Category Archives: 3. Prof. Skills & Abilities

Pivotal Moment

At my AoS meeting yesterday my adviser explained writing assignments in an alternative, or more broken-down way than I feel it has been explained before. Her specific way of explaining it worked so well for me personally because, as a friend rightly pointed out; I seem to understand things best when they are broken down into a systematic order. She explained that first you will do wider reading (which can be easier said than done), then you will collate common themes that feature in multiple of the documents. This should mean that you will start to notice a pattern of popular topics emerging. The more a particular theme or idea is referred to, (generally) the more useful it would be to address in your own writing. I felt like this was a pivotal moment for me, despite the fact that this concept may have already been grasped by others. It might be obvious and solidly formed in their minds, but this was the ‘it has just clicked’ moment for me. Following the meeting, and along with feedback I received on my assignments in the second semester of first year, I feel much better equipped to tackle the upcoming Languages and Social Studies assignments. This is partially down to viewing my previous assignments’ weaknesses as practice for future ones, but it is certainly also as a result of the meeting and subsequent discussion I had with my peers in the library. The discussion linked together what I had talked to my Adviser of Studies about with learning styles; both my own and those of the children in my future classes. For example, analogical, visual, kinesthetic and exploratory (many of which we identified are up for debate on their level of applicability). I find the group discussion areas of the library beneficial for this reason. I often find myself going to the library to read or write and will end up talking for the entire time – usually a healthy mix of chat and academic conversation. I can sometimes come away from such library visits questioning whether my time wasn’t used to full effect due to lack of reading, however if I think about it more, a good amount of discussion can be as, if not more, motivating and evaluating than reading pages of a text. I often wish later on, that I had recorded various discussions at the time as I feel that significant points have been raised that I can’t always remember when it comes to the time to refer to them. Discussion works so well for me personally, as I can consolidate my learning by talking to my peers to gain their perspectives and further my own, then arrive at deeper understanding of lecture content more effectively than passively listening or even note-taking. Despite this, I do not mean to speak against the importance of reading to progress your learning in university, as this is obviously significant and I will continue to pay attention, take notes in the lectures and research and read academic writing. I just felt as if I should share this time on my ePortfolio as its tagline is ‘My MA (Hons) Education Journey’ and I felt that this was an important step in my journey towards achieving academic success.

Mathematics Workshop TDT 22/01/19

I enjoyed maths at school because I like the idea of being clearly ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ as I feel that, for me, it helps me to progress and improve in a more direct way. I also love the feeling of that ‘Eureka!’ moment that you can often feel in maths when you have been confused about a certain aspect, until suddenly you realise what you have been doing incorrectly or incompletely the whole time and what you have to do now to change to the correct answer. As such, I rated myself a seven on the confidence scale of zero to ten, zero being the least confident and ten being the most, at the beginning of the workshop. I hope to pass this enjoyment and enthusiasm of maths onto my future pupils.

One of my favourite things I will take forward from this maths input is the pupil identification technique that Tara used to ask specific students questions. It involved giving each table group a name, in this case names of famous mathematicians, and then having us number ourselves within each named group. This then means that the teacher select pupils at random to answer questions, avoiding anyone being left out, without yet knowing every single child’s name. I think this will be helpful for me in the first few weeks of each new school year because it will give me time to learn all my new pupils’ names.

Reflections & Evaluations Lecture TDT 18/01/19

There was a lot of information and pedagogic knowledge to be gained from Derek’s lecture. I now know that John Dewey was one of the first people to identify reflection as a specialised form of thinking. He believed reflection comes from doubt, hesitation and challenge from an experience or experiences. I have also learned that Donald Schon developed Dewey’s ideas into the concept of reflection in, and/or on, action. Schon felt that reflection is the core of ‘Professional Artistry’.

Reflection is all about attitude. It is essential to have a positive attitude towards professional development and a crucial part of that attitude is to be open and receptive of constructive criticism.

There are seven main ways in which to evaluate your own professional practice that we have learnt about in this input. These include verbal and written feedback from the class teacher or tutor.

I think when reflecting on your work as a teacher personally, it is important to be realistic. There is no point in pretending to yourself that a lesson went well if it simply did not. It is human to make mistakes, it is just important that we learn from them to develop our strategies and ultimately continue to improve. For example, I like questions such as ‘What went well and why?’, ‘What didn’t go well and why?’ and ‘What will I do next time to improve?’.

An example of when I have used reflection to further my professional development is the academic poster for the ID10001 Working Together module assessment. One of the criteria was “Reflect on the learning you have gained through your collaborative practice enquiry with your peer learning group.” and another involving reflection was “Evaluate the collaborative practice of your peer learning group in undertaking your collaborative practice enquiry.”. I achieved a B2 in both of these criteria because I looked critically at my group and I’s collaborative practice, pointed out the positive and negative aspects of our partnership working, and explored what I could take with me from the experience in order to improve in the future.

