The Issues with the Outdoors

Reflect on what you have read. What challenges may there be when beginning outdoor learning with a class? How would you plan and prepare for this?

Evidence – Write a reflection on the positive aspects and challenges of outdoor learning. Plan an outdoor learning lesson with a focus on Health & Wellbeing. Where will you go? What experiences/activities will you organise to ensure the Health and Wellbeing outcomes are met?

Taking a class outdoors for learning as I realised on my Learning from Placement there can be numerous risks. There were lengthy risk assessment documents for every potential risk that could happen on every activity they provided. However, whilst on placement, not once did we have any incidents during the 6 week period I was there.  This is due to the fact that the correct measures were in place because of the risk assessments.

In the beginning stages of taking a class outdoors and away from the school grounds, my biggest fear is losing a child. I am aware that if I build relationships with all my pupils and have the ability to trust them, then this should not be an issue. Setting the correct boundaries with the children and not allowing them totally freedom at first to make sure they are all able to come back when asked or stop where told to do means that I will still have control over the situation whilst allowing the children to have that freedom outdoors.

I believe thoroughly in the power of play and the effects being outdoors can have on children, especially since being on my placement in second year. I think that the outdoors generally has the ability to give children the sense of responsibility, freedom, independence, challenges, builds resilience and defines personalities. It has a huge impact on health and wellbeing in children as Stirling council, in particularly St. Ninians Primary, has proved with their daily mile challenge. Getting their children outdoors every day for their day mile has reduced obesity levels to the point where no child in St. Ninians is obese.

Although teaching outdoors come with its own set of risks. These cannot stop children from going outdoors. In a time when playing outside is quickly deteriorating due to fears of risks and of people: in my opinion, teachers and schools are in a position to educate. They should be taking children outdoors for their health and wellbeing and to educate children as well as parents on safe places to be outdoors and what the children can learn from being outdoors. When I take my class outdoors, I feel I have a basic knowledge already on places in Aberdeen that I could go or organisations that I could contact for resources or help. However, there will still be risks – which will always be there but through risk assessment and risk management, working with my children to build responsible citizens then these can be a part of learning.

When I was reading through chapter 11 of Dirty Teacher, there were issues such as weather, poisonous plants and wasps which are all valid issues but issues that can be overcome none the less. When I was working with Adventure Aberdeen, we never cancelled a session due to the weather – even in the snow in May. When I plan on doing an outdoor session with my class I will be advising parents in advance that we will be going outdoors and that children will need the appropriate clothing for this and remind them we are in Scotland – hopefully if its summer to send them with both a rain jacket and sunscreen but if we are in winter to make sure they will be well wrapped up. At Adventure Aberdeen, there were multiple times we were supposed to do activities that were water based activities but due to the weather these plans had to change, much to the disappointment of some children. However, the session was never completely cancelled – as Juliet suggested in chapter 11 – we changed the session to fit with the weather and it changed to a session where the children would always be active, such as cycling.

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.

Another issues that Juliet raised was poison plants. Poison plants or endangered plants were constantly surrounding children when I was out on placement. However, in the woods, if any plants were endangered or poisonous, the had a red stick next to them. This drew attention to them which could have made children go over and touch them but instead the inquisitive children wanted to know why there was a red stick in the forest and what it meant. This is an idea that can be taken into the local area or the playground to bring attention to the plants but can also be explained before to the children before we leave the classroom that if they see the red stick then it means not to touch the plant because it can be dangerous.

A final idea that Juliet suggested was to do with the animals we find out in nature such as wasps and spiders. Juliet’s idea of a wasp drill I think is a brilliant idea as children can tend to panic when a wasp comes near them. This idea can mean that it would significantly reduce the risk of children being hurt by a wasp. This would also lead into different lessons such as instruction written on helping other children to minimise their risk of being hurt and they find a wasp, which is already died, to investigate wasps further. The idea of creating a spider web with wool was something I thought was a way to explore spiders and it could be a topic of discussion for why spiders make webs. However, if I was doing this with children and we were looking at the outdoors, I would take them outdoors for this. I would have my class outdoors with ropes getting them to create a web using the ropes and the trees in a forest, making sure the web was tight and had little holes. I would then get the groups to discuss why they thought the spiders web needed to be tight and compact. This means that we can use the outdoors for learning interdisciplinary: taking art through the creating the web; using the web we have created to learn and discuss spiders; then use the outdoors to try and find some spider as well as discussing if we should or shouldn’t touch them; but also discussing what other animals we can find in the forest.

