Writing my thesis and co-fighting cancer.

Stress, tears, laughter, happiness, a cold (or multiple of them, primary schools are germy places), a huge work load and a lot of food (my group likes to celebrate with food) were some of the many things I imagined over the summer would appear in my final year of university. One thing I didn’t expect was cancer. Unfortunately, however, here I am writing this blog.

A little bit of back story: my mum, an incredibly brave and strong lady, was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of the summer before I was heading into my final year of university not long after my auntie (my mum’s sister in law) had also been diagnosed with the same form of cancer. My mum recently asked me to write a little bit about how I was feeling so there was something to look back on so this post isn’t for sympathy or empathy; it is purely for my mum.

There was no way I ready or expecting the news my mum told me when I got back from Berlin, I still cry even thinking about that moment in our conservatory when everything changed in our lives. My mum told me there was a good chance she probably had cancer but was waiting for the diagnosis from the doctor. There and then I was ready to take a year out of university so I could be home to look after my mum. However, my mum had other plans, of course. Graduation is her goal and I know we will both be there. Since the moment of being in the conservatory, there have been so many ups and down since then; my mum was unfortunately diagnosed which was of course heart breaking but there was no better feeling than taking a couple of minutes out of a lecture (Sorry Anna!) to hear the first round of chemotherapy had worked and the cancer was shrinking. I remember going back into the lecture, sitting in between two of my best friends unable to put into words what I had just been told because I simply could not stop smiling. I was so unbelievably proud of my mum. It has been so hard watching her so ill for the first week after a round of chemotherapy but the good news, for me, makes it all worthwhile as we are one step closer to beating it.

For the lecturer, we were asked to cross stitch a slogan (I am not going to lie, I missed the bit where Anna explained why we were doing this) but between my two friends and I we made this (see below) which now has pride of place on my mum’s dining room wall next to our family photos. As awful as the situation is, I have never seen our family closer; we are a busy bunch, we live in different cities/towns and we often don’t get the chance to speak to one another as much as we would like but nowadays family is a lot more important to our household and extended family and we are all fighting this together which is what our cross stitch symbolises. There is a lot going on in the family but that means there is even more support which is what gets us, especially my mum and auntie, through this difficult time.

I expected to spend many hours of this academic year writing my thesis at the library, the last place I expected to write parts of my thesis was in the chemotherapy ward at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary but there has been no better motivation to get my thesis written. I want to spend as much time as possible with my mum and have a good Christmas together so sitting in the hospital thinking if my mum can sit here fighting cancer with the goal of my graduation to do so then I can absolutely sit beside her and write part of my thesis with the goal of my graduation also in mind.

Over the last few months, in amongst my studies, I have tried to do as many fundraising events for MacMillan Cancer support from coffee mornings, walking across the Queensferry Crossing (even though I hate bridges) to Sober October as a family which I should say, easily the most challenging. After sending hours in the library staring at a computer screen, there was sometimes nothing more I wanted than to go out for a nice meal with my friends/boyfriend and have a glass of wine. However, I knew if my mum couldn’t drink because of the chemotherapy which I can imagine being much tougher than my thesis then I could go a month without a drink. My mum and I have the goal to be fit enough to do the Race for Life in summer hopefully to mark the end of this journey!

There is no way I would still be at university if it wasn’t for the constant support of the lecturers, my best friends, flat mate, boyfriend and of course my family! I cannot thank the wards and Maggies at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary enough for all they are doing for my mum and I intend to make her as proud as she is making me.

If nothing else comes of this post than giving my mum something to read when she is bored at home then so be it but if it makes the horrible situation that you just want to sometimes bottle up and not speak about easier for anyone else in a similar situation feel able to talk about then it has been worthwhile.

A Summer of Scottish Studies!

After my first Scottish/Social Studies input with Anna, she had suggested we take a road trip as part of the elective module. Amongst the suggestions Anna made was the Forth Rail Bridge, beaches and the Falkirk Wheel. Without even noticing it previously, I realised during the input that my summer was filled with a lot of Scottish Studies adventure.

There was numerous Scottish landmarks I managed to tick off but the two I really enjoyed was the new Queensferry Crossing and the Falkirk Wheel.

