End of an Era

I felt I would leave this post slightly later than I had originally thought; back at the end of November I posted “Writing my thesis and co-fighting cancer”. At the beginning of fourth year, I made the decision, with the support of my 6 best friends and my year convenor to continue with university despite the circumstances my Mum was unfortunately put under. Today, we have both finally achieved our goals for the year which is why I left this post until now! This is my mum ringing the bell in radiotherapy ward after her final active treatment. This is me handing in my thesis in January and over the last two weeks I’ve found out my degree classification, my school and my class. It is all over, cancer treatment and fourth year. We are heading for graduation, the one goal the two of us set, 9 long months ago.

Now do not get me wrong, it was the hardest year of both our lives. In September when I decided to stay on at university, I knew it would be hard, but I could never have imagined just how hard it would be. The work level, the commuting back and forth to be home to see my mum and how horrible chemotherapy is. However, the last few weeks has shown me with hard work and dedication to a goal, anything is possible.

The hard work was not from me alone. There were countless people who helped us both along the way. From the fantastic staff at the University of Dundee, an unforgettable final placement school and a great mentor to get me through my final year of university to the staff at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy wards and the countless charities; Clan, Maggies, Anchor and Look Good Feel Better who have supported my mum in her fight. I wanted to take this time to reflect on the year and thank some very special people for their support.

Last month, I wrote a letter to the external examination board about my experience at the University of Dundee and I was genuinely teary eyed my time at university was over. I was teary eyed because of the fantastic staff who created a wonderful experience over the four years. In the letter I wrote “Whether the staff be newer to the team, such as Linda Lapere, Nikki Doig or Liz Larkin, staff who have left us during the four years, such as William Berry our MA 1-2 year convenor or Erika Cunningham or staff who have been by our side throughout the four years: Carrie McLennan; Mary Knight; Richard Holmes; Anna Robb; Derek Robertson; Patricia Thomson; Caroline Cottrell; and I think, as a year group, we would highlight Brenda Keatch in particular, for their full support over the four years to name a few. All the members of staff on the undergraduate course have supported and challenged us to no measure. The teachers we will become will be down their support and the support of the fantastic placements we have been given over the four years.” However, Anne Marie Moran, my interviewer in 2014, my first assignment marker and my first placement tutor; I wouldn’t have even had the opportunity to attempt this course without her belief in me four years ago.

Whenever anyone speaks to me about considering primary teacher undergraduate or university in general, I can never speak highly enough of University of Dundee. The content has challenged me academically and I cannot wait to put the content of the four years to action with my own class next year. The four years has shaped me as a teacher and as a person, it has developed my professional and personal interests; pointing me into the direction of my future to hopefully studying for my Masters in Outdoor Learning at Moray House in Edinburgh someday, thanks to the Learning from Life placement in second year at Adventure Aberdeen.

There are two teachers in particular who have shaped me as a teacher; Diana Mitchell and Paul Gordon my third and fourth year placement mentors. I could not have imagined how lucky I would have been when I was placed in their classes for the continued support and encouragement they always gave me. I was blessed to observe their wonderful practice with their classes but also with me. They have shown me how to be a great teacher, left me with lots of ideas to think of and lesson quality to aspire to. The two of them also showed me how to be a great mentor one day to a student. I feel ready for the next chapter with my own class thanks to both of them!

With over 100 appointments in nine months, my whole family received comfort and support from numerous charities and staff at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. However, for myself I think the biggest comfort possible was one of my best friends Annah being one of my mum’s radiotherapists. I knew for a fact my mum would be in fantastic, caring hands. Annah and Findlay have both been there checking in with me throughout the whole nine months. I knew coming towards the end of a long nine months of treatment and hard work for my mum radiotherapy would be the light at the end of the tunnel but the staff in the ward and the Anchor charity ladies has made this experience a lot easier for her. I look forward to carrying the Anchor badge with me throughout my NQT year to remember how fantastic they have been!

Finally, I cannot thank five people in particular enough who were there from start to finish emotionally and academically throughout the year; Stephanie, Shannon, Marcus, Katie and Jenny. Stephanie has lived with me for three of the four years at university and always been one of my biggest support systems and cheerleaders throughout. I could not have expected the amount of times I would end up in her room with a story to tell, she always listened and was always there with a hug! Shannon, Shannon is simply my best friend whenever I need her she is a phone call away and never fails to cheer me up no end. Marcus for the endless chats, tea and keeping me with the motivation to stay at university. Marcus has been the one person who never failed to make me smile, make me a cup of tea and give me a hug! Katie has cooked me countless dinners when coming back from Aberdeen and I have had no energy to do anything and alongside Jenny has kept me on track with any deadlines throughout the year. Jenny and I handed in our first assignment together and our thesis at the end, much to her shock we have been together since day one and we have supported one another through every piece of work we’ve ever submitted.

