Today in class we were asked to participate in creative dance which required us to throw away our inhibitions and risk looking foolish. Surveying the room, I realised we were all in the same boat as I saw some apprehensive faces reflecting my own expression. I found the tutor’s high energy and large gesticulations helped put me at ease. I also thought about the children I will be asking, in the future, to engage in dance lessons and decided I needed to be brave and take the same risk.
As a child and especially as a teenager, I thoroughly enjoyed dancing; not formal or structured dance class, but disco dancing in the house and at nightclubs. Dancing is an excellent form of exercise that gives you a great cardiovascular workout and releases mood boosting endorphin. It is also a social activity that can strengthen friendships and may even change your life if, like me, you meet your partner at a dance club. Other benefits may include increasing confidence and promoting relaxation which could make children happier and help them to learn.
I expect my previous enjoyment of disco dance will help me teach children to dance as they will sense my enthusiasm. There may however be challenges in motivating children who lack confidence or have low self-esteem. Children such as these may require more support, encouragement and praise.
Promoting equality and inclusion may need careful consideration to ensure all children regardless of social background or ability/disability can participate. Consideration needs to be given to the environment to ensure there is enough space for the children to move freely, adequate lighting and no hazards such as obstacles that could cause injury. I would risk assess the space/room to be used and make any necessary adjustments to ensure it is fit for purpose.
Having read the document ‘Get Scotland Dancing’ I now realise how important dance is for cultural expression and strengthening ties. In Scotland, dance is the fourth most common cultural activity and the range of styles is growing in keeping with increasing diversity. Celebrating diversity in schools means it is important to include every child’s cultural dance although this may be difficult with time constraints.
As the number of children, particularly girls, achieving their recommended physical activity of one hour per day decreases as children get older and as statistics indicate more girls than boys enjoy dance (62.4% to 11.5%) promoting dance may help girls meet their daily target.
Today our class had its first Values workshop. We were split into groups numbered 1 to 4 and duly followed Carrie’s instructions to make something to welcome a new student to the University of Dundee. At first I was oblivious to the purpose of this activity, however it soon became apparent that the groups had been given different quantities of resources in a descending order from group one having a plentiful supply of materials to group four having virtually nothing. The lesson, I realised, was that of inequality in society. As a society, we accept inequalities exist, but as future teachers it is our obligation to challenge them and strive for full inclusion of all children and families in school.
I am aware that some children struggle through life without even their basic needs being met and in fact often come to school with an empty stomach. Under such harsh circumstances these children may not be able to learn and engage in school life. They may seem distracted, disruptive or disobedient when in fact they lack the energy to commit to their environment and the people in it. I believe we must try to empathise with children and help make a positive impact in their lives. I once knew a teacher, who worked in a deprived area, telling me she kept a box of cereal bars in class for those children who had come to school hungry. She would instruct children who had ‘forgotten’ to have breakfast that day to help themselves from the box. Surprisingly she said no child ever abused her generosity and she could proceed with the days teaching knowing no starving child sat in her class. This example of empathy and care is an inspiration to us all.
In the class today I was fortunate to be in group two and enjoyed having an abundance of materials in which to create an item and meet the demands of the task. Group three sitting next to us however were not so lucky and needed a pen to complete the task. My group willing gave them a pen. I learned that group one were unwilling to share their bountiful supply of resources with group four which although sad was a fact of life – not everyone is generous and thoughtful. As teachers we have a unique position to help foster good morals in children; one such way is to help them to share and empathise with others which is after all an evolutionary act of social survival. It is also important to understand the hardships some families face and to work with them in a non-judgemental way to help their children reach their full potential and hopefully break free from deprivation.
Teaching is not my first career; I was a theatre staff nurse and later a registered child minder. I have, however, more than twenty years of experience of caring for children. With six siblings, eighteen nieces and nephews and numerous great nieces and nephews, I have always been surrounded by young children.
Now, with two of my three children having flown the nest and my remaining daughter almost there I found myself at a crossroads, career wise. Pondering what made me happy, I knew that I wanted to work with children. During the NC and HNC Early Education and Child Care courses I spent long placements in classrooms and I just knew primary teaching was the job for me. I had, I realised, been instinctively educating children in my care for years.
During my placements I was struck by the fact that I never noticed the time passing and quickly related the saying ‘time flies when you’re having fun’. To me that was proof indeed that I had found the right job for me. I believe nurturing and inspiring young minds is one of the most important and rewarding jobs. It is a true privilege to help influence the next generation and it is the joy of teaching to witness that spark of comprehension in a child’s eye when they grasp a new concept or their enthusiasm and excitement about learning. One such ‘eureka’ moment I witnessed came after helping a young boy to learn number bonds. I considered how best to teach this numeracy lesson and after scrolling the internet found an art activity that I knew would engage him. I watched this elated child run up to his mum at home time, waving the said artwork, and exclaiming he got it. The immense satisfaction this gave me confirmed my desire to teach.
Teaching, however is not just about learning. It is far more than that; it is about nurturing and meeting all the child’s needs. Some children come to school happy and ready to learn whilst others less fortunate come with more basic needs. For them, school may be their only safe space, their haven or the only nurturing environment they know. It is the teachers’ role to provide a caring space and consistent approach in which all children are respected and valued.
I believe education is crucial in addressing social inequalities and good teaching vital in helping children reach their full potential and in so doing improve their life chances. This is why I want to teach.