and how not to be and approach things in the classroom; such as not putting in the extra time with pupils and just doing the extra leg work to really bring out the best in their work.

Above was my personal experience with teachers and the education system, but I have also seen the impact on others. I particularly saw the significance of extra help when volunteering at a homework club in Springburn, Glasgow. Many of the children that came went to multiple homework clubs each week which helped them complete the task of doing work, which proved difficult for them, but also it allowed them to see that it was ‘cool’ to do work and these older teenagers were people to look up to. The little girl I was helping had positive comments in her jotter from her teacher each week and these would equip her with confidence and that she could do the work. Doing this homework club and other work experience reassured me that I wanted to be a teacher and make that difference for younger people, as our future is most indefinetley in their hands.