From one NQT to the next

Since its National Digital Learning Week (I know I haven’t blogged probably within the last year) but since reading my NQT final report and realising I have 6 short weeks left with my first ever class I thought I would share my advice for the new NQTs.

 

Don’t panic – just trust

 

For some NQTs they do not get their first choice of local authorities, others do not get their first choice of stage. I was in the second category, after an extremely enjoyable placement in P1 P3 in my third and fourth year of university, I really wanted to stay in the infant end of the school. My new school placed me in P6 and I think I spent most of my summer in blind panic at how I was going to cope. Whatever situation you are in do not panic. Your school have been doing this for years and they probably know the challenges you need more than you do yourself. I know can’t imagine being out of upper school, I probably wouldn’t have achieved half of the things I did this year with a younger class. Nevertheless, I look forward to the next challenge.

 

Do not spend your whole summer planning

 

The children will lead their own learning. This is one of the biggest things I have learnt this year. Now that you do not have to have paper plans to stick to, you will go off on tangents far more often when you get comfortable with your class and those hours you spent planning over summer will not be needed. Some school may give you set topics and you do not want to have drafted plans for a topic you do not even get to teach. Be patient, get to know your class and enjoy the journey and new experience of planning alongside them.

 

Do something to engage in your school journey

 

My school are on a big digital journey and it was my weakest area of practice going into my NQT year. I remember thinking the Google Drive and Classroom lecture I got a university was a big waste of time because I had never seen a school with enough computers for one each per child. Never did I think a year on Google Drive and Classroom would be an everyday feature in my class. It has had the biggest impact on my NQT just because I thought I better give this ago after a CPD/CLPL to engage with the school. My class now have their own set of Chromebooks to see how far we can develop their digital skills. Yes, I said we and by we, I mean the children and I because 9 times out of 10 they are leading their own learning. This last week alone I have had visitors from another primary school in to watch my practice, presented my practice at the Tayside Regional Collaborative (with my learners) and been featured three times on Education Scotland’s National Digital Learning Week Blog because I gave something I was scared of a go. Next week HMIE are coming to observe. The biggest message, even if you think it is going to go down like a lead balloon, at least give it a go first. You never know where it will end up. If it does go down in flame, great reflect on it with your mentor and use it as a learning opportunity. If it doesn’t, then let it flourish.

 

Ask for advice

 

This is what your mentor is there for. They want to help, support and guide you because they want the best for you. I cannot believe how lucky I got with my mentor, she has been amazing all year round and there’s been no silly questions or judgement because I didn’t know something. Just ask if you don’t know.

 

Appreciate your colleagues’ knowledge

Ask questions! Similar to your mentor, they have probably been doing this for several years or at the school for a year or many more. They know the way things work in the school. They have tried different things; they have resourced ready which my colleagues have been wonderful with sharing. If you don’t ask the answer will always be no.  I would not have achieved half as much without the support of my colleagues, they are fantastic and I am so fortunate to have been blessed with my school encouraging me along this year.

 

Get to know your learners and what works for them

Everyone is an individual. They all have things which work for them, spend time getting to know them all. I had 29 learners to begin with, all unique all with a different set of needs all needing to be challenged in a different way. I have become so proud of them all in different ways because I have got to know all their talents. They’re your first of many classes potential but give them your all, show them you care about them as individuals as well as about them as a whole class and they will do the same back for you. My class love the Chromebooks, they engage with them so well and that is the sole reason I continued to try out new things and go home in my own time to learn about it.

 

Make a to do list for your days out

Simple. And priorities it with what needs to be done first otherwise you will sit and procrastinate. I was fortunate to have two other NQTs in my school to learn alongside and support each other but on days out sometimes we had to separate ourselves to stop us from just chatting. You have to make the most of them, you only get them for one year. Observe good practice, take online CPD, mark your jotters, write reports whatever it is that needs doing use these days to their full potential.

 

Self-care is key

In the first term you will want to do EVERYTHING and you will soon come to realise it just isn’t possible even with the best will in the world your to do list now and will forever be endless. However, you need to make time for yourself. In the first term I got so consumed in work I forgot to have a work life balance. You need to work smarter not harder or you will burn out so quickly. It is a long but quick and exhausting year. Make sure you make plans with friends to force yourself to have time out because you will want to make a great impression on your school. You do not need to spend all your time working to do that. It isn’t a placement anymore, you have a whole year to prove yourself. Yes go in with great intentions and smash your goals but have time out and a time to leave work at work.

