The Global Health Challenge 2017 (GHC17) is a fantastic opportunity to work together to address local challenges. This year, I have had the privilege of working together with a group of students to address an issue in Dundee’s local community, and come up with some sort of solution to help other people be able to live a happier and healthier life. The key part of our task is working in a team, agreeing on ideas and bringing this together. “As GHC17 problem solvers, you’ve been tasked in identifying insights and opportunities to bring about positive change for real people experiences very real and complex issues. Key to the success of this will be teamwork.” To begin our challenge, we had to pick one issue out of a possible eight that we wanted to team up with and bring about some sort of positive change for them. Our choices were all brilliant, and I think most people struggled to pick between all of these fabulous opportunities.
Here are the 8 challenges:
- The Archie Foundation – Co-designing a children’s hospital
- Deaf Links – Deaf, hard of hearing and visual impairment
- Dundee International Women’s Centre – Cycling classes
- Faith in Community – Tackling food and fuel insecurity
- Hearing Voices – Reducing the stigma of mental illness
- PAMIS – Big Day Out
- Parkinson’s UK – Getting complex medication regimes right for people living alone at home
- Tayside Primary Care – Improving life chances for young people
(I have attached links to all of the above).
For me, Improving life chances for young people was especially important – and I felt I would be able to contribute the most and be able to help more with this specific challenge. Our group (Tayside Primary Care) was given a scenario, which was:
Joe is coming up for 16 and lives with his mum and his dog in a council house. His father is no longer on the scene, but used to beat his mother up and Joe frequently witnessed these violent episodes. Joe doesn’t really go to school, he’s crippled with anxiety, self-harms and smokes dope. He does have dreams though. School is tough and when he’s challenged he just kicks off and as a result he’s been excluded. The only class he really likes and does well in is technical design because he doesn’t have to write. Joe would like be a joiner but he doesn’t have reading and writing skills.
Joe’s scenario is real, and happening in a street near you today. How can you bring together your knowledge, skills and enthusiasm to firstly try and understand what it feels like to walk in Joe’s shoes, and then how you might come up with some ideas to help improve his life chances through improved literacy?
(scenario taken from Tayside Primary Care – GHC17)
In Dundee, the average reading age in some of the most deprived areas is 8. Working out a bus timetable, looking at a menu and even trying to explain how you feel about something with the reading and writing age of 8 years old can be so frustrating, and for most adults in this situation – the first issue is identifying that their language skills are not so great.
For us so far, we have met up twice and out of all the ideas we could have chosen (for example an event, an app, a website, a group, a buddy system, etc) we think we have decided on one final idea. However, it’s not set in stone and it still has a lot of work to go into it. If we are successful with our idea, hopefully it can be transferred into something real and actually help people like Joe to progress in life and be able to find help more easily and become less frustrated.
So far with this, I have completely enjoyed doing something outside of my normal university course, and feel I am gaining strong relationships with my peers in this.
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 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.
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.
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.
I haven’t wrote a blog in a while, so I thought I would get back into writing regularly by starting with something small.
Currently, we have been studying talk with children, and how it is so important when we are teaching. I had never thought about talk in any great depth before, and even from the handful of inputs we have had already, I feel like I have learned so much!
In the early stages, we know that children start to read and write. I always thought this started in Primary 1, and as teachers we were responsible for exposing them to books and to letters/words/etc. However, what I have found out is that this can start right from pre-birth. Children can hear what is going on around them in the womb, and they actually develop an accent AND a familiarity with those around them before they are even born. Children can hear Mummy, Daddy, brothers and sisters talking and from this the child hears these voices all the time. From birth, they are exposed to language constantly, and this can be in many different variations: signs, books, drains, art, videos and television are just to name a few (out of 35, 36 if you include art), and not only are they seeing this, they are engaging with it. Children are constantly learning, and they are discovering the beautiful world of language.
Which witch is which?
Language with early years is not learned through a workbook or being forced to read. Language is learned best through play. Children, if they are exposed to rich, supportive literacy play will be swimming in vocabulary and they will become immersed in language. One of the things I have learned from these lectures is that children are keen to learn, and that we shouldn’t discourage or dishearten them when they read a word wrong, we should praise them and support them for making the attempt in the first place. The English language, after all, is the hardest language on the planet. We have their, there and they’re, which and witch, dear and dear, and the list goes on. If that wasn’t complicated enough we also have words which are spelled the same, but depending on the sentence are read completely differently. For example, “I need to read this book” and “I have just read a book”. For children, it is understandable that this can make no sense, and when we knock them for attempting to read, we chip away at their confidence with language. There are plenty more complications with the English language, and the Wug Test is the perfect example.
The Wug Test is a perfect example. If we have one sheep, we call it a sheep, if we have two, we say we have two sheep. If we have one cow, we call it a cow, if we have two, we say we have two cows. If we have one fish, we call it a fish, if we have two, we say we have two fish (which, according to google can vary as well!) The Wug test shows the complications in the English language, and how this can be many different answers; Wug, Wugs, Wuges, or Wugilions (I know it’s silly, but so is the English language). So when we tell children they have it wrong, it discourages them. Instead, praise the attempt and tell them that it should be that answer, but in this case it’s not. A supportive adult shares the child’s wonder and reassures the child that they are ‘nearly’ right so as to develop a positive risk taking attitude towards reading. All attempts need that support and positive feedback.
Teaching and me
We know that children learn from play, they learn from any environmental prints, books, hearing stories, and being challenged. When I am on my next placement, I hope to make sure that the children I teach have a rich, stimulating and fun environment to learn in, and that the remain curious and engage in their learning.
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:
- My jobs back home
- Because I am currently house hunting, I am stressing about houses
- Essays that are due back
- My elective
- 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.