Dyslexia: A Break Down

After an input from one of our lecturers, Will, where he state that if we aren’t aware of the different Additional Support Needs (ASN) then we were being ignorant. Two of my friends and I have decided to look into Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Dyscalculia. As normally if you have one of these ASN then there is a stronger chance you will have another, if not all three as these come as a family of ASN. Through this blog post I am going to briefly give some information on Dyslexia.

What is Dyslexia?

“The word ‘dyslexia’ comes from the Greek and means ‘difficulty with words’.” (British Dyslexia Associations, no date)

Dyslexia is a common addition support need – a person who has dyslexia struggles with reading, writing and spelling. It is a lifelong problem for those who have dyslexia but there is support out there for them.

1 in 10-20 people have Dyslexia – therefore in a common sized primary school class in Scotland, it is more than likely that teachers will have at least one child who struggles with dyslexia if not more.

Unlike many ASN, Dyslexia has no impact on intelligence.

Dyslexia mainly affects the person’s ability to processing and remembering information that see and hear which can impact upon the person’s learning and the acquisition of literacy skills. 

The Signs of Dyslexia

The signs of dyslexia are for the majority, spotted when they are in primary school and begin to focus on reading and writing.

The NHS (no date) states that the signs of dyslexia may include:

  • “read and write very slowly
  • confuse the order of letters in words
  • put letters the wrong way round – such as writing “b” instead of “d”
  • have poor or inconsistent spelling
  • understand information when told verbally, but have difficulty with information that’s written down
  • find it hard to carry out a sequence of directions
  • struggle with planning and organisation”.

Dyslexia and The Eyes

The reason I had chosen to look into Dyslexia is that I have a form on dyslexia called Irlen’s Syndrome (which is commonly known as visual stress) which affects how you see text which is common with people with dyslexia. Below is an example of visual stress.

Dyslexia

People with dyslexia often cannot focus when reading standard black writing on white paper. People with dyslexia tend to prefer to have the paper a different colour – the colour of the paper depends on the person. I prefer grey paper which is very uncommon whereas yellow can be very common. There are things called overlays which are coloured plastic sheets for people who have Dyslexia or Irlen’s syndrome to place over paper to filter the paper to the colour they need. Below I have included a yellow and grey overlay but there are multiple different colours which can be seen at the Dyslexia website (ADD hyperlink). For some even the overlays are not even and they have tinted glasses to the colour they need.

Dyslexia and the eyes, Irlen’s syndrome or visual stress can cause symptoms such as the following:

  • “Blurred letters or words which go out of focus.
  • Letters which move or present with back to front appearance or shimmering or shaking.
  • Headaches from reading.
  • Words or letters which break into two and appear as double.
  • Find it easier to read large, widely spaced print, than small and crowded.
  • Difficulty with tracking across the page.
  • Upset by glare on the page or oversensitive to bright lights.”

(British Dyslexia Association, no date).

This can affect the child’s reading ability, making reading very tiring and a chore for children who suffer from it. However, in my own experience after getting the appropriate support, through my grey overlay, I found my love of reading come back.

What can a teacher do to help?

The following advice I have taken from dyslexia.com (Hodge, 2000).

  • Make sure anything that needs to go home, for example messages about when they need to take their physical education kit in, when parents even is. their homework etc, is all written down in a diary and checked before they leave, The advice also suggests getting them to have a couple of friends phone numbers at the front of the diary in case they are confused by what they are to do they can phone and check.
  • Break down tasks and instructions into short chunks of information that is easy to remember.
  • When they are copying from the board, try writing every line in a different colour of every second word underlined. With the technology these days, if you are using power point or interactive smart boards if you have a child who needs a yellow overlay, make the slides have a yellow background – this does not make a difference for anyone else in the classroom but makes it easier for the person who needs the overlay.
  • Make sure the reading stays on the board long enough for the children to read (and if necessary copy it down) it thoroughly and not rush.

The website has lots of advice on different areas including: reading, writing, copying from the board, spelling, maths, homework among others.

