Reflection on Semester 1

I have started to write this blog for Derek’s TDT several times, but have found it harder to reflect on my progress each time. But this was until my pre-visit day put everything into perspective.

I have found it easy over the duration of the first semester to reflect on my Working Together team’s progress, the impact of the suffragettes on woman’s rights and the effects of discrimination to this day- yet, commenting on my strengths and weaknesses as a trainee teacher, seemed much too difficult. However, when I visited school and began to put everything into practise that we have learned– the reflection came easy then; it was a constant thought from when I left the school, until my eyes burned from being on computer too long, completing my pre-visit tasks.

Therefore, one difficulty of semester one that I am to overcome is self-reflection, itself.

Trying to identify your strengths and weaknesses is something that a lot of people struggle with but I thought at university it would come effortlessly. But for me, admitting I wasn’t great at something or acknowledging that I didn’t understand a concept, it’s very difficult.

Perfectionist 101.

Throughout the first semester I was very much focused on doing all the reading that I could, perfecting my referencing and making connections with my peers and tutors. The thing that I clearly avoided was thinking about  the progress I’ve made- the growth. Just like we have been taught recently in regards to ensuring the children’s understanding, I have been so focused on the product at the end of the learning (results), I have not really focused on the process of achieving that goal.  It wasn’t until I was standing in my primary 7 classroom, discussing Maths with a pupil, seeing everything in action, that I realised how much I had learned over these past few months and it was evident of what I had done well and not so well.

It is now that I can appreciate the relationships I’ve made, the knowledge I’ve obtained- but most importantly- I acknowledge the experience.

Lesson Planning- A Work in Progress

For our health and well being workshops, we were instructed to create three lessons based on one of the Experiences and Outcome’s for that area of the curriculum. When I left that workshop I had already started to think of some activities that I could do– which I know now is the wrong way to start planning a lesson. This week, there has been great emphasises on the attention we need to put on the learning itself, rather than what makes a fun activity.

I decided to try and make a series of lessons that all build on from each other to start looking at the way lessons flow and all interlink in some way. I selected two of E and O’s as I thought they would work together well, they were:

  • I understand that people at different life stages have differing nutritional needs and that some people may eat or avoid certain foods.
  • By applying my knowledge and understanding of current healthy eating advice I can contribute to a healthy eating plan.

After I began to think about the outcomes, I started to have more ideas about what I wanted the lessons to entail and I decided to create my lesson plans for primary 6. I wanted to use a lot of resources, discussions and to include an art activity, to  make the lessons as engaging as possible. Moreover, it would allow me to incorporate other areas of the curriculum such as ICT and Literacy.

I have decided to attach my lessons plans to the blog, instead of just describing them in order to record my learning. I am not very confident in my ability to create a lesson plan to an appropriate level, but I think it will be a great resource to look back on after placement, to really see my progress.

SEE ATTACHMENTS 

Healthy Eating Starter Lesson Example (HWB)

Food Pyramids example (HWB)

Diabetes exaample (HWB)

On reflection, I have tried not to alter my lessons plans once I had initially uploaded them as I do want to consider the progression and the development of each of the three attempts, but also compared to the plans I will complete before, during and after my first placements. Already I can see key areas that I will start to build on through readings and practical;

  • I did not factor in transition times between activities and disruptions that may occur
  • Differentiation
  • Initially, I started off developing the activities and assessments before actually stating what the Success Criteria was going to be

These issues revealed that some sections of my lessons lacked relevance and it was not very adaptable to the constantly changing conditions of the classroom or to the pupils themselves. Despite these areas that are in need of much improvement, this activity has made me feel that itty bitty bit more prepared for my first placement and I know I still have a lot more to learn in the next few weeks, that will inevitably enhance my practice and build on my confidence with planning.

 

Out with the Myths and in with the Maths!

