Author Archives: Kathleen McAvoy

Children and Relationships

As a future teacher it is important the we not only ensure that children are academically prepared for the ‘real world’, we much also ensure that they are able to develop in a way that is healthy to their minds and social being as well as their physical being.

When it comes to a persons social well being we can start by looking at their relationships and environment that helped them be the person that they are as an adult. Dr Suzanne Zeedyk in the video ‘Brain Development’ she states what not only does a children’s development depend upon their genetics but also their relationships and how they respond to these relationships.

From watching this video by Dr Zeedyk I learnt that compared to animals, human babies have a shorter gestation period and this is due to evolution. Babies grow to the right size to be birthed with ease and when their brains are less developed, making their brains more ‘flexible’. This flexibility does have its advantage in that children are able to develop in a way to help them cope with their environment or in any circumstances they may face. This is how they are able to learn languages, how to express emotions or how to cope in difficult situations. The disadvantage is that once a child has become used to a certain environment it can be hard for them to adapt to an unfamiliar one. I feel this explains why children who perhaps come from challenging environment such as domestic violence, carry this into their adult years and causing conditions such as depression and anxiety. Additional stress in early years can also affect a child’s ability to notice and take on new information slowing their learning.

So… as a teacher we play a part in helping ensure that a child can adapt to different environments. Again going back the domestic violence example, a child may come into the classroom and due to their situation at home, be on high alert and unable to relax for fear of  ridicule or violence. To combat situations like this we as teachers must ensure that the classroom environment is one that is safe, calm and predictable. But also we much assure that we are reassuring to our pupils that if they do get an answer wrong, or if they don’t know at all that this is not a bad thing and is something we can help them learn.

Positive reinforcement is something that is very important to remember when teaching a group of such impressionable people. We must not always focus on what is negative. Even if the child does something this is unacceptable, such as hitting another child, we must never scold or berate them but rather talk to them and explain to them what they did and why it was wrong and what will be re repercussions if they do it again.

I know this will not be something east to so when I enter into my teacher journey, but rather it is something I must constantly work on. No two days will ever be that same but it is important that I try and be as prepared as possible for any situation that may be thrown my way, good or bad.

Reading, Writing, Listening and Me

For me, primary school was so long ago that I find it hard to recall details of learning rather than all the time I spent with my friends. However, I do have a few memories of some aspects of learning reading, writing and listening although not so much on the talking but I guess that comes hand in hand with the other.

My memories or reading begins with being read to when I was younger by not only my parents but my big sister as well. When in school I have vague memories of being in reading groups for different abilities and being taught to sound out the words. How ever, due to having dyslexia I wasn’t the quickest reader but it is something I still practice to this day by reading whatever I can whenever I can. Also I still clam up when I have to read out loud as I fear my dyslexia will make me sound like an idiot.

I have more memories when it comes to learning to write. One of these is the Magic Pencil programme that we were always so excited to watch, seeing the TV being wheeled in was always a sign of a great lesson ahead. As well as the Magic Pencil I remember being taught cursive within school. We would have to copy text out in cursive which again I really didn’t get along with, but to this day I do still write in cursive, even if my handwriting is completely illegible. I also have memories of before starting school my mum writing my name out and then me copying it out in an attempt to learn how to spell my own name before starting school.

And finally listening. When it comes to listening I don’t have any specific memories. I just remember being taught from an early age that we should always listen and respect the teacher, and coming from a long line of teachers this was drilled into me from a very early age. So as a result I always did my best to keep quiet and listen and pay attention to what the teacher would say.

Dancing My Heart Out

When I first discovered that we would be doing dance, I naturally went into panic mode. This was purely because when I thought of dance I expected Scottish Country dancing, and as I did not go into school in Scotland I was certain I’d have no idea what to do. Thankfully, to my relief, it was not like this at all.

The dance class I had focused on how to move about in a creative manner – this could be anything from walking, skipping or ‘flossing’ across the floor. There were reservations and some initial shyness when we began but after about ten minutes I relaxed into it and even began to enjoy myself.

As well as the main part of the lesson, Eilidh taught us fun and effective ways to get the children warmed up and ready for the class ahead. Throughout the lesson Eilidh also encouraged us to get hyped and as silly as possibly and made the lesson very enjoyable, but also managed to keep control of the class as a whole.