 

 

 

More information

Irlen’s Syndrome http://www.irlen.org.uk/

Dyslexia Shop http://www.thedyslexiashop.co.uk/stationery-for-dyslexics/specialist-paper.html

Advice for in the classroom http://www.dyslexia.com/library/classroom.htm

 

 

 

References

British Dyslexia Association (No Date) Dyslexia and Specific Difficulties: Overview Available at: http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/dyslexic/dyslexia-and-specific-difficulties-overview Accessed on: 23/01/16

Hodge, P. (2000) A Dyslexia Child in the Classroom: A Guide for Teachers and Parents Available at: http://www.dyslexia.com/library/classroom.htm Accessed on: 27/01/16

National Health Service (No Date) Dyslexia Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Dyslexia/Pages/Introduction.aspx Accessed on: 23/01/16

 

Upstart Dundee Launch

Upstart is a campaign for a nationwide moment to push back the starting age for school in Scotland from 4 or 5 years old to 7 years old to allow time for play and for children to be a child for as long as possible.

Queue the mad panic from parents. But just wait… There are so many benefits it may be time to step out of your comfort zone and into a new adventure and here is why.

comfort zone

The lecture theatre was filled in Dundee – Brenda (the Convener of Upstart) expected around 30 people but with a keen audience of over 330 people turned out it was the biggest launch for Upstart yet.

Upstart Launch

So why would we want children to start school later?

I have already looked into this in an early blog post available here.

In Scotland, we are keen advocates of learning everything as quickly as we can and we have one of the lowest school starting ages in Scotland with only 12% of countries worldwide having their children start school at 4-5 years old where as 66% of countries have children start school at 6 years old and the remaining 22% of countries have their children start school at 7 years old. An OECD survey shows that the 22% of countries that have their children start school at 7 years old are the countries with the children who tend to do the best academically.

Those countries that start at the age of 7 years old have a play-based kindergarden for 3-7 years old but by the age of 11 years old there is no difference in reading ability and those who start school at 7 years old are in fact keener to learn to read than their peers who started school at 5 years old.

In Finland, they do the least number of hour of schooling in the developed world yet still get the best results. They start school aged 7. They play until the age of 7. They lead healthier lives physically and mentally, they live longer and they are still better academically.

If we are living longer lives as adults, which Brenda quoted could be until 120 years old for this generation, then why are we continuing to decrease the time that a child spends playing?

The idea that children should play until the age of 7 is not a new idea. Sue Palmer, the founder of the Upstart movement and a language and literacy specialist, informed us at the launch that the idea originated from the Greeks.

The benefits of play are extensive. Sue Palmer and Dr Suzanne Zeedyk stated that free play build and influences many areas of our lives: it builds resilience, problem solving skills, social and communication skills, self-regulation, a love of learning. Free play influences creativity, sensory development, emotional experiences, friendships, a child’s thinking ability, motoric development, and the quality of marriage in later life. But the problem? Free play, such as playing in a sandpit, does not look like learning and in Scotland we love to push education.

Prince George at two years old is off to “nursey school” – into school at two years old. But according to the press it is not for the Prince to have a chance to play to develop all of the skills above it is to get him “into lessons” (The Telegraph, The Daily Mail and The Metro). We are too quick these days to put extra pressure onto children by adding the element of schoolification to early education.

The experiences a child has clearly affects the kind of adult you are. The pressure put on children currently has a clear impact on their mental health as children and as adults. In Scotland, there is a real decline of play – due to the school starting age and the development of technology. 2 in 3 children aged between 5 and 16 years old have their own tablets and at least a quarter of children are sent to bed with their tablets. In Scotland, there is also a huge increase in mental health problems and there is a widening achievement gap. How does our First Minister plan to fix this? By putting yet MORE pressure on children and teachers by reintroducing standardise testing – they didn’t work with the old 5-14 curriculum so why are we going back to this idea? Why do we not move forward for a 21st century change? Into a new revolution. A new adventure. An adventure where play and childhood is at the forefront?

Convinced? Follow the national Upstart movement on Facebook here and on twitter @UpstartScot.

Still unsure? Have a look at some more evidence

The Right to Play – Are Scotland Doing Enough?

In 1989, the United Nations introduced the Convention on the Rights of the Child which was ratified by the United Kingdom in 1991.

In the Convention on the Rights of the Child article 31 states that “States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.” (Unicef, No Date Given, p.9). I am interested to investigate if Scotland are doing enough in the early stages of a child’s life to allow them to engage in play. I have recently been looking at Sweden’s education system for the early years and their outlook on childhood and play. I am going to compare the two systems to see if Scotland are doing enough to allow children to play.

