Category Archives: 3.4 Prof. Reflection & Commitment

“You’re Such a Child!”

When was the last time you skipped down the street, dressed up as a princess, marveled at the sound of snow crunching beneath your feet, pretended to be a fictional character, had a dance party or made up a silly song? I am not embarrassed to admit that I have done all of the above in the last couple of years (if not many of these in the last couple of days)! When engaging in such activities I have been met with a mix of reactions. On the one hand there are those who find my playful nature somewhat intriguing and “refreshing”. Perhaps those who know me better are the more likely group to laugh and say

 “That’s just Rachel” or jokingly exclaim,

“You’re such a child!”

Of course these are just off-hand remarks but similar examples have really started to make me question when it is that many of us lose a lot of our ‘child-like’ qualities. By this I mean, at what point do we lose the natural ability to wonder, explore, question and play without giving it second thought?

A more important question to consider is perhaps, are these qualities really lost and can we find them again? I would argue that they are not lost, just buried beneath societal and self expectations, fear of standing out and the need to conform as a way of feeling a sense of belonging. We simply need to dig down deep beneath the pile that has formed inside and get back in touch with our inner child.

At no point in life are we handed a rulebook which states that becoming an adult means that all forms of play and fun should be suppressed, or worse banned. It is only natural to have a higher expectation of yourself as you grow up, potentially due to a feeling of greater responsibility or the need to act as someone who has it ‘all together’ as other younger people may look up to you. As children many of us cannot wait to be adults, yet as soon as we enter this significant milestone we have a tendency to look back on the ‘good old days’ and may wish to experience the freedom of childhood once again.

One of my favourite hoodies has “I can’t adult today” printed on the front of it. On one occasion when wearing this hoodie my dad asked me what it was about being an adult that I couldn’t do. At the time I was reluctant to answer this question because it was one of those days when I did not want to think about what it was that I was trying to avoid – I am sure we have all been there! However, I said something along the lines of, “I just want to play and have fun without worrying about all the responsibilities that come with being an adult”. His response to this is something that has really stuck with me. He asked me to consider a third option. Not to see adulthood as hard and stressful but to bring the joys of childhood into the situations that my adult life presents me with. At the time I was not ready to hear this – after all it can sometimes appear easier to just immerse ourselves in the many woes of life – but of course he was right. Why do we feel the need to leave behind the aspects of our lives that we hold so dearly in our memories?

Why, as adults, are we so easily embarrassed to just be a little bit silly? How many people would be comfortable to randomly break out into song and dance, in front of others, without being under the influence of alcohol? How does your answer to this question make you feel? Is there a sense of longing to care that bit less and feel that bit more free? There are of course situations (such as being under the influence) that as a society we see as ‘more acceptable’ for allowing ourselves to get in touch with our playful tendencies. Other examples of when we may deem it ‘more acceptable’ to openly see the world with the wonder of a child are: big celebrations e.g. getting very excited about Christmas and birthdays; when on holiday abroad away from  everyone we know; when it snows and we build snowmen, go sledging, make snow angels and have snowball fights. These examples may bring up other ideas of situations which you personally feel more able to slip into that care free, child-like mindset. But why should we have to limit the amount of time we spend feeling excited, care free and having fun?


From a teaching perspective, it is important to consider how early we are feeding children this idea that when you grow up you do not need to play. Unfortunately, we are still seeing examples of practice which suggest that play is only for children in the Early Years. Why? Is this a message we want to keep passing on to the next generation? How wonderful would it be if we all felt comfortable and able to play, without fear of judgement, throughout the whole of our childhood and adulthood? However, if this is to be the case, teachers, parents and whole communities will need to fully enter into the spirit of what it means to reconnect with our inner child. If we want the children in our schools to play, enquire and explore then we need to show them that this is something that we are committed to and that it is a valued outlook, which will continue to support them as they develop in their adult lives.

Now this is where a skeptical person might say, “Yes, in an ideal world…” but why strive for anything less than what we perceive to be ideal? We may not get it perfect but we will never know what could be if we do not jump on board with the magical question that is, “What if?”

So, I have a theory. Somewhere along the lines we, as adults, have lost the confidence that we had as children to not give two monkeys about what other people think about our funky moves, wacky tutus and wild imagination! It appears that we need to relearn how to be as carefree as a child. And who better to teach us than children themselves? Granted, it may have been a while since you yourself were a child but if you take the time to talk to any pre-school child, I can almost guarantee that you will be amazed by their natural ability to see the world as it is, without over complicating things, to express each emotion as they feel them and to use their imagination to see the world in the most magical way. Take a few minutes to watch this clip and notice how confident the children are at simply being themselves, saying what they think, asking and answering questions and engaging in play scenarios.

I am not suggesting that convincing all adults to reconnect with their child-like selves is an easy task, but it just takes a few people to fly the flag for viewing the world in a more explorative way, to intrigue others to ask those burning questions once deemed ridiculous; dance around and sing a funny song; and marvel once more at the many wonders of life.

