It is beyond doubt that all our knowledge begins with experience

Philosophy
Comes from the Greek. Philo – love. Sophia – knowledge/wisdom.
Education
Comes from the Latin of ‘educare’ – meaning to ‘bring up’ or to ‘bring forth’. 

There is no clear definition to Philosophy or Education. But if we look at where the words originated from, and what they literally mean, we can see that the Philosophy of Education could be interpreted as to mean the love and knowledge of bringing up children. As a teacher – this would make sense as the philosophy of education is the application of philosophy being applied to the current education system. It is important as a teacher to make sure there is substantial knowledge of the main issues that face our education system today, and to philosophise on these issues.

So, in Philosophy there are many different schools or viewpoints. The two main (or most known) are Empiricism and Rationalism. Empiricists believe knowledge is derived from experience, and believe that when you are born, you are born with a ‘blank slate’. This blank slate means knowledge, opinions and experience all come from the world around us after time. On the other hand, there is Rationalism – the belief that knowledge is beyond our experience(s), and everything cannot rely completely on our senses when there are things such as ‘God’ and shapes. Important empiricists include David Hume, John Locke and the father of empiricism, Sir Francis Bacon. Important rationalists include Rene Descartes, Immanuel Kant and the most influential rationalist of all time Baruch Spinoza.

After studying Philosophy, and looking into both these views, I have never came to a ‘clear’ conclusion as to what my beliefs are, and in relation to education and Philosophy – I was really stuck. So, I took a ‘what Philosophical School to you belong to’ quiz (as you do when you have no idea). Apparently, I am neither a Rationalist or Empiricist – I am a Humanist. So, I went on Humanists UK to have a read and see if their views are similar to my own, and of course, there is a ‘How Humanist are you’ quiz. Apparently, I am 100% Humanist (learn something new everyday, and I am unsure if Humanist is different from Atheism, which I also know is a religion and not a philosophical school…?!?!). So, after looking up Humanism, I have concluded that I have some of the main beliefs of Humanism – but don’t think I actually am a ‘Humanist’. Therefore, I am going back to the ‘nature/nurture’ debate (Rationalism/Empiricism).

Empiricism
Empiricism is the philosophy of knowledge by observation. It holds that the best way to gain knowledge is to see, hear, touch, or otherwise sense things directly.” An empiricist would argue that we can only learn from our past experiences, as stated earlier.  In the idea of a school setting, empiricists argue that we know 1+1=2 because people have seen it in action throughout their lives. As observing adults, we know that we learn through our senses such as maths and logic. Immanuel Kant tried to join these together and argued that empiricism and rationalism didn’t work on their own – our knowledge does come from observation, however, these observations and experiences were constrained by the inherent structures of thought itself (aka, the mind is wired only to make certain observation).

Rationalism
Rationalism is the philosophy that knowledge comes from logic and a certain kind of intuition – when we immediately know something to be true without deduction, such as “I am conscious.” Rationalists hold that the best way to arrive at certain knowledge is using the mind’s rational abilities.” As previously mentioned, rationalists argue that there is more to learning and knowledge than observation, and that knowledge is one of those “gut feeling” kind of ideologies. On the flip side of the “1+1+2”! debate, the rationalist argues that you don’t have to observe the world or have any sort of life experiences to understand that 1+1+2. You just understand the main concept.

Constructivist?!?!?
The middle ground of rationalism and empiricism is constructivism. “According to constructivists, we can observe the world around us and gain a lot of knowledge this way (that’s the empiricist part), but in order to understand or explain what we know, we have to fit into an existing structure. That is, we have to construct a rational set of ideas that can make sense of the empirical data (that’s the rationalist part). Constructivism is a popular idea among teachers, who find it helpful in structuring lessons: constructivist teaching involves presenting new information in a way designed to fit in with what the student already knows, so that they can gradually build up an understanding of the world for themselves.” From this information, I believe I am a constructivist. It tells me that we gain knowledge through observation (our senses), but in order to understand what we already know – we use our rational sets of ideas and merge the two to form the best ‘answer’.