 

Fortunately, my friend Zoe and I were two of the 50,000 that secured a place in the ballot of a lifetime to walk across the new bridge. This was a fantastic opportunity and something that I know at some point in my career will definitely come up, whether it be history, geography, modern studies, at some point there will be a relevant link to the bridge or the opportunity.

 

The Kelpies have been something that have intrigued me for a long time as a child and they were definitely one of the Scottish Landmarks on my Bucket List. When I came to university and met one of my best friends from Falkirk, she promised to take me to see them one day. Finally, three years later (typical Katy style) we made it there this summer. We also went up the Falkirk Wheel, the Falkirk Wheel is the first and only rotating boat life (Scottish Canals, No Date). In the tour, the guide told us about the history of the wheel, the engineering design behind it and some tourist information about Falkirk.

However, for my job, I was also in and around numerous cities but I never got the chance to visit some of the fantastic things I was driving/walking past every day. My job sent me to Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen and Stuart Melville College in Edinburgh for coaching. I drove past River Dee and The Old Deeside Line walk which always look beautiful but I have never actually done. In Edinburgh, I walked through the grounds of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. The grounds were gorgeous but due to being committed to work, it meant that I could not go into the museum as I was working in the opening hours. Therefore, it shows me in Scotland, from my home time (Aberdeen) to further afield, such as the capital, there is still so much I can discover in a small or longer road trip and make it ‘productive university work’, I will take that as a win! I am sure my friends and I will have no hesitation to go on a road trip. We do love a beach!

 

Reference

Scottish Canals (No Date) Falkirk Wheel: About the Wheel Available at: https://www.scottishcanals.co.uk/falkirk-wheel/about-the-wheel/ (Accessed on: 30/9/17)

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

To trip or not to trip: The McManus Gallery

As part of our TDT from Nikki following our social studies workshop: Katie and I decided to take a trip to the McManus Gallery – a place we have been curious about since moving to Dundee 2 years ago.
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As we had never been before, we had a look at a few experiences and outcomes from the social studies document that we thought might possible fit with what we imagined being in the gallery. Those experiences and outcomes were:

“I am aware that different types of evidence can help me to find out about the past. SOC 0-01a”;

“I can use evidence to recreate the story of a place or individual of local historical interest. SOC 1-03a”;

“I can compare aspects of people’s daily lives in the past with my own by using historical evidence or the experience of recreating an historical setting. SOC 1-0”;

And finally, “I can investigate a Scottish historical theme to discover how past events or the actions of individuals or groups have shaped Scottish society. SOC 2-03a”.

When we went into the McManus, we realised that there was a very wide variety of resources, information and materials. This made it difficult for us to pin point one topic that you could be focussing on if you were going to be taking a class on a trip. There was multiple suggestions that Katie and myself went back and forth contemplating such as a topic on: the 3 J’s of Dundee: Jute, Jam and Journalism; the Tay Bridge Disaster; Dundee city centre through time, travel throughout time. Although there were resources on all of these topics; there was only one small section on each of these which meant that if you were to take a class based on any of these topics then it would be difficult to fill a morning or afternoon using the gallery alone as a lesson.

However, if the class were doing a topic just on Dundee: Past, Present and Future. I thought that maybe having the class spilt into different groups for working in the gallery and outside the gallery.

If I were to take a class on a trip, I would have one group looking at city square; group two looking at the 3 J’s, the third group looking at the Tay Bridge and the final group looking at the waterfront.

For the city square group: I would begin with them standing oimg_1848n city square reflecting on what they can see, hear, feel around them. I would then take them into the section of the McManus Gallery titled “What is a Museum?” and have them discuss in their group what they believed they would be able to find in the McManus on their topic. I would then take them into the Modern Making of Dundee section of the gallery; allowing them some time to look around before directing them to the model of the city centre from the past before getting them to imagine and discuss what they think they would hear, feel and see around them if they were to stand in the city square at this time. I would take this group into the study section to discuss what they think the future of the city centre of Dundee will be like, looking at the development of the waterfront and the Wellgate shopping centre. I feel like this is relevant to their lives as it is looking at Dundee as a progressive img_2408city and it is looking into what their future will look like in Dundee. I would also have the group discussing what they would want for the future city, if they would like to stay in the city in the future.

