Category Archives: 3.1 Teaching & Learning

I blink, and it’s over – A long overdue reflection.

The past year has passed by in a flash. I know I’m not exactly old, but I now realise how true it is that time seems to fly by as you get older. There’s no more sitting in a classroom trying to keep my eyes open on a Friday afternoon, or traipsing to classes I didn’t enjoy only to sit there disinterested for fifty minutes. Instead, I blink and first year is over. I’m doing something I truly enjoy.

As I enter the second year of my teaching journey, I feel as though this is a perfect time to reflect on my experiences thus far. First year saw me face many challenges and handed me new opportunities and experiences; my most favourable being my school-based placement. This gave me the opportunity to put what I had learned in lectures, into practice.

Second semester was a bit of a whirlwind. One day we were sat in the lecture theatre learning about strategies for behaviour management and the next, we were using them in our own classes. I’m not going to lie, I was a bit overwhelmed during this semester, having to think about lesson planning, curriculum knowledge, behaviour management strategies and lesson content all whilst preparing for two assignments and two exams. I felt a bit lost-as though everything had been thrown at us all at once. As much as I felt I had been hounded with information, I was so excited to get out on placement and use what I had learned.

Placement was exhausting, but extremely rewarding. I was lucky enough to have a fantastic placement experience, in a great school with extremely supportive mentors and a hard-working and respectful class. This does not mean, however, that I didn’t run into any challenges. Placement taught me a lot.

Here are my top 6 tips for a successful placement!

  1. Teaching is an ongoing journey and you cannot perfect everything in your first six weeks of being in a classroom – I was fortunate enough to have two fantastic mentors, who I was able to collect lots of tips and tricks from, and whilst I feel a lot more confident in my teaching ability, I still have A LOT to learn.
  2. Relationships are key. Get to know your pupils needs, their abilities, their interests, THEM. Strong relationships are an integral part of an effective classroom. Once you get to know them, it will make your experience much easier– your pupils will engage more in your lessons if they’re tailored to suit them.
  3. Whilst what we learn in lectures is extremely beneficial and helped me enormously, you really do learn the most when in the classroom. Go in and observe your mentor(s) AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE – get the most out of your time there, it’ll go by in a flash!
  4. Making mistakes is okay, in fact, it’s crucial. The mistakes you make help shape you into the teacher that you’ll become. Looking back, the lesson in which I made the most ‘mistakes’ is probably the one the children enjoyed the most, and the one which improved my teaching enormously.
  5. Have time for YOU. Whilst it is obviously vital that you spend time planning lessons, marking work and reflecting on your teaching, it is important that you find and maintain that work-life balance; something that in the past, I have found challenging.  To allow you to work to your highest possible standard, it is important that you take time out to do something else. Don’t burn yourself out.
  6. HAVE FUN AND ENJOY IT. As daunting as it may seem, being told that you will have full responsibility over the class for a couple of days, everything falls into place nicely. I can safely say that my placement made my first year of university.

I cannot wait to get back into the classroom come November and do what I love doing.

Until next time x


IB; Concept-based learning

Concept-based learning is an approach which excites me- it moves away from subject specific content and instead focuses on ‘big ideas’ that span various subject areas. For example, children may learn about ‘change’. They may do this through change of value in mathematics, change of leaders in history and through studying the life cycle in sciences.

This form of learning is said to encourage pupils to think about content and facts at a much deeper level.Further, it mandates more critical thinking at increasingly higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. (Erickson, 2012). The diagrams below show the 2D and 3D models of learning; the latter being concept-based. It illustrates that there is more to learning than memorising facts, and suggests that with concept-based learning comes a whole range of new skills.

It is important for us as educators to see the clear difference between a topic and a concept. Concepts can be taught in any classroom, no matter what the content includes. A concept is a broad idea that is both universal and timeless, and should drive pupils towards higher levels of thinking.

Growing up with the 3-18 curriculum, and latterly the CfE, where the results we get in our exams seem to determine our futures, I find it tricky to understand how concept-based learning can be assessed. This is something I most look forward to seeing in practice, during my time in a school which have adopted the IB curriculum, next year.


Why we shouldn’t treat our students equally.

Although we tend to use the words interchangeably, fair and equal are not the same.

Image result for fair vs equal

Take this as an example: Three children of varying heights are trying to reach for the sweets that are on the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard. Treating them equally would mean giving all three children a box to stand on; but the smallest child still can’t reach, whilst the tallest child may be able to reach the shelf without the need for a box. Treating them fairly, then, would mean giving two boxes to the shortest, one to the middle and none to the tallest.

How does this relate to teaching? Well, let’s take a look at a more classroom-like scenario…

You have a classroom of twenty pupils, three of whom have misbehaved enormously over the course of the week and consequently have been told they are getting 10 minutes less ‘Golden Time’ on Friday afternoon. The remaining seventeen, will get the full amount.  Although the kids who have been punished may claim this is ‘unfair’ or ‘unjust’, it is the complete antipodal.

If we were to tackle this situation with an ‘equal’ approach, all children would get the same amount of Golden Time, regardless of their behavior OR all children would lose 10 minutes of their Golden Time due to the actions of the minority. You and I both know that neither of the above options are fair.