 

NQTs

You are all in the same position, whether this be your friends from university, other NQTs in your school or at the NQT days – ask each other questions, learn from each other and support one another. It isn’t a competition you will all have different ideas of what works in your class and it might work in yours as well.

 

Enjoy

It has been the hardest but most rewarding year of my life. I have enjoyed watching my class grow and learn new things. I cannot believe I am almost leaving them, but I hope each and every one of them have learnt or taken away something for their future. Just enjoy spending time getting to know them – you’ll never get another first class!

 

Good luck and enjoy your journey!

 

I apologise now if any of it doesn’t make sense, I am exhausted!

 

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!

 

Exploring Edinburgh!

Whilst Steph and I had Stephanie’s friend from America, Apshara, over for the week. We thought we should take a trip to the capital to show her a little more of Scotland. Perfect time for another Social Studies blog!

All ready for our trip to the capital with our tartan and irn bru, stereotypical Scots!

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When we arrived in Edinburgh, we decided to go to Princes’ Street Gardens and the Wallace Monument. What I had never realised until we were looking for things to do to show Apshara was that you can go up the Wallace Monument. This is something I had walked past numerous times and never even considered. It is however, now that I know it is an option, is something I would be very interested to do at a later day because we did not have long in Edinburgh.

The Wallace Monument

At the gardens, there was a World War II Remembrance Day memorial surrounding the Wallace Monument. The memorial was hundreds of poppies on little plaques to represent the fallen who had served our country during World War II. This, in my opinion, felt like a representation of Flanders Field. Although I had never studied the poem Flanders Field in school, the memorial gave a very apparent representation of the image I had in my mind of Flanders Field. It was, personally, a very touching memorial.

The World War II Remembrance Day Memorial in Edinburgh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The memorial did not immediately seem relevant to a blog post or my assignment but as I have sat down to write this post, the relevance to my assignment is indisputable. The critical viewpoint of history’s place in the Curriculum for Excellence in short can be argued in two lights. One by the postmodernist views which state that history and some sources validity must be questions as accounts are in their view simply stories and the relevance of those stories must therefore be questioned. On the other hand, the relevance of understanding our heritage, how society was formed and understanding key world events such as World War II is critical to children’s understanding of the world but must be taught with relevance to the world and their lives today for example through Interdisciplinary Learning topics which also focus on issues in current society. This has all come into my social studies assignment. I felt the memorial did a spectacular job of capturing the importance of World War II in today’s society and it really moved me personally.

Part of the memorial was the ‘Tree of Thanks’. The Tree was to allow for people to thank someone or the fallen for the things they do/have done for them. This, to me, allowed for a personal element to the memorial and there were a lot of beautiful messages to both people’s chosen person and the fallen. This allowed for time to think and reflect on what the fallen have done for our country and what other people do for you every day. My Tartan Heart (Tartan, anything piece of our Scottish heritage I did not immediately think so) was of course dedicated to my mum. My mum (and dad) have done so much for me especially over the last few years I have been at university and I always think it is important to thank them.

The memorial really got me thinking as I had never seen any World War II Remembrance Memorial like this before. Although it has not really helped me understand the significance of teaching World War II as a standalone topic still, it has helped me to acknowledge that this is still an important issue in contemporary society.

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As a newfound big fan of the Scottish Museum, I thought this would be the perfect place to show Apshara a little bit more of Scotland and our heritage as a country. However, as a we got there quite late and they were closing from the top down, we never got to go to the ‘A Changing Nation’ section which I felt from my last trip here was the most relevant section to our lives and had the most information that would be interesting to Apshara.

However, this meant we went to a section of the Museum that Katie and I did not get to explore. Although we were only there for an hour and on top of the last trip, still did not feel like long enough. We went into the technology section on the ground and fifth floor which was purely for enjoyment and it was great fun. Stephanie had said previously ‘I am not sure I am going to enjoy a museum’ as I hyped up the place. This was the three of them after a great hour of fun!

Three clearly amused adults!

Stephanie’s parting words ‘this was great fun, we have to come back when it is fully open!’.

The clear enjoyment.

This comment alone only strengthened my opinion that although the museum is a huge place and there is a lot to do which makes it important, for the trip as a learning experience, to have a set area or task to focus on to keep control of the class and the experience. It is also important to allow children a chance to enjoy other sections that may interest them. These experiences, I feel from personal experience as a child on school trips, are what made me remember the trips and therefore the learning that took place. The fun and enjoyment as crucial parts to learning inside and out with the classroom but of course for risk assessments and health and safety especially outside need to be controlled by the teachers.

