Teaching Across Subject Boundaries TDT – A Memorable Learning Experience

A Memorable Learning Experience – The Windfarm Debate 

When I was in Primary 7, my class were working on our debating skills.  The teacher provided us with a number of opportunities to explore debates and understand what makes a good argument.  We were then divided into groups with different roles allocated to each group.  My memory is somewhat hazy now but I can recall there being a group of farmers, a group of local residents, a group of conservationists and my group – the RSPB.  Our task was to consider whether our own group would be for or against a new windfarm being built.  Over a series of lessons, we worked in our groups to research arguments that we might want to present in the whole class debate.  We also had to plan costumes and divide up the roles so each person in the group had something to say in the debate.

I personally remember this learning experience because of my enthusiasm for dressing up.  I remember being a very keen child and clutching a huge book of bird species while wearing a bizarre array of items: khaki trousers, hiking boots, a fleece with a hand-drawn RSPB badge, a wide-rimmed safari hat, cardboard loo roll binoculars and…a beak.  Before I realised my call was to teaching, I went through a phase of aspiring to be a zoologist so I really engaged with the role of an RSPB representative.  The teacher had mixed the groups and put us with people who might not naturally be in the same friendship groups so I remember enjoying getting to know other people in my class.

The experience gave us a meaningful context for our learning as it provided us with the chance to use our research skills, work as a team and explore the process of preparing for and participating in a debate.  I particularly valued this learning experience as it was over a series of lessons so we had plenty of time and I hated rushing topics or projects.  There were also some friendship issues in the class around this time so dividing us into groups with people we didn’t usually work with helped bring the class together and create an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect.

Uniform Conundrum

“Twenty Margate pupils sent home in Hartsdown uniform row”

According to an article in the BBC news, pupils in Hartsdown, Kent have been sent home from school and asked to leave classes for not adhering to the strict uniform policy.  The reason for this excessive regime was explained by the head teacher, Mr Tate who said, “adhering to uniform rules led to better behaviour and improved grades.”  While the majority of parents support the overall effect on appearance and the rules that are in place, some believe this is extreme.  One father even decided to move his daughter to another school which may seem far-fetched over a pair of shoes but is perfectly reasonable given her education is being put on hold.

My school had a very strict uniform policy which had some benefits and disadvantages.  The school certainly holds a high reputation if everyone looks smart and the uniform is uniform but where should the line be drawn? Uniform promotes a sense of community and inclusivity where nobody is judged.  It may be psychological but I did feel like I worked better in uniform than when I got to wear normal clothes on non-uniform days. However, I would not go as far as saying that wearing leather shoes over suede shoes improved my grades.  There is value in teaching young children the benefit of community and uniform is one means through which this can be created.  I do believe that as children grow up, particularly through their teenage years, they should be able to express their individuality and this was restricted for me in a school where I could only have one piercing in each ear and one bracelet on my wrist.

When in uniform, you are representing the school and out and about in public, you are being held accountable for your behaviour so I do understand why schools would be so strict.  Personally I believe that uniform is important but it is too far to suppress the right to learn over something so trivial as the material which makes up someone’s shoes.  The footage on BBC news also shocked me because it brings up issues of inequality.   For some families, buying a pair of brogues over some cheap suede shoes may be difficult because of the cost which means children from deprived areas could be at a disadvantage and that is not right at all.

To summarise, uniform does implement good behaviour and reflect the school’s identity but I feel it can also hide an individual’s personality, suppressing their confidence in some cases.  While punishment is appropriate and necessary to keep up the standards, I do not think that clothing should dictate whether a child misses out on their classes or not.


Racism Input

Image result for ethnicity

Racism Input

In approaching this week’s topic of “Understanding ourselves – values as embodied and culturally specific”, my initial definitions and thoughts were as follows:

  •  Race – A group of humans who all share physical traits such as skin colour or facial characteristics.
  • Ethnicity – A subdivision within race which centres around cultural traditions and practices.
  • Prejudice – preconceived ideas which are judgments made without actual evidence.
  • Discrimination – Unjust treatment of people groups where prejudicial opinions are formed based on race, age, sex etc. and this influences behaviour.

I’ve mainly associated racism with the past where events such as the slave trade, the holocaust and apartheid took place. After exploring some of the articles on Derek’s padlet and further reading, it has opened my eyes to seeing how racism and discrimination are more prevalent than ever in today’s society with social media being a major platform for hate.