It’s important to remember that fair doesn’t mean giving everyone the same, fair means giving students what they need in order to succeed; this could be time, resources or words of encouragement. If you go to a doctor and the patient before you had a cough, and then you went in with a sore head; he wouldn’t provide you both with cough medicine? So why as a teacher would you provide copious amounts of resources for all of your pupils but spend little or no time explaining it? Whilst some children would be happy to sit and independently work through worksheet after worksheet, this just isn’t possible, and simply would not work for every student, just like cough medicine wouldn’t work for every patient.

As teachers, it can often be easy to think you’re doing good by treating your classroom of young people equally; giving each pupil exactly the same work, providing them with exactly the same resources and explaining things in exactly the same way to everyone. Many may believe that by doing this you are treating your class fairly, which isn’t the case, and whilst equality promotes fairness and justice by giving everyone the same thing, it only works if everyone starts off from the same place; which definitely won’t be the case in your classroom.

Treating the young people in your class fairly requires you to look at each and every one of them as an individual with unique needs and circumstances which are personal to them. This will aid you in determining how much time and help they each need in order to flourish, and help you set specific rules to suit them.  It’s important to let everyone in your class know that what works for a classmate, may not work for them.

It may seem time consuming and challenging to treat every pupil fairly. And truthfully, in the short run, it is. Be that as it may, in the long run it is much, much more effective and surprisingly easier.

Stereotypes that are associated with teaching

Being a teacher comes with a stigma.

The majority of everyone’s childhood is spent confined between the four walls of a classroom; this paints an image in our heads of what a teacher should be like. Whether you have been out of education for over 40 years or have just finished Primary Four, people seem to think they are experts in defining the role of a teacher. What we see them do in the classroom everyday is all that they do? Right? Wrong. 

There is so, so much more to being a teacher than those outwith the profession realise.

It is circulated that teachers ‘only work 9-4’ or they ‘only work when the kids are in class’. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. While it may be completely true that teachers are only directly teaching their pupils for five or six hours a day, there is much more to the job. Classrooms to organise, extra-curricular activities to run, marking to do, and lessons to plan.

Another stereotype which is often thrown around is that the only reason people teach is because they haven’t had any significant success in the subject themselves. I strongly dislike the phrase “Those who can’t do, teach” because it is extremely inaccurate. The majority of people teach because they truly love to do so; they get a sense of joy out of imparting their wisdom and knowledge on others. Never claim your teacher is a failure at something just because they have chosen to teach it to you; think yourself lucky that they’ve chosen to share their knowledge with you.

Finally we come to the stereotype which I believe we will never be able to dispel –

“Teachers are only in it for the long holidays”

How many of you are envious of the lengthy summer holiday that teachers receive? My only advice to you is – don’t be. It has been proven that teachers spend almost as much time working when the young people are off than they do during term-time. In order to succeed in this profession, you must, as most teachers do, dedicate a chunk of your holiday to lesson planning, classroom tidying, swatting up on the curriculum and getting to know your pupils for the upcoming year.

Teaching is not a job where you can leave everything at the door and pick up again the next morning. It’s almost as if it’s a continuous mindset, which never switches off.

Teachers are educators, mentors, role-models, and a shoulder to cry on. Never underestimate them.

Teaching is a reward.

Teaching isn’t just a job; teaching is a reward.

Whilst the ‘weekends off’ and the 6-week-long Summer holidays  may be perks that come with teaching, it is the desire to impact young peoples’ lives and my love for working with children that swayed me towards this career.

I want to make an impact. I want to make an impact like my Primary Five teacher did on me. The knowledge she imparted, the wisdom she shared and the self-confidence she inspired has had an everlasting effect on me. I am so appreciative of all I learned from her.

I want to make a difference in students’ lives like she did in so many.

She went out of her way for every single student who walked through her door, even the ones who didn’t necessarily deserve her kindness or words of wisdom. Her job was to teach according to the curriculum and mark our work, but in my opinion, that isn’t what makes a good teacher. The dedication to seeing their students succeed in all aspects of their lives is what makes a good teacher, and she was the best one I’ve ever had.

I looked and still do look  up to her.

Our school days shape who we become. When we’re in school, we’re at the most malleable stage of our lives and we are extremely influenceable and so it’s hugely important that we are guided through this time by teachers who encourage our need to gather information. As well as this post being about why I have decided to become a teacher, this is also an indirect ‘thank you’ to my Primary Five teacher for inspiring my demand for knowledge.

Aside from this, I never want to stop learning. I love to learn and I don’t want a day to go by where I don’t learn something new, whether it be from colleagues, or my students.

Education isn’t just one way; often you can learn just as much from your students as they can from you.

“You do realise you won’t make that much money?”

This is something I have heard a lot after talking about my career choice. I know. I am aware that teachers are extremely underpaid for what they have to put up with; they are expected to try and teach students who want to learn whilst attempting to deal with the others who refuse to let others learn- as well as the snotty noses, lost socks from PE kits, their inability to listen for five minutes and the mobile-phone-addicted children.

Above all, I cannot picture a job more rewarding. The happiness you see on a child’s face when they get 10/10 on their spelling test, complete a level on MyMaths or master their times tables gives me a sense of joy, a sense of achievement. This is what you have taught these kids.

Teaching is by no means easy; but teaching is a reward.