However, without ‘Vanilla’ as a whole, the degree wouldn’t have been half as memorable! Poor Ruairidh, stuck with me for next year and the start of the next chapter as a Newly Qualified Teachers!

 

From Naughty Boy to ‘Outstanding’ Head Teacher; A Reflection on Educating Drew.

I put ‘Outstanding’ in quote marks as Harrop Fold, from the Povey’s book, has yet to be given Ofsted’s outstanding seal of approval. Nevertheless, I believe Povey to be an outstanding head teacher from what I have watched and read. He is committed to making ‘the’ difference to his school and it seems through this book and the Educating Greater Manchester series to be working.

I had fallen in love with the team and the teaching styles of Harrop Fold School in Little Hutton from the Educating Greater Manchester series and when I found out head teacher Drew Povey had written a book, it was the first thing on my Christmas list (alongside a guillotine paper cutter and a laminator – nothing screams soon to be Newly Qualified Teacher and broke student more). Fast forward to the day before my placement and I have finally finished reading the book. Personal commitments and university assignments overtook the importance of the book but nevertheless it was fantastic and I could not recommend it enough to anyone and when I got the chance, I simply could not put it down.

Drew Povey had inspired me from the minute I set eyes on Harrop Fold in Educating Greater Manchester but what was clear from the book is the are many of others who inspire him from his brothers and his teachers to people he quotes in his books such as Obama, Churchill, EM Kelly or Spiderman. There were many messages in the book anyone could relate to; business leaders, head teachers or school teachers. However, in this short post I wanted to pick out a few parts of the book I related to most and the messages that were prominent to me.

Anyone who knows me will know me as quite a sporty person growing up (ok that hasn’t stuck too much throughout university but I am known as the sporty one in my friend group) and the links Povey makes between education and school including a chapter on having a playbook as probably the message that rings through the whole book to me. Povey’s leadership style often comes back to what he had learnt from rugby training and coaching. He uses tactics from rugby to get the ‘difficult children’ on side, he set up a rugby team at Harrop Fold to give these something to commit to at school; having the ‘hard lads’ onside rippled through the school and there was a murmur that Mr Povey was a ’sound guy’. Povey noted the importance of keeping these students onside and committed to creating a no exclusion policy, he wanted to ensure no child was written off which was an incredibly warming feeling. The importance of understanding the student’s behaviour, the root problem and not just looking at the bad behaviour was something perhaps I overlooked the significance of before and I was quick when faced with challenging behaviour to look at this as a personal attack and deal with the behaviour and not seek out the issue behind it all. In all honestly, the last time I remember dealing with significantly challenging behaviour, which did not stem from an additional support need, was in first year of university and thus reflecting back I did not really know much at all at the time of the placement although it was a great learning curve.

Throughout university, any assignment has told me to reflect more which I have tried so hard over the last two years particularly to work on. I probably took it too far when I had five page weekly reflections on my third year placement and it is still a goal going into my final placement to work on. Throughout the last chapter of the book it was evident how reflective the whole book had been. The process Povey suggests at Harrop Fold is that the teachers take on a new challenge for a certain period of time, reflect and review. If the challenge is making a difference they continue to monitor but Povey makes clear not all of the challenges were worth the time and energy put that the school team put into them. The open and honest dialogue between the different teams in Povey’s four types of meetings are what I aspire to achieve to make sure I am not wasting time and energy on strategies that are not working but continuing to reflect and notice the positives in my practice as well.

Although this post only picked out two things, I wouldn’t want to give too much away about the book. However, this book made me think deeper about my practice; about different techniques and pedagogical strategies I perhaps never have come across otherwise. I am very intrigued for the second series of Educating Greater Manchester. I am ready to see if there is any more inspiration Povey and his team at Harrop Fold can continue to develop in me as a teacher and I am excited to see how the school is getting on. Mostly, I am excited to see how these inspirations can play out in my practice as an NQT. If you haven’t already, I would recommend any teacher to read Povey’s story.

Povey also talks about Harrop Fold’s no exclusion policy to the Education Select Committee in this short video; https://twitter.com/HarropFold/status/965159166997422080.

Reference:

Povey, D. (2017) Educating Drew: The Real Story of Harrop Fold School Woodbridge: John Catt Educational Limited.

