Author Archives: Eilidh Carlisle

How Deferral Enabled Me To Thrive, Not Cope

With the ‘Give Them Time’ campaign in the midst of lobbying government, I feel there is no better time to discuss deferral and why I agree that funding should be open to all those who need it.

15 years ago my wonderful mother walked into my nursery, and requested my deferral for the following year. The nursery were quite surprised, as it is very rare that a parent asks for deferral before the option is given – however, my Mum as an Early Years Practitioner herself, knew I was entitled to funding for deferral due to my January birthday and was keen to take up the opportunity having observed me from both the angle of my mum and a professional.

Upon asking her as to why she made this decision, there are a vast range of reasons. In her words, “although you were bright, socially and emotionally you weren’t well adjusted.” To me, this reason has had the largest impact on me. I’ve always been the oldest in my year as a result, which I found was great motivation when I was in school to look out for my classmates and guide them whenever they needed help. While this was a responsibility I made up myself, it was one I took in my and one that I believe developed my interest in teaching as I’d fully decided I wanted to be a teacher before even leaving primary (and a hairdresser on weekends back then, but given up on the latter sadly).  Being given an extra year to mature is something that I feel has had a profound effect on me particularly in the last 2 years. As many my age, my final year in high school to now as an MA2 student has been full of emotional rollercoasters, huge life changes and serious decision making which has at times taken its toll on me mentally. I’ve always seen myself as fairly mature for my age and this maturity aided me, and continues to aid me, through these challenging experiences and I really do think for me, going to school before I was ready wouldn’t have allowed me to have the same level of resilience that I have now as my anxiety levels would be increased from a young age due to the inability to transition that anyone who knew me at that age agrees I would’ve had.

Continuing with the idea of ‘me being ready’, I was able to sit my exams at 16 and a half, while both my parents were over a year younger when sitting theirs – another reason that encouraged them to defer me. I am naturally a massive stresshead. While I know plenty of people who sat Nat 5s at 15 and got better grades than me, I know myself I sat them at a time in which I was prepared and suited me. I get incredibly anxious as is in high pressure situations, put myself under a lot of pressure and can generally be extremely hard on myself as it is and I again believe having that extra year to wait helped me be at a stage in my life in which I was ready to face those Nat 5s head first. I feel this has been exemplified further when reflecting on my transition to uni. I found my transition to uni, particularly moving away, extremely difficult at first (bearing in mind there were extraneous variables such as having spent little time away from home before and some other personal circumstances) but it did come with time. If I had come to uni at 17, I certainly don’t think I’d have coped especially looking back at my personal growth in that year between being 17 and 18.

Socially, within my first year of nursery I definitely aligned with the very early stages of Piaget’s ‘Pre-operational’ stage of development – extremely egocentric. Therefore, I really struggled to form relationships and play with others compared to the way in which I had by the time I’d left nursery age 5 and a half. By then I was certainly meeting the latter end of the Pre-operational stage and starting to put myself in the shoes of others. Whilst I remember being confused and jealous of my peers moving into Primary 1, I blossomed in this second year and was so excited to show my new classmates around, unaware they too had spent a year in nursery – just in a younger class held in the afternoon. Basically, I do remember thinking that I pretty much ran the nursery now as I was the experienced one, which probably correlates with the time I came out my cocoon as a shy caterpillar into a social butterfly – who was ready to take on the next step by the end of the year.

With an EYP mother, she wholeheartedly supports learning through play and knew I would learn the social and emotional skills I was lacking in an environment that was bursting with enriching play opportunities.

One point I do want to emphasise is that deferral is not a one size fits all mould.

So deferral was immensely beneficial to me, but I know plenty who are absolutely thriving and deferral would’ve been completely unnecessary for them. So, if not all children who meet the criteria need it, surely that suggests that some who do not meet the criteria do?