So the next time someone comments that I am acting like a ‘child’, I will take it as a compliment. I challenge you to spend a little bit of time each day reengaging with your inner child – I promise it is in there somewhere! Don’t be ashamed to ask the crazy questions, laugh until your stomach hurts, roll down a grassy hill or wonder how many ants it would take to lift an elephant. Tell an exaggerated story, have a pillow fight, make a fort, do some role play. However you choose to reengage, remember to share the joy of your new outlook with others and promote the idea that is ok to care less about what others think, no matter what age you are.

But what does learning look like?

They’re sitting quietly with chairs tucked in

The lunches are done and the register complete

The daily timetable has all been discussed

But what does learning look like?


The jotters are out and the pencils are sharp

The learning intention is up on the board

The textbooks are there if we need a fallback

But what does learning look like?


Times tables recited and learned by heart

The Es&Os covered, highlighted and starred

Each reading group heard and the homework is set

But what does learning look like?


The wall displays perfect with no room for error

Partner work is only allowed if you whisper

If you’re finished just turn to the next page of work

But what does learning look like?


Attainment to uphold and gaps to close

A pile of marking that never ends

A ‘teacher face’ put on like a mask

But what does learning look like?


Jimmy came in with a cut on his knee

Lucy’s dog passed in the night

Abdhul has a new baby brother

Maja learned to ride her bike

Aedan loves football but hurt his ankle

Kayleigh can’t wait to do her turn at show and tell

Sarah is tired and hungry today

Max doesn’t want to be here at all

Esther loves music and is learning violin

Grant had a fight on the street again

Kris is excited to use the Ipads

Mary is anxious about leaving dad

Eric is quiet but happily so

Harry is still in ‘holiday mode’

Lola is sneezing and full of the cold

Anna just needs a hand to hold

Eddie is freezing

Sally, too warm

But what does learning look like?


Each child is unique and so learning is too

What I learn will not be the same as you

What can look like learning may be built on ideals

So what are the more pressing questions here?


Are your children safe, happy, secure?

Were they welcomed as they came in the door?

Can they trust each other and have their voices heard?

Are there times to be noisy, creative and free?

Is the ethos ‘us’ or ‘them and me’?

Are they seen as a person or behaviours displayed?

Are they challenged and given the time to play?

Is learning dictated or stemming from questions?

Is everything done in the children’s best interest?


But what does learning look like?

Different every day

With the child at the centre steering the way

Relationships embedded and a team that is strong

Mistakes are to grow from and not seen as wrong


Learning will happen in many which ways

What did learning look like in your classroom today?


Image available at: (accessed 29.01.19)

Seeing the World Through a Different Lens

This post is of a very personal nature and one that I have considered not posting at all, probably because I know that in doing this I will be putting myself in a very vulnerable position. However, I am generally a believer that it is important to share our experiences as way of learning from one another and hopefully finding that others have had similar experiences. Having spoken to an incredibly supportive lecturer about this ‘issue’, I have been encouraged to open up and share this part of my own story.

Yesterday, we had an input about supporting the more able children in our classrooms, sometimes referred to as ‘gifted’. The National Association for Gifted Children (2010, p1) defines gifted individuals as “those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude or competence in one or more domains.” Qualities that are recognisable in these children include having: high language abilities, including the ability to read before starting school (Gross, 1998); a drive to learn and a love for asking questions and absorbing knowledge (Dowling, 2002); an early ability to empathise and show sensitivity (Gross, 1989; Silverman, 1983); a good understanding of how language works and can therefore understand and use humour in a sophisticated way (Gross, 1999). Other aspects that were highlighted in the input yesterday include: excellent memory; long attention span; intense interests; vivid imagination; very concerned about fairness and justice; perfectionistic.

This is where I am wary of how to express the next section of this blog without coming across as arrogant, big-headed or seeing myself as better than others (which of course I do not, and this is probably the main reason why I have not felt able to talk to many people about this before). However, the reality is that I was one of these children who may be referred to as ‘gifted’. The purpose of this blog is not in any way to boast about this fact, rather to provide an insight into how a small percentage of children in our classes may be feeling in school but also the benefits and challenges that come with living with a high functioning brain. I hope that by being able to be open and honest in this way, that others may be able to better support ‘gifted’ children in their classes now and in the future.

I suppose I should start by saying “Welcome to my brain”- watch your step, it’s pretty crowded in here! Using humour has been my absolute saviour when navigating my way through social situations. By creating an upbeat, jolly persona that can brush off awkwardness and uncomfortable silence, and have a bit of fun, I have been able to make friends in different situations. However, one of the biggest challenges of being someone with a highly intellectual brain is often experiencing extreme feelings of loneliness. For any of my friends who happen to read this, please do not think this is anything to do with you! It is simply that because there are not many others whose brain works on ‘overtime’, as some might describe it, it can be very difficult to relate directly to other people. I have always had the ability to empathise with others and see people for who they are, however, it can be frustrating when others just ‘don’t get something’ that my brain sees as obvious. It can also appear as if I am often overly dramatic or overthink/ overcomplicate issues that others may consider to be fairly straight forward. In this respect, I often find myself holding back in social situations, as I am aware of how overwhelming I can be at times.