When I first got to our first Maths input, I was really looking forward to it as I haven’t attended a Maths class in four and a half years (AHHH). Tara started us off with drawing a scale and we had to mark the scale depending on how we felt about teaching Maths- 10 being extremely confident and 1 being far from it. I put myself into the middle of the scale; I liked Maths at school, but it definitely did not come naturally to me. I got a huge fright when I completed my NAT 5 prelim and I got a D. I was so disappointed! I kicked myself into gear, got a tutor and worked super hard, managing to bag myself a B.

The fear of failing deterred me from having a go at Higher Maths– which I completely regret now. The maths myths that we discussed really got me reflecting on my past experiences with Maths and I began to realise how much they had influenced me. I was someone who excelled at English and could imagine myself enforcing the “I’m an English person, not  a Maths person” myth. Although I don’t regret getting my tutor, I remember feeling that I had to get a tutor in order to pass.

Tara’s reassurance that you did not have to be utterly fantastic at Maths in order to teach it really assured me. After the first input, it is clear to me now that my enthusiasm to tackle Maths will actually be beneficial when I come to teach the subject on placement. I hope my eagerness to become confident in Maths, will be reflected in my teaching and will motivate the children  and impact their own learning and perspective on the subject.

This new perspective that I have now gained has me thinking about the relevance of maths while, simultaneously, combating the myth that Maths is not needed out with schools, other than just life-skills Maths. This is something I am considering to explore in my assignment, while  also looking at the interdisciplinary side of Maths that Tara has emphasised a lot to us.

Overall, I am grateful to have this new appreciation for Maths as it will certainly help my pre-placement jitters. I am excited about furthering my knowledge through the NOMA and other inputs, but also during the STEM module in second year; I think it is a great idea to reintroduce some of us to these subjects that we may have been closed-minded to due– again–  to the myths enforced on us.

The Brains of the Classroom

Dr. Suzanne Zeedyk’s and John Carnochan OBE’s videos by Education Scotland, empathise the need to create safe environments, to nurture and aid children to be able to deal with and contribute to society today.

Dr Zeedyk’s describes the neuroscience behind the brains development  and explains how easy it is for young people to cope with certain environments. Dr Zeedyk’s uses the example of domestic violence to illustrate how dangerous it can be for young people to adapt to these environments; if all a child sees, hears and experiences is violence, then it makes it appear normal which is a terrifying thought.

Carnochan also raises concern over the issue as he explains that young people who are in prison for domestic abuse are there because they are brought up in a “war zone”. If young people mimic what they experience during their childhood, it  will create a  continuous cycle of violence. This opens up the question: what can we do as professionals to disrupt and destroy this cycle?

My answer to the above, firstly, is for teachers to be up to date with how to identify and report safeguarding issues. Secondly, it is for teachers to create a safe environment that allows young people’s concerns to be raised. If babies’ brains are like blank slates, ready to be moulded and shaped to reflect their childhood, then teachers should be there to give them the tools to deal with all aspects of life. Providing a nurturing environment will not only earn respect and a close relationship between the teacher and pupil, but also with the rest of the class. In turn, this allows the children to learn about sharing, empathy, positive relationships and well-being.

Overall, I think it is important that practitioners educate and provide skills that enables children to recognise what is right or wrong- but more importantly- what they deserve. Although, aiding all these different brains can seem difficult as no one is the same, the varied backgrounds allow more experiences to be shared through the relationships formed in the caring environment supports this.

Intertwining learning with my not-so-favourite activity

The Teaching Across the Curriculum module has been the one I’ve been waiting for. A reason why becoming a primary school teacher was so intriguing to me in the beginning was due to the fact that they explore a wide range of subjects with their class. I have always wanted a job where I am always learning, too.

However, that was until I discovered the first subject area was dance– not my strong point.

