When I was growing up and going through high school I will be honest and say I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was very good with computers so naturally my friends and teachers suggested I entered the computing field. I successfully applied to Abertay University to study Ethical Hacking starting in August 2016. At this point in life I was doing very well at school. I was taking my Advanced Higher in Computing Science as well as taking several other highers that were needed for university. This is where we take a bit of a turn.
In November of 2015 my mother was diagnosed with Cervical Cancer and then passed away in April of 2016. It was during these months that set me on my path to wanting to become a Teacher and join the MA Education course at Dundee University.
Due to the nature of my Mothers illness she depended a lot on the female members of the family to assist her as her condition deteriorated. With my sisters supporting my mother around the clock I took on the role of looking after my nieces and nephews.
While my mother was in hospital the family would often take it in turns to look after the children. On some days I would finish my day at school then I would be responsible for the wee ones for a few hours. This usually involved me making them their tea, taking them out to play and getting ready for bed. We would read stories together play games and just in general have fun. The wee ones were at an age that they didn’t understand entirely what was going on but they knew their Granny wasn’t well so while they were in my care I wanted to ensure that I could make as many as many happy memories not just for them but for me as well during what was a in all honesty a horrific time.
What I found the most fascinating was finding out just how different each child could be and I understood the need to tailor activities to their interests. For example my oldest Nephew loved to run around and play football so I tried to take him down to the football pitches as much as possible however my then youngest nephew would much prefer to sit indoors and read a book so quite often I found myself scratching my head trying to find a middle ground.
At the time I didn’t really consider what I was doing for the children as anything other than looking after them for a couple of hours a day. My youngest nephews nursery teacher commented on how well his reading was coming on and noticed that he was trying to challenge himself with books that were slightly above his age range.
After several more months of supporting my family some close friends who were studying childcare suggested that I should look at doing this professionally as they felt I had the qualities required to succeed in the profession. They also highlighted the lack of males in Teaching and Early Years so it was definitely something to look into. At first I didn’t think to much into it as I didn’t believe I had the grades to get into such courses but then after some consideration I thought you know what I am loving what I’m doing. I took time to reflect on my Teachers growing up at Longhaugh Primary school and I remember very well my Primary 7 teacher, Mr Bluman, and also my headteacher, Mr Munro. I have absolutely brilliant memories of my time with these two and they both, as the two main male role models in my life, brought me on so much not just academically but also personally with my confidence and social skills too. I remember thinking to myself wouldn’t it be great to have such an impact on someone like they have for me. I started to research pathways into teaching and I then applied to Dundee and Angus college after I found a course that fit.
I’m going to fast forward a year to August of 2018 when I started Dundee and Angus college studying Early Years Education and Childcare where I had my first professional placements. One in a Primary school where I was part of a Primary 1/2 class and another in a local nursery where I was in the 3-5 year old room. Both placements really opened up my eyes to the teaching and childcare professions I had no idea how much work goes on behind the scenes to provide for children under our care.
At the primary school I was given the opportunity to take some small groups and carry out numeracy sessions as well as supporting pupils in Read Write Ink lessons. I also enjoyed taking the children outdoors for their numeracy lessons. This was something that I rarely got to do when I was at school so it was great to see how the children reacted to the change in environment. The Class that I was in had a more play based approach to learning to maximize the strengths of the children in the class in an environment that was suited to their needs.
I would argue that the nursery was the biggest eye opener for me in regards how vital it is to get it right for children at such a young age. I realised that as professionals we are laying the foundations for these children and we have such a huge influence on their outcomes in life. The 3-5 year old room at the nursery featured 104 children. Which was a big increase from just 20 in my Primary 1/2 class. I thought the best way that I can make a success of my placement is to get stuck in from the start.
I had an understanding about how important it is to form relationships with children and how this can benefit practice. With the large volume of children and me only being at the nursery for two days a week I understood that this was going to be a challenge but not one that i would shy away from. One of the benefits that I had going into the setting was that I was the only adult male out of around 30 members of staff. Since I had grown up in a family that was predominantly female this was no problem at all for me and I felt that I was confident in forming professional bonds with the staff.
Being the only adult male brought out many surprising conversations with the children. Especially from those who had no positive male role model in their lives. I will never forgot my first day when the children were so keen to show their parents that I had started at the nursery with one child saying “Look Mummy we have a man now”. I didn’t realise how few males went into the early years profession.