Category Archives: 2.2 Education Systems & Prof. Responsibilities

Time + Commitment + Understanding = Success

Let me start off my saying the word ‘yes’. Yes, I am aware that we use maths everyday, whether that be in telling the time so you are not to miss your train, or working out the change you are due when paying for your bus early on a Monday morning. Whilst I am not in a place, nor do I want to be in a place, to speak for others, I find this obvious. Of course, we use maths everyday, even if we don’t necessarily realise it at the time of putting it into practice.

Initially, I am then left pondering the question “What exactly am I going to learn in this class?”. The module is titled ‘Discovering Mathematics’. In aid of finding out an answer, looked back on my personal experience of Mathematics – if one could call it that.

More so in the later stages of primary school, the most vivid memories I can recall of my maths ‘lessons’ was using the teacher’s best friend – TJ Textbooks. Complete a page, get it marked. Complete a page, get it marked. Complete a page, get it marked. That format changed very Image result for tj publishersrarely, and when it did, it usually followed the similar format of ‘complete the end of chapter assessment, get it marked’. Hence, going on placement last semester and seeing the range of ways Maths was taught was a bit of shock delight. One group having a lesson with the teacher on the carpet, one group digitally learning on the iPads, one group working independently, one group working through activities with the Teaching Assistant… but I digress. A variety of ways to support ones learning and understanding of number work was used on placement. For me personally, this was not the case. We were moving on topic by topic regardless. If you didn’t get it, maybe you would get moved down a group, where you would repeat the same work at a later date with the assumption that since you have been pushed back, the work is now doable.

Secondary school followed a similar experience, particularly in undertaking National 5 and Higher classes. There was so simply no time, in the teachers eyes, to flesh out the most interesting and engaging Maths lessons possible. Their prime focus, and rightfully so in my opinion given the circumstances, was to get us our qualifications. The teachers are at no real fault here. They have been given a deadline, which I experienced many times over, of content that needs to be in our heads by May. If it’s not, we fail. They don’t have the time to let us fully comprehend logarithms – partially evidenced by the fact that I have absolutely no idea in regards to their function or place in life outside of the Maths classroom, despite undertaking the Higher course twice.

My teacher, whom I will refer to us as Mrs. Says-It-How-It-Is, admitted to me very early on in 5th year (my first attempt of the Higher course) that she was fairly certain that me being able to cram enough of this content into my head with around 6 months until the exam was going to be an extremely difficult task. I remember being in-denial of this at the time, with the optimist inside me fighting through the course. I attended every study support possible, took my poor prelim score with a pinch of salt, worked tirelessly on past papers – yet I failed. I was devastated. What now? If my teacher knew I was going to fail since last Autumn, is anything achievable if someone already believes it’s a fool’s errand?

Image result for failure

Fast forward a year however and my facial expression of sadness and despair had turned right side up. I passed, with a grade B nonetheless. Upon re-visiting the school to thank my teacher, the simple and casual (to her) but powerful (to me) words she spoke to me have stuck with me ever since, and this module is an excellent place to shed some light on them:

“Some people just need a little big longer. For some, they need the two years.”

Okay… so what? Who cares, and why is this relevant? It’s relevant because of the message I took from it, and this relates to the importance of time allowance.

Liping Ma (pictured below) writes of four fundamental principles of mathematics:

  1. “Inter connectedness”Image result for maths liping ma
  2. “Multiple perspectives”
  3. “Basic ideas/principles”
  4. “Longitudinal coherence”

Like many subjects, especially Language, we are determined to inject the children with as much information as possible from the get-go. This is not to say building strong foundations isn’t important, however we get extremely worried if they are not reading to our expectations, or cannot recite their 8 times table off by heart at a young age.

Linking back into the four principles, if one is to properly adhere to them then slowing things down is one the best ways to do that. Let our classes have the time to understand the relationships between the different basic principles. Allow them to understand the role something plays in a mathematical process. Make it a mission for the youths to comprehend how something develops overtime. If we can’t do this, then there is an issue of the introduction of misconceptions and confusion. We as Primary Teachers are vital in perpetuating these ideas – because for the time being, secondary school staff (specifically those teaching senior school) simply can’t – quite literally.

As a second year student, I am far from knowing all the answers. Very far, in fact. Luckily however, I now have the one key thing I was babbling on about above – time. The Discovering Maths module is now a place of hope where I can not only get over my anxiety of maths, but really get to grips at how vital it is in everyday life – because I am willing to bet it’s far more than handling money and following an itinerary.  I now have a safe space to truly explore the diverse subject and hopefully gain an understanding of how on earth I am going be teaching it for the rest of my life.

Images used:

This blog post also references the first input on the Discovering Maths module given on 10/09/18 by Jonathan Brown. 

