Category Archives: My educational philosophy

The Blue Lights of Pizza Express

Go to Choose a dance and teach it to someone.

Being a passionate Scottish Country Dancer, the task to learn and teach a Scottish Country Dance as part of the Expressive Arts elective thrilled me immensely! I have been dancing as a hobby from the age of 5, and for the past few years have been assisting in teaching the younger class, and it is still a hugely enjoyable pastime for me, however, I believe that schools take the joy out of it.

The dance I chose to learn and teach to my class is “The Blue Lights of Pizza Express” (yes, it is a real dance). The picture shows the dance crib (instructions)(click to view clearer), which is written using dancing terms, which we know, but would need explaining to a beginner. This dance is a Strathspey (slow dance), in a square set, the type of which is not taught in schools. The dance is quite complex, and took a good deal of explaining to my class, and therefore I certainly wouldn’t use anything near as difficult with a primary class. We did get a video of us dancing it, however, the file is too large to be uploaded to the site. If anyone would like more beginner-friendly instructions for the dance, just comment.


As my love for Scottish Country is so well established, I am of the opinion that it is taught completely wrong in schools, to the extent that our national heritage is loathed and comes with such a stigma. Whenever I tell anyone I do dancing, they usually ask which kind, to which I reply Scottish Country. The sheer comments and questions that follow highlight my point precisely. They ask “Why?”, or sometimes simply just laugh or look confused, a reaction which I argue would not be given had the answer been Ballet, Hip Hop or even Highland.

Schools teach the same 6-8 dances throughout primary and secondary, and in an attempt to make it more fun, have begun to use modern music. While this is a good strategy, and one we use in dance class ourselves, it is only the beginning. Children are forced to dance with classmates they would rather not, which starts the lesson off poorly. Children should be able to choose their partners, boy or girl, and, as long as there are clear rules about expectations of behaviour, there will be less misbehaving to warrant partnering children up. There should also be a range of dances taught, as well as step practice. We would not give children the task of playing football or basketball without teaching them some core skills they would need to play. Therefore, why do we partner children off and tell them where to go – usually by walking – and let them get on with the “dance”. There needs to be a shift in the thinking of teachers who teach Scottish Country Dance, before there will be a shift in attitude towards it.




Looking Back, Looking Forward

One learning experience I particularly remember from school was from our topic in Primary 7. Like many in our final year at primary school we studied World War 2, and I remember very little of the worksheets or textbooks we read from about the subject. The activities I remember are the ones where we were actively involved and excited about the learning experiences – an idea I believe would still be true in a classroom today.

2 activities from this topic stand out in my mind, both centred around learning about Anderson Shelters.

Within the class, we created a somewhat lifesize model of an anderson shelter use wire, tarpaulin etc. As much as we could we were allowed to help construct the model, and seeing the finished product allowed us to appreciate the cramped conditions families would be subject to during an air raid. We also transformed a cupboard into what the inside may look like, complete with books and an old style radio. No technology was allowed in there, and in pairs we would each take turns to spend time in the “shelter”. This particularly stands out to me as you were living as people would have lived during that period in history. Getting children consumed in the learning and feeling like they are truly within the era is usually an idea reserved for Early Years classes, as their imagination is still wild and they are more inclined to believe the imaginary context the teacher has set up for them. In the upper stages, this imagination is almost taken out of the classroom, as the pupils are much less inclined to believe in a fairy leaving notes in the class or an alien visiting the school. Using the learning context in a mature way – allowing the pupils to discover the experiences and understand the emotions of someone living in the era/place they are studying – can reignite a love for learning in a creative way, which seems to get abandoned somewhere in the middle years of primary.

The other activity I remember was a homework task we were set to build our own model of an Anderson Shelter. I fairly standard task, I know, however, I remember working on the project with my grandad. I remember putting loads of effort and commitment into the project – using real soil for the garden etc – and I remember the pride I had in showing it off in class. Getting the family involved in the children’s learning, I believe, can be so rewarding and highlights to children the importance of learning and can motivate them to want to do work. However, I do understand the practical implications of tasks such as these. I am extremely lucky to have a hugely supportive family network who value my education very highly, however, some children will not have this luxury. While I would love to see a bigger focus on learning with the family – where I mean fun activities, not taking textbook work home – I understand that this would be dependent on the children in my class, and the knowledge I have of their backgrounds and family situations.

Even from simply analysing these two memorable learning activities from my schooling, I can see how my education and background will influence the teacher I will become. The fact that I remember the more active, involving activities is testimony to the benefits of active learning. Children who are engaged in their learning are more likely to tell parents when they get, and they are more likely to remember these fun activities. The influence of my family in my education and my life in general will also influence how I teach and how I see the role of the family in the classroom. While I understand that family life will vary hugely between children in my class, it is important to try to include them as much as is possible to show the children the intrinsic value of education.