“Everyone is different…”

“But that means everyone can fit in” (Paddington The Movie, 2014)

Just from one quote, Paddington the Movie could stem a lot of lessons about inclusion, respecting diversity and expressing feelings. However, this was not the reason behind watching this film. We had been told about Paddington the Movie in our social studies elective as it showed migration in a different way to looking at this from a crisis point of view for example in World War II. This quote just shows the diversity of the movie and how much can be taken from it. The film could be looked at with a class for health and wellbeing purposes or for social studies.

Whilst I was watching it I was thinking more from a social studies perspective as, as I have said, it was why we were prompted to watch it. Right from the beginning of the film there were a multitude of different topics in social studies that the film could act as a stimulus for. Therefore, I am going to go through the ideas I felt could be derived from the film.

Firstly, in the film the reason behind Paddington moving to London was due to a natural disaster. An earthquake hit “The Darkest Peru” and caused devastated in their jungle. The earthquake also killed Paddington’s uncle. This could be a stimulus for a class discussion of how  Paddington would be feeling at this time, what the class would do in Paddington’s situation: would they stay in a ruined home/dangerous place or would they move away? This can also be used as a stimulus to look into natural disasters, can these happen where the children live? Where is the closest or most recent natural disaster? How did this affect the people of those towns?

Paddington is then left to evacuate to London on his own because his auntie is too old to move away. This can be linked directly to World War II topic where the children are forced to leave their homes to move to the countryside without any of their family or knowing where they would end up but they knew it would be the safety option in the end. The movie does make this direct correlation to the war and therefore could be an interesting discussion point. Another way to make the human connection the Paddington in this situation, the class could be asked if they were to move today and could only take a small bag, what would they put in this bag? Would the class be practical and pack food like Paddington did with his Marmalade or warm clothing or would they choose to pack things that are more modern such as phones, iPads, make up etc. This could create a discussion as to why they would take these items? Where would they charge them if they did not have a home? This takes the lesson right back to the children and can create a sense that children could be materialistic and why in a time of crisis materialistic possession would not always be most helpful.

Another small link to WWII can come through artefacts. In Paddington the Movie, Millicent, who tries to capture and stuff Paddington can be seen wearing a gas mask similar to those that would have been worn in WWII. This can be a stimulus for discussing historic artefacts. The children could guess what she is wearing and why she is wearing it? If they already know what it is, the children could discuss where else they might have found out about this artefact.

Through the film, Paddington’s idea of home and family changes. At first, Paddington does not feel like he belongs in London. He misses the Peruvian Jungle and his auntie dearly. He feels unwanted by Mr Brown but Mrs Brown tries to include Paddington into the family and find him a long term home. This could be related back to terrorist attacks or WWII through looking at how communities pull together in a time of need, how friendly Londoners/Mancunians have been in recent events to strike their city and take people in when necessary. The children could discuss how they can be helpful to their community or how they would feel taking in a stranger or being taken in by a strange family. By the end of the film, Paddington is finally settled into life in London and is now living with the Brown family permanently. Paddington says that although the Brown’s are a strange tribe and life in London is different to the Peruvian Jungle, he feels more at home now. And Mrs Brown tells him in London “Everyone is different, but that means everyone can fit in”. Even a bear.

Overall, I think throughout many points in the film it could be paused and used as a discussion piece. The movie as a whole could also be a great stimulus for many lessons regarding migration, crisis, natural disasters, inclusion, diversity and human connections.

Discovering a Preserved City.

Although I said in a previous post, Aberdeen and the Shire is a quickly changing city, so much so that I sometimes barely know my own local surroundings. However, ‘up North’ we do have some national treasures that are preserved in the town and surrounding areas history. As I had said previously, I was adamant to discover something different about my local area when I came to visit this weekend after failing to notice the beauty of everything surrounding me last weekend. Therefore, this morning I headed off on a little trip further North onto the Visit Scotland (2016) Castle Trail. I headed towards Dunecht to Castle Fraser.

Last weekend on my drive home from Inverurie, I had spotted the Castle Trail tourist information sign. After researching this trail when I got home, it turns out the castle it could have been directing me towards was Castle Fraser, therefore that was the one from the trail I choose to visit today.

Before leaving, I had chosen to do no research into Castle Fraser apart from the little snippet of information that was on the Castle Trail booklet. This was so when I arrived at the Castle I would have the same experience children would most likely have if I was to use this as a class trip.

(The little snippet of information I had before the trip (left) and part of the Castle Trail (right) (Visit Scotland, 2016) in Aberdeenshire.)