“Do I dare set forth here the most important, the most useful rule of all education? It is not to save time, but to squander it.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Learning outside the classroom

Recently, I discovered through Sue Cowley (Teach Early Years Magazine), that 3/4 of children now spend less time outside than prison inmates do, and with 3/10 children in Scotland overweight or obese (5-14) – primary schools need to have more outdoor learning and children need to be better educated. 

There are many benefits from learning and playing outdoors – from exploring the environment to just being out in the sun, and playing with peers to learning through their senses – outdoor learning couldn’t be more important in 2018.

Outdoor learning helps children understand our environment more – which of course in a world where plastic is destroying our oceans and  littering is killing our animals it is essential that children understand the impact that their actions can have on the environment. The idea of teaching children the life cycle INSIDE a classroom seems insane when all you have to do is walk outside to see the real beauty. Teaching children through a powerpoint that ‘littering is bad’ or that ‘we must recycle’ doesn’t really have the same impact as taking the children outside and looking at the environment for themselves – and see the impact our actions can have. By taking children outside, they will respect our planet and hopefully install morals and habits that will last a lifetime.

Learning to respect and look after our environment, wildlife, plants and oceans is not the only benefit of taking children outside. There is some evidence to suggest that teachers have a better relationship with their students if their students participate in outdoor learning. Teachers had noted that they had improved relationships with students and had better personal development for themselves. Learning outdoors can help combat underachievement and as seen from the image, there are overall benefits to teachers and students. (if the image isn’t clear – then click on this link here and scroll to the bottom. https://www.educationcity.com/blog/benefits-teaching-lessons-outdoors

After reading (through all the websites which have been linked in this blog and Teach Early Years magazine) I have found many many benefits to teaching outdoors. A summary of them include:

  • Better behaviour
  • Higher attendance
  • Improved motor skills
  • Respect and engagement with environment
  • Free and unlimited resources
  • More active lifestyle
  • Become more independent
  • Engages students to learn
  • Creates and supports creative minds
  • Improves communication skills
  • Better personal development (teachers)
  • Better awareness of environment and surroundings.

I’m aware that this list could go on and on, but I thought I would end my blog post upon a reflective point I heard in a lecture recently. Would you teach differently if your classroom had no walls?

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
– Mark Twain

Sorry this blog post is so short! Thought I would try to get into the hang of blogging again!

Reading, Writing and Listening in the Early Years

In my previous post (Early Years and Language), I spoke about how children recognise speech from birth, and how complicated the English language is. In a sort of ‘part 2’ of Early Years and Language, I thought I would speak about how I have struggled with speech myself and the struggles I am having personally in becoming a teacher.

Background of me (according to my Mother).

When I was about 6 weeks old, I had my first ever ear infection. Something that would become a reoccurring nightmare for the rest of my childhood. When speaking to my Mum about this, she said I had ear infections 4-5 times a year, I had perforated ear drums and was on and off antibiotics when I was younger. I started nursery when I was three and a half, and Mrs Adger (my old nursery teacher) spotted fairly quickly that I was struggling to hear. She told Mum she had concerns about my hearing and speech and thought I should see a speech therapist. I went to about 10 sessions of speech therapy, and was told I would ‘grow out’ of my ‘bad’ speech phase.

Between three and a half and five and a half, this was a tough time for me as a little girl, and for my Mum. I had poor vision, my hearing wasn’t great (along with constant ear infections etc), I felt like I always had tonsillitis and I I had several operations in this time. My adenoids came out, my eye was operated on and I had my first grommet (the first of three).

I was meant to leave nursery when I was 4 and a half, but instead was held behind for an extra year. My nursery teacher was concerned I would always be playing ‘catch up’ and I would fall behind. I eventually started school at 5 and a half, and turned 6 less than 4 months later. I was the oldest in my class, and to begin with I was in all the lower groups. My speech, hearing and eyes had taken its toll. Once I was in Primary 2, there were further concerns I still couldn’t hear properly and that my “ths” and “fs” were not being pronounced correctly. This involved more speech therapy, which my Mum was told again would ‘phase out’. Throughout my whole Primary School life, I fell ill constantly with tonsillitis, ear infections and once in a blue moon a perforated ear drum. I don’t ever remember being told I had bad hearing, and I was aware my eyesight wasn’t fantastic as I had glasses! When I was about 15/16, I stopped having tonsillitus as regularly, and my ear infections were basically none existent.