The shocking Facebook post “It will be refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady in the White House. I’m tired of seeing a Ape in heels” posted by Pamela Ramsey Taylor showed ignorance on many levels. Coming from a predominantly white community, it is likely that she has not encountered many black Americans and has grown up with strongly held views about their place in society. Her post was prejudiced and abusive showing that racism still permeates society today. Another woman joined in with her hateful comments leading to a huge viral petition which resulted in both women losing their jobs. Social media in the wrong hands can be a dangerous tool but this case study also explores its positive reach.

My understanding of racism was deepened by hearing Clint Smith describing his upbringing as a black child in America where his race dictated his actions. It was unacceptable for him to be joining in with other children who were playing with water guns in a dark parking lot because they were white. This is an example of institutional racism as others would automatically make assumptions on his behaviour on the basis of his colour. In hearing this story, my definition of race was stretched as I realised it is more than the appearance of a person. Race affects behaviour too as prejudicial ideas and society’s values can limit your opportunities and freedom.

Another example of institutional racism is that of Muslim women facing discrimination in British universities. Access to university is allegedly on the basis of merit but Britain has some way to go to becoming meritocratic. This article made me realise the definition of discrimination is not necessarily limited to unjust treatment of others according to their race and appearance but, on a deeper level, is connected to their core beliefs and religion (in other words an ethnic group). If anything, I believe religion can be a more isolating reason for discrimination. Religion plays a central part to the person’s life and can be hugely misinterpreted such as the Islamophobia that leads to a lack of social mobility where prejudiced opinions are formed. In some respect, this changes my original definition as people make assumptions that all Muslims are radicals and Islamophobia is a real issue. However, in this complex world, families of those affected by terrorist attacks (such as the recent attacks in Manchester) do have first-hand evidence giving weight to their fear. I am not saying that Islamophobia is acceptable at all but prejudice can stem from evidence in certain scenarios.

Having grown up with a father who is half Finnish and a mother who was raised in Africa and as a lover of foreign languages and cultures, I would say I am accepting of all people groups. Naturally we all form opinions of others but I am a strong believer in humans being treated equally no matter what colour their skin is or what religion they follow and I hope to take that into the classroom. In this digital age, I also hope that I will be able to draw awareness to the dangers and positive impacts of social media with its freedom to post any statement about any person of any race.

To conclude, here is a quote I came across from the iconic Rosa Parks: “Racism is still with us. But it is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet, and, hopefully, we shall overcome.”

Resources Seminar

The Resources Seminar – The Set Task

The resources seminar explored the idea of meritocracy through a group task where each group was given the same activity but with different materials and treatment.  The task was to design a starter pack for new university students using the contents of an envelope provided to each group. Whilst some people were supplied with all sorts of stationery such as blu-tack, elastic bands, different coloured paper and plenty of pens, other groups were limited to one or two items.  This left them with very little to work with and therefore made the task a lot more challenging.

The groups with more materials were constantly praised for their efforts, given extra attention and they were even offered biscuits. The others received very little input or were completely ignored which left them feeling even more exasperated by the task set ahead of them.  When it came to presenting, despite the high quality of all the groups, the so-called “best” ideas were still those that came from the groups with more materials.  This puzzled me at the time as it seemed that there was a lot of effort put into every presentation and I personally believed that one of the best groups was one who presented all their thoughts with the limited resource of a plain piece of paper.

Personal reflections 

This task challenged me as it took me a while to notice that everyone was not being given equal opportunities. The reason for this is because I was part of one of the better treated groups and I think that it is a lot easier to feel confident, comfortable and do well in that situation and not to notice the others who are treated unfairly.  Those discriminated against, on the other hand, were extremely vocal at the end of the seminar as they had seen the inequality throughout.


The point of this exercise was to explore the whole idea of meritocracy and how that can be seen in society, particularly in the context of education. Meritocracy refers to people being rewarded through their merit; usually with power and status.  In education, this is when children progress on the basis of their attainment and that makes it difficult for those who do not achieve highly to improve at all.  Often children from schools in affluent areas do better so they have an unfair advantage over children in inner city state schools and low income homes for example.  As with the exercise, the people with resources were rewarded and at an unfair advantage.  This raised the question of whether this is a risk in our education system.