All our children are totally unique and if we are to encourage giving all pupils a level playing field from the start – surely we should be allowing funding for ALL children who would benefit from deferral. This is a huge factor we could be considering in the attempt to close the attainment gap, yet one I have almost never heard discussed during my academic career in teacher education. For parents to be expected to self-fund deferred years means those who can’t afford have their children sitting at a disadvantage before even entering the classroom. It is my hope, with this motion passing in parliament that all local authorities act quickly on implementing this policy to enable us to get it right for every child.

 

Find out more about the Give Them Time campaign below

https://givethemtime.org/

Twitter: @GiveTimeScot #ThriveNotCope

The Expressive Arts and How It Saved Me

32 hours – give or take – after yesterday’s lecture on the expressive arts and I still cannot stop thinking about it. I knew this lecture would resonate with me particularly well as I have triple threat of qualifications in the form as a unit in Advanced Higher Voice, as well as in Higher Drama and Higher Dance. If you hadn’t gathered by now, musical theatre and the arts have been a massive part of my life for as long as I can remember – however, this is no longer the case.

I can’t count all the times I’ve missed group dinners, left parties early, turned down going on dates with the excuse of ‘sorry, I have a rehearsal’ but I would not for a second take that back. Through being part of a theatre school, numerous dance teams/troupes and choirs, I gained such a strong sense of commitment, team work and most importantly to me, belonging.

Not knowing where I belong is something that has always created anxiety in my life and has set me back all too many times. As much as i appreciated my education and teachers – school was really not for me. I always considered myself weird in primary, but this didn’t bother me as I didn’t have much of a need for belonging then. I still had plenty friends and plenty of fun and that was enough for me. This flipped in high school however, when all my class from primary had been separated, and those who went to the same school separated in to smaller friend groups. I look back now and can see that set off a lot of stress that left me unsure as to where I fit in, and eventually resulted in my personality completely changing from a loud, confident little girl to an introverted and insecure teenager who wanted nothing more to fit in.

In this time, I also made a decision that I have since regretted to this day, of leaving dancing and very nearly leaving my theatre group too.

It wasn’t until being forced into dancing in third year PE, closely followed by being cast in the best role I have ever had to this day of Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family. I realised that the arts were a release for me where for a couple of hours a day, I’m no longer Eilidh Carlisle, which I must admit can be quite emotionally draining at times. I had a chance to lose all my stresses and anxieties to both be someone else, as well as learn more about myself and who I am by challenging myself to reach within to portray complex characters.

I spend all this time saying this to really push the fact that having the arts available to children from a primary age is absolutely vital. From my experience, doing this improved my mental health, gave me a reason to improve myself, rebuilt my confidence and encourage me to really comprehend the complexity of humans and how we feel. I was always more than just lucky to have a wealth of opportunities in the arts through both primary and high school including getting to be a part of regional choirs, receiving tickets to fringe performances to review them after, dancing competitively and as part of a performance team for a top Edinburgh college programme – all of which was for free. The thought that others may not have these opportunities which both myself and the two students who spoke in the lecture found a sense of escapism in, truly does break my heart.

It has always been a goal of mine to ensure if I ever worked in a school with a lack of arts present, I would lobby to ensure they were present, much in the manner many of the teachers who inspire me did. With already having coaching qualifications, as well as delivering drama classes to primary age children over summer, I am confident I have the ability to one day do so.

 

On another note – this lecture has encouraged me to be open to myself and recognise that at this current moment in time, I am not in my best headspace at all. Before beginning university, I still engaged in all my theatre classes and therefore used that as an outlet which I no longer have. Although I am really struggling at the moment to so much as get out of bed and face the world, the lecture yesterday made me remember how much I got out of having those hobbies and tomorrow – I’ll be attending a dance class. I am using myself as evidence, that theatre is a tremendous resource that develops transferable skills and a permanent bond that can be utilised for the rest of your life.  I fully and wholly urge anyone with a tie to theatre to reflect on theatre and how it affected you, as despite being known as the nippy theatre pal, I can hand on heart say being a part of something that feels more like family than just a hobby has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life.