Author’s Note: Discovering Maths 1


Providing a Structure to Eliminate Fear – The Drama Lesson

Drama is one of the curricular areas in which many teachers fear teaching. They don’t want to take the risk that if they bring their class onto the school stage, chaos will erupt, and behavioural management becomes more difficult to implement than ever before. With these assumptions, I ask how are we to encourage children to take risks in their learning if we are not doing so ourselves? Dickenson and Neelands write about how it could convey the need for gender mixing and space and resource management.

This video provides a form of solution that teacher’s may exhibit when planning the drama lesson, and actually turn it round into one of the most exciting moments of the timetable.

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The first step is establishing an agreement The Drama lesson should always begin with an agreement. This is a necessity, as no individual can be forced into participating. As such, a negotiation can be put in place to encourage joining in. For those pupils who might struggle to do so, using drama techniques in the classroom may be an introductory method to aid them e.g. hot seating. According to Dickenson and Neelands, there are no shortcuts to strategy management, and the issues that need solved are likely to be magnified within Drama.The lesson conveners in the video use the ‘Three C’s’. If a problem were to occur, it’s likely the child facing it is either not communicating effectively, co-operation fairly, or concentrating fully. As teachers, we must be mindful that everyone in the Drama lesson must follow the agreed contract, and that when said contract is broken, everyone should be responsible for deciding the consequence. Consistency is key. Otherwise, what is the point of the contract being in place?  Warming up is obviously where the body is prepared for the forthcoming activity. What perhaps isn’t as glaring is that the mind is also being prepared, as the participants are beginning to differentiate from the Maths lesson they just had in the classroom 15 minutes ago. The video referenced above then conveys the importance of given the children a focusto perpetuate further development. Photographs were used as a stimulus to establish a clear focus. As the children take grasp of this, an allowance for deeper thinking of initial ideas is provided. Visualisation is where the teacher tells a story as children close their eyes, translating the teacher’s words into an imaginative picture in their minds. The soundscape is where the pupils become engrossed into their environment and they can begin to share what they hear and where these noises are originating from. This can link to other areas of the curriculum e.g. geography: the different features found in various environments. The bodyscape then allows pupils to create their own structure, using nothing apart from their own and their peers bodies. No props – but still lots of room for improvisation. As the room/hall falls silent, a simple tap on the shoulder from the teacher allows the pupils to voice their feeling: what are they thinking? After a lesson of active learning (not that active has to be moving around!), it’s vital that there is time and effort made to provide an evaluation, as a calming from the physical activity. This segment may include, though not visible, a self realisation for the children. During Drama, all strengths of a given group must be used, and so children may begin to rethink their opinions on their peers.

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References – all accessed 03/02/18

Text Content:
Dickenson, R & Neelands, J. (2006) Improve Your Primary School Through Drama. Oxon: David Fulton Publishers. – Chp.3: Getting Ready for Drama.




Year One Half Done – The Moment That Made Me Think

If I was asked to describe my first semester in University, I would do so by describing it as not what I expected, but eye opening and thought provoking nonetheless. I anticipated starting my Higher Education by delving straight into the pedagogy of teaching, however instead I was obliged to undertake two interdisciplinary modules with CLD and Social Work students, along with an elective module.

I’ve heard older students compare their first semester in Education as the trek before you really get to study what you came here to do. It’s true I came here to do teaching, however it became clear to me within a few weeks that the true purpose of these modules, in my opinion, was to provide the essential groundwork for students to be successful in their respective professions.

The art of digital technology is ever-growing, and in one of the two interdisciplinary modules, ‘Values: Self, Society and Professions’, we were encouraged to make use of gigantic world that is social media – specifically Twitter. Like most people who aren’t living under a rock, I already had a Twitter account. I decided however that it would be beneficial to me to make a professional account to keep my life in education and personal life separate (these two accounts have since merged, but the story I am sharing still stands).

One day whilst I was scrolling though my timeline, a saw a tweet from Good Morning Britain’s twitter account (@GMB), where they had shared a link to a debate that had aired on the program earlier that morning. The debate was linked to ‘racist cultural appropriation’, and referred specifically to the Disney character Moana.

Linking to the interview, I made what I thought was a simple comment. I stated that I didn’t see a problem with the issue what so ever. Although I have since deleted the tweet, I remember exactly what I wrote:

“Surely it’s just children dressing up as their favourite characters? Don’t see a problem here”.

Soon after I published the tweet, I received a reply that really did catch me off guard (this account will remain anonymous). I don’t remember the exact reply, but I do recall the message it was sending – my view is my own, however that doesn’t mean we should disregard the view of an other.

Undoubtedly, there are many matters in the world that an individual may not agree with. Perhaps, like me, they hadn’t really engaged with the issue at hand, and as a consequence, didn’t stop and think that their perspective on the situation would be different than someone else’s. I didn’t even have any evidence of arguments to support my tweet. I was just making a comment that I didn’t think anything would arise from. I was wrong.