One of the other aspects that was highlighted in our input yesterday was that ‘gifted’ children can be overly sensitive to things. This is something I can relate to in a big way. I am someone who feels things very deeply and I am a very emotional person – something that I have learned to embrace over the years. However, it is also little things like being overly sensitive to labels on clothes, listening to music that is too loud, having my hair tied up too tight, scented candles, strong perfumes and spicy/ strong tasting foods e.g. strong cheeses. This is arguably due to the fact that because my brain is already on high alert the majority of the time, it is difficult to deal with any extra stimulants.

By this point I will have either lost your interest or you may think I am overanalysing things, so I will try my best to clearly explain how my brain may work slightly differently to my peers (again, this is not to suggest any sort of hierarchy, just to share an experience). For those of you who know me well, you will probably agree that I have a love for learning. I was one of those rare children who absolutely loved school and argued with my mum to let me go even when I was too ill! It is difficult to describe having a passion for knowledge, but I suppose it had a large influence on my decision to embark on a teaching career. I appreciate that it sounds weird and unrelatable, but this is the exact reason that I have actively avoided speaking openly about this part of who I am. Don’t get me wrong, I still loathed homework as much as the next person and I am the world’s worst procrastinator when it comes to writing assignments, but I get a lot out of intellectual discussions and the social interactions that come with them.

For that reason, I have always gotten a lot out of conversations that have taken place with adults (when I was a child) and those who have a high level of knowledge in a particular area e.g. other teachers/ lecturers. Again, this has presented itself as a challenge over the years, as those in my peer group were not as likely to want to socialise with these groups of people. This is where terms such as ‘teacher’s pet’ could have been particularly damaging if I had not used humour to cushion some verbal blows. However, I am extremely lucky to have friends in my peer group who value me as I am and really appreciate the amount of time many of them have taken to try and understand/support my complicated brain!

By focusing on some of the challenges that I have experienced, I do not want to come across as someone who is struggling or by any means ungrateful. I am extremely fortunate to have grown up in a family where I was completely valued and supported as I am. Over and above that, I was recognised for my achievements but not labelled as ‘gifted’, which was extremely important for me throughout my development. One of the big things about having a brain like this is the insane amount of pressure that I put on myself ALL the time. This is something that my parents never added to. They could have easily seen my academic potential and focused solely on that aspect of my life but instead they took a more balanced view and gave me/still give me enormous amounts of emotional support! This has allowed me to express when I am feeling overwhelmed by my own brain, which is potentially something that others struggle with.

This is a topic that I could talk about at length – it is literally my life! It is a big step forward for me in terms of opening up about who I am, and I hope it will provide a useful insight for anyone working with children who possess similar qualities. Although I do not have all the answers for how to best teach these children, I would like to finish this post with some top tips on how to make these children feel recognised and valued.


Top tips for valuing ‘gifted’ children:

1. Allow them to enquire, explore, question and further their knowledge BUT do not forget that they are children too. Allow them to be relieved from responsibility, to play, to dance to run around and to express their emotions (they may need more encouragement to do this).
2. Recognise their achievements in subtle ways without singling them out – as a looked up to adult, your praise will probably make their day if it is genuine!
3. Do not be scared of their abilities and not provide enough challenge because of your fears of not knowing all the answers – explore together.
4. Don’t label – see the child as who they are and not as their abilities. This is something that could be easily transferred to all of the children in your class.
5. Be open to conversations with parents and management about what is best for these children and please do not forget about humour and fun!





Gross, M. (1989) ‘The Pursuit of Excellence or the Search for Intimacy? The Forced Choice Dilemma of Gifted Youth’, Roeper Review, 11(4), pp. 189-194.

Gross, M. (1998) ‘The “Me” Behind the Mask: Intellectually Gifted Students and the Search for Identity’, Roeper Review, 20(3), pp. 167-174.

Gross, M. (1999) ‘Small Poppies: Highly Gifted Children in the Early Years’, Roeper Review, 21(3), pp. 207-214.

National Association for Gifted Children (2010) Redefining Giftedness for a New Century: Shifting the Paradigm. Available at: (Accessed 23.01.18)

The Power of Music

This is a topic that I have considered writing about for some time now, particularly in the lead up Christmas where music plays a big part in my own life and, I am sure, in the life of many others.

Music is something quite unique to anything else in life. It holds power. The power to bring people together, to share stories of joy and sadness, to move people, to make people move, to encourage stillness, silliness and to celebrate good times. However, there is another power at work behind music that is perhaps of a more controversial nature. For recently, although the good tends to outweigh the bad, I have found that music can sometimes have the power to make people feel excluded or ‘lesser’ than others. You may be wondering how it could possibly be the case, that such a simple thing can contain the power to simultaneously unite and reject?