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The trip to Edinburgh as a whole was unexpectedly really worthwhile. It was a great stimulus for some serious thought into issues which are relevant to my current learning regarding social studies and an opportunity to broaden my own opinions and knowledge.

“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.

Embracing my Inner Child (and the wind)!

Ok, so all my friends from the Central Belt of Scotland talked of great trips of the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh for class trips. Being a ‘Northern’, I had never been and was a little jealous. So, with the elective as a great excuse, Katie and I set off to Edinburgh for a day trip to the museum.

 

I walked into the museum and was overwhelmed by the size of the place, there isn’t anything up north quite as big. In the museum, there are sections for Scotland, Science and Technology, World Cultures, Art, Design and Fasion and the Natural World as well as the special exhibit section. There is so much in the Museum of Scotland, I as a 21-year-old adult, found it hard to focus at first. There was just so much to play with in the Technology section which we just so happened to walk into first. Another considerable difference, was the amount of children who were in the museum. Whenever I have been on any other of my trips, the children have been scarce. In the museum, there was a plethora of children in the technology section. This showed to me, this maybe a very good trip as the children would choose to come here but on the other hand, it may not be such a good trip if you worked in the local area as the children may have already been and therefore, may not be as interested in the museum.

 

This made me think as a teacher, there would have to a thorough plan in place for a trip to the Museum of Scotland as it would be quite easy to derail from the purpose of the trip. However, I would also not be opposed to timetabling in free time for the children to explore a section such as the technology section as it was highly interesting and I feel a class of primary 6’s or 7’s could be trusted to enjoy the free time sensible and come back to a designated point at a given time. This could be done with a younger class as well but I suppose it goes on how well you know and can trust your own class rather than a set age.

After spending probably a little too much time having fun, we only had two hours in the museum, Katie and I ventured up to the top of the museum for the section “Scotland: A Changing Nation”. This section I found really interesting as well. The majority of the exhibits in this section I could personally relate to. Although the exhibition was dated from 1900 to the present day, I felt like I knew most of the exhibits on show. This section really made me think about how much of Scottish History I have been a part of, from the best parts such as Glasgow 2014 to the worst drop in oil Aberdeen has ever seen, to exciting changes in history such as the voting aged being dropped for the Scottish Referendum to 16 years old.

 

A Changing Nation, I felt did really well at including the whole of Scotland in the exhibit which isn’t always the case in other museums, they tend to be focussed a particularly era or part of Scotland. In this section, Katie learnt I wasn’t lying when I asked Foos your doos? or fit like I’day? And told her these were real words when she watched a video from the people of Scotland. Both of us, were very fond of this video, it really encapsulated Scotland and our heritage. This section took us from more recent history straight through to the modern day. It helped me personally to understand where we had come from in perspective to where we are currently and how we as a nation have evolved over time. I feel to fully understand where we are, we must understand our heritage which in my own opinion is key in the rationale for teaching history.

As we ventured down the stairs into Industry and Empire, the 19th century section, we began to quickly get bored.

 

Whilst in the Industry and Empire section and even further down the Scottish history timeline and sections, although we did still feel there was a lot of information to take in and we did not see the significance to our lives as learners and questioned the relevance to children in our potential classes. We felt if we ourselves as learners were bored, we would struggle to engage children in a lesson in this section. Therefore, personally, if I were to take a class, unless it was specific to the topic they were learning about at the time, I would perhaps limit the Scotland section to only Scotland: A Changing Nation and the more modern history which children could relate to.

As I stated at the beginning, there were a variety of different sections and we unfortunately did not get to visit them all. However, we did have a quick look at the Art, Design and Fashion section. Katie had a class who were designing hats as part of a project with the V&A Dundee in her placement school last year and she felt they would have thoroughly enjoyed looking at the exhibits in this section. Katie felt this would have inspired their designs and inspired the children to be as creative as they liked with their hats. On the other hand, to myself, I wouldn’t have thought to take a class to this section as a teacher as although I thought the dresses and hats were pretty to look at, I did not feel myself gaining anything as a learner. Therefore, it shows, given the right topic this could be a great stimulus for learning and thus we must remain open minded to different sections of the museums for different topics and not just continue to use the same section or exhibits.