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For group two who would be looking at the 3 J’s, I would start with them in the section What is a
img_1853Museum? and have them discuss what they think they should be looking for in the gallery. I would allow them time in the Modern Making of Dundee section to explore before directing them towards the 3 J’s exhibit and the Beano exhibit as this was a crucial part of journalism in Dundee. I would allow the group some time in the study section on the gallery to look into the Beano magazines and discuss what they have learnt from the exhibits on the 3J’s. I would get the group to discuss what they think will happen to journalism in the future thinking about technologies role in journalism. I would then get this group to finally go out and look at Bash Street just along from the museum, discussing its role in journalism in Dundee and look at the Beano statues in the city centre to bring the trip to an end – if there was time: I would get the group to sketch the statue or the Bash Street sign.

My third group I would start down at the River Tay. I would get them to look at the current bridge, draw a sketch of it and discuss why they thought we needed a new bridge. I would then get them to look at the signs around them and look into the history of the Tay Bridge: including the Tay Bridge Disaster, much like the English Outdoor Lesson (which you can find a post about here) section of the gallery, allowing free time to explore the exhibit before asking them what they have found that links to their topic. If they are struggling, I would direct them to the Tay Bridge disaster exhibit. Finally, I would get the group into the study section of the gallery and get them to share what they have learnt about the disaster and the current Tay Bridge and think what/if any predictions they have for the future of the Tay Bridge – linking in with technological advances in travel which they can also go and look at the past methods of transport and how they can imagine travelling over the Tay in the future.img_1850img_1852img_1851

 

My final group that I will have looking mainly at the future of the Dundee Waterfront. I would have them start iimg_1849n the Modern Making of Dundee section and allow them to explore to see what they can find about the past waterfront of Dundee. I would then allow this group to move outside and down to the current waterfront. I would get them to describe what they can see and make comparisons to what they now know about the history of the waterfront. I would get the group back into the gallery allow them to have some free time to see if there is anything they can find on the modernisation of the waterfront: using this and basing it on prediction I would have the work each/in pairs take a section of the waterfront and sketch what they think it might look like in 5/10 years time.

To conclude this trip: I would have each group create a presentation to feedback their knowledge and what they have learnt with the other children in the class. This presentation could take the form of powerpoint, art work, amongst other ideas. I would then link this into a technology input and have the children use google maps to find the places they have visited and create one whole class map conveying the past, current and future of Dundee: which I intend to blog about in a future post.

Overall, this trip would take a lot of planning and a serious amount of additional help from parents and other teachers. This would make the trip rather difficult to get around. The McManus Galleries although they have a huge range of fantastic exhibits that are very educational. There is not an in depth section on any particular part which would also make this trip rather difficult.

Personally, I at this stage in my development would not choose to take a class here. However, as I get more confident in my teaching and have a class of my own so I know the children – this is something I may consider as the class can learn a lot about Dundee from group work and there is a broad base of exhibit the children can use to expand there knowledge – more than likely more than there could ever be in a class or school.

Pupil Expectation at Adventure Aberdeen

Adventure Aberdeen have made their own jigsaw puzzle which relates to their expectations, what they want the children to gain or benefit from the experience whilst working with them and links to the curriculum for excellence.

This is the jigsaw:

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The front

 

 

 

 

The back

 

 

 

As the pictures aren’t very clear/readable the jigsaw reads:

Words (on the front) Description of expectation (on the back)
Share Co-operate with the team

Share Success

Discuss plans and divide up tasks

Look back over the experiences and discuss them

Teamwork Work positively with others
Challenge Challenge yourself by applying your experiences to your wider life
Ambitious Aim high

Set goals

Strive to be the best you can

Review and set realistic targets for yourself

Support Encourage others

Recognise and celebrate success of yourself and others

Build up each others confidence

Trust Be trustworthy

Trust yourself

Trust others to help you

Be honest with others and yourself

Try Commitment to the task and to take part

Make informed decisions

Develop coping strategies

Take a risk… try something new

Motivate Be realistic – keep trying when it gets tough or uncomfortable

Persevere with the task – stick at it!

Have determination to succeed

Safe Follow instructions to avoid hazards and risks

Look out for your own safety

Look out for others safety

Listen Listen to instruction (use your eyes and ears)

Communication by listening and talking (one talking at a time)

Help the team to concentrate

Don’t be a distraction

Respectful Respect for others

Respect equipment and others belongings

Respect for the environment

Self respect

Responsibility Be responsible for your own learning, actions and values
You ACTIVE LEARNING

 

My Educational Philosophy

“Education is a most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” Nelson Mandela.