Much to my surprise, when I arrived there, the car park was quite full. Normally whenever I head to Dunnottar Castle, excluding once in the peak of summer, the car park is always empty. The castle was very busy with at least two other visitors in every room I went in. There were castle guides in 3 of the rooms as well who were very knowledgeable not only about the castle and the artefacts in the castle but also about the Victorian period in general. The majority of the visitors in the castle were older ladies and there was only one family with children. There were other families on the castle grounds doing the walking trails and in the play park.

When I first got to the castle, I took a wonder around the grounds. Castle Fraser is surrounded by copious green space: there are trails to walk around the grounds, the walled garden, play park, cafe and a visitor shop. At the shop, prior to going into the castle, I bought a Castle Fraser booklet. The information booklet would be fantastic for a teacher before going on the trip as it gives a wealth of information about the castle in general, each room in the castle, the Fraser families who occupied the castle and general Scottish history surrounding the castle. The castle dates back to first being built in 1454, around the time of the Scottish reformation, when the Fraser family was granted the land in exchange for Thomas Fraser’s land at Cornton (National Trust for Scotland, 2016, Pp. 3-6). The castle has since been renovated several times and is preserved, in the second to last renovation, in the early eighteenth century layout and decoration (National Trust for Scotland, 2016, p.8). The last renovation was in the nineteenth century but no inventory for how the castle looked then has been discovered (National Trust for Scotland, 2016, p.8).

(The Walled Garden in the grounds surrounding the castle (above).)

The booklet gives an in depth information of the tour around the castle. There are also information cards in each room going into more depth about the room and all the artefacts you can see in the room including the paintings and wallpaper. These go alongside, as previously mentioned, the fantastic castle guides. With the artefacts being the Fraser families’s belongings, it is a great way to show people, especially children who may never have had the chance to see these artefacts, primary sources from this time period. The artefacts have been incredibly well maintained over the years, which gives a more realistic understanding of these possessions than looking at photographs in my opinion.

 

(The Great Hall (above) and some artefacts, of the Fraser families’ belongings, from inside the castle (above and below))

I feel Castle Fraser would lend itself nicely to topics of Victorians or the Jacobites as it is maintained in the 18th and 19th century renovations with artefacts from the Fraser family dating back to those periods (National Trust for Scotland, 2016). The Dining Room in the castle, for example, has a Victorian table with the Fraser family silverware, glass and china on the table (National Trust for Scotland, 2016, p.14). Due to the wealth of information, the fantastic green space and the surrounding grounds, I feel this would be a suitable place for a school trip for those topics.

(The information cards that can be found in each room).

Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the castle, I feel it helped me discover something about Aberdeenshire in my bid to develop my local knowledge. The visit has made me more interested in local history and where possible, I want to carry on the Castle Trail (Visit Scotland, 2016) as there are still many more castles in Aberdeenshire to discover. When I was in the castle, I spoke to a lady, who was also visiting the castle, she was so enthusiastic and passionate about the fantastic history and castles we have in Aberdeenshire that it inspired me to visit more soon!

(The view of the castle grounds from the castle tower.)

References:

National Trust for Scotland (2016) Castle Fraser, Garden and Estate Scotland: GPS

Visit Scotland (2016) Scotland’s Castle Trail: Explore Aberdeenshire Available at: https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/media/10248/scotlandscastletrail.pdf (Accessed on: 30/9/17)

Tales Twisted in Time

On Thursday evening, myself and my two friends (Katie and Katy, just to confuse things) ventured on a Dark Dundee walking tour.

We had chosen to go on their least dark tour Twisted in Time as we wanted to know more information about Dundee’s history that we could use in our classes (and social studies assignment) and if this would be a suitable thing to use as a class trip. The Dark Dundee tour guides said whilst we were walking they had only worked with secondary school pupils before, giving them not only the tales and facts they know about Dundee’s history but also knowledge about travel and tourism and running a business. They showed great interdisciplinary learning ideas but sadly they had never worked with primary schools. However, before we were even half way round the tour, the three of us had decided this would be a fantastic trip to do with children, if the tour guides would have a younger class and miss some parts of the stories out to keep it PG. We felt as a group, children would be much more engaged in this than going round a museum. Katie and I had previously already said, that although there would be a lot you could do, we would find a trip to the McManus Galleries (Rennie, 2017) hard to plan for and managed therefore at our stage of development we would not take a class there. On the other hand, we definitely felt we could take a class easily on a Dark Dundee walking tour.

Why did we decide this? To the tour, we go.

The Twisted in Time tour took us on a walking tour around things: statues, plaques, streets, in Dundee which I knew nothing about, things that I have never even

noticed in Dundee before but are all critical in the history of Dundee. As we walked around these different spots, the Dark Dundee tour guides, told us the famous tales that had been slightly twisted over time but took those tales back to what they could prove to be true.