The first crucial difference in the two educational systems is the school starting stage. In Scotland children start school between the ages of 4 and 5 where as in Sweden children do not start school until the age of 7. In Sweden, the children however do go to preschool from a very early age – this is heavily funded by the government to support parents who are working or in education themselves – it roughly costs around £7.50 per day including food per child. The children leave preschool with no knowledge or learning of reading and writing at the age of 7 however by the age of 10 there is no difference in the league tables for reading and writing in Sweden with any other country. Parents and the Government believe that children should have the chance to play and develop before they begin school which is why they go to preschool to develop their social skills.

On the other hand, in Scotland, from as early as possible children are sent to school to learn to read and write. The government suggest they do this to allow parents to go back to work/education as early as possible. However, this means that from an early age children are taking away from the right to play and are made to begin their learning through planned lessons where as in the early years in Sweden the children have no planned lessons giving them the freedom to play and explore, particularly in the outdoors – a huge part of the Swedish Education system is based upon their push for outdoor education and play. Comparing this to Sweden and the league table results suggests immediately we are not doing enough to encourage play in the early years of childhood which is a right of the child.

However, in the Early Learning and Childcare Entitlement produced by the Scottish Government (No Date Given, No Page) it states that the Scottish Government are continually trying to improve the standard of early learning as well as its flexibility and cost for all families. Since August 2014, children, aged between 3 and 4/5 years old (for the majority of children – there are cases where it is from the age of 2 years old), in Scotland are entitled to 600 hours of free early learning and childcare. This gives children the chance for meaningful play to encourage children socialising from a young age before going to school. However, in comparison to Sweden although they have to pay for their preschool, it is a small expense as it is heavily subsidised by their government, children can attend preschool to play for a much longer period from as early as a parent wants to the age of 7. This gives the child more opportunity and time for meaningful play before entering school than there is in Scotland.

There are opportunities for play in the Scottish Education System, enough to meet the right of the child in article 31. However, I personally feel that the Scottish Government could be doing more to encourage play particularly at a young age especially in comparison to the Swedish Education System.

 

References

Scottish Government (No Date Given) Early Learning and Childcare Available at: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/People/Young-People/early-years/parenting-early-learning/childcare (Accessed on 20/01/16)

Unicef (No Date Given) The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Available at: http://www.unicef.org.uk/Documents/Publication-pdfs/UNCRC_PRESS200910web.pdf (Accessed on 20/01/16)

Finale of Discovering Mathematics

My essay is submitted. The last workshop is over and it’s the end of the discovering mathematics module.  To round off the module, I thought I would post an end of module blog post.

Was the module what I expected?

Discovering mathematics wasn’t exactly what I expected if I am being honest. I expected it to be a lot more directed at our future in the education profession (even with it being an elective module – I still thought this because it was an education elective) and I sort of thought it would be like our maths inputs from Teaching Across the Curriculum module in second semester of first year.

Did the module disappoint me?

Not at all – even without it being what I expected it to be. The best thing about the module had to be Richard’s excitement and enthusiasm. There isn’t many people who can take demand planning, turn it into a game and have everyone in the palm of their hands.

What did I gain from the module?

Before the module, I thought I knew a fair bit about mathematics. After the module, I realised I only knew the mathematics I was taught in school and mainly from secondary school which I perceived as pointless during and after standard grade maths – there was no relevance to my life which is exactly why I didn’t finish higher maths.

During the module, I realised just how relevant maths is to our day to day life (for everyone) and society. However, I still stand by the fact I think standard grade and higher mathematics is pointless… Who even uses standard deviation really?

The mathematics we discovered throughout this module was maths and music (who doesn’t listen to music?), the mathematics behind pineapples, the mathematics outside the classroom: it is the type of mathematics that is simply all around us. But it is also the mathematics we are never taught about at school. This module has given me a fresh outlook on why we need mathematics which leads nicely onto the next question I had to ask myself…

Where/when will I use this in the future?

The fresh outlook on mathematics that I have gained throughout this module has made me realise just how little relevance there is in learning mathematics out of a textbook for children. Examples in textbooks go on about little Jimmy buying 30 Watermelons (really?).

This module has given me multiple ideas of how to bring relevance into mathematics when I teach – even without the module being directed at teachers.

A particular lecture that stood out for me, for teaching in the future, was the maths and astronomy lecture by Dr Simon Reynolds. I think the majority, if not all, children learn about space when they are in primary school and I have never thought about the space in space. Yes, teachers tend to leave out learning about the space in space – the irony. Dr Simon Reynolds spoke to us about the size of the planets, pictures normally used to convey the planet sizes compared to one another but never about the distance between each planet. This will definitely affect my teaching when I teach a class about space.