From this class I will look into ways that I, myself can make a lesson fun and energetic for the class as well as ensuring they don’t become unruly and out of control. I do feel that in the future when teaching an energetic class like this, that it is important that I choose the right time of day to do it and not, for example, straight after lunch when the children are all full and sluggish and a definite vomit risk!

Starring Role in ICT

Fourteen days into the semester and I have already been introduced to my first handful of subjects with many more to come.

The first subject I had for this semester was ICT, taught by the very enthusiastic Sharon Tonner-Saunders.

Within the first class we were introduced into the world of animation and how we can teach this ourselves within the classroom. Sharon broke down the class in a way that made everything straightforward and was still interesting to us adults but was so simple to do that younger children can also understand and enjoy it. Sharon explained what onion skin animation is and how we can teach this in a very simple manner with one sheet of paper, and also discussed how we could explain it further from there. This developed into us doing an onion skin style stop animation to Bernstein’s Mambo. This was fun and challenging to ensure the movement of the object moved and appeared in time to the music that was playing.

The second class with Sharon was as equally enjoyable where we once again did stop animation with play dough models. But before we started filming, Sharon had us created a quick story board of what we would be filming and how we can do the same when teaching our own classes in the future. Whilst teaching us these activities we did, Sharon also stressed the importance of keeping the class relevant to the Curriculum of Excellence as well as meeting the expectations and outcomes for ICT.

As enjoyable as I found these lessons myself, I do however have some reservations about teaching this to young children. I worry that equipment may be used incorrectly and it way be difficult to watch a full class of children work on this at one time. This task may perhaps, therefore, be better suited to smaller groups at one time to ensure that everything can run smoothly and hopefully without any hiccups to equipment or pupils

To entertain you I have included the videos we have created, although I do apologise for any sound errors there may be.

I also must stress that I, nor does anyone else involved in making the videos own any rights to any music but I do believe them to be copyright free as that is what I searched for when looking for music to use.

 

Semester one, over and done.

So here we are, second week of January after surviving the first semester of my first year at university… and how do I feel? I feel pretty good to be honest. And following receiving my results I am feeling OK with my progression so far, although there is definitely plenty room for improvement.

For the first semester there were two main subject areas we were working towards, Working with others and Values.

The ‘Working With Others’ module was all about exploring how those in the education profession must use and sometimes rely on those from other professions to help them in their goals and achieving the best possible outcome for the children. The groups which we worked within had a majority of education students within them, due to the vast amount of education students, but there were also students from Social work and Community Learning and Development.

With the perspective of these other professions mixed with our own outlooks, we were able to see the importance of having support from other professional in handling situations and ensuring that every child is treated equally and protected from harm. This is also something that is very important that I continue to look into and put into practice as I work towards becoming a teacher and within my future career of teaching.

The second topic – Values, was focused on what our values are currently and how we much have personal and professional values to help the pupils we teach to have their own values that help them develop as healthy and happy adults who make right decisions within their own lives.

Now, at the start of the third week into the second semester and everything is pretty full on from the get go.

As well as the tutorials, preparing us for our impending placement and lectures preparing for the horrors of lesson planning, how not to lose your voice and other such important teaching techniques, we have also been having workshops introducing us into the topics that we, as future teachers, will be teaching to the future generations and techniques on how we can go about doing this 

in a way that is appropriate, inclusive and diverse for all pupils as well as ensuring we cover the benchmarks required within the subjects.

So far I have only had a handful of workshops and these I will discuss further within my next blog post. 

I am excited to see how the rest of the academic year goes and I’m particularly excited to start placement to see how I can handle the pressure of the classroom. Until then, stay tuned.

Structural Inequalities

So today we participated in a very insightful group activity within out Values Module. The class was split into four groups and each group was given an envelope that contained a selection of stationary materials. Each tables pack contained different materials, some groups having more than others.

We were then asked to discuss in our group about what we could make with these materials that would be beneficial for new students at the university. After ten minutes we presented to the other groups our ideas. It was evident, at this point, that the groups that had extra materials had come up with better ideas on what they can make. After presenting we were given a further ten minutes to make what we had planned to be scored by the tutor at the end.

Once the items had been made each group, once again, presented what they had. The groups that had the more materials were scored higher for their efforts.