Expressive Arts- Drama TDT 15/01/19

The lesson in the video is very clearly structured. It has an obvious beginning, middle and end for the children. This is important because it shows the pupils the purpose of the activity and helps to keep the class on task. The lesson begins with the ‘Agreement’; the confirmation of a set of rules for the class to stick to that are physically posted on the wall. I think it is interesting that a point is made about the literal poster of rules, this relates to the fact that it will be a very literal lesson, with the children presenting their ideas in a physical way. The class then take part in a ‘Warm Up’, this confirms that learning is going to occur and this is not just ‘playtime’. The ‘Focus’ of the task is then established with the children, telling them the purpose of what they are about to do, so that they can establish some context for the activities due to it’s potentially exciting and so distracting nature. Now that the starting section of the lesson is complete, the teacher moves on to the middle part. The next stage is ‘Development’, the teacher will progress with the lesson by listening to the children’s ideas and having them build upon the possibilities of what could be happening in the images they are looking at. Now they move on to ‘Visualisation’, this involves picturing the scenarios and sharing with the group what you see using the five senses. This introduces the physical element of the activity to the children. The next tests for the children are ‘Soundscape’ and ‘Bodyscape’. They will now be moving around and interacting with one another through movement and sound. Expressing both actions and emotions. The next element is crucial; ‘Performace’. This is a key outcome of teaching drama, the kids must understand how to convey their story to others, but in turn how to understand the ideas of their peers. The performances may be instructed by the teacher using ‘Frozen Scenes and Thought Tracking’. ‘Frozen Scenes’ involve the pupils using their bodies to represent objects and characters to create a story line with differing still images. ‘Thought Tracking’ simply means for the teacher to go around the scene and tap particular students on the shoulder, asking them to vocalise what they imagine their object to sound like or their character to be thinking. Possibly the most key element of this whole class is the very end portion; ‘Evaluation’. The class teacher will talk with the students about what they have learned, why they think they have learned it and what they hope to do next time. It is also important to end with this task as it is great ‘cool down’ time, the children have burned off some energy and now they need to return to a resting state appropriate for the classroom. I like this structure of separate instructions that still flow well together to create one end product, almost like a recipe for cooking. It keeps children focused and engaged, whilst maintaining that fun, energetic element too.

Nikki mentioned an activity that she did with one of her classes that involved emotions. The children had to use facial expressions to show how they felt about certain elements of life. For example; vegetables or chocolate, and maths or games. This was a very simple task, just done standing up in the classroom with no extra objects or materials. This was intriguing to me as I had never thought of drama in this way before, this is it being integrated into the everyday teachings at desks, and also children’s personal lives and what they do at home. It can be so easy to incorporate drama into English, history or even maths. I feel much more confident about teaching Drama, even just in day-to-day discussions, after participating in this first workshop and watching this video.

Languages TDT 11/01/19

I feel that you would know a child had met the outcomes for ‘Listening and Talking’ if they often request to watch films and videos, particularly ones that have been played in the classroom previously. I believe that this outcome is particularly simple in the 21st century because of our easy access to technology and video streaming platforms such as YouTube and Netflix. I think it’s highly likely that children will be having these experiences outside of the classroom too on their personal devices due to the vast amount of child-friendly resources available online. It is also obvious that humans are inherent listeners, however perfecting the art of truly listening is an entirely different matter. Almost every child knows how to listen, it’s just the want to listen that can be missing. The best way to encourage children to want to listen is to make content interesting and engaging.

In terms of the ‘Reading’ outcomes, my experiences in primary school myself definitely met them. We had, on average, monthly visits to the local library during which every child would select a book of their own to loan from the library and read both at school and at home until returning it at the next visit in return for a new one. The class was also split into reading groups by ability so those who excelled could progress through the assigned reading at an accelerated rate, and those who struggled could move at a slower, more concentrated pace. As well as reading books, we would talk about them and evaluate what we felt about the stories by writing regular book reports. One way in which I feel schools may have improved since my early education however, is the range of themes in books and a wider inclusivity of minority groups or differing living situations. This is because a large quantity of the reading materials my school could provide in my time featured straight individuals, white characters, and ‘nuclear’ families. This is a topic that has also been addressed in the recent Health & Wellbeing lectures.

Learning to write is one of the most important skills a child can hope to take from their early years education. Letter formation, spelling, punctuation, grammar, and more all play into the learning and teaching of writing. A child has achieved the ‘Writing’ outcomes if they can write legible, punctuated sentences, paragraphs and stories that have a point. They may also feature a clear and concise beginning, middle and end.

In my personal experience of language in primary school, I loved to read and write and so excelled in those areas. As I grew up, I have become more involved with the ‘Listening and Talking’ side of things. Thus, my passion for reading has gone unfulfilled for some years. The introduction of technology in the middle of my childhood, I believe, contributed to the decline in frequency of my reading as the lure of playing games and beating high scores was rarely weaker than the fun of reading. Despite this, reading is something I hope to get back into the the years to come as I feel I got so many benefits from reading so confidently as a child.

Expressive Arts- Dance Workshop TDT 09/01/19

The dance workshop was quite intimidating to me at the beginning because I do not feel confident in dance, whether that be teaching it or doing it! I had expected the purpose of the class to be how to teach a routine to a class, and perhaps perform it. However, as the class got going I realised that there is no need to jump straight into performance or practicing for a show.