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My Not-So-Secret Identity

In my opinion, personal values and morals make a person, and while others could argue that a career changes those values, I believe that it is the values themselves that change a career.

To explain what I mean, if someone has a generally calm, confident and caring personality, as I hope I show, my opinion is that they will be a better teacher. There are obvious exceptions to this rule, however, I think that the mindset you go in with will effect the outcome, not vice versa.

A teacher who genuinely goes into school in the morning with a passion to motivate their children, allows the children to “get more” out of the lesson. Without the key role model of a motivated teacher, children lack enthusiasm to learn.

While there are some personal matters which should be left out of the classroom, I do not think that it should be a “Jekyll and Hyde” situation.

I’m not sure how many of you are fans of Downton Abbey, but in the final episode, one of the footmen becomes a teacher in the local school. He has lots of motivation preparing lesson plans, however, the children do not engage with him. However, the next day when he explained that he was in service, they related to that as many of their parents were in the same position. This, while only a TV drama, emphasized the importance of having a rapport with your class and the benefits that can have on learning.

My Academic Skills

Having already completed Higher English 2 years ago, and achieving an A grade first time, I was fairly confident in my grammar and punctuation abilities. However, upon reading the Study Skills book (McMillan and Weyers 2012) I realized that there were some points which I was not sure of, or could not adequately explain.

Grammar in the English language is known for being confusing, and as we grow up learning it, the technicalities of grammar are often overlooked. The Study Skills book gives a fairly detailed explanation of grammar and what constitutes a sentence for example. This was a useful reminder and I will be looking back on this section when proof reading my upcoming assignments.

Punctuation is another sticking point for many people while writing. I can remember an English teacher while I was in high school who drilled punctuation into us, and as a result, most of this chapter reminded me of her.

Personally, I feel that my weakest area in terms of academic writing ability is critical writing. When writing my Advanced Higher dissertation last year, I was told that my critical writing was what let me down. I hope that this skill will improve as I progress through university, and reading this book has been very useful in beginning this process.

Plato’s Theory of Forms

Plato believed that there are 2 worlds: Our World (Material World) and the Real World. Our world is constantly changing and we rely on our senses to understand what is going on. Whereas the real world is eternal and unchanging and based on ideas and not senses. It includes perfect forms of objects we know on Earth i.e. chairs, tables and apples.

Apples  Apples

There are many types of apples and they exist in different forms and are all in different forms of growth and decay. However, Plato would consider the defining factors of an apple, and what makes it different from a pear, for example. These factors Plato called the “apple-ness” of an apple, or the true form. The form is unchanging, even though the apples themselves have changing appearances. This is because the apples we know are imitations of the true form, therefore are imperfect and subject to change – hence there is no such thing as a perfect apple in the Material World.

The Soul

Plato believed that the soul was eternal and does not change. This is because he thought that it belonged in the Real World before being assigned to a body, and this is how we can recognize forms and know what objects are in our world.

Plato stated that only philosophers could see into the World of the Forms as they would think independent of their senses. This lead on to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, as he concluded that people needed to “break out” of the constraints set by the material world to find the real world of the forms



Inspiration, Aspiration

Although a cliché, I have wanted to become a primary teacher since I was myself at primary school. I cannot remember a day throughout those 7 years which I particularly did not like, nor any mornings where I did not have the motivation to make my way to my classroom. That motivation has stayed with me into my adolescence and sits with me today as I am enthusiastic to evoke this passion for learning within the next generation of children.

Credit for my fond memories of primary school is often due to the teachers I was taught by, many of whom have inspired my career choice. I can clearly remember my Primary 3 teacher, who gave up her lunchtime to sit with me in the dinner hall as I was an extremely fussy eater, and she would stay with me to ensure was eating adequately. At the time, this did not really seem as significant as it does now – I was only 7 – however, on reflection this was such a wonderful thing to do for a child, and has remained with me shaped the way in which I am as an individual and the way I want to teach.

Being on placement last year for merely a few hours a week proved to me that teaching was my vocation. I looked forward to those afternoons, and they were very much the highlight of my week. The children warmed to me, which made me feel comfortable and confident when taking groups, often left to teach a small group alone. That exhilarating feeling when the pupils grasp a concept, or can prove that they have learnt something during your lesson was one which I hold dear, and one which I am eager to enjoy again on my upcoming placement.

The teacher I want to be is much shaped on these experiences – a mixture of youthful experiences of primary school myself, and the experiences I have been able to enjoy and reflect upon in my later teenage years. A primary teacher is not simply someone who stands up in front of a class and teaches them how to add, read and write. Primary teachers shape the youth of today, who become the workforce of tomorrow. The classroom has evolved through history, where the teacher is no longer someone to be feared, or seen as merely a dictator. A modern teacher is active, fun and breathes life into the school day. As a teacher of the future I hope to continue to develop this more approachable style of learning and teaching, and truly make primary school a fun learning environment, where children become prepared for life in future education and beyond.