Furthermore, in the future (a little bit closer than getting into my own classroom) I plan to take the information I learnt from Will Berry’s input on outdoor education and maths for my second year Learning from Life placement at Adventure Aberdeen and hopefully use this in relation to my placement as Adventure Aberdeen is an outdoor learning centre.

Where is my maths anxiety now?

We began the module with Tara Harper asking us to fill in an survey on how anxious we were about teaching mathematics and how we felt about mathematics (which I blogged about earlier), so I thought after going through the module it would be quite nice to reflect on this.

At the beginning my maths anxiety wasn’t overly high compared to a few of my friends anyway. I would say if I am being honest, it hasn’t really changed. I am still anxious to get graded on this module. I would however say that I do feel a bit more prepared for teaching maths in school now as I have many more ideas that I can use in the classroom (and I know my friends also have multiple ideas as well that they will hopefully share) and I can now approach maths in a classroom with ideas that will be a lot more relevant to a child’s life.

However, my friend who stated she had “awful maths anxiety” before this module now “definitely feels more confident with understanding more difficult maths such as (the) Golden Ratio and (the) Fibonacci (sequence)” and that this can all be put down to Richard. (Alexander, 2015)

Finally, do I recommend it for next year’s second years? 

If this hasn’t already convinced you – whether you love or hate maths, whether you are great or just feel you can’t do maths – this module is for everyone.

Yes it isn’t directed at teaching but you are bound to take lots away from it whether you think you know a lot about maths or you know nothing.

There is no “difficult” maths. There isn’t really any sums involved. You are looking in depth at the ideas and principles behind maths (and no it is not as boring as that sounds) as well as how maths comes into society (it really isn’t just the traditional STEM subjects like I first thought – who knew there was maths in a pineapple?…).

Richard’s enthusiasm and excitement will see that it is another great module next year again I am sure.

History and Literacy Outdoors!

Outdoor Education – two words that make any lecture automatically more interesting to me.

For Will’s input when he said we were actually going outdoors today I was as excited as any primary school child! As soon as we were allowed outside, off we went skipping away like little primary two’s.

IMG_7837IMG_7836

 

 

We literally went off skipping in excitement…

 

 

 

 

As we only had twenty minutes before we had to be back into the input, we cou10ldn’t go particularly far or find particularly much. However, what I did find that we could discuss was road safety, road signs and markings such as yellow lines – discussing with the children what they thought they meant. I also thought of reading things like bus time tables as this is a skill that is probably going to be relevant to their lives and is also something no one ever taught me to do.

 

However, after the input I went off for a wonder by myself down to the riverside. I already knew about the poem stanza down at the riverside and this was originally my first thought when Will told us to find something to do with literacy in the outdoors.

I was thinking of this as an upper years outdoor education lesson for history and literacy which could meet all four of these curriculum areas (Scottish Government, 2009):

Literacy (Reading): I can make notes, organise them under suitable headings and use them to understand information, develop my thinking, explore problems and create new texts, using my own words as appropriate. LIT 2-15a (p.31)

Literacy (Writing): By considering the type of text I am creating, I can select ideas and relevant information, organise these in an appropriate way for my purpose and use suitable vocabulary for my audience. LIT 2-26a (p.36)

Health and Wellbeing: I am experiencing enjoyment and achievement on a daily basis by taking part in different kinds of energetic physical activities of my choosing, including sport and opportunities for outdoor learning, available at my place of learning and in the wider community. HWB 2-25a (p.86)

Social Studies (History): I can investigate a Scottish historical theme to discover how past events or the actions of individuals or groups have shaped Scottish so1ciety. SOC 2-03a (p.283)

My lesson idea was to take the children down to the riverside with a notebook, first allow them to take some time to write down some words to describe what they seen, smelt, felt etc. I would give them some time to have a read of the tourist signs to see what information they would take about the Tay Bridge. I would allow some time for the children to discuss why they think we need the Tay Bridge.

Some pictures of the information signs for the Tay Bridge

4 23

My final part of the lesson would be for them to read the poem “The Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay” by William McGonagall (no date) which reads (a small extract from the section of the poem at the riverside):

“Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay!