We started at the tour at the Dragon statue in the city centre. The tour began here as this statue is actually Twisted in Time itself. The Dragon came to be here after the tale of the nine daughters of a Dundonian farmer. The farmer had sent one of his daughters to the well to get water one evening, after a while when the daughter never came back, he sent another of his daughters to find out what was going on, this continued until all nine daughters never came back. The farmer then went down to the well to see a serpent at the well and all nine of his daughter dead. The farmer, alongside one of his daughter’s lover, Martin and the rest of the town, went to find and kill the serpent. The town tried to drown the serpent but this did not harm the serpent eventually the crowd yelled for Martin to slay the serpent with the club he had. This apparently took place on Strathmartine Road in Dundee and it has been named after Martin striking the ‘dragon’ which killed his lover and her sisters.

The tour continued down to Castlehill. Yes there is no Castle or Hill in Dundee city centre, you are right. However, well before the city centre was what it is today, there was apparently a castle situated on a very high hill which was incredibly difficult to attack. The castle was eventually ordered to be torn down by the old town mayor. The rubble and remnants created Castle Street. Along Castle street, the site of the first known pub in Dundee, The Lion Tavren, was situated along one Dundee’s old, narrow, windy streets – the layout of old Dundee was vaguely shown on a very old plaque on the side.

 

 

 

The plaque showing the old and current streets of Dundee on the old Castlehill, now known as Castle Street.

 

 

Listening intently at the site of Dundee’s first known Pub.

 

 

 

 

Further down Shore Terrace, which was where the River Tay used to flow to, we learnt about Greasy Johnny and the Whale. A humpback whale once was spotted in Scotland, many people tried to kill and claim the whale but eventually the whale was auctioned off. Greasy Johnny outbid an Aberdeen University Professor, John Wood who wanted to dissect the whale, to have the whale. Johnny, made a business out of the Whale by keeping it in a warehouse, selling tickets to people, at least 10,000 on the first day alone, to view the whale. After the whale was clearly dead, Johnny invited Professor John Wood to Dundee to dissect the whale as he could sell more tickets for people to view the dissection of the whale. After the whale was dissected and all that was left was the whale skin, Greasy Johnny took the skin on a trailer around the country, getting yet more money for people to see the skin of the humpback whale. 

 

We were lead up to St Paul’s Cathedral in the city centre were the tour unpicked the plaque that states William Wallace started the battle for Independence here. The guides said it was an over exaggerated claim. What is supposed to have happened is Wallace stabbed and murdered a governor’s son, Selby, after an argument at school. Wallace left Dundee and hid out in Perth before he was returned to Siege of Dundee, hailed a hero as he got rid of King Edward and his troops from Scotland. 

A final memorable tale, was about the witch, Grissell Jaffery, who was supposedly burnt alive at the Seagate on this cross. There are two mosaics down one of the closes where the memorial plaque is, one of fire and one of water to symbolise that they tried to drown Grissell which did not work and then burnt her as the last known witch in Dundee.

The plaque and fire mosaic at the close remember Grissell Jaffery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tour ended with Grissell’s death. Both the tour guides gave fantastic accounts of historic Dundonian tales. This was a highly engaging way to learn about different stories of Dundee. I think older primary classes, perhaps primary 6 or 7, would thoroughly enjoy this experience compared to a museum or learning from textbooks. This can meet a lot of the experiences and outcomes in People, Past Events and Society, particularly SOC 2-03a and SOC 2-10a in People, Place and Environment (Scottish Government, 2009). Being able to walk around and physically be at the sites, see the plaques, mosaics and statues made the tales far more interesting in my opinion than seeing photographs or reading the stories. The three of us felt that children would take a lot more in from being on a Dark Dundee tour than being in a museum or the guides coming into the class to do a talk about the history of Dundee. This allows them, through active learning, to see different kinds of sources regarding Dundee’s history to build a picture and story of Dundee from the earliest years (the guides suggested the earliest story they knew they could place between the year 0 and 1000) to bring this back to the what they know as the present, for example from Castlehill to Castle Street. Again, this can help them meet different social studies outcomes such as SOC 2-01a.

After the Twisted in Time tour, the three of us decided we would definitely go on another and recommend the Dark Dundee tours. The guides were fantastics, the stories were entertaining and the whole evening was engaging and interesting to learn about the history in different way. This post has merely been a brief overview of the tour and if you wanted to hear the full stories, more tales and learn about Dundee’s history I would recommend going on one of their tours. We are considering their special event in Claypotts Castle next!