 

Establishing Social Issues With A Pencil, Paper Clips and Blue Tac

Through the first of our ‘Values: Self, Society and The Professions’ workshops, we were split into groups within our class of 30 and each given an envelope. Within this envelope, my group was faced with a pencil, blue tac, some paper clips, a single post-it note, an elastic band and the challenge to devise and create a product that would be valuable to freshers next year that would have aided us in our settling in. As most of our group have newly moved to Dundee, we decided we would make a map of the city centre that pointed out all the student hotspots, including clubs, bars, shops and places of leisure.

At first we were pretty chuffed with our idea – until we explained it to the tutor. She looked at us with a look of disgust questioning if that was really the best we could think of, then walked away again. Deflated, we looked at our lacklustre resources placed before us trying to work out if we were missing the point of the task (spoiler: we were to an extent) and took it upon ourselves to look at what everyone else was doing and see if they were as lost as we were. To our horror, the group opposite us were not only flying through the course of making their product, beaming with pride, they also had piles of card, felt tip pens, scissors, glue and a multitude of other resources.

The next job was to present, with our group going first. A fellow team member presented our product to the class and in my opinion, we had almost salvaged ourselves with the product. The tutor however, did not agree, marking us a 2/10 overall. Each other group presented with marks increasing as we went round the room, then finally, it was time for the group opposite us to present.  Their product was a ticket to get them free parking, and although a good idea, ours had clearly taken a lot more thought and effort to create. Yet somehow, they were scored a 9. By this point, most of the class had clicked on to what was happening. Through this we were able to recognise some issues that arose from this task, and how they made us feel.

First of all, there was the clear use of favouritism throughout the class, with my group being constantly belittled while other groups were consistently being motivated and praised. Although my group caught on quite quickly, imagine this taking place in a classroom setting – a young child being put down because of something that is outwith their control. If there was to persist, it would be almost certain to have a damaging effect on the child. We said this made us feel quite useless and demotivated to actually complete the task while the group opposite us said they felt really proud of their work, despite knowing their product was nothing extraordinary. This occuring within a classroom – or any sort of setting with a person of authority – could certainly have a negative impact on a child’s mental health as they are being made to feel like less than those around them by someone they are supposed to trust and see as a role model.

Secondly, there is the issue of the fact that every group wasn’t equal. In our society, desire for equality has always existed – yet we never have reached it. Although in an ideal world it would be an excellent way for us to function, realistically achieving this would be incredibly difficult. Resources are not infinite, and therefore our focus should be on how we distribute what we have based on who needs it the most. So instead of looking at reaching equality, we should strive for equity. The group with the most resources would’ve been able to make their parking ticket with our resources, yet they had piles of unused items on their desk. We wouldn’t have needed the full set of what they had, as with simply a few coloured pens and larger bits of paper our end product would have been a lot different. What is important is to identify what an individuals needs are, and from there provide what is necessary to help them be at the same level as everyone else. While some individuals may be capable and not needing any extra support, nobody will be exactly the same and therefore being able to aid those who aren’t quite at the same level as everyone else is just one of the ways we ensure we are getting it right for every child.

A lifetime in education

To me, becoming a primary teacher was always the path I was walking on. I can still remember a task in second year Social Education in which we had to research our dream job, then make a poster on it. Our guidance teacher stressed to us that when we left sixth year, she would not have these posters shoved back into our faces if our S2 dream job didn’t match the career path we were about to embark on.  Yet here I am all these years later, still committed to the cause.

So why?

Over the years I’ve faced the same responses from people who look down on the profession time and time again.

“They make absolutely no money though.”

“But you have grades that could get you into law, do you not?”

“Do you really want to spend a lifetime in education?”

The thing is – I do want to spend a lifetime in education. Upon experiencing school for myself, and having observed different classrooms in both mainstream and additional needs schools, I fully believe there is no job more rewarding than that of a primary educator. To see the ideas of the future generation come to life before their eyes. To nurture their personalities in a manner that creates well-rounded young adults. To be there as a support network when things get hard. That, to me, is what it’s all about – making a change and being the difference.

With a rapidly changing society, it is clear that the career I am embarking on will be full of twists, turns and surprises – and I’m ready.