How Semester One Made Me ‘Check’ Myself.

The values module last semester was a really eye-opening and thought provoking one for me. The very first lecture of the values unit is one that will stay in my head forever. I learned about the ‘unconscious’ bias that everyone holds within themselves, the reason why we all are – either a little or a lot – homophobic, racist, transphobic, sexist, or in any other way discriminatory of a specific group of people. You might be reading this and thinking, ‘I’m not any of those things!’, and you might well not be on a conscious level, but unconsciously you probably hold the same preconceived ideas about these groups that society has pushed us to think and probably never forget. That’s the thing, the unconscious bias creeps up on you when you don’t want it to, and it’s something you don’t have power over because it just happens and, before you know it, you’re trying to make yourself look like the opposite to your thoughts. We were shown a video of an Irish drag queen, Panti Noble, who addressed an audience at the theatre and spoke to them a little bit about the unconscious bias. He explained that after a nasty encounter while standing at a crossing, he would continuously ‘check’ himself to see what it was that made him stand out. He confessed that he hated himself for doing so, and he would start to rethink things and make himself try to seem less of himself just so that he could be protected from the opinions of other people who were acting homophobic towards him. He explained that “to grow up in a society that is overwhelmingly and stiflingly homophobic, and to somehow escape unscathed would be miraculous. So, I don’t hate you because you are homophobes. I actually admire you. I admire you because most of you are only a bit homophobic, and to be honest, considering the circumstances, that is pretty good going”, and I couldn’t have said it better myself. This was one of the most important moments of semester one for me, because it is something I think about, and will continue to think about, every day. I can use this to reflect on my actions in my profession, to decide if they were caused by my own unconscious bias, and how I can change this. Learning about it has made me understand myself a lot more, and the fact that society can have a huge effect on a persons’ unconscious bias makes me believe that I need to use my future position as a teacher, to change this for the people I might come across through my job. Although, I’m hoping that by that time, society is a lot more accepting of ALL people.

References/ background reading:

Panti Noble

Equality Challenge Unit

Making Dance Personal

Dancing is definitely not one of my strong points – sure I’ll dance around to music I like, but dancing on a professional level, I cannot do. I used to be told that the noises I made thumping around while dancing could be compared to those of an elephant running in a herd. Anyway, when I saw that I would have to take part in a dance workshop, I was a bit overcome with anxiety, because it’s fine to stand in a room of people and do something I’m good at, but everyone watching me dance? Not something I would usually let happen. I had my little panic, and then I told myself that I couldn’t be the only person feeling like this, that everyone else on my course had to dance too, and I reassured myself that it could be fun if I just relaxed and let myself enjoy it.

On the Friday when I walked into the drama classroom, I felt pretty good. I left my bag and jacket at the side of the room and sat on the floor with everyone else in front of the smart board. The lecturer introduced herself and went through a few things on the powerpoint with us, showing us a few dance videos that could be shown to a class to make them think about different styles of dance and music. Then we all stood in a circle and copied the lecturer’s moves, and long story short everyone got into groups and performed a really short and sweet dance routine for the class. It’s a good idea to just throw yourself into the activity and just have a laugh, it doesn’t have to be scary if you don’t let it. At the end of the day, nobody was forced to do anything, and we all ended up with smiles on our faces because it was a really enjoyable experience.

One thing that I took away from this tutorial was that by getting people to personalise the lesson you have planned in their own way, it makes it more enjoyable and you could end up learning a thing or two from it. By getting to choose our own dance moves and poses, we all added our own creativity into our lesson and it gave us a chance to have a laugh and get our imaginations flowing. This is something that I would love to incorporate into one of my lessons when I attend my placement, because there is nothing more exciting than having fun while learning, and adding your own twist to a pre – planned lesson.

Secondly, the dance tutorial was accessible for everyone. There were no limitations on what you could do, and because of the personal touches, anyone would be able to make the lesson fit to what they are capable of doing. Whether you want to spin around on the floor or just stand and click your fingers, you’ve brought something to the lesson and it helped with your own enjoyment. Disability? No problem, you can still take part! I think this is really important in making sure everyone can be a part of the class, and ensuring that all pupils are learning and exercising their imaginations.

