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.
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.
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.