However, I was never aware of my speech. I never knew the difference between ‘f’s and ‘th’s and it wasn’t until a year or two ago, my partner pointed out I didn’t actually say “thank you”, but instead, said “fank you”. I could never hear the difference, and I never had. I didn’t know what he was on about. I still can’t hear it very well, but I am aware that I don’t pronounce my “th”s now and this is one of my biggest concerns in becoming a teacher. I am reading out loud every night, spending 10 minutes a day practising saying words like “thigh” and “thin” and “thick” and “thinking” (and other words). I am studying how to teach this to children, and yet I am still learning myself. This is something I struggle to cope with. This is my biggest fear, that I fail my children in class, or that I fail my placement, and I feel that as a 22 year old woman, I have failed myself.

Glue Ear.
Glue ear is when the middle part of your ear canal fills up with fluid. This can cause temporary hearing loss, and can be hard for teachers/parents to detect as its such a minor loss. Symptoms of glue ear can include earache/ear pain, a fever and buzzing sounds.
Glue ear is what I was diagnosed with, and what it means is that my ear basically filled up with wax very quickly. It blocked my ear drum, I would have an ear infection and inevitably I would have a perforated ear drum at some point. A grommet is the ‘fix’ to this, however, I’ve had three and still struggle to hear sometimes. With glue ear, I really urge people to have a look at the website here as it has very valuable and important information on signs, symptoms and just general information.

Positive?

I could try and put a positive spin on this, and say that as a student teacher I’m glad I realised sooner rather than later, and I am glad I have such supportive people around me.
Another positive spin on this however, is that it puts me not only on the teaching side, but on the learners side. I can actually test out for myself how I learn best to speak better and which methods and techniques work for me.

Language

Hearing impairments however, are just one possible reason that may be stopping a child from speaking, writing or reading. There are hundreds of different reasons why a child may not be able to say “thanks”, read the word “cat” or write the word “mummy”. This is something that I don’t have enough knowledge on now, but I am excited to learn about how to help children identify different sounds, helping children read and write and learning about what can stop children from progressing in their language development. Hopefully, I will have more to write in my next blog post that is about language and will be able to say that I don’t struggle with my “th”s anymore.

Life in General

This blog isn’t an educational blog post, but it’s more of just my life, and how I have found first year and what will be happening for me over summer. 

I currently live in Dundee (which I feel has been a waste of money, as I work at home), but after first year I will be getting a house with my partner of four years. As a 22 year old, I feel I don’t need to go out every night and drink to have fun and my priorities are different from my flatmates. While my flatmates are in classes all the time and drink most nights, I find myself in my room studying, working at home or socialising with my own group of friends. The first year ‘living-in-a-flat-being-drunk-all-the-time’ experience has been overrated for me, and to be honest I feel I just start complaining over tiny things and just wishing I had moved in with Scott this year instead of living in student halls. However, I have met some wonderful people, but for me it’s the new friends in my classes that I get on with more.

University lectures and tutorials have been a brand new experience for me, and this is something I have thoroughly enjoyed! I was at college previous to university, and at Fife College, subjects are taught completely differently. I had never experienced a lecture before, I had never been in a workshop and I have never been so stressed before! I am completely aware it DOES get harder, that I have a long way to go and that I need to take a deep breath, but I think a lot of factors have went into why I have found this first year stressful, which I will talk about later on. My lecturers have been fantastic, and it makes me so excited to have more lectures and workshops with them and I have learned so much in 7 months already, that I can’t wait for the next 3 years! I find my workshops exciting, interesting and it is amazing to have lecturers so passionate about what they do – it makes me want to engage with the lesson and want to try my very best!