A video of my experience of the walking tour!

References: 

Scottish Government (2009) Curriculum for Excellence: Social Studies Experiences and Outcomes Available at: https://www.education.gov.scot/Documents/social-studies-eo.pdf (Accessed on: 06/10/17)

The End of One Placement

Sadly, my time at Claypotts Castle Nursery is already over. However, it has been a truly fantastic learning experience. I have been able to have a hands on experience of working with early years children which I have not yet been able to do for more than a day. This has definitely made me feel a lot more confident now that I have my two schools for my third year placement. A few of my friends who have not been on the transition programme are slightly worried at what they are to do in the nursery and now having been into one for 8 afternoons, I feel a lot more confident and at ease at what I am expected to do in the nursery when the time comes.

Over the last two weeks, I have began to see the planning in the nursery and how lessons are taught in a play environment. After seeing the plans, the group lessons that the children have at the start and end of the afternoon all link back to the experiences and outcomes. This outcome is chosen by the group leader and they meet this in the same way a teacher would in the classroom – developing an idea that they feel would allow the children to develop to meet the criteria. There are also opportunities for the children to choose to engage in an informal lesson with one of the group leaders. This was so informal as it was through the children’s choice if they engaged in the activity that I was unaware of this happening until the second last and the last week.  On the second last week, one of the practitioners had taken children to make pictures simply using felt which was to meet the experience and outcome EXA 0-02a (Scottish Government, 2009, p.3). The children created their pictures on their felt square with pieces of felt before covering them in water and fairy liquid and rubbing this in to make the pieces stick together. I assisted the practitioner to make notes and take pictures for the children’s observation for the learning journey folders. This was a very interesting opportunity as I was able to see the different abilities that were already prevalent in the children with the language development and ability to take turns and think about others. There was huge difference in the abilities and this is something I am definitely going to keep in the back of my mind for my third year placement.

On my final week, I was asked by a practitioner to work with a group of children to create an experiment. The practitioner had read that if you inflate a balloon indoors then put the balloon outdoors due to the cold weather, it should deflate overnight and if you then take it back inside to the warmth, then the balloon should inflate again. The children and myself worked on blowing up the balloons, only one of about seven children could blow up a balloon, which i thought was pretty impressive for a 4 year old. Before taking them outside and tying them to a tree. The children all had their names on their balloons and were excited to come back tomorrow to see if the experiment had worked. Although, there is not significant learning in this I believe, developing language skills in the children such as using the word experiment and asking them what they thought would happen through closed question ‘do you think the balloon will go down outdoors or do you think the balloon will stay the same?’ is developing their hypothesising skills for science which they will return to develop further in primary school.

Overall, the whole project has been so insightful. I have learnt a lot about how the nursery works. I have been able to see what children are like from a young age and how they can learn through play. I am truly thankful to Claypotts Castle Nursery for having me every Wednesday and my three lectures running the project for this opportunity. This has given me a big boost of confidence and taking away a lot of questions and nerves for returning to a school in February for my third year placement. I would definitely recommend if the opportunity is available to the upcoming years to take it!

 

Reference:

Scottish Government (2009) Expressive Arts: Experiences and Outcomes Available at: https://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/Images/expressive_arts_experiences_outcomes_tcm4-539863.pdf (Accessed: 09/12/16)

The Panda Room

Today was the day when it was time for the twos.

My nursery experience today took me into “The Panda Room” and an afternoon painting and getting messy with the two year olds. There were a lot of difference between being with the two year olds and being in with the three to five year olds so I thought I would reflect on today with a blog.

The first thing I noticed before the children even arrived as how friendly with main practitioner with the two year olds was. This came with two lessons. Firstly, I noticed in myself how at ease I was immediately, Mrs Q*, was easily one of the friendly practitioners I have ever had the experience of working alongside so far. Mrs Q was very welcoming, talkative and wanted to know all about my experience of teaching and being at nursery. This made me realise how much easier having/being someone like Mrs Q can make these experience of coming into a unfamiliar environment, both a new place and a new teaching experience, for a student teacher. When the children came in, Mrs Q was exactly the type of practitioner the two year olds needed. She was calm, relaxed and spoke so slowly and well pronounced that it was an easy transition for the children coming away from their parents into the nursery.

The Panda room can have up to ten children in it but there were only three girls and one boy in today which meant there were three practitioners as well as myself in with the children which meant we had a one to one basis with the children. This meant that the atmosphere in the Panda Room compared to the 3-5’s room was automatically more relaxed. There were a few differences in the Panda Room, mainly the children did not come straight into group time for registration. This could be because there are less children and therefore there isn’t a need for the register but it allowed the children to come in and just get straight into playing with no formalities such as a set group activity like in the 3-5’s room and in a primary class room. This made me realise that the two year olds are just too young to be coming into nursery to partake in formalities such as these and they are at nursery purely for the play and social interaction with other children.

