Category Archives: 1.1 Social Justice

Relationships, relationships and even more relationships…

Following on from the Health and Wellbeing input earlier in the week, I watched and reflected upon the suggested videos featuring Dr Suzanne Zeedyk and John Carnochan. Their videos placed great emphasis upon the importance of the early years and it’s significance on a child’s general wellbeing following on from babyhood and even into adulthood.

Dr Suzanne highlighted how all babies are born with an adaptable brain which is ‘shaped’ and ‘moulded’ by their early experiences and relationships. Babies are also born hardwired to be sociable beings and respond to facial expressions naturally. The adaptability of babies’ brains however, means that their brain is naturally ‘moulded’ to be able to cope and survive in their own environment (this could be a negative environment with aggression, volume or neglect or a positive environment where all wellbeing needs are met). By the time a child is three years old, their brain’s plasticity and adaptability starts to decrease and the ‘mould’ of their brain becomes set. It is then very difficult to change this ‘mould’.

This video revealed scientifically just how significant the experiences of babyhood and pre-birth are in a child’s development-and how they go on to deal with their world and society. Hand in hand, the video featuring  John Carnochan OBE emphasises the importance of positive relationships with children.

John Carnochan makes clear that violence is an ongoing issue within many age groups in Scotland and he believes that investment into early years is vital in order to decrease these cases. He also states that children require consistency and safety and nursery and primary teachers are key figures in a child’s life who can facilitate this need. As practitioners, we must always be mindful and aware of the fact that some children in the classroom may deal with stressful or challenging events at home and resultingly may miss out on having a vital safe circle and consistency. We must always be striving towards aiding and supporting these children through their struggles and also generating resilience in the hope that these stressful experiences do not negatively impact their lives beyond the classroom.

In terms of the impact this will have on my own professional practice, I believe the knowledge and understanding of the importance of relationships will enable me to comprehend to a greater extent why some children may face multiple different challenges and obstacles in regards to their behaviour and life choices. I also believe the knowledge will prompt me to never give up on a child, no matter how many times they cross and push boundaries. All children deserve and require stability, safety, consistency and love in order for them to develop their own healthy relationships and life choices and with time, effort and passion a teacher may be someone who can provide this.

As teachers, not only is it vital to be alert of any signals of danger or upset within the children; it is also important to develop positive and strong relationships in order for the children to be able to trust us with sharing any issues or problems in their lives. Teachers and schools should be supportive for all members of a child’s family (as well as the child), nurturing and protective so as we can set children up to be happy, healthy and responsible individuals with their own healthy and positive relationships.


The power but staggering cost of the performing arts

The recent lecture presented to us on the key idea of the power of the arts left myself and many others feeling incredibly moved, inspired and as always, interested in the cause. The movie played and young speakers really took me back to my own involvement in the arts and how it helped to shape the person I am today. It also encouraged me to reflect upon the long lasting impact the great privilege has had upon myself. For those reading who were not present in the lecture (there may be some!), the film outlined and gave a detailed insight into an organisation called Dundee School Musical Theatre; a free theatre group for all high school pupils from the Dundee and Angus area in Scotland.

As mentioned above,  I had always been very involved in the arts growing up. From the ages of 8-16 I was an active member of the National Youth Choir of Scotland-following on from an extremely nervy audition! Most memorably however, I began playing the Tenor Horn in primary 5 and continued this passion for music through until the end of S6. I played in numerous brass bands over the years and was also fortunate enough to also travel Europe on multiple occasions.

Upon reflection I think it’s safe to say that throughout my childhood, confidence had always been an internal struggle of mine. On a more personal note, I grew up alongside my three incredibly talented siblings and whilst maintaining very close relationships with all of them, I still always compared myself to them and their successes. To give some background, all of them  excel in singing and performing; all have played main parts with solos in school plays and have had numerous solos and successful auditions between them. I have never felt especially confident in myself with singing solos (despite being comfortable as part of a choir) however, I was lucky enough to discover my own area of music I finally felt relatively comfortable on my own in-brass.