We also had brief look at the Age of Oil special exhibit. The Age of Oil exhibit was looking at the Oil industry mainly with the focus on Aberdeen. The Oil industry is a significant part of my life. I grew up spending my weekends playing at the Harbour with my grandparents. Both my dad, sister and at least one of my best friends, Findlay, currently work in the oil industry. It is hugely significant in Aberdeen. It is a big employer and has many jobs, to the point my dad, sister and Findlay all work in oil but neither work in the same company and neither of them even have similar jobs. However, neither of them work off shore either. Baring this in mind, here are my thoughts of the exhibit.

So far, I feel I enjoyed this trip the most out of all of the previous trips. There is so much that can be done in the museum and we couldn’t have possibly looked in depth at everything in the short amount of time we went so we did focus on Technology and Science and Scotland: A Changing Nation. We chose to do that as we felt those sections were most relevant to ourselves as learners and felt they would be most relevant to the children in our future classes.

 

Overall, here are our thoughts from the trip:

 

It was a very educational but fun day out! I had a great time embracing my inner child. Definitely recommend a visit!

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.

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Find the Giants in the trees

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Part of the orienteering course for the children

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The hidden animals

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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.

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

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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

Outdoor play in Early Years

For my second week back at nursery, I was asked to spend my afternoon outdoors. This request was met by my delight at the chance to have a look into some more learning in the outdoor particularly as this is an age that I have had no experience working outdoors with.

In the nursery there are no set lessons or plans for the children and they are free to play how they want, it was a chance to see what the children would do with their outdoor free play opportunities. Due to the fact that parents in this contemporary society are trying to protect their children as best as possible, this unfortunately means that children are not getting the opportunities to “exercise their bodies or to encounter the excitement and challenges of the outdoors. As a consequence an increasing number of children have weight problems. Current figures suggest that 22.9 per cent of four- and five-year-olds are either overweight or obese” (Dowling, 2010, p.172-3).

Whilst I was outside with the other practitioner, Mrs H, we got chatting about the limitations of outdoor play in the primary setting. Mrs H and myself discussed the fact that the children whilst in nursery had the choice to play outdoors in all weather conditions and the nursery practitioners had no choice but to be outdoors as well in all conditions. The only thing the children were told on this particular day was that they had to have a jacket on to play outside. However, on the other side of a fence, life for the children in the primary school was much different. Children were running round in the cold without jackets on but the minute the slightest bit of rain came on, the children were ushered indoors for the last ten minutes of lunch break. This is very common primary schools. It is almost as if teachers are worried of children getting cold whereas from what I can remember as a child as well as from the experience I had today, children tend to want to be outside regardless of the weather conditions. It was really important for me to see the difference between the nurseries practice and the primary stage practice.

This made me reflect on the idea of learning in the outdoors and the fact that the majority of teachers, regardless of this being a vital part of the CfE, only viewing outdoor education as a one of lesson when the weather is nice.  However, as the nursery children proved to me – they do not care what the weather is like, as long as they are having fun, enjoying themselves and getting to play, they are more than happy to be outdoors in the rain. Robertson (2014) stated weather as one of the common reasons that teachers worry about before they start outdoor learning. This should not be a worry for teachers as on my Learning from Life placement with Adventure Aberdeen there was not a single session we considered cancelling due to the weather – the students were just equipped by the centre with appropriate clothing for the activity and weather. Therefore, when teachers are planning for an outdoor education lesson, they should advise parents in advance that the class will be going outdoors and that children will need the appropriate clothing for this and remind them we are in Scotland. Teachers also need a degree of flexibility when planning for learning outdoors as Robertson (2014) suggests as the weather may not allow for one activity but this does not mean the lesson should be cancelled but simply adapted to fit with the weather

With weather, I have experienced both extremes whilst at camp and whilst on placement. As already stated on placement, the children were out in all weather conditions from sunny days in the sea to snow sand sledging. However, at camp, the as soon as it rained – in a little bit – the children’s activities were changed from normal schedule to rainy day schedule. This meant that the children were kept indoors even when it was just drizzling. You could tell from the children that this was frustrating for them as they looked forward to the activities they had selected and these were often cancelled, normally these days were back to back. In my views, if Scandinavians countries can have children out in all weathers and this clearly has an impact on their children’s wellbeing and education then we should follow the lead of Adventure Aberdeen and the Scandinavian countries and try to get our children out in all weather conditions.  In contrast to the nursery and the primary setting this is two extremes on the scale although it rather remarkably shows the same point – a little bit of rain can totally hinder the joy the children are having outdoors.