I hope that God will protect all passengers

By night and by day

And that no accident will befall them while crossing

The Bridge of the Silvery Tay

For that would be most awful to be seen

Near by Dundee and the Magdalen Green”

 

I would allow them to take notes from the poem stanza and give them time to discuss the poem. After going back to the classroom, I would have a copy of the poem for the children to read the full version if they wish.

Some pictures of the poem engraved at the River Tay.

 98 7 6 5

When we got back to the class I would take some time for a whole class discussion on what they are learnt from the trip: from what they could initially see, smell, feel; to the history of the Tay Bridge; to McGonagall’s poem.

Whilst we were out, I would take pictures of the experiences, videos of the children and what they are thinking. Then when I would get them to reflect on what they have learnt in any way they wish the write it for example in a poem, diary entry, a creative story.

If I was carrying this on for a topic of the history of Dundee, when we were on our outdoor trip, I would perhaps ask the children to take a carrier bag with them and collect things to make a picture of the Tay Bridge for cross-curricular links with art.

As the Magdalen Green is continual mentioned throughout the poem – I would take the children out to the Magdalen Green for them to explore this as it is also a crucial part of Dundonian history. Allow them to go round collecting facts, items etc. for another outdoor lesson on the history of Dundee.

When we were finished the topic on the Tay Road Bridge: I would take the children down with chalk, allow them to add to the information (that they are learnt over the topic) provided at the Riverside on the ground. Documenting this with photographs and videos for the children assessment. I would also allow them to do this down at pavement at Magdalen Green with the facts and information they have learnt about Magdalen and its link to the history of Dundee. They could use the photographs in a portfolio for their assessment.

I feel this overall would be a lot more engage and active learning for the children instead of sitting at a desk with textbooks learning about the history of Dundee. These activities also have a lot more cross-curricular links than sitting reading facts out of a textbook about history.

 

 

References:

McGonagall, W. (No Date) McGonagall Online: The Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay Available at: http://www.mcgonagall-online.org.uk/gems/the-railway-bridge-of-the-silvery-tay (Accessed: 02/12/15)

Scottish Government (2009) Curriculum for Excellence Edinburgh: Scottish Government Available at: http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/Images/all_experiences_outcomes_tcm4-539562.pdf (Accessed: 02/12/15)

Learning to Unlearn

When I first heard the phrase “learning to unlearn” I was immediately thinking what on earth. Why would we want to unlearn? Where can the benefit on unlearning things? However, it turns out there are lots of benefits. Driving is an easy one – we learn bad habits, become lazy, stop checking mirrors not long after passing our tests and it only takes one accident to make people think I need to go back to my standard of driving when I passed my test. This is unlearning. It is unlearning bad habits.

Something crucial that I took away from one of our lectures from Professor John Baldacchino on “Learning, Education and schooling” today was that we constantly drill many things into children that they are losing their individual personality and their ability to interpret things differently or as Professor John put it – we are teaching children to think to a standardised model. I began to question why we teach children to be this way. Professor John compare this to art and when we go into an art gallery as a child we are told what to see in a painting. We are told what the painting must be. Why can’t we allow children to use their imagination of what a picture may be?

My former flat mate and fantastic artist drew a picture for one of her briefing which I have included underneath. I will not immediately include the briefing or title of the picture and allow you to imagine what this picture might represent.

hair

I am sure there are many ideas of what this picture could mean or represent. This picture is a self- portrait. Although when I think of the word self-portrait I assume it means a picture of the artists face and what they look like. To me (and I also assume many other people would think this as well), that is also standardised thinking, it is what I have been taught or told the word self-portrait means. On the other hand, Claire has done exactly what we spoke about in our lecture today. Claire has unlearnt what she has been told a self-portrait is. She has not gone away and spent hours perfecting a drawing of her face. She has taken a new meaning to self-portrait. The drawing itself and Claire’s thought process behind the drawing has inspired me to stop being so conformist and thinking everything for face value.

Claire has taken her briefing to do a self-portrait and instead taking into account the factor in her life that make Claire, Claire as an individual. Claire (who I am not going to attach a picture of yet – I will let you imagine and take as much as you can from her drawing just now) believes that the thing that make her an individual and what she has convey in the drawing is her ginger hair and her love of tea. She has incorporated two big things her life and used this to show herself in a self-portrait. This to me shows Claire as a person and not just by the way she looks.