I was given my beloved Tenor Horn by the school in Primary 5, completely free of charge with the incredibly valuable promise of free tuition. Not only was I taught to read and write music and learn the physical workings and methods of playing my brass instrument, I was also given the opportunity to play in numerous brass bands. Throughout primary school, I was a part of my school brass band and also West Lothian Schools Junior Concert Band. Both bands gave me enormous opportunities to meet and socialise with others from the community but also gave me a role in leadership and responsibility. As outlined in SHANARRI, a child having responsibility is essential to their wellbeing and in my case, the responsibility of eventually gaining the role of leading my other peers in my section gave me a great shot of confidence. I finally felt like I was good at something I personally loved. My time in numerous brass bands in high school resulted in the formation of my relationship with my best friends, the chance to perform and compete professionally nationally and internationally, the opportunity to work towards and move from 3rd Horn to Solo Horn and perhaps the most fun, the chance to travel.

Not only was a feeling of team work, hard work and belonging strongly formed within my school brass bands and also the West Lothian Schools Brass Band, we also attended and won overall for many years the Scottish Youth Brass Band Championships in Perth. Only confidence to continue and confidence in ourselves and abilities can ever come out of those fantastic experiences (and of course the most amazing memories of the buzzing bus journey home!). And, if Perth wasn’t far enough for us Westies lot, we were even taken on a huge tour bus and plane to 5 different countries, competing in the European Brass Band Championships and on a separate occasion, touring numerous different locations in Europe. Young people who had never been given the opportunity to travel outside of Scotland experienced for the first time the beauty and culture of our wider world. Sounds fantastic doesn’t it? Well, it gets even better. For all trips and competitions in Scotland it was all entirely free for every member of the band. For trips abroad, many children were paid for and for others, a large sum was also funded by West Lothian Council. The trips were inclusive for everyone, without children and families worried about the financial aspect.

Unfortunately, many good things all come to an end and this is exactly what has happened in my own council-West Lothian Council. This academic year has seen the introduction of fees for instrumental tuition in both primary and secondary schools across the whole county. This has had a detrimental effect on my local council’s children. Fees for instrumental tuition has seen a staggering rise from £0 per year to £350 a year. This clearly puts many families in extremely difficult situations and in my personal opinion, only widens the poverty related attainment gap. Shouldn’t we be moving towards closing the gap?! I am very saddened to hear of specific cases of young children who have had to give the hobby up-simply due to the cost their families cannot afford.

So what can we do? Well, I’m hopeful that as a teacher myself one day, I will be able to do something-even if something small. I firmly believe that as educators we should be fighting for the funding for these fantastic services so as we can give our children the future they deserve. If I greatly benefited from the free instrumental tuition, why shouldn’t my younger siblings and the many, many other children in the county? We should be working towards giving our children even more than what we had, certainly not less. As a teacher one day, I hope to not only fight for free tuition and funding for other tremendous performing arts programmes but also hope to have my own entirely free music and music literature classes for every single child in my classroom.

To conclude, I could probably write an entire extended essay on how the performing arts are such a remarkable and essential aspect of a child’s life and if that doesn’t show it’s fantastic worth, I don’t know what does. Perhaps the real-life stories and accounts of our young people?

Dundee Schools Musical Theatre Presents:

The role of teachers in the elimination of racist and patriarchal views in current and future generations

This Tuesday’s (Tuesday 25th September) lecture was focused on racism and patriarchy within both historical and current societies as part of our ‘Values’ input and prove to not only be very interesting and informative but also extremely thought provoking for myself.

Racism. It’s a topic I never thought would have to be spoken about with students preparing to go into professions such as social work, education and CLD work until I came to the University of Dundee. As I have learnt, the topic has so much more history and current prevalence in our own society as I had thought and I now see the full importance of the topic as part of my journey to becoming a primary teacher. It has occurred to me that it is our duty and moral obligation to not only ensure that in no way whatsoever do we hold such unjust, bigoted or discriminative views (and of course act upon these) within our professional or personal life but also to impart this same morality onto our young people.