On the dreaded day of the dance class, I walked timidly into the large, open space,  worrying my two left feet were going to cause a mass amount of embarrassment. But Eilidh’s bright and friendly greeting and a few friendly faces, began to chip away at the nervous feeling in my stomach. Firstly, Eilidh went over a powerpoint that had a lot of useful tools and ideas on how to use dance in a meaningful way, that intertwines other subjects but also used as a referencing point during other lessons to make learning easier. It was great to see how the sit-down-work lessons and the more active lessons can work together and positively impact a learners experience and their ability to understand.

The dancing part of the lesson was very simple, and even though a bit awkward at first, it was fun to imagine carrying out this sort of lesson with your own class. I’m glad to have taken part; my lack of rhythm had definitely resulted in a lack of real interest in what dance can do previously, so I excited to begin to think of more creative, engaging ways of delivering a lesson.

Throughout the lesson, I was constantly putting myself in the children’s shoes- the working together; the music; the space I deemed to be intimidating. What would they think ?  I believe the children would not share the same hesitation to dance, they would be itching to share their ideas with the freedom of imagination. Although I shied away from the more athletic aspects, I do believe in the arts. I want to incorporate this creativity as much as possible into my lessons, as the arts provide a different perspective on those generic sit-down lessons and allows children to begin to discover what sort of learners they are.

 

The ever-changing society who is incapable of change.

This week, our Value’s lecture really hit me hard. Not purely based on the content– the history of the Civil Right movement and that of feminism, is not new to me. Most of us would have heard the horrors through school and so forth, but it is scary how used to it I was hearing the stories. Which leads on to the main point of this blog: How many times do they have to be told before it makes a difference? 

In the lectures we were told of the great escapades of the Suffragettes and the Suffragists  but there was no mention of the men that were a part of the movement. In the past, I have looked into this out of curiosity, although there numbers were small compared to dominant, small-minded males who rejected the idea of woman with power at the time, they were there. You would think overtime with the ongoing development of the  movement and the growth of male representation in the would be significantly higher and the opposition would be not so intense. But then we were told of one of the presidential candidates of Brazil’s comment that some woman were “too ugly to rape” . Even quoting that disgusts me! Where’s the growth- the progress? This is a man who will possibly come into a lot of power. Is there an inevitable cycle of volatile men, who carry on these oppressive believes due to learned behaviour?

It is clear from the lectures this week that there has been a lot of progress in civil rights. The separate but equal rules seem ridiculous now and there are many strong Black Americans in places of power with respect, who are still rallying for more progress. But the rights of the gay community were touched on also, and I think it is easy to say that they are still are facing so much injustice. Panti Noble’s speech touched me as it was so honest and with her quick wit and humour that allowed so many of us to engage with her story. It is unacceptable that anyone should be ashamed of living, dressing, or acting a certain way- their way. I have started to immerse myself in Dundee’s drag scene; sometimes you hear of or witness the ill treatment that the LGBT community face. Sadly, it is often turned into a joke to entertain us during the queen’s shows and make light of an emotional heavy situation- but the wound is still there and this is their way of coping.

The discussion of Emmet Till’s murder made me think of story in the news earlier this year of a young boy who committed suicide due to bullying from older kids because they thought he was gay. Gay or not, this young boy was a child. Why are people still being attacked because of who they love or for who they are? Why do people believe they are superior to another because they do not share the same skin colour or sexual orientation? Why are these differences so different? We all come from the same place; we all share the same biology. But then, do we all have a heart?

I continue to use the word  ‘story’ as if these events were a fabrication of fiction, told to scare us. But  these are facts. True events of hardships that a lot of us are utterly unaffected by. The horrible experience’s the lecturers told us of seemed to have achieved so much for their cause at the time, but how far have we really come? Emmett Till death was so tragic that I would have hoped it would haved ended all suffering and fear among Black Americans there and then. But it didn’t stop. The lectures really made me think if there will ever be an end to discrimination and racism. What will it take? We’ve heard of the heroic characters such as Martin Luther King and the brave Suffragettes. Both made history, yet, King lost his life and woman were still not fully recognized as equal. It made me really wonder how, as a teacher, am I able to make change or even if I will be there to witness the end of such social injustices. I know I will treat my classes with the kindness and fairness they deserve, but how can I shield them from the outside world? I can try to prepare them, but why should they have to learn to build up such an armour to protect them for others who may treat them unfairly for just being themselves?

