Category Archives: Contemporary issues

Placement Jitters

Current mode: panic!

No, not really. However, I am feeling very nervous about placement which begins TOMORROW. I say placement but is, in fact, a “prac”. I arrived in Australia Friday just passed and about to undertake a placement in Somerset College, an International Baccalaureate world school in Queensland!

As well as all of the nerves I felt before my last placement, I’ve accumulated about ten zillion more. Well. Ish. This is a totally different curriculum to Scotland and I am so incredibly excited to learn more about it.  An (unexpected) tour around the school when I was

An (unexpected) tour around the school when I was fresh off the plane has really given me a feel for the place. It is nothing like any of the schools I’ve been in before. It has an Olympic-sized swimming pool (which actual Olympic teams come over to train in!), a massive gym complex, sports fields, running tracks, multiple buildings, hugely facilitated classrooms all on a campus about four times the size of the campus at Dundee Uni! A short introduction to my class and a quick chat with the teacher has given me a little insight into the class dynamics. Lots of excitable little faces that I can’t wait to teach and learn from!

Australia as a place is EXTREMELY HOT. I am boiling, but it is way better than chilly Scotland. I
am very intrigued to learn about how the sun affects the daily routines of the school. I am so excited to learn more about Somerset and Australia, which just happens to have the cutest koalas EVER.

 

 

Common Purpose Study Abroad Opportunity – Malaysia!

screen-shot-2016-12-29-at-19-50-37Recently I’ve just returned home from a fantastic opportunity offered by the university to visit Kuala Lumpur on a leadership programme offered by Common Purpose. I’m still a little stunned, as I didn’t even think I’d be selected to go, however, I did and I had such an amazing time.

The programme involved exploring what a smart city is, leadership, exploring cultural leadership and undertaking the “challenge”.

When we first arrived in Malaysia we had time to explore the city. It was absolutely amazing and a bit of a culture shock compared to Scotland! We delved right in experiencing everything from the public transport to the food, navigating ourselves around the city (and getting lost in taxis!) We were introduced to our peers we’d be working with from both Heriot Watt Edinburgh and Heriot Watt Malaysia and got our bearings. We were introduced to all of the tourist spots including the KL tower, Twin Towers, and Batu caves!

Statue and stairs leading to Batu Caves

Statue and stairs leading to Batu Caves

The first thing we explored within the programme was “cultural intelligence” (CQ). We found it was an essential element to understanding the world and people around us. The programme taught us that this involved the cross between different cultures, but also different generations and even organisations. Personally, I felt this was how well we understand and respect others from different backgrounds.

We also took part in a number of group work activities. We were

Our winning tower!

Our winning tower!

grouped in a mixed group from Dundee and the two Heriot Watt campuses so we had a lot of diversity in our little team. We done little group work activities such as building the tallest tower (which we won!) as well are more thought-provoking activities. The one which got me the most was a group activity with cards. Each member of our team was given around 6 cards with very controversial statements regarding things such as religious clothing and if it should be worn at work, euthanasia and global warming. These were to be grouped into agree, disagree and can’t decide. after everyone had placed them down, we had the opportunity to read them all and turn over any we felt had screen-shot-2016-12-29-at-19-55-23been placed in the wrong area. These cards were then discussed and provoked some very interesting discussions. It was so interesting to hear other points of views on subjects that are not normally spoken about. This also provoked discussions on the difference between Scotland and Malaysia in regards to LGBT rights, legal systems, religion, and climate. These were very interesting to hear. I don’t think I was quite aware of the significant differences.

The programme was mainly aimed at the “challenge”. On two days there were opportunities to visit one of four businesses, so there was someone from your team represented at each. I visited ThinkCity and Women’s Aid.

Our group after visiting ThinkCity!

Our group after visiting ThinkCity!

ThinkCity is an organisation that uses small government grants to support communities to improve them. They ensure they involve the community and make sure what they are doing is really what the community needs. We heard some lovely stories of their past projects and it was great to hear how much of an impact they have on the local people.