Following this exercise we discuss how the activity made us feel.

Those who had less expressed feelings of disadvantage. They felt they should have been marked on their abilities to work with what they had rather than being compared to a group who was more advantaged. And the group that had the most equipment were actually oblivious to how disadvantaged the other groups were.

When we thought further about it we realised that this is also true for children within the classroom and how we, as future teachers, must take into consideration how not everyone is going to have the same access to books, computers, pens, paper and other such things as other children will.

Educators need to also be considerate that we must work in a way that is accessible and achievable by all so that no child feels like that are unable to accomplish anything. As Albert Einstein say ‘Everybody is a genius. but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life believing that it is stupid.’ Equally it is not fair to judge a child who does not have the ability to access the information and equipment required to carry out any required tasks.

It’s now or never…

It’s now or never… have you ever got to the point in your life where you have to tell yourself is “it’s now or never”? Sometime we let these chances pass us by and once again this is what I almost did. It was when a big change happened in my life that I decided that this was my time to do what I wanted… nay, needed to do.

There I was, on the cusp of turning 29, living with my sister after my relationship fell apart, in a job that I had been doing for nearly nine years that was not going anywhere, and basically with nothing worthwhile going on in my life. At this point I decided it was my now or never time. So I went online and filled out the application I had considered doing for a very long time; to go to Uni, a chance I never felt I had before, and study education to then hopefully become a teacher.

That was until my application was rejected and I was hit smack bang in the face by a wall. What do I do now? Maybe I was kidding myself. Maybe this isn’t for me! These were the thoughts that very briefly crossed my mind until I talked some sense into myself. I thought there must be another way and explored the option of doing some higher education to help my application when I applied again the next year, as I was not giving up!

I ended up doing a Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP) at Dundee and Angus College. I would 100% recommend this course to anyone…in fact I did! I now have two people I know who are doing the same course this year. This course really helped me with managing the workload that is demanded of a full time student, and Sue (my course leader) more than prepared me for what uni was going to be like. She was amazing at pushing me and giving me my confidence back, as well as being a total hard a** and making sure I had my work done on time. She is definitely a teacher I aspire to one day be like.

I’d love to sit here and tell you that teaching something that I’ve always wanted to do. Truth be told I actually wanted to be a pilot! I loved flying and through my childhood hobby of being in the Air Cadets, this is something I was able to experience from a young age. However, after I found out they don’t like pilots to have asthma, or eczema, or wear glasses etc., etc., I threw a tantrum and decided if they didn’t want me, I didn’t want them and considered other careers.

Naturally, being the naive entitled teenager I was, I changed my mind on my career many times from chef to receptionist to doing hairdressing. However, I realise now that, any career I choose, the part I enjoyed most was training others in the job I was doing. Teaching them this skill and watching them learn and master it with my help. This made me consider more and more the prospect of teaching as a career. The more I thought about it the more I wanted it… but there were setbacks that came into play.

One of the biggest setbacks was the loss of a parent. This led to our family moving from England back to Scotland. Then a couple of years later I became the sole carer for my younger brother. This meant me to having to find a job so I could support us both as he was still at school. That’s when I fell into dental nursing.

I was a dental nurse for eight, nearly nine years. I did enjoy the job. There was a lot to learn and through the years I worked my way up the ranks, so before I knew it I was at the top of my game, with nowhere else to progress. That’s when I started to take on the responsibility of training new nurses. Getting, once again, that chance to pass on my knowledge and experience to others. My managers and colleagues complimented my coaching skills on several occasions and told me I have a way of explaining things in a manner that is easy to understand. This helped me feel I could actually do this teaching thing.

But why primary teaching as opposed to secondary or higher education? That comes down to the kids and the usual cliché of loving children, but it’s true. Their wonder of the world and their potential unreached. I love the idea of being one of the influences on their life for what they can achieve in their futures. Even 24 years on I still remember so much about my first teacher and I hope one day my future pupils will think of me like that.

So I did SWAP, I got my Highers, I got my profile grades, I did my work experience and I once again applied for uni. Only this time… I wasn’t rejected. I was in! And I was so happy I cried. Literally!!! And this is where I am today. Starting my first year. Determined to do this because this is my time. This is my now or never.