To put this idea into a context, I invite you to imagine a young child called Sam. Sam spent every day singing everywhere; in the shower, in the street, in the middle of a supermarket, you name it! Sam had a song for everything. It was not only the words and melodies of songs that resonated with this child but the feeling of familiarity and freedom that they sensed when singing- an emotional outlet that could not be otherwise replicated. One day, Sam decided to audition for the school choir. Although a little nervous, they sensed a great feeling of anticipation and excitement waiting to be heard by the music teacher. After belting out their favourite tune with the greatest gusto, Sam looked up to see the music teacher with head in hands. The teacher looked up and laughed, not only did they laugh but they told Sam that they would never stand a chance in the ‘music business’ and that singing really ‘wasn’t for them’. Sam was confused. No one had ever been so brutally honest. Was this honesty? Sam froze to the spot but managed to hold in the tears until home time. Sam did not sing again that night, that week, that month or in fact that year. Whenever the thought entered their head all they could think of was those words telling them they could not and were not good enough. Having lost this outlet, Sam found it difficult to express them self and decided to put up barriers to any experience that may involve singing in front of others.

It was not until many years later, when Sam was at a friend’s birthday party that- after a few drinks- they found them self joining in with a session of karaoke. Sam’s friends watched in awe as they had never seen or heard their friend sing and could see the immense joy in their friend’s eyes as they sang each word with a deep sense of conviction. After the performance Sam burst into floods of tears. They had forgotten the powerful feeling of expressing them self through song. The performance was not ‘pitch-perfect’ but it did not matter. The support given and love felt in that moment was a turning point in Sam’s life. Gradually they started to find more opportunities to sing, and although the niggle in the back of their head telling them they were not good enough was smaller, it always remained.

Although this is a completely fictional tale, I am sure there are many of us who know a ‘Sam’ in our lives; whether that be a friend, a family member, a child in your class or maybe you can relate directly to this experience. As someone who has had a very musical upbringing, this is the kind of story which deeply saddens me. However, it is not something I am unable to relate to in any way. I would argue that, in life we naturally look in longing at those we would consider ‘better’ than us, ‘smarter’, ‘more talented’ and wonder why we could not be something more than who we are. I would therefore argue that it is not actually music itself that has the power to make a person feel ‘lesser’ than who they are, but they language we use around music and the expectations we put on ourselves to always be something more than what we are. It is important that we do not lose sight of the word ‘expressive’ in the title ‘Expressive Arts’. Music is not just about playing or singing every note in tune, with perfect rhythm and largest range. It is about expression and the freedom that comes with letting go of the things that we bottle up inside of us. Have you every been moved to tears by a piece of music? What was it that had this effect on you? Was it the performer’s ability to sing each note perfectly in tune or was it the emotion they conveyed their story with?

In this way, Music and Health and Wellbeing work hand-in-hand, but how often are we encouraging children to think about how music makes them feel? The Scottish Government (undated) highlights ‘feelings’ as a core experience in both of these subject areas.

“I have listened to a range of music and can respond by
discussing my thoughts and feelings.” EXA 1-19a / EXA 2-19a

“I am aware of and able to express my feelings and am developing the ability to talk about them.” HWB 0-01a / HWB 1-01a / HWB 2-01a

Therefore, I would urge you to consider the language you use around music ‘ability’. Not just when talking about others’ strengths but when talking about yourself, as a way of modelling this positive language to others. In response to the phrase:

“I can’t sing”

I would suggest a humorous answer, along the lines of:

“You may not be able to sing like Freddie Mercury but that does not mean you can not sing.”

Followed by the explanation that, by definition, to sing is “to produce musical tones by means of the voice” (Merriam-Webster, 2018). Not to be the best musician in the world or to even produce a recognisable tune, simply some ‘musical tones’, which separate singing from every day talking. I would like to encourage that we value music and singing particularly as an expression of the self, a way of letting out what is inside and learning to accept that this is part of who we are and that we are all enough. It is then that we will be able to feel the truly wonderful power that music holds to bring people together, to share stories of joy and sadness, to move people, to make people move, to encourage stillness, silliness and to celebrate good times.

Image available at: (accessed 16.12.18)


Merriam Webster (2018) Definition of sing. Available at: (accessed 16.12.18)

Scottish Government (undated) Curriculum for Excellence: Experiences and Outcomes. Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

“Not long to go, we’ll just get through it”

Image not my own. Available at

It is fair to say that I have not engaged with blogging as an activity for quite some time now, however I personally believe that this is a topical issue worth sharing some insight into. As the title partly implies, this is my last year of teacher training and I am going to be perfectly honest and say that it has not been an easy first couple of months. I like to think of things in a visual way so imagine a juggler. This juggler represents a fourth year student. The juggler starts by throwing one ball up and down in the air- this ball represents the first task the student has been set for the year. Sounds easy enough? Over time the juggler is thrown more and more balls from university, family, friends and other outside commitments, and is expected to keep juggling, no matter how many are thrown their way.  This idea that the juggler will simply manage to keep up-skilling them self by finding new ways of balancing all the balls that life has thrown at them, whilst remaining happy and stress free, is hard to fathom. Did I mention that the juggler had never been taught to juggle more than three balls at once? 