The first example of racism within previous history we discussed was the case of Emmet Till, a 14 year old, African-American boy who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955. This was a case I was fortunate enough to have prior knowledge about as part of the History course I studied a few years ago at school however the lecture gave me the opportunity to look at the case from a different viewpoint. I was able to see it from the viewpoint of a teacher, responsible for the wellbeing of many children and also the values and views held by future generations and societies. Thankfully, there has been no recent lynchings reported since around the late 1980s yet I’m sure many can agree this is still a staggeringly too late date for such cruelty to have ended.

Stories such the Emmet Till case, Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott and many other abhorrent accounts of racism within the Civil Rights Movement and beyond are undoubtedly essential to be shared and reflected upon by all-yet have we really moved on since then?

It’s important to remember that not only was racism prevalent in social settings but also very heavily existed in and perhaps were based on racism within the legal system. Until the Emmet Till case, it was very rare for a black person to stand up and accuse a white person of a serious crime in court. This was clearly due to the extreme discrimination and stereotyping black people faced during this time. Despite plenty of evidence and actual admittance a few months later, the defendants were dropped of all charges and were paid $4000 to share their story to a magazine. Despite this, racism is STILL prevalent in our legal and political system today.

America is a classic example of this. Since 2002, the New York Police Department have been enforcing a ‘Stop and Frisk’ strategy where members of the police have authority to check people on the street for weapons. Despite this in itself already being morally controversial, a study has shown that Black and Hispanic people are stopped by NYPD twice the number of times than White people-yet only 1.24% of all stops have actually resulted in the discovery of a weapon.

Moving on from racism but still on the idea of discrimination, we discussed the topic of patriarchy and it’s place in previous and current generations. An extremely interesting and somewhat relevant topic to myself is the portrayal of women. We discussed historical examples of this also including the portrayal of women in power in Greek drama and also the Suffragette movement. Yet again, despite the shocking historical accounts being shared, this is another extremely present and large issue to this date. Woman are still told what is and isn’t acceptable for them to wear, their views are still deemed unimportant and unworthy and they are still portrayed as inferior within the sporting world.

Alike many other girls and women, I myself am very passionate about challenging such views and actions.

On a personal level, I have been fortunate enough to have been brought up in an environment where I have never felt inferior or incapable of anything simply because of my own gender-however I recognize this is personal to me and not the case for all. I have been brought up alongside many strong and independent women who have in my mind been exceedingly inspirational in defying and challenging the portrayal and supposed ‘place’ of women. My mum is a prime example here. My mum is a research scientist for the Scottish Government and so has personal experience in working within and studying the sciences as a woman. Science is still very much deemed as a ‘man’s job’ and so I feel very strongly about encouraging more girls and women into the industry. As a teacher, I know I can put this value into practice within the classroom to not only support the notion of girls in STEM subjects but also try to eliminate the common stereotype.

Whilst I would agree our society has most definitely advanced and taken steps forward in order to change previous perceptions and viewpoints, it’s also worth noting that there is clearly still lots of the same issues reoccurring today and change must be made. Not only through our own personal views and actions but also through the education of young people, so as they are confident enough to also stand for the beliefs and morals we impart on them and not fall into the trap of differing racist or patriarchal views through exceedingly influential streams such as the media.

In short, as professionals we are responsible for the future and must continue to challenge controversial viewpoints and ideas in the hope and aim of a better quality of life for our upcoming generations.

Structural inequalities beyond the classroom

Following on from Tuesday’s workshop, I have since been reflecting upon structural inequalities not only in the classroom but also beyond within our own society.

As part of the workshop we were split into four groups with two groups given very basic and minimal supply packs and the remaining groups given many varied and advanced supply packs. All groups were asked to make and present something in which would be useful for a new fresher student at the University of Dundee. I was in a group with very basic materials which included a sheet of A4 white paper, a pen, some paperclips and rubber bands. Other groups were given many different coloured pens and paper, scissors, glue, tape and other materials. Our group decided to make a freshers week planner which contained information about where to pick up halls keys, when and where matriculation was and other essential events. The planner was personalised to the specific student.