One of the critical things I noticed whilst in the Panda Room was that there were huge developmental differences in the two year olds to the 3-5 year olds that I have been working with normally at nursery. Normally with the 3-5 year olds – they are able to verbally communicate and many are using their words in full sentences. However, in the Panda Room, the two year olds have very limited words. The children have observation books where any progress in their language and communication is written down, for example one of the children was able to repeat ‘bananas’ and ‘apples’ whilst playing and this was noted in her observation book. This was one of the biggest difference in the two rooms and one of the hardest for myself to get my own head around. I noticed that I had totally changed when I was working with the two year olds for the first half an hour or so. I had realised that because the children weren’t communication through words then I also went a lot more quiet. As soon as I realised this in myself, I told myself to snap out of it. Just because the two year olds have limited words does not mean that I then as a twenty year old also go quiet. I knew that I should be doing the opposite and modelling words and expressions for the children to copy and learn, therefore this is what I tried to do for the rest of the afternoon.

Another key difference I picked up on in the two year olds were just how egocentric they were. Everything was about themselves; they were reluctant to share and play together. They also took a lot longer to process things. The children took a lot longer to come to terms with me being in the nursery. However, one of the children who initially would not even let me touch them or help her put on her coat and do up her shirt sleeve. By the end of day when her mum came to collect her, she ran up to me and gave me a cuddle goodbye which was an amazing feeling that the child had accepted me and her presence in the nursery.

*I have decided not to name anyone in these blogs as I have not asked for permission from the individuals to be included in my blog.

Take a Wonder into the Woods

As the old favourite goes – if you go down to the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise.

After missing my placement lifestyle of being so relaxed and enjoying nature, that and after reading ‘Nearby Nature: A Buffer of Life Stress Among Rural Children’ (Wells and Evans, 2003) – I decided to drag my flat mate, Steph, on a stroll around the country park nearest our flat. What I anticipated to just be a wonder around a picturesque park was quite different. I did not realise all of the different activities the country parks had to offer for families/children.

The first weekend, we visited Crombie Country Park. Crombie Country Park had multiple different walking routes the longest walk being around the loch and only at a distance of 2 and 3/4 miles with another 3 slightly shorter routes as well. Before we went off on our walk, I was not aware of what Crombie had to offer, especially for children, even the spectacular scenic views surprised me. Amongst the beautiful scenery however there were a host of surprises to keep the children entertained. There were activities such as find the giants, an orienteering course with different levels and little woodland “animals” hidden around our walk.

img_2374       img_2551

Find the Giants in the trees

img_2547 img_2549

Part of the orienteering course for the children

img_2553 img_2552

The hidden animals

img_2550 img_2548

No excuse to not take the children here!

Crombie Country Park also had the facilities for tree top trails, a play park, a young naturalist programme on a Saturday and a picnic/bbq area. Amongst this, there ranger team are on hand for activities such as arts and crafts or guided walks as well as school trips from nursery through to secondary to assist teachers and lead outdoor activities in the park.

A week later, after still being in awe at Crombie, Steph and I headed out to Monikie Country Park just across from Crombie. Whilst Monikie has less trails to offer that we could find, they were currently hosting the Dragon Matrix, which I am devastated I never managed to go to, which took up a lot of the park forrest areas. However, Monikie had a beautiful walk around the lake, a play park for children, a huge green space and lots of picnic tables where a few families were enjoying a picnic. Even with all of these facilities and resources, there were only two or three families at Monikie as well.

img_2555 img_2554

The Dragon Matrix – cross curricular learning – outdoor education, art and technology!

img_2557 img_2556

Perfect for the family – a beautiful walk and a great play park.

However, even with all of these different activities and play parks for the children, both Monikie and Crombie Country Parks were surprisingly quiet. There were only one or maybe two families that Steph and I noticed in either of the two parks. Considering the fact we went on a weekend, during the afternoon, once I realised all of the activities and the park, I did expect there to be more families at the parks. As after Steph and I had discussed, this is what my of our parents would have taken us to do on a weekend when we were younger. This made me really reflect on my recent reading about outdoor education particularly this quote below from Adam (2013, p.524).