While this all comes across as very negative, and you may be sitting thinking “get a grip”, “that’s just life” or what many of us are told at the moment “you’ll get through this”, this is the reality that many people are facing and do not know how to cope. But what if we didn’t focus so much on just pushing through? Once reaching the end of one stressful period there may be a short time of bliss before the next ball is thrown our way. Do we really want to live life “getting through” every day, more importantly, is this what we want to teach the children in our schools?

Resilience is one of the ‘buzz words’ going around at the moment and I agree that it is vital that we help our children to become more resilient in order to face the challenges that life presents. However, as someone who has grown up in an education system, and largely in a society, that teaches to the next test and puts huge emphasis on academic achievement, it can be hard to recognise resilience within myself at times. If this is true of other teachers and future teachers then how can we possibly teach children to be resilient if we are unsure of what it means to ourselves? Is it maybe time that we support teachers in looking at their own wellbeing and how we can lead healthier and happier lives?

I am very lucky to have been brought up in a loving, supportive family and with a strong faith that has given me a good foundation to build on. This is something I will always be grateful for but with a rise in social media use, particularly among young people (myself included) and a strange trend among students to talk more about the negative aspects of our lives than the aspects we are thankful for, it can be hard to come back to those roots.

This is where it comes down to the individual.

The book  “What Teachers Need to Know About Personal Wellbeing” (Ferguson, 2008) is what has inspired me to write this post. In her writing Ferguson identifies some of the major pressures that teachers are put under but also highlights that we are our own agents of change. We have the power to choose how we feel and how we respond to what life has to throw our way. We can sit and feel sorry for ourselves, blaming others for how unjust life can be (a pattern I have shamefully adopted for too long now) or we can bite the bullet and spend more time nourishing ourselves and looking after our wellbeing. The poster below is something I have created, with words taken directly from Ferguson’s book, as an important daily reminder to myself.

It reads:

  1. What am I going to do today that makes the best use of my time and energy?
  2. How much energy am I prepared to invest in each situation and how does that nourish or deplete my wellbeing?
  3. What boundaries will I put around me to protect myself from situations that may detract from my wellbeing?
  4. What am I going to do today that nourishes me as a person? (Ferguson, 2008, p93)

“Appreciate the force of your personal power and feel the strength in choosing your attitude” (Ferguson, 2008, p93)

Ferguson (2008) also makes a valid point that when we are physically injured or sick, we stop and take time to let ourselves heal but this is rarely the case in terms of when we are not well mentally. I think it is crucial that we are supporting and encouraging not only teachers but our friends, families and colleagues, across society, to put their wellbeing first. If we are not able to look after ourselves, how are we supposed to teach others to do just that?

Let’s revisit the juggler. Imagine they decided to put every ball in a box and take out one at a time, reflecting on how much this ball nourished or depleted their wellbeing, continuing to only juggle those which enhanced their sense of wellbeing. They would still be juggling the remaining balls but perhaps with a smile on their face.



Ferguson, D. (2008) What Teachers Need to Know About Personal Wellbeing. Camberwell: Australian Council for Educational Research.

Conquering the Fear of the Unknown

Have you ever been in a situation where you have felt completely unprepared, perhaps overwhelmed or just scared because you were faced with something brand new? Maybe it was something as small as taking a mode of public transport to somewhere you had never been before or walking into a room full of people you had never met. I am sure we have all been in a similar situation at some point in our lives, but what is it that makes something that seems so small such a big deal? As someone who has particularly struggled in situations where the final outcome is not clear, I wanted to explore why this is and what it could mean in relation to my practice. Why is it that we can be so fearful of the unknown?

Take some time to watch the video below. Particularly focus in from 6:13 to 8:34:

This idea that teachers are surprised when pupils won’t enter into open-ended projects, yet show little confidence when asked to do exactly that, has made me question whether it is the fear of the unknown instilled by teachers and other adults that makes children and young people equally as terrified to attempt a task without knowing what the end result will be. This idea has made me reflect on my own experience of school, when most subjects had a clear timeline, from start to finish, of intended learning and what should be achieved in order to pass the next test or exam. There were very few occasions, if any, when a teacher said that we were going to find out something new without having a very clear, tick-box idea of what the outcome of the lesson would be for the class as a whole. This was where university came as quite a shock to many people, as we were suddenly all expected to take a very individual, critical stance on assignments which did not come with a set list of do’s and don’ts. Even now there are people who struggle the fact that we are not told exactly what is expected of us in every submission as this is how we have learned to behave throughout our time at school.