Women’s Aid is an organisation that provides short term aid to Women who are victims of domestic abuse. Women are not particularly represented well and there is still a strong male dominance within the political system. This organisation comprising of social workers and volunteers work extremely hard, even more so considering there are two separate legal systems, one for everyone and one for muslims to follow.

After everyone had visited their organisations, we came together with our local mentor to come up with an idea. We felt that there were significant issues regarding the representation of the disabled and elderly. The first day I was in the city I was shocked at the fact the buses were so high up and didn’t even come over to the pavements as well as the lack of lifts or accessible footpaths. We later found out that due to this people who would benefit from these facilities cannot venture out without help. We decided that the disabled and elderly would be the focus of our idea, and we would implement these features into the community. After speaking to our mentor we also included the facilities at local community centres, to give these people an opportunity to leave

Our poster to go alongside our elevator pitch video and presentation!

Our poster to go alongside our elevator pitch video and presentation!

the house on outings and to join social groups. On the final day, we produced an action plan and presented our idea to s senior/expert panel. We were supported before doing so in a pitching workshop where we worked on the skills necessary to do so successfully. They were touched that we’d recognised the need for support for these people, as is not the first thing people consider when they think about “smart cities”

This opportunity was incredible and one I never even knew existed until I happened to open the email sitting in the library only a few weeks back. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity given to me and the experiences I gained along the way. Malaysia is incredible and I hope to visit again soon!

The Heriot Watt Malaysia campus was incredible!

Heriot-Watt Malaysia Campus was incredible!

 

Just Breathe…

When previously considering the role of the teacher, I was guilty of envisioning WHAT they were teaching their class…

Who is really in control of your classroom?

Who is really in control of your classroom?

However, since the very first lecture, it has become very apparent that, yes, the content of a lesson is important, but so is HOW the lesson is delivered.

The presence of the class teacher is important in order to keep control of the class. A strong broad presence projects a great deal of confidence. Whereas a lack of confidence will be apparent to pupils, and they will very quickly learn how to get around your authority.

A great way of establishing your authority is to greet your pupils as they enter your classroom for the day. Simple things such as asking them about something they mentioned they were participating in, or to compliment them coming in will give them a great boost. Even just a smile or a handshake whilst maintaining eye-contact will ensure authority is established before the day begins. It is also extremely useful as it allows you, as a teacher, to spot any child apparently disengaged and obviously not ready to participate in a class lesson. I will definitely be keeping this in mind more placement; especially in terms of my behaviour management goal (detailed here).

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 01.17.08Our voice is our most important tool as a teacher, and as an authoritative figure, it can be damaged fairly easily if we do not take adequate care of it. Many teachers think by talking louder, the children’s attention will be gained quicker, but this is not always the case. It is a natural reaction to shout in reply to bad behaviour but there are other ways of getting the desired attention and behaviour. These include things such as patiently waiting for silence, using  hand gestures or praising the pupils who do comply. By adapting tone and using expression, we can gain our pupils attention just as effectively. Other ways of doing so are by varying our volume, pace and pitch. I feel this will affect my goal of time management in regards to my planning. I will do my best to improvise around disruptions to resolve them and minimise the chance of them happening again.

So yes, our voice is a very important tool in the classroom. Because of this, we need to take care of it! Voice problems are very common such as hoarseness, sore throats and a need for constant throat clearing.

To prevent any problems, teachers should ensure they warm up their voice before the teaching day begins. Interestingly, one of the easiest ways to do so is simply to yawn! But obviously, not in front of your pupils! Vocal exercises are also very effective! Here is a very easy to follow video with some vocal warm-ups: Click Here

If any problems do arise, throat pastilles and breathing steam are life-savers!

I found a few breathing exercises brought up in Nikki Doig’s lecture very interesting. By placing Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 01.13.03your hands above your hips (with your fingers pressed in under your ribs) breathe in through the nose for 3 seconds, hold it for three seconds and then slowly breathe out for three seconds. This is a great relaxation technique! It also alerted to me that I was not breathing correctly! I am very guilty of allowing myself to breathe out of my chest more than my stomach, which can cause a lot of strain! Definitely something I need to re-think before entering the classroom to ensure I am not straining myself.

