Category Archives: 1.4 Prof. Commitment

Reflection… it’s not Higher Biology anymore

The SPR section 3.4.2 indicates the importance of and ways in which reflection can play a key part in the development of the prospective teacher. Reflect in one of the most important moments for your professional development in semester 1 and write a post about what you think you have learned from this critical incident and what the process of reflection is beginning to mean for you.

For me personally, throughout secondary (and to a certain extent primary school also), reflection has never really been a large focus and driving point in my education. My prime example of this would be exam/test/coursework feedback S1-S6-but the junior years especially. Like most children, we were assessed in the standard ‘high school’ way; we would learn a module or topic, on the last week of term sit a test and get the results back a couple days later. The problem here was that we never went back to the topic to cover what went wrong or what we didn’t understand and so we didn’t get time to reflect upon our weaknesses and work towards correcting them. As a year we simply took our mark as a way of dividing ourselves into those who were ‘smart’ and those who ‘weren’t’ and moved on.

I vividly remember in Higher Biology studying for a class test and the night before the test really not understanding a concept at all. I didn’t want to ask for help because I was worried I would get into trouble for not asking for help earlier and so I decided to do what so many of us are guilty for: I just left it. Luckily (or maybe not so) for me, that particular topic didn’t come up in the test and generally I did well and so I completely forgot the issue existed… until the actual exam! My nemesis of a topic reappeared and I was clueless and mentally kicking myself in the exam hall for not going over my mistake and lack of understanding. Yet again however, after sleepless nights of worry I managed to pass the exam and so the whole process of forgetting about the topic occurred once more- the Higher ship had sailed, right? Wrong. Instead, I found myself in the exact same boat when sitting my Advanced Higher Biology exam! Because it wasn’t ‘technically’ in the course notes and textbook I didn’t realise it could crop up again and so, flash forward to this day, 2 years later, I still don’t know how to use a genetic cross to predict the genotype and phenotype of an organism.

Whilst this may be a trivial-yet lengthy!- memory, it is one that now at University I can use to remind myself just how essential it is to reflect and from there improve upon my work. This is because the skills and knowledge I am currently learning will one day appear or be required in my own classroom. A classroom where young minds and their families rely on me every day to impart the best learning and teaching as possible. As practitioners, we must bridge any gaps in our knowledge or understanding to ensure our children also do not have gaps in their knowledge or miss out on vital teaching.

In terms of my own reflection of semester 1, I was a little disappointed with my peer learning group’s presentation result for the Working Together Module as I felt that our effort did not represent our final grade. After initially being upset, I decided to read the feedback sheet again once more and started to see clear areas of improvement I could work on next time and in all of my academic work. I am starting to see reflection as an essential stage in moving through my degree and also entire career- unlike the ‘reflection’ page we hurriedly and halfheartedly filled out at the end of the year at school. Being able to effectively reflect routinely is a skill that I am starting to develop and hope to continue to develop in the years to come. Without this reflection, I understand I will not be able to teach to the best of my capability throughout the years. Recently I have learnt that sometimes lessons just won’t work, even with the most organised and tried and tested lesson plans and that’s okay, providing I reflect and work towards improving upon it.


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.