On my first year professional practice I had done an art lesson on portraits. The art lesson wasn’t just to get the children to draw pictures of their peers. There was a message behind the lesson after getting to know my class. When I was planning for my lesson – I shared it on facebook for others on the course which I captioned “In an attempt to inspire my class that art can be for everyone and there is no wrong answer in art, my wonderful flat mates” (yes one being Claire) “and I (one art student, one English student and one teaching student) have drawn portraits… to show them there is always a range in abilities in art like any subject so we shouldn’t be disheartened. I have a range of abilities in my portraits to show them… and a range of abilities in acrostics… to try and show them we all have our own talents but we should always at least give it a shot, like my very willing flat mates have” who have also agreed to let me put them into my blog!

portrait 1 portrait 2 portrait 3

All of the portraits that were drawn by my flat mates, my class and myself were of course from the standardisation of thinking a portrait had to be of another person’s looks. In fact so standardised that the portrait only included their face not even a portrait of what the person looks like from head to toe.

If I were to do this lesson again, after reflecting on what I have learnt about standardised thinking and learning to unlearn. I would more than likely do a series of lessons: firstly getting them to do the same exercise again with the “standard portrait”; then have a brain storm of what else we think portrait could mean; and then have them create a portrait without anything to do with the person or their own face/look and see how differently we can show a portrait of someone.

 

(Big thank you once again to my willing flat mates for letting me including their personal art into my blog and lessons!)

My French Phobia

As a teacher I probably shouldn’t be as worried about as many subjects as I am. Maths, French, English… However, in French I have always had a big phobia. I remember missing my first few lessons of French in primary six and forever feeling permanently behind since then. I have never really known the French alphabet or the basic numbers confidently. French has always been one of the few subjects whilst studying that I haven’t enjoyed. A subject I have had to force myself to do any work for. At the same time being one of two subjects that I had to study for almost daily to even attempt to pass my standard grade credit exam for.

All of this fear and anxiety was transported back into my body the second I walked through the door of my first French workshop at university. I was immediately greeted by a cheerful Carrie saying “Bonjour!” as I entered the room and there I was fear struck and transported back to second year at academy. I wanted to turn round and run straight back out of that room.

Carrie had set out the room to be in small groups. I had managed to sit in a group with someone confident in French. I began to slouch in my chair and try to avoid eye contact with anyone. I felt although I did not belong. I hadn’t spoke, read, written or even thought about French since passing my standard grade and I was no longer obligated to do it.

However, even though there were a few things I did not know in the lesson, I felt the workshop went quite well. At first I was very reluctant to join in with saying things or doing the actions that Carrie had prepared for the words. I would sit quietly saying the words I knew and avoid saying anything I didn’t until it came to the point Carrie would watch to make sure we were all joining in. I began getting more and more involved in the workshop when we were all one big group.

The minute we were spilt into five and more eyes were on me, I felt uncomfortable and anxious again. I felt people were actually listening to me and probably judging how bad I was. However, listening to people saying they were uncomfortable and also had the same experiences as me again made me relax a tiny bit more. Then once again, Carrie then changed it to focus more and more on the individual – in a group of twenty five. I was panicked. This was the worst. However, once I had over exaggerated this. No one told me I was wrong. No one embarrassed me. Carrie handle the class perfectly.

Even if I was completely rubbish at the French, I came out of the workshop feeling more comfortable, confident and ready to go back next time. Carrie had not only taught me some French, she taught me how to teach French in a fantastic way without even saying it. I compared the workshop to my primary and secondary education: I automatically knew what kind of teacher I wanted and did not want to be when it comes to my turn to teach French which is always a successful outcome in a education degree.

Is Teaching A Profession?

I recently came across a photo on an educational page I follow on facebook which I absolutely loved and linked very well with a few news articles lately. I felt this following blog might be of some interest (and help) especially to the MA1 who will writing their essay on professional now or in the near future.

The quote (of Donald D. Quinn) came from the Education to the Core’s facebook page (this does not mean I endorse or support this facebook page at all). “If a doctor, lawyer or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble and the doctor, lawyer or dentist without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job”.

Now, I am not all one hundred percent in favour of this quote as it seems to dismay how much work doctors, lawyers and dentists do. I have never been either of those or studied any of their professions in depth but I am sure they are very hard working people from those I have had the pleasure meeting whilst at university.