 

edit **I just taught my dance class with basically no voice. It was a nightmare but definitely goes to show how important voice care is. It was also VERY interesting to see how using a quiet tone of voice can actually be more effective!**

 

5 6 7…… DANCE!

I can’t think of anything in this world I am more passionate about than dance. It is literally everything. Understandably so, when I seen dance on the timetable I was ecstatic.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 02.58.42I’ve danced since the age of 3. I’ve been through phases of loving it and hating it – but I honestly don’t know where I would be without it. The places I’ve been and the experiences I’ve had through dancing are incredible, and I’d encourage anyone and everyone to give it a go.

I’ve seen all the sides of it, from different genres to the competition world, championships, shows, international performances, tattoos – you name it. Dance gave me the confidence to keep trying. If I was asked five years ago if I thought I’d be performing in the Royal Edinburgh Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 02.56.28Military Tattoo, or travelling to amazing places such as Oman, Sweden and Germany to perform – of course, my response would be “NO WAY I COULD NEVER DO THAT.” But yes, I did, and I now know that amazing things can be achieved with the right mindset and support.  How did I come to this, though? THROUGH DANCE!

Dance has more benefits than just learning correct technique. The social skills learnt are equally as important, especially to young children. They learn how to respect other dancers as well as their teacher/choreographer, and officials Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 03.00.30when in a competition setting. As a teacher with my own dance school, I thoroughly enjoy watching my students form relationships with each other and seeing their social skills strengthen along with their dancing. Not only that, but they learn to deal with success as well as failure (and how to deal with it), time management, and how to take on board corrections to practice in their own time. Nothing is more encouraging than seeing one of your pupils succeed, but at the same time just seeing them enjoying the process is amazing.

With my understanding of the Curriculum for Excellence experiences and outcomes for Dance, I would put into place an exciting lesson for a primary 5 class, such as:

CfE Outcome: “I can explore and choose movements to create and present dance, developing my skills and techniques.” – EXA 2-08a

Learning Intentions: By the end of the lesson, I will be able to perform a short sequence I have choreographed myself using different actions, different levels and using different rhythms.

Success Criteria: To create a short sequence to music incorporating different levels, ways of travelling and different rhythms. (To develop this in the next two years, the introduction of motifs and choreographic devices such as canons, interpretation and repetition will build on the intentions of this lesson.)

Assessment: To assess if the pupils have achieved the success criteria I would have small groups present their work to their peers and make use of peer evaluation.

How will I achieve this: I will incorporate short activities aimed at introducing the three criterion for success, One activity will involve learning different ways to travel making good use of space across a room. Another will introduce how to incorporate different levels, and what can be done to make them effective. To develop an understanding of rhythm, I would use a clapping activity; simply clapping different rhythms, be it perfect rhythms, imperfect half beat rhythms – to music.

A positive experience of dance is key to enjoying it and I am extremely excited to bring it into my lessons in the primary.

Dancing is moving to the music without stepping on anyone’s toes, pretty much the same as life. ~Robert Brault

Opening Our Arms

 

The plane which landed around 15:40 GMT at Glasgow airport.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34839477

The plane which landed around 15:40 GMT at Glasgow airport.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34839477

As the first plane of Syrian refugee’s touches down in The United Kingdom today, I feel it is important to reflect on how positive it is that our country has opened its arms to these people in their time of need. Britain has agreed to take in around 20,000 refugees over the next five years, which I feel is fantastic. It is amazing when countries step in to help at times like this, and even more amazing that this time it is us.

As most of the refugees coming over are families and are due to resettle in various local authorities across Scotland, I feel it is appropriate to reflect on what this means for us as teachers. These refugees will be in need of specialist medical care and specialist support to help them through any issues derived from the violence and torture they have experienced. There are already places within schools set aside for them.