At this point in my professional development I have being doing a lot of reflection on the benefits of allowing children to take ownership of their own learning and presenting them with opportunities to learn skills that will be transferable in other aspects of their lives. A perfect example of this type of approach is the transdisciplinary learning model, most commonly used in International Baccalaureate schools. This approach is distinct from multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary learning as its goal is to allow children to create new ideas and form deeper levels of understanding of the world they live in, by blurring subject boundaries and creating an environment which enables rich, authentic learning to take place (IBO, 2010).

As a teacher I have often found myself feeling the need to take control, however recently I have wondered whether this is where the fear of the unknown comes from. Without knowing what is to come, it is difficult to have a feeling of being in control. Maybe letting go of the need to be so in control is something that will allow for new learning opportunities to occur. By taking risks in my own practice, I hope to model to my pupils that by stepping into the unknown there will be new opportunities to enjoy and connections to be made but there will also be challenges to face. I believe that if children learn these transferable skills at a young age then they will be more set up to deal with other challenges they face in the future.



IBO (2010) The Primary Years Programme as a Model of Transdisciplinary Learning. Cardiff: International Baccalaureate Organization.

Express yourself!

“Thinking too much or too hard can get in the way of creativity.” (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2001, p27). This is something that really resonates with me as I am a very creative person, however I am also a person guilty of over thinking and putting a lot of pressure on myself. It is at these moments when the head takes over that I feel the need to stop, breathe and hand the reins back over to the heart, where creative expression is waiting to burst out. 

This year I decided to pursue the Expressive Arts elective and I could not be happier with my decision to do so! As someone who likes to express myself, I have really enjoyed exploring what teaching and learning through music, art, drama and dance can look like within a primary school context. It has also encouraged me to do a lot of self-reflection about who I am as a practitioner and the experiences I have had in my life which have given me such a strong connection with the arts.

The craze started young!

I can’t remember a time in my life where the arts did not play a key role. My parents are both very creative and as a result of this I have a lot of positive childhood memories of singing, playing a variety of instruments, doing arts and crafts, going to dance classes and much more. Some of my fondest childhood memories include my mum singing songs to my sisters and I to help us fall asleep at night and my dad using his guitar to take us on a ‘Bear Hunt’ around the garden at our birthday parties.

Having the confidence to stand up and perform in front of a large number of people is not something I shy away from, rather the opposite in fact! Since singing my first solo to an audience at age six, I have been drawn to any opportunity where creative performance is a prominent feature. Not only do I enjoy the performance aspect of expressive arts but I like being able to connect with an audience.

I think that being so heavily involved in, and enthusiastic about, expressive arts is something that has had a real impact on who I am as a person and, ultimately, who I am as a teacher. During my first year placement a teacher said to me that there are sometimes days in the classroom when you need to put on your ‘smiling teacher face’. By this she meant that there will be days when you feel awful but you still have to put a smile on your face as you are the person that those children look up to. In this respect teaching can be like putting on a performance- when you are in teacher role you take on the character that those children need you to be. This is something that has really stuck with me and  I always tried to put on my best ‘teacher face’.

Image from:

I believe it is important to have a good balance of performing the ‘teacher role’ and being yourself. This is something that I found very difficult in our first placement as I had only just started the journey of exploring who I was as a teacher and found myself trying to be the teacher I was observing rather than drawing on her practice and bringing myself to the placement. As I am normally such a confident performer, I became overly critical of myself for not being more ‘myself’ and struggled to bring my lively personality to the experience as much as I had hoped to- a perfect example of how thinking too much can get in the way of creativity!

However, in this last year there have been two main experiences, which have really boosted my confidence and have helped me to see that people are drawn to me when I am completely myself. The first of these was my second year placement at the International School of Stuttgart. I was delighted to be in a school setting for this placement and having reflected on the year before, I went into the experience with the intention of exploring who I am as a practitioner. In IB schools there is a big focus on international mindedness and valuing each individual for who they are. This encourages staff and pupils to learn from each other’s cultures and traditions and gave me the opportunity to be completely myself.

Grade 1 butterfly!

As a result of this open, welcoming atmosphere and my own personal goal of bringing more of myself to my teaching, I really enjoyed the experience and even turned up dressed as a butterfly on my second week! The children responded very well to this and as a result I was able to use the butterfly theme as a stimulus for other lessons. Having had positive feedback from pupils and teachers when acting more myself, I was able to really enjoy the lessons I planned and delivered.

The second of these two experiences was taking part in West End Stage Summer School. This involved a week taking part in workshops in singing, dancing and acting led by West End professionals in preparation for a performance in Her Majesty’s Theatre at the end of the week. In an environment where everyone was fully committed to giving their all in the different workshops, I felt fully able to express myself and as a result I was the happiest I have ever been. This hugely positive experience made me reflect on how I could use this passion and enjoyment to inspire children in the classroom. This is where the Expressive Arts module came at a perfect time! It has shown me how I can take the two things that I am passionate about (teaching and expressive arts) and interlink them.