This blog post is a entanglement of facts, questions, anger, hope and is clearly a bit of a jumbled mess. But what is so different about the world today?

Structural Inequalities and the Dreaded Half Mark

Our first Values seminar was a brilliant deceit and I ate it up.

It began with our tutor giving each group a envelope of goodies- and by goodies I mean a load of random stationary- which we had to use to come up with a concept that would have helped us when we first started university. At first we just stared at the items, waiting for the big idea of how to turn blue-tack and a rubber band into this brilliant showcase of an idea.  But we had nothing.  Nothing that we felt confident to present. We started to look around at the other groups and were shocked at the coloured paper and pens being aired about. Not only did it upset us, but we got so distracted  by the other group’s items that our weak attempt of ‘making do’ and ‘covering it up with a bit humour’  was just not going to cut it.

When it came to the presentation, it was easy to say that our tutor had her favourites. She had endless amount of praise for the colourful Free Parking badge presented by one group but all we could salvage for our idea was a half mark. Yes, not even a full mark- a half! It was mortifying. I felt dumb, like we did something wrong. But what more could we do?

In the end, this was a lesson of structural equality and very good performance on the tutor’s behalf. It was such a real and powerful way to really put ourselves in the shoes of those kids that, without any fault of their own, didn’t have as much as others. I knew this was prominent in schools,  but to really get a feel of it has opened my eyes and will impact me as a teacher in the future. It amazes me how such a simple lesson can really take effect. It excites me so much for future lessons if this is how they make me feel.

The seminar got me reflecting on my past experience in a school, where I have seen this type of inequality and the stereotypes that comes with it. I was asked to work one-on-one with a ‘troubled’ boy who  needed a little extra help. But instead of giving him work that was deemed a bit more ‘his level’, we completed the same work as all the other pupil but with a little bit more attention and praise. He thrived, felt so accomplished and it was clear he didn’t think he could do the same exercises as his peers. I think it is important that we acknowledge a child’s background but not use it to put them in certain categories. It is vital that we treat pupils fairly and as individuals. It makes them feel valued and evidently, improves their performance and confidence.

I will never make a child feel as though they do not have the right to the same opportunities as others. I understand there are obstacles , but it is with the awareness of such issues that emphasises the need of strong teacher-pupil relationships. This allows children to feel like they can raise the issue of inequality if they were to feel it’s impact.

 

Where it all began…

I remember back in primary 4, the teacher posed the big, heavy question ‘What do you want to be in the future?’ Back then a teacher did not even cross my mind. I remember pondering the question for hours, thinking of more appropriate ideas for my little, nine year old brain- like a fashion designer or a singer. It wasn’t until I got home that evening that I asked my mum what she thought; without hesitation she said I should be a teacher.

The next day at school I watched the teacher very carefully, envisioning myself in her shoes. I already loved school but seeing my teacher mark the kid’s work with little ticks and using multi-coloured chalk on the blackboard, I decided I needed to do that as a career. Now, I laugh at how naive and oblivious I was but a job was something so far in the future, I used to sometimes believe it would never actually come. However silly, that is where the dream began. I was off! Red marker pen at the ready!

I continued to say I wanted to be a teacher throughout my first few years at secondary school, however, it wasn’t until the good old anxiety started to take hold of the reins and my dream of teaching took a seat on the back burner. I used to curse myself for not pushing myself forward for the dream earlier, instead of shying away from the prospect of rejection and my time after high school took a total different direction than expected.  I had a lot of growing to be done  first and during those next few years on working entirely on what makes me- me, it is what got me here, writing this post today, away to start my degree at exactly the right time.

It’s a learning curve, folks.