Children, in my view, should, like in the nursery, have the opportunity to have their voice heard and make decisions for themselves as to whether or not during their free play time they would like to stay outdoors in any weather, as long as they have appropriate clothing for the weather on, or if they would prefer to go inside. I understand that this is not always possible as the children need to be supervised and this would be stretching the playground assistance, there could possibly be solutions, for example the children who want to play indoors go to the games hall instead of their classrooms.

Reference

Dowling, M (2010) Young Children’s Personal, Social and Emotional Development 3rd Edn. London: Sage Publications

Robertson, J. (2014) Dirty Teaching: A Beginner’s Guide to Learning Outdoors Wales: Independent Thinking Press

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.

First day at Nursery!

On Wednesday, as my previous blog post stated, I was off for my first day of nursery for part of my Transition Project at university. The nerves this morning were there a little bit but not as much as the night before.

The minute I walked into the school, I was greeted by a lovely receptionist at the front desk for the school which automatically made me feel more relaxed.  When I arrived at the nursery, they weren’t exactly expecting me. Which seems to be the issue whenever I arrive at a school so thankfully that never made me nervous at school. I was introduced to the staff at the nursery which was a team of 16 ladies for a nursery which can have 60 3-5 year olds and 10 2 year olds in their panda room. Although, they currently aren’t working at full capacity.

Immediately, this amount of children and the size of the nursery was a big change from the nursery I went to which was about half the size in both respects. I had not yet seen the size of the nursery but I was imagining it to be quite big. Much to my surprise, it was about half the size I expected however it did have a big outdoor space to play. Outdoor play is something I am hugely passionate about due to the positive impacts it makes on childhood; the statistics on how well the Scandinavian countries, from whom outdoor play holds a substantial part of their pedagogy for early years’ education; and because many of the fond memories I have of my childhood are from playing outdoors with my parents.

The afternoon in a nursery was very similar to an episode of “The Secret Life of Four Year Olds” from channel 4. There was a lot going on for the children to choose from but apart from at the beginning and the end of the session there was no structure to the day; it was all free play. When the children first come in, they are spilt into six groups of ten (when the nursery is a full capacity) to have a chance to speak with one of the nursery teachers* and to do the register amongst other things.

The group I was placed with for the beginning was consolidating what they had learnt yesterday from their visit from “Farmer Jill”. Firstly, I thought the fact that they had left this consolidating until today instead of the group time at the end of yesterdays session was a fantastic idea. This meant that the children could go away yesterday and think about what they had learnt , giving them time to process all of the information they had learnt before they had to summarise their knowledge. This was very similar to what I can imagine a structured lesson with a small group of Primary 1 pupils could consist of. When we began the questions on consolidating their knowledge were very closed questions such as “can you remember who came to visit yesterday?” but this meant that all of the children knew the answer but the same children were always the ones who wanted to speak which quickly became chaotic was three or four children were shouting out different things. The children’s group leader* improvised and had the children pass round one of the spaces which meant that the children all had a chance to share what they could remember from yesterday and what they enjoyed most. This first half an hour of the afternoon session was very structure and the children were sitting for a long time before they got to play. However, I can see this as beneficial for the children for when they are moving into primary school and are expected to have structured lessons all day very soon.

The rest of the afternoon was free play for the children. One of the big things I noticed was the lack of interaction with technology. There were two computers and one smartboard that the children, as far as I am aware, can use. However, the children were much more interested in doing activities such as baking, making puzzles, arts and crafts but mainly they were interested in playing games outside including tig and tag and hide and seek. To see children enjoying playing outdoors in the current age when technology is an ever growing medium and outdoor play is steadily decreasing was very encouraging to see.

One of the big things I have observed with the teachers in the nursery today, is their range of tone of voice and their excitement when talking with the children. I was always aware that this would be something I would need to work on when going into an early years setting as my ability to change of my tone of voice with ease can be rather limited. To be able to observe how the nursery teachers do it and how the convey excitement when the children are excited about something is definitely something I am paying close attention to. It was also when the children were speaking over one another in group time, the teacher was never cross or shouted at them but the way she spoke when she asked them to allow someone else to have a turn meant the children understood what they were doing was not kind to the person whose turn it was to speak. I am hoping that through observing this practice over the next 8 weeks that to be able to pick up and replicate some of their skills to be able to improve my practice for my third year placement.

Overall, I had a fantastic first day at nursery: there were many great opportunities to observe, learn, build bonds with the children and most importantly, play. I am thoroughly looking forward to going back after the October break.

 

*As I have not yet had the chance to ask permission to name the teachers in my reflections, they will currently stay anonymous.

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!

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So let’s go play!

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