This quote is in our university education building. I personally believe that education is a weapon which used to the best of our abilities as teachers can change a child’s life. Below is my philosophy on how as a teacher I believe education can help children achieve their best potential.

Personally, I believe that education should always be centred around the pupils and not teacher-centred. Teachers have already had their education and now they are in the position where they are here to help each individual pupil achieve their best and reach their full potential, like their teachers’ when they were children did for them: this links to my research on the Montessori philosophy of education. Children are at school to learn different skills, attributes, to gain soft/transferable skills and skills and qualifications to take into their later life, their job or whatever it is they choose to do once they leave education. Each individual pupil will have different things they need to develop, things that interest them and things that will not interest them: these are all important factors that teachers’ need to work into their lessons to help their whole class develop and learn successfully.

Although I believe that teachers have knowledge that they need to pass down to pupils and they are there to teach the children and help them develop. In my view, that children need to work in groups or pairs to fully develop. I think that working in groups or pairs help children to interact, they learn from one another whether it is backing up what they already know or adding to their learning through conflict of opinion. In my opinion, this is may be the best way to include all the pupils as there is usually a big number of children to one teacher and she cannot possibly see every child on every lesson they do.

In my view, I think that children should have a choice (whether it be a small choice, maybe helping to make a decision on what topic they will study for the term, what task they want to try or the subjects they will study for two years) in what they are learning because ultimately they know what is of interest to them, what will engage their learning and what knowledge and skills they are likely to use in jobs or just generally in later life. I do not think that forcing a child to learn a subject such as home economics, geography, history, and chemistry will help them if they are not going to use this in later life. I do believe they will always need to have a basic knowledge of core subjects such as maths and English but otherwise the subjects children are interested in personally will engage their attention more and hopefully they will understand and learn more from this approach.

Personally, I think that the best way to discipline is through positive reinforcement – from the behaviourism learning theory. For example noticing when children are doing a task well, behaving well and praising this behaviour and attitude through stickers, golden time, verbal praise etc. I believe that this will create a better ethos in my classroom and show all the other children what behaviour is expected of them in an encouraging way. On the other hand, it would be quite difficult to remove negative behaviour from the classroom if it is not picked upon and dealt with accordingly through punishment, for example time out – missing out on some golden time – or a response cost, not being allowed to sit next to their friend – from the behaviourism learning theory.

I accept that teachers should be a role model for the behaviour they expect from the children. The teacher should have a degree of morals and ethics that should constantly be on display for the children to view, pick up on and reproduce so that they understand what is expected of them.

In my opinion, exams are at the heart of education too much just now and they are putting an excessive amount of pressure on student to see how much they can remember and reproduce under exam condition. Many people after a few years away from a subject, that they have a good standard of qualification in, cannot recall much or anything that they learnt from the subject. I feel continual assessments and updates on the progress of children is a much more beneficially way to see what they are learning and where the gaps in their knowledge are. In my view, this is when teachers are important. They are there to fill the gaps in children’s knowledge and help them to improve on their weaknesses and build on their strengths.

I do believe to a degree children come to school to effectively take their place in society in later life. However, I do not believe that their place in society or their future is based on their social class, ethic group or any minority factor in a child’s life. Children are not replicas of their parents. Each child has their own potential they can fulfil and now education is much more assessable and affordable for all (particularly in Scotland with free tuition fees), a child can chose any career path they want and if they are determined enough and work for it they can get there with the help from their teachers. School is in my vision a stepping stone to this. School, from a young age, shows similarities to a work place: both have uniforms; both have rules in place (for behaviour, what is expected of employees or pupils); both have lunch breaks and there are more similarities. This is a key consistency especially for children so they know how their day is likely to be and there is no uncertainty.

I think that Montessori introducing ideas like small table and chairs is key to divide the differences between children at school and adults at work. This shows that children are not mini adults and they are at school to learn and develop not to be prepared for working in a factoring or what is expected of them in their social class or ethic group.

I personally think child are able to do anything and go anywhere in their life if they have the right encouragement, determination, support and environment to succeed in.