However, there are a few sources out there that also seem to think that teacher do not quite make it as professionals or teaching does not quite make it as a profession. Teachers compared to doctors, lawyers and dentists seem to the least trusted – the government hold a lot more power over teachers than these other professions. A Guardian Education Correspondent, Sally Weale, summed up that the teaching profession is very closely monitored by the government by saying in her article “despite Michael Gove’s intentions, teaching has become a profession monitored to within an inch of its life. Weale links this to the reason for the huge drop out of newly qualified teachers very early in their career. This is something that doctors, lawyers or dentists do not have as much pressure on them as teachers.

There has been a record number of teachers leaving their profession due to the amount of work and stress they are under. “A combination of unacceptable number of hours worked, a punitive accountability system, the introduction of performance-related pay and being expected to work until 68 for a pension has turned teaching into a less than attractive career choice” (Blower, Quoted in The TES, 2015). I personally believe that teacher work just as hard as any other professional in professions such as medicine or law. However, due to quotes such as “He who can does. He who cannot teaches,” we do not get the same trust from the government or same respect as other professionals. Shaw (quoted in The Importance of Teaching, Volume 70 No. 5) rebuts this by stating that “teachers can do something, and do do something; they teach. Like any other professional activity, teaching requires a cultivated ability. To be done exceptionally well, it also requires a special talent and a sense of vocation”

Additionally, Quinn’s quote suggests that teachers have an incredibly hard job which most of the time goes unappreciated. Teachers work under many pressure listed in Quinn’s quote as well as the Guardian article which many other professions and professionals do not have. I believe this makes a good stance as to why teachers should be deemed as professionals and the job we do a profession.

I hope this has sparked some thoughts on teaching being a profession and teachers are professionals. However, in my own opinion, I clearly still believe that yes we are professionals for reasons such as those stated in Quinn’s quote and many more.

Can Animals Count?

This question seemed to hold a lot of debate in our recent Discovering Mathematics lecture and it intrigued me. Before the lecture, I was very narrowed minded on this issue and thought no of course not. However, there has been some pretty convincing arguments against my opinion which for anyone with the same opinion as me I am going to have a look into to broaden my mind a little.

The biggest influence that made me think that animals possibly could count was Ayumu the Chimpanzee who could correctly identify the order of number 1 through to 9. He could do this by just a few seconds looking at the numbers, which were in a completely random order, before they were covered up. Ayumu could also still correctly order numbers 1 through to 9 even if there were numbers missing from the pattern. This made me think that Ayumu could count to nine.

Although there were some pretty strong arguments against this as well. The fact that 30 students and 1 lectures who can all count could not do the challenge made me think does this chimp just have a great memory? Is the chimp really counting or does he just remember the patterns through rigorous training? However, the idea that he could do this even though there was no logical pattern to the numbers and there were just random digits between 1 and 9 on the screen then he was able to put them into a numerical order showed that this could have been related to the idea he knows the shapes of number 1 through to 9 and could put them in an order. There must have been some cognitive process going on – either counting or something similar to counting – to show that he could put the numbers in the correct order without every number being there. You can watch Ayumu impressively memorising where the number were and in the correct order below and have a shot at the same challenge below to see if you could manage it. Just remember 30 students and 1 lectures couldn’t do it together! Below is Ayumu showing you his skills and here is the Ayumu Counting Challenge Game link.

 

Another convincing, all be it strange and kind of cruel, argument that animals could count was that scientists now believe that ants count their steps back to their nests. Scientists glued on match sticks to the ants legs, leaving them with longer legs, or cut the ants legs, leaving them with stumps/shorter legs. The ants with the longer legs would walk straight past their nests where as the ants with shorter legs would not make it back to the nests. The scientists have put this down to ants having “internal pedometers” (which was first proposed in 1904) that they count the steps it take them when they leave the nest and they then go back using the same amount of steps to go back to their nest. Therefore, the ants with short legs would take the same amount of steps, but smaller steps, back to the nest and not make it back where as the ants with the stilts would take the same amount of steps and make it past their nests because of their new, longer legs. (Carey, 2006)

Another argument with two opposing sides to whether animals can count is the idea that mother ducks know when they have ducklings missing. One argument suggest that mother ducks can count. The idea that the mother duck knows that there is one missing as she does not have the same number of ducklings that she should. On the other hand, others argument that potentially the mother duck waits if there is a duckling missing is because she recognising the scent or features of a duckling is missing rather than knowing that there is a particular number missing.

Overall, I am now more convinced there is the possibility that animals could possibly count but there are also counterarguments that still support the view that animals cannot count.

 

Reference:

Carey, B. (2006) When Ants Go Marching , They Count Their Steps (Accessed: 7/10/15)