Throughout the task and presentation of our ideas, our group had noticed that we were given very little attention and encouragement by the leader of the workshop whereas other groups were fortunate in this field. It was a shock to our group when we were given a final grade of 2/10 for our ideas and presentation with the other groups scoring 3/10, 8/10 and 9/10. After the initial upset it was soon revealed to us that our low score and minimal supplies was deliberate and not representative of our own performance-phew!

The task left me with thoughts of how this is an example and reality of different aspects and areas of our own society today. Personally, I saw the task as an example of how with little encouragement, help and attention it is very easy to under perform and be disappointed. It can also cause resentment, annoyance and a lack of full respect (which as a group we experienced to an extremely minor extent) towards the assessor. This is an area in which I feel is especially important and relevant to teaching. The difference in terms of quality and quantity of supplies between groups also highlights the still very much prevalent gap between rich and poor within our classrooms and society beyond. Generally speaking, those from richer backgrounds with wide access to quality resources are more likely to achieve high whereas, those from more disadvantaged backgrounds don’t have equal resources hence, putting them at high risk of under achieving. This is an issue in which I firmly believe professionals from all areas of social care should be challenging and aiming to address.



Rising to and enjoying the challenge

“Are you sure you don’t want to go into something less stressful?”, “teaching is tough you know!”, “study something else in Edinburgh and stay at home!” and “Just think about what’s easiest for you!” were just some of the responses I received upon telling previous teachers and friends about my career choice. Initially the responses upset me a tad and broke away a little bit of my ‘happy bubble’ after working so hard to gain my university places but, soon enough I was immensely reassured that my choice was definitely the right one.

I was sitting in the cinema watching and taking delight in ‘The Greatest Showman’ when a certain line stood out and spoke to me.

“Comfort is the enemy of progress” –P.T.Barnum

The line made me realise that yes, a teaching career will most certainly be difficult, stressful and at times uncomfortable however I strongly believe that often when a challenge is faced, a greater thing is born. It’s important to me to aim to create a better future for both our children and society and what other way to progress towards this than to step outside of my comfort zone occasionally, believe in myself (and my ability) and get involved in teaching. In turn, I would want to be an example to my own pupils in the hope that they too will become effective contributors in their own society.

The idea of being a positive role model when undertaking a career in teaching also greatly appeals to me. Like many, I am of the strong opinion that raising our children to be honest and respectful beings is a top priority. Thinking back to my own teachers, I view them as amazing, selfless people who played such a large part in forming the person I am today. They were kind, considerate, fair, incredibly hard working and dedicated. They had time for their students even when the bell had long ran and they cared so much for every single child in the classroom-no matter what race, religion or culture they came from. Their actions and nature inspired me and  many others to also adopt the same values and I would love to be a part of passing this on to the next generation again.

Throughout my time at school, I developed a great interest in all areas of the curriculum ranging from Maths to Business and English to Biology. I am incredibly passionate about applying my knowledge and interest of computing science into the primary school as this is an area in which is very quickly growing and advancing. My on-going love for music also encourages me to bring the fantastic qualities of being able to read music and/or play an instrument into my future classroom. I am currently undertaking Italian lessons as this is an additional area where I feel development in would not only be beneficial to myself but also my pupils. Passing on to future children the varied and wide spread knowledge and skill set that I was very fortunately given by my own teachers is a vital aspect of teaching and this excites me enormously.

All in all, I want to be a teacher in order to give our children everything I was ever given and much, much more.

Welcome to your WordPress eportfolio

Welcome to your ePortfolio. This is where you will document and share your professional thoughts and experiences over the course of your study at the University of Dundee and beyond that when you begin teaching. You have the control over what you want to make public and what you would rather keep on a password protected page.

The ePortfolio in the form of this WordPress blog allows you to pull in material from other digital sources:

You can pull in a YouTube video:

You can pull in a Soundcloud audio track:

You can upload an image or pull one in from Flickr or any other image sharing site.

Teacher, Lorraine Lapthorne conducts her class in the Grade Two room at the Drouin State School, Drouin, Victoria

You can just about pull in anything that you think will add substance and depth to your writing.