Craft (2002, p91) says that “imagination and creativity involve an approach in life which begins with: ‘perhaps if’ or ‘what if’”. So why don’t we take more time as teachers to ask ‘what if’? It’s time to be yourself, express yourself!




Craft, A. (2002) Creativity and Early Years Education: A Lifewide Foundation. London: Continuum

Learning and Teaching Scotland (2001) Creativity in Education. Dundee: Learning and Teaching Scotland.

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish

Before our recent Mathematics input, I had never considered using stories as a way of exploring mathematical language and concepts. I’m sure most people would agree that stories are first and foremost thought of as something linked to literacy and language. However, after reading the well-known Dr Seuss book, “One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish” I was amazed by how many mathematical concepts could be covered if this short story was unpicked.

The first obvious concept that is addressed by this book is counting but there are also many others. Below I have highlighted the main mathematical concepts that could be explored through this book, based on the mathematical language used by the author.


Counting, Addition and Subtraction:

  • One, two, three, four etc.
  • Take (subtraction, numbers less than)
  • More (addition, numbers greater than)


  • Today
  • Tomorrow
  • Every day
  • Was (concept of the past)
  • Long (length of time)


  • Fast
  • Slow


  • Here
  • There
  • High
  • Low
  • Near
  • Far


  • Hot
  • Cold


  • Kite
  • Box
  • Ring
  • Fat
  • Thin
  • Little
  • Long
  • In/out (looking at 3D shapes and volume/depth)


  • Up
  • Right
  • Left
  • Pull


  • Grow
  • Long
  • Some
  • Lot

There are many props/ resources that can be used to aid the exploration of these different concepts in a story telling setting. As this story covers many different aspects I am going to focus on Counting, Addition and Subtraction. One great resource to help children in the early years with these concepts are counting bears (see image).

Image from

As this story talks about different colours, the bears allow children to see that counting can be done with objects that look the same but also objects that are different. Instead of “One fish, two fish” you could say “One bear, two bears…” and start by counting on. If the children are ready to move on to counting backwards the bears can be counted back into the tub. Language such as “Take two bears away” or “Add one more” can link the language used in the story directly to the activity.

Number lines are also great resources for counting , adding and subtracting as they act as a good visual for children. Without these visual representations, counting can be seen as quite an abstract concept and some children simply start by learning the number sequence 1-10 before seeing the relevance of each number.

The type of question used to assess children’s understanding might be, “If I have three bears and add on four more bears, how many will I now have?” This models the kind of mathematical language that is expected and, depending on their answer, shows if a child has understood the concept or not.

Placement Reflections 1PP1

Having just come to the end of my first year placement, I would like to share some of my reflections from the last 4 weeks. In the first week I was quite overwhelmed by the workload faced by every teacher. This was on top of being solely responsible for and managing a class of 29 pupils with varying abilities, needs and language barriers. It was a steep learning curve for me as I had never experienced anything like it, particularly as I had never had the experience of planning lessons during my previous experiences in a classroom setting.

One of my first challenges was keeping the class focused on a task when the class teacher was not in the room. This meant that I had to show my authority as a teacher but found that I would have to gain the respect of the class. I had to stop at regular intervals to tell the class that the noise level was unacceptable and became quite agitated and stressed. After reflecting on the lesson and discussing with the class teacher, she suggested adopting her approach of counting down from 5, getting quieter on every number, as the class knew that this means it is time to give you their attention. I started to use this strategy and it  made a positive difference.

Although this strategy worked to begin with, the class started to ignore me when I used this strategy and so it did not work as well for me as it did for the class teacher. After discussing this issue with the class teacher she suggested I used my own behaviour management strategy. This is something that I developed over the third and fourth weeks of the placement. Pollard (2008, p.304) states that tone of voice and customary routines can be used as children arrive to achieve quiet. The strategy I used involved me saying “hands on heads, shoulders, ears… (etc.) fingers on lips.” The order of body parts I said changed each time to keep the class focused but I always started with “hands on heads” and finished with “fingers on lips.” This let the class know that they should have everything out of their hands and be ready to listen to instructions.  At first, some children were resistant to join in and so the class teacher encouraged me to praise those who were participating and to give the class something to work towards, such as house points or fuzz balls. After giving out 5 house points to one child, I immediately saw other children trying harder with the strategy.

Something else that I needed to work on was being more relaxed while teaching. I found that when taking a small group I was able to be more relaxed and consequently their behaviour was much better. I was also more relaxed when I knew my lesson plans well and as a result didn’t have to focus as much on the content of what I was teaching. This gave me more head space to think about behaviour management strategies, body posture, tone of voice etc. Through feedback from the class teacher and from my formative assessment, I  learned that the children needed me to be very structured and consistent in my learning style as they  were more likely to trust someone who is confident about what they are teaching. Medwell and Simpson (2008, p.107) say that the most important thing is to appear confident.