A lot of these children would have been forced to quit school if they were even lucky enough to be there in the first place. We will have to be aware as teachers, that these pupils are likely to be learning English as their second language. This will face us with certain challenges. We will have the additional factor that their understanding on the English language may not be as developed as the rest of their classmates, as well as the fact that they will be at a disadvantage socially due to the language barriers.

self-esteem-and-mathThese children will also have experienced loss all around of them, and lost connection with a lot of their friends and family. This will have had a very negative effect on their self-esteem and confidence. As teachers, we have the responsibility to recognise this and put into effect support strategies to support these children in this difficult time.

A way in which we can do this is “buddy” systems. This will help them get to know their peers, and ensure they are not lonely at times such as breaks and lunch. Children may feel secluded as their parents may not want to bring them along to after school activities when it is dark – so it is essential they are given a good opportunity to socialise during these breaks within the school day.

In countries such as Syria, schools are often targeted by terrorist activity. We need to make sure these children coming into our UK schools know that they are now in a safe environment.

It’s heart-breaking to think about what they’ve been through, but there is the chance that their past experiences may have an effect on their behaviour. Children may be distant, and refuse or even become frightened around strangers, so a close eye will have to be on them in the early days to ensure they are settling in and coming well. Struggles may also be apparent when they are placed within large groups, they may need one-to-one support before they can build up the confidence to take part in whole class activities.

ok_to_move_forwardWe should never ask children to re-live these traumatic experiences, ever. No matter whether it is a written exercise, homework exercise, or ANYTHING. We should also make sure they are never questioned by any other staff or child as to why they are here. They deserve to be in school getting educated as much as everyone else.

Most importantly of all, we need to provide a school experience for these children that is positive and welcoming. These children have a lot to offer and have been through so, so much to get here.

What standards we should be attaining as student teachers?

smartboardThe General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) has their own standards for registration. These are split into two parts, The Standards for Provisional Registration (SPR), and The Standard for Full Registration (SFR). These are a series of standards put in place to make clear how teachers should act, and the values they should possess as a professional. For those of us looking forward to when we apply for Provisional Registration, it is good to use as guidance and support.

The SPR lays down what is expected of us as student teachers, and we should use it to shape ourselves into the teachers of the future. It is stated that once you have gained the SPR, and then the SFR, you should continue to develop yourself as a person. These standards are set down to set us up for a “Career of lifelong learning”.

The professional standards we are seeking to attain are vital in shaping us into the best teachers we can be.

It is interesting that the code is essentially the criteria we need to meet to ensure we are fit to A GOOD TEACHERteach. I find it very beneficial that the document States the Professional Values and Personal Commitment that I should have as a teacher. These include:

  • Social Justice
  • Integrity
  • Trust and Respect
  • Professional Commitment

I like how it goes into great depth about which areas we should be knowledgeable about, such as the curriculum, teaching programmes and assessments. It is very helpful that it has a breakdown of the things within education policy (such as laws and legislations), as well as the education system we should be aware of as students.

The standards do however state that we should have high expectations of all learners (3.1.4). Whereas I do feel our expectations should be relatively high, is it not unrealistic to have high expectations of everyone? Not everyone has the same abilities, and expectations should be specific to each individual learner.

Within a separate document, The Student Teacher Code, there are different rules laid down. I didn’t realise that after we gain the SFR, as well as having our PVG’s and by that time tonnes of experience in the classroom, the GTC STILL assess our fitness to teach. I do however understand the seriousness of a criminal conviction, and agree with GTC’s need to investigate any allegations.

downloadI found the “Key Principles of the Student Teacher Code” Very helpful. They state that as a student we should be good role models, make our pupils our main focus, and be respectful of others along with a few others.

When we are working with pupils we should show good moral values. Part 1 of the code is about how we work with pupils. It contains points about us having to keep sensitive information confidential, and that we should be a role model in EVERYTHING we do and say. I like the way they have written this into an easy to read document.