Lastly, I think that letting everyone show off what they came up with at the end of the class was a nice way of sharing ideas and a lot of the time if you’re proud of something, you want to show it off. This would let pupils grow their confidence while talking about or performing something they spent time and effort on, and it gives them time to be appreciated and others can get to know them a bit more.

I often come out of lessons with more than I expected to learn, and I hope that when I’m teaching in the future, my class will feel the same way.

An Envelope, a Group Task, and a Deeper Meaning

During Tuesday’s group work task, classes were split into four groups and each group received an envelope, which inside contained a few stationery supplies, some groups with more than others. We were all given the same task – to come up with something useful to a new student at university, and to make whatever we came up with using the given supplies. My group opened up our envelope and were a bit confused with the contents: some blu tack, a pencil, three paper clips, a single sticky note, and a rubber band. What were we supposed to make with all of this stuff?

After a group discussion and tossing around of ideas, we came up with a map of campus to help a new student navigate their way to important places like the Dalhousie building, the library, and of course, the Union. The groups presented their ideas to everyone else and we all proceeded to bring them to life using our supplies. Once everyone was finished making their projects, we presented them to the class, too, and that’s when we really saw. Some groups had been given enough supplies to make actual boxes full of stationery or booklets for new students, and then other groups made maps of campus and buildings. The groups with more supplies got graded a higher mark out of ten and my group were pretty happy with our 5/10 compared to the 9/10, 7/10 and 3/10 that the other groups were awarded. But then, why should we be graded this way when we all participated and followed the task, and we all came up with good ideas even if we were less fortunate to have the emptier envelopes?

Just as you may have been thinking, there was a deeper meaning to this task, hence the title of this blog post. Everyone gets given the same task, but what we want to do and what we can do are sometimes two different things. The groups with less would’ve probably loved to have made a fancy student survival box to impress the advisor, they just didn’t have the means to create one. I know if I could have made one or thought of making one then I would have (thinking back now I could have used the envelope to make a pencil case but never mind). The point is, you can assign the same task to a group of people and the results will always be varied because not everyone has the resources to make a box and fill it with supplies, they make do with what they’ve got and that’s the main thing. You need to consider that people come from different backgrounds and everyone goes home to different situations. Not only does this happen with children in the classroom but all over the place. There’s always someone who has more than you, but there’s always someone who has less than you too, and that needs to be taken into consideration because you cannot expect to tell a group of people to each go and build a rocket and assume that they’ll all come back with full size ones that can actually take off (one of my fellow students said something along these lines at the group work session and I thought it was a great example). Social inequality is a thing, and recognising how it can affect a situation is very important.

I cannot wait to see what the rest of the Values module is like, because so far it has been a real eye opener for me. Who knew an envelope full of stationery could get you thinking so much?

What Teaching Means to Me

I think a lot of people starting the primary education course, like me, have wanted to be some sort of teacher from a young age. A lot of the time we played schools with siblings when we were younger and that is what sparked our interest in teaching. I used to be the teacher in my situation – I am the older child, so of course I got to play that role. At times I was a bossy child and enjoyed making my sister do math and then using all sorts of coloured pens to mark her ‘work’ which I had prepared for her to do. However, now that I am in the fortunate position to be studying primary education and am on the pathway to becoming a real teacher, I have learned that there is so much more to the profession than ‘bossing’ people around. In fact, it’s not about that at all really.

Being a teacher is about working together with children, parents and other staff to create a safe and happy learning environment to help shape young minds and help people to grow. Teachers can be more than the person who hands you out homework and teaches you a variety of different subjects to help you in life, but also people who you can confide in, and trust with anything you might need to speak up about. I have witnessed first-hand just how much impact a teacher can have on someone’s life. A close friend of mine decided to get some of her troubles off her chest and confided in a teacher within the school, who has since then helped her to overcome many obstacles and as a result, she is now a stronger person than ever, who has really grown out of her shell and is unafraid to hide her thoughts and feelings which she would keep bottled up inside before.

For me, if I can change one person’s life like I have seen done many times by other teachers (the above being one example) I know that it will have been worth it. All the years I am going to spend working hard at university to become a primary teacher will pay off, and I know I’ll be going into one of the best jobs the world has to offer.

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.

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

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