The first main point I take away from this practical is that it works just as well, and can be even more beneficial for the children, to take baby steps. Dancing doesn’t have to mean routines, practices or shows, it can simply represent an understanding of rhythm and sequence and how to apply creativity through body movements to music.

The second thing I have learned after this activity is that dance classes can come to life through the children themselves. With minimal prompts the pupils’ creativity can flow and they can soon grow the confidence to teach each other moves, routines and expressions.

The final main point I have taken away from the dance workshop is that dance is not, and should not be, a separated classroom activity. The concepts of music and singing are used often in classrooms and so too can be dancing. A dance video has many uses, from introducing to children an alternative way to express yourself, to a behaviour management tool- children will soon gather round with undivided attention to observe a video of professionals, or even other children, dancing.

I now feel more confident about teaching dance to a class because I have learnt that there are many tools and videos online, and also, providing I create an enthusiastic learning environment, pupils can really run away with instructions and bounce off each other to create an art form other than drawing or painting. I also love the idea that those who struggle to express themselves by speaking or writing can flourish and convey their emotions through movement.

My Primary Reason

The environment in primary schools has always appealed to me. When I learned there, I loved it. I loved how the brightly coloured furniture and catchy phrases on the walls could inspire me to try something new every day and try my hardest to be the best that I could be. I loved the interactions with a huge range of different characters that I would never otherwise have come into contact with. I loved the engaging lessons, from teachers that delivered the perfect balance of work and play, blending the learning with fun activities that kept the class excited to progress. From my pupil perspective, school was an amazing place.

This does not mean to say that I have always wanted to be a teacher. When you are young and someone asks you what you want to ‘be’ when you grow up, your mind will tend to fall to the typical clichéd careers: teacher, doctor, hairdresser, vet, the list goes on. I would often blurt out “teacher” as a way to avoid the topic and move onto something else. It was not until I started the senior phase of high school at 16 that more serious questions would arise, such as ‘What are you doing after school?’ or ‘Where will you be in ten years?”. I decided that the only way I could decide on my path in life would be to give things a go. So I began going to do work experience one afternoon a week at my local primary school. I feel that to be a teacher, you have to be passionate about education, it is not a career that you could just do as a ‘Plan B’ if you couldn’t think of anything else. There must be a strong commitment to the job, through the inevitable ups and downs. As I have been told many times; “When there’s a will, there’s a way”.

There is a moment when you just know for sure that teaching is the one for you, starting work experience; that was my moment. This was when my passion was ignited. From the very first day I joined the class of 5 year olds, I knew that this was it, there was nothing else out there I could do that would live up to what I was involved and engaged in in this environment. Seeing the teacher give lessons took me straight back to 12 years earlier, when it was me sitting on that alphabet carpet. When I was one of those tiny beings with a mind like a coiled spring, ready to bounce into action and absorb all of this new information along the way. Now I got to be on the other side, the one setting free all the little springs, helping them to bounce as high as possible. The year flew by, I found myself sitting in my subjects on Wednesday mornings, eagerly awaiting the arrival of fifth period so that I could make my way to my favourite ‘class’ of the week.

After my time with the P1 class was up, I knew I couldn’t leave it at that. I then requested that I was a classroom assistant two times each week as I saw this as a great opportunity to attend classes in both the junior and senior primary school age groups. In this second year, I joined a P6 class of 10 year olds and rejoined my class from the previous year (now in aged 6 and in Primary 2). It was amazing to experience hands-on the similarities and differences between teaching the upper and lower levels of primary education. The topics that are covered are worlds apart, with P2 just becoming familiar with Biff, Chip & Kipper and P6 moving on to novels by J.K. Rowling and David Walliams. However, the core values remained the same; giving children a voice among their peers, helping them to develop no matter what stage they were at, and giving them control with their own learning. It was also fascinating to have the chance to grow with the same class of children for not one, but two years, which is something that not all teachers get to experience. It was so inspiring to see that not only the pupils’ level of working had improved, but so had their attitudes. Those who had been shy and unsure about getting involved in activities were now rarely seen without their hands raised proudly in the air, ready to answer a question. Other children who had not previously associated school with enjoyment, were now ready to get involved and were even volunteering to help others with tasks they could see them struggling with.

Seeing children thrive in the classroom and expand their knowledge of the world was so inspiring for me. The fact that these 30 or so small humans came into these adults’ classrooms and, in the space of a few years, went from knowing almost nothing about the world outside their front door, to being able to pick up a pencil and write about anything they could imagine, pick up a book and read about anything that anyone else imagined, or pick up a maths homework sheet and (sometimes with some grumbling) sit down and understand numbers to evaluate sums.

After these two years of experiences, I felt so grateful to have been a part of what is just the beginning of these children’s learning journey. Even if they don’t remember me a few months down the line, I will never forget my first time as a primary school staff member; how just being in the classroom environment, taking their reading groups and helping them with tricky maths tasks, shaped my path for the future and drove me to where I am today.