Part 2 is about how us as a student teacher works with others. As I took the Working Together module for my elective, it is nice to see the=is document including the importance of working cooperatively with those in other professions. I also think it is fair that it states you should not comment on other teachers or professionals within the educational community. I can only imagine the damage this could cause and I would not wish it on anyone.integrity_definition

Part 3 is mainly about how we should be honest and show integrity as a student teacher. Whilst
reading this part of the comment, it is very evident that a lot of these points. No matter what profession I could have chosen to go into I would never engage in criminal behaviour. I also find it very upsetting that some serious offences must have taken place in the past for some of these points to be added to this document. The point on social networking stands out a lot. I agree as professionals we should definitely be careful of how we portray ourselves on social media. We do not want our reputation ruined. 

Overall, the whole Student-Teacher Code is beneficial in highlighting how we should and should not act as professionals. The importance of equality and diversity are extremely important, especially when considering the Equality Act (2010). I can see how this code coincides with the standards for provisional education, which are both very useful documents.

The Orphans Hidden in the Iron Curtain era

I’ve always been aware that some children do not have such a fortunate upbringing. However, there is nothing I could have done to prepare myself for the shock of the Romanian Orphans upbringings.

Following Will Berry’s input on the physical child, in particular brain development, I decided to follow up his mention of Romanian orphans and read further into the topic.

To my shock, the first thing I came across was pages and pages of articles, all about the deprivation of these orphans. Many being documented articles on individual cases. It is seriously heartbreaking reading what these children went through. They were placed in state-run orphanages, many receiving only minutes of one to one care each day. Growing up in a small empty room, many being restrained to their beds. Understandably, this caused a lot of problems for these children. Most suffered deformities due to a lack of exercise. With a lack of social stimulation, they did not get the opportunity to develop properly. Some as old as teenagers could be mistaken for eight year olds, due to the fact social and emotional deprivation stunts growth. Many children lacked the ability to even walk properly due to being restrained in a crib staring at a blank ceiling for years. It is so clear to see the lack of development through the blank looks in the poor children eyes in the countless photographs online. Many children suffering from various disorders such as anxiety, depression and reactive attachment disorder, the most common being post-traumatic stress. It really says it all.

This issue within Romanian Orphanages prevailed after Nicolae Ceausescu, a Communist Dictator become President. He was worried about the ageing population, and decided to conquer this by banning contraception and abortions. He even passed a law stating women HAD to have five children, infertility was just not tolerated. Unfortunately, many parents could not afford to bring up all these children and had no choice other than to hand them over to the state. This put pressures on the orphanages which simply could not cope with the amount of orphans. It also caused a serious financial struggle, and due to a lack of equipment needles were shared and many blood supplies were contaminated. Due to this, there are still Romanian children today infected with H.I.V and AIDS, still forced to live without important medicines. It was not until Ceausescu was overthrown in 1989 that this disaster was revealed to the rest of the world.

Luckily due to this publicity, many Romanian orphans were then adopted. Rutter et al (2007) followed the lives of adopted Romanian orphans who were adopted by Western families, assessing their development. it is very interesting to find that even after years of neglect and no sensitive care, these children began to show signs of development, despite having attachment issues, especially with adults but also with peers. The findings also showed that children adopted before 6 months of age developed at the same rate as children adopted in Britain. This showed that once adopted, these children do have the opportunity to catch up, but unfortunately after 6 months of age the negative effects brought upon these children from the orphanages are more permanent. 

The effects of being placed in Romanian orphanages are unbearable to think about, but I feel it is important to be aware of what went on and consider the findings of these reports. A lot of these children have a very low IQ after being left to amuse themselves. This just highlights to me how important it is for a child to experience care and social stimulation, especially in their earliest years. It also brings up the issue that not everyone comes from the same walk of life. Some children come from neglectful backgrounds, and we have to be aware of this as teachers. All children deserve an equal chance in life, and especially in education.

Romanian Orphans

Image taken from: http://magazine.nd.edu/news/9873-traveling-mercies/