This confidence is something that I had to build throughout the 4 weeks. By the end of the four weeks I was able to see that the children responded much better to lessons that I showed confidence in teaching. If I was at all unsure about an aspect of the lesson the children became confused and this was reflected in the results of the activities. Rogers (2011, p.193) says that pupils very quickly get an idea of whether or not a teacher is in control, and that they feel more secure in their knowledge if the teaching style is confident, authoritative and positive. When the children were at all unsure or thought I was not in control of the lesson, they became restless and didn’t follow my instructions.

One of the main aspects of my practice that I had to work on was the pace of my lessons. During the first week I had the children sitting on the carpet for too long, on a couple of occasions, which caused them to become bored and restless. Hayes (2006, p.45) says that “decisions have to be made about the time spent reviewing and revising existing knowledge”. This is something I needed to take on board as it was an area that I was picked up on after my formative assessment, as it slowed down the pace of the lesson. I made improvements to the pace of my lessons by using resources, such as online timers, and by selecting a few children to answer questions rather than listening to every child’s answer.

At the end of the second week I realised that I needed to manage my time better. Planning in advance allowed me to have meaningful discussions with the class teacher about my lessons and allowed for changes to be made if need be. I also needed to think about making my lessons more challenging and exciting. This required me to look at the second level experiences and outcomes and to come up with activities that were engaging and would motivate the class.  “Effective teachers try hard to make learning fun and effective; they take into account different pupil needs, yet maintain discipline and help pupils to achieve high standards of work” (Hayes, 2006, p.20). In the last couple of weeks of my placement, I worked hard to come up with more exciting activities that I could differentiate to meet the needs of every pupil.

Over the course of the placement, I learnt a lot about teaching a class that includes children with additional support needs, particularly those on the autistic spectrum. I learnt that some of these children have triggers that can make them upset or angry. This can be something as small as a word or phrase that has been used by the teacher, which they have particular associations with, or can be caused by the behaviour of others in the class. Change is also something that children with autism can find particularly challenging. Attfield and Morgan (2007, p.32) say that a prime reason for behaviour difficulties for a child with autism is anxiety, which is often caused by uncertainty, change and unfamiliarity of people and places. This anxiety can lead to anger and frustration, which may come across as aggression but the child is actually just feeling overwhelmed. This is something that I witnessed , as a child with autism was annoyed by a peer and became aggressive. This made me realise the importance of building relationships with these children and knowing how to make them feel calmer in these situations. Plimely (2006, p.17) talks about the vital importance of keeping in touch with parents/carers of children with additional support needs so that all adults involved in the care of these children are able to help them through the events that have happened. Developing these good home/school links is of vital importance when considering what is best for these children.

Overall, the main aspects that I will take away from this placement is that I need to have more confidence and be more relaxed when teaching, in order for some of my personality to come through. I need to make sure activities are planned in enough time that changes can be made if necessary and also so that they are as engaging and motivating as possible. It is important not to make assumptions about the stage of any child and to use results of activities to know what the next steps are for the children.



Attfield, E. and Morgan S. (2007) Living with Autistic Spectrum Disorders: Guidance for Parents, Carers and Siblings. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Hayes, D. (2006) Inspiring Primary Teaching: Insights into excellent primary practice.  Exeter: Learning Matters Ltd.

Medwell, J. and Simpson, F. (2008) Successful Teaching Placement in Scotland. Exeter: Learning Matters Ltd.

Plimely, L. (2006) Supporting Pupils with Autistic Spectrum Disorders: A Guide for School Support Staff. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Pollard, A. (2008) Reflective Teaching (3rd ed.) London: Continuum.

Rogers, B. (2011) You Know the Fair Rule.

The sky is the limit!

After spending some time reading other people’s ePortfolio blog posts this morning, I have come away quite enlightened. Throughout the time I have spent writing my blog posts, reflecting on my personal development and discovering new aspects of the curriculum, I have adapted and improved my blogs as I have been inspired by the other posts I have read.

imagesOne of my more recent discoveries was how to align pictures alongside text as I think that it makes the blog  nicer to look at and easier to read. This is something that I have seen done by
many others and wanted to incorporate it into my own posts.

Something else that I would like to start integrating into my posts is direct links to professional practice and more references to academic text. This will take more time and commitment on my part but ultimately I will need to take this step forward in order to further my professional development.

One of the most exciting posts that I read today was about classroom management. This post used the computer game ‘Sims 4’ to design the layout of  a classroom. (See below)

As I was reading this post I felt lots of little light bulbs going off in my head. What a great
example of thinking outside the box! It reminded me that with education the sky really is the limit. If more of us were to take that step outside of the box then just imagine how the future of education could be transformed. This has inspired not only the way I write my blog posts but the way I look at how I will be an engaging and fun teacher, whilst focusing on the 8 key areas of the curriculum. As is highlighted in the Disney film ‘Big Hero Six’, you sometimes need to look for a new angle.