“Accompanying the obesity concerns are fears for children’s safety which are leading to increased indoor activities (Jenkinson 2001; Palmer 2006; Coster 2007; Waller 2007; Alexander 2008). This trend towards children being ushered indoors has occurred despite the fact that statistics about risk outside the home are relatively small compared to parental fears (Coster 2007; Waller 2007; Alexander 2008; Layard and Dunn 2009).”

This shows thimg_2558at due to parents fears in this contemporary society and the desire to keep their children safe, they’re wrapping their children up in cotton wool and not allowing/taking them outside to experience these amazing resources and opportunities that the Country Parks offer.

Steph and I are determined to make these walks a weekly event with Forfar Loch Country Park next on our list. I would definitely recommend taking a break from all of the assignment or work and getting yourself to one of the country park to see all of the fantastic natural resources and activities they can offer for yourself or for your class. Why be stressed when you can go play outside and call it educational?

 

References 

Adam, K. (2013) ‘Childhood in Crisis? Perceptions of 7-11 year olds on being a child and the implications for education’s well-being agenda’ in Education 3-13 International Journal of Primary, Elementary and Early Years Education, 41(3) pp.523-537 London: Routledge

My Dad is on Facebook!

Strange educational blog post title – yes.

However, after 6 years of protesting how much he dislikes facebook, around a month ago my dad officially joined the digital space and made a facebook account. This shows me just how much we are moving towards a digital age and how much our lives revolve around the internet.

This combined with Derek’s lecture today made me think about how much I really know about the resources available online – which in fact is very little. I spend a good proportion of my day online for a variety of purposes and I am constantly connected with having multiple devices. For someone who spends a fair percentage of my day online, I felt that I should be aware of what children are using the internet for. Turns out, I don’t.

I have recently had a keen interest in outdoor education sparked and am beginning to look at this linked with the decline of playing outdoors in childhood with the link to the rise in technology. This had given me a rather fixed view on technology. Technology had been something I apportioned blame to for lack of play and creativity in young children recently. Turns out, I am wrong.

Although, there is a strong link with the decline in outdoor play due to technology. Technology is not entirely the bad guy. It can stimulate creativity and play. I have never heard of many of the resources Derek enlightened us to in his lecture today nor have I ever played Minecraft (sorry Derek). I have a youtube account but don’t exactly use it. It is clear, I am not a digital native. But, I am willing to learn. With my dad finally accepting that we are moving into a more digital world and joining facebook, I think it is time I look at digital learning space and resources available to children and teachers. It is time that I move into this digital age before I head into a class and become the teacher that does not know how to switch on the latest technology.

I hope by looking more into the resources available online that this will give me a more critical stance on outdoor education and technology. No one subject area works best for every child and I should know about a variety of different ways of learning rather than just the areas I am interested in. It maybe time to download Minecraft. Do you even get a Minecraft app? Well, I am about to find out. Wish me luck. Digital immigrant here I come. Like father like daughter. The 21st century is awaiting.

Hi Ho Hi Ho it’s off to Nursery We Go

Before I get started, Happy World Teacher Day!

Facebook reminded me today that it was 5 years ago that I lasted stepped foot in a nursery. That was for a grand total of one afternoon and I was a 15 year old who was keeping an open mind to my career path. I must have had about 4 different careers I wanted to do after I left school at that time. Now, after that week’s work experience 5 years ago, I am in my third year of studying to become a primary teacher and I am heading back to nursery today.

I have signed up at university to take part in a research project – #UoDTransitionEY on twitter if you’d like to follow our updates –  with my tutors and 7 fellow students. The project is to get the eight students into a nursery setting for one afternoon each week, for eight weeks. The aim of the project is allow the students to develop their communicative and free play skills in an early years setting before our third year placement in the early stages of primary school (primary 1-3). The project comes with out any paper work or folio work that would come with a normal university placement and it is solely to allow us to focus on developing our skills with young children.

My skills with young children are on the limited side. I have taught swimming lessons, athletics classes and played with younger children whilst out in America at working at a summer camp. However, my main base of experience working with children tends to be with children normally over the age of around 8 years old. Therefore, this project is looking to be a fantastic opportunity for myself to gain some experience and confidence working with younger children before going to my third year placement.

However, today I am currently feeling rather nervous. It’s the first day at a new place with new staff and new pupils which always seems a little daunting. Yet one of my biggest worries (a typical girl one that is) is what to wear? This already makes me feel a little bit more at ease than I would heading off to placement on my first day as there is no paper work, no file, no questions that I can forget to ask. It’s all about play, having fun and developing my confidence today. The tweets from my tutors are definitely helping to lower the nerves and encourage the excitement!

screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-08-41-55

So let’s go play!

After I pick out an outfit that is. Wish me luck.