Socialising has been so different this year as well. Socialising has been different in positive and negative ways this year and this has added to extra stress too. Back home, I have two best friends, one has moved to Huddersfield to study at the university their, whilst my other friend has a 4 year old and is about to study Sociology at Abertay University (in 3rd year) and for us as friends, we couldn’t be prouder of each other. But having two friends that live so far away from me is difficult, I can’t just drive over like I used to and have a gossip, or study, or watch T.V or play with my friends son. I now have to face time one at a time, and that is even a struggle due to such a bad signal in my flat. However, I have made great friends at university and we get on so well together. We help each other out and we have a good laugh together! The final part of the socialising aspect is the strain it has had on my and my boyfriend. Living away from Scott has been hard because the person I would usually go to with my problems isn’t there to just pop round and talk to. I think it has made us stronger though, and I feel pretty positive about our future (I hate talking about ‘soppy’ stuff openly, so I will stop).

Stressing out is all I seem to do at the moment. I stress about everything and anything, and then stress out more about all the stress. Here is a list, of everything I am stressing about at the moment:

  • MONEY!!!
  • University
  • My jobs back home
  • MONEY!!
  • Because I am currently house hunting, I am stressing about houses
  • Placement
  • Essays that are due back
  • My elective
  • Family
  • Summer
  • Don’t know if I mentioned, but money.

However, I think a lot of these stresses will go after summer. I will be working 6/7 days a week, so therefore will have money, I will hopefully be in a house, I wont be at University therefore no placement or elective and by the time summer finishes hopefully I will be organised.

I just thought that because I hadn’t blogged in a while, that I should do it and try and get into a routine again. But because I didn’t know what to write about, I thought I would write about me and how I am feeling right now. Hopefully will get back into the swing of it.

 

 

Maths…Before and After

Maths and I have a love-hate relationship. I love maths, but apparently maths hates me as I seem to be quite rubbish at it. Throughout my time at primary school I loved maths, and I think this was down to me having great teachers who taught me well. I was good at maths, I enjoyed maths so there didn’t seem to be an issue. However, when I got to high school things took a turn (I say turn, I actually mean a horrific accident and not only was it a turn but I was driving on the opposite side of the road). I had the same maths teacher throughout my first 4 years at high school. All ‘Ms K’ would do is a morning problem solving question, and then two periods (about 45 mins each?) of just sitting working through a textbook – and if you didn’t finish that chapter, then you went home and finished it. From then on, I hated maths. I hated going to maths, doing maths, thinking about maths, my maths exam in fourth year made me worry even more as I was stressed about something I really disliked.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel however. In my 6th year, I decided to give maths another shot. I spoke to various maths teachers throughout the department and they thought I would be able to cope in Higher Maths. How wrong they were. I walked in and walked straight back out. I was scared, I remember ‘Mr M’ writing on the board and it literally looked like another language. I went into Intermediate 2 Maths, and had ‘Mr C’. Mr C made me love maths again.

What Mr C did made me want to come to class. He spoke to me, he explained what I was doing wrong and even though it was still straight out a textbook work, I was starting to love it again. Loving the idea that there is (near enough) always one correct answer. I could go to the back of the book, check my answers and getting all of them right made me want to keep going home and working for hours on my work. I achieved an Intermediate 2 A and was thrilled.

So, I never achieved the grades for University, took a year gap to work and then went back to college. Remembering how much I loved maths made me pick higher maths, assuming that everything would be like Mr Cs class. Turns out it wasn’t. My college lecturer was like Ms K. She was silent, no help and if I was stuck, I was disrupting the classroom and she ‘didn’t have enough teaching time to help me’. I failed higher maths and again have a bad relationship with mathematics.

After todays workshop, I couldn’t get my head round the idea of talking and doing and recording maths. I have never been in a maths classroom where talking was even acceptable! Honestly, I still can’t get my head around how you can’t be silent in a maths lesson. I was trying to imagine what this would look like and techniques and ideas to teach maths and talk but I honestly have no idea how to go about doing this. In the workshop today I do feel better about my relationship with maths, and I know it will improve. I know I am quite good at maths (despite failing higher). However, it’s the teaching maths that frightens me the most, in case I’m not Mr C and I turn out to be Ms K.