Category Archives: 3. Prof. Skills & Abilities

How can the adventures of Paddington Bear help us in the classroom?

During a recent social studies elective input, we briefly discussed how one might use the film ‘Paddington Bear’ as a stimulus to introduce a new topic. I love the film Paddington, and I remember loving the stories as a child. However when I considered it from the point of a teacher, I realised its vast potential in terms of the learning that it could invoke in a classroom.

When one considers why Paddington ended up on a train to London, you discover that his native home in ‘deepest darkest Peru’ has been destroyed and is no long habitable. This immediately opens up a huge range of opportunities to discuss different, important topics. For example, deforestation: ‘what is the effect of deforestation to the lives and habitats of animals? What can we do to stop this? Why are we cutting down trees in the first place? What would happen if all the world’s rain forests cease to exist’?

Or alternatively, you could view Paddington’s situation from a more historical or modern studies perspective. In a recent article commemorating the life of Micheal Bond, it is written that Bond wanted people to consider what it might have felt like to be an evacuee/a refugee: ‘although Paddington was never arrested, there was “a bit of a kerfuffle” when he was taken in for questioning by the police. There was, of course, a happy ending, but Bond used the book as an opportunity to explain: “a side of Paddington the Browns don’t really understand at all: what it’s like to be a refugee, not to be in your own country”. This is of course an extremely relevant topic today and could potentially provide and appropriate introduction to discussing the current refugee crisis: ‘what must it have felt like to arrive in London with no family or friends? How would you feel if you had to move to a new country on your own? How do you think the Brown’s felt when the saw an unusual looking bear standing at the station? Do you think they treated him well? How would you like to be treated if you arrived somewhere completely new where people didn’t look or sound like everyone you’re used to being around?’

All this potential teaching and learning- including experiences and outcomes from history (evacuation), modern studies (refugee’s/immigration), geography (Peru/deforestation), expressive arts (learning through film) and language and literacy (learning through new/varying textiles)- could take place after watching just the first 10 minutes of a popular children’s film. Who knew?!

This brief discussion proved a valuable stimulus for me as a teacher- the concept of using a children’s film as an introduction to serious learning caught my imagination and through looking into it further, I definitely feel as if this could be an excellent starting point in developing/designing lesson plans in social studies.

Dancing Queen? Not so much.

I’ve never found the thought of dancing particularly inspiring. In fact, I decidedly dislike the idea. Unless we’re talking about a good old ceilidh, there’s nothing about the thought of having to dance in front of people that I like. I’ve always been into sport and I don’t really have a problem with performing, particularly in front of children, so it wasn’t like I had major anxiety when I learnt that dance is a part of the curriculum. It’s more that I just didn’t really fancy it- I have absolutely no experience in the field and consequently, didn’t have the foggiest idea what we might have to get up to. I envisioned myself in years to come trying to choreograph dance lessons for my classes and truth be told, even in my imagination it didn’t go exactly…swimmingly.

However, good news! The tutorial was neither as odd nor as discouraging as I had anticipated. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I’ve learnt that the learning outcomes for dance are remarkably do-able and actually make a lot of sense. Where I previously questioned whether or not dance belonged in the curriculum (extra curricular undoubtedly, but is it really necessary to be part of the school day?) by looking into it further and exploring the experiences and outcomes in more detail I’ve come to accept that dance does indeed hold its own.

Despite my admittedly limited experience, I have always valued the idea of interdisciplinary learning and I think dance is a good example of when this can be achieved. For example, I have always been passionate about story telling and in the past I have found it hard to bring it alive for children who perhaps don’t share this interest. I think the E’s and O’s for dance provide an opportunity to introduce story telling in a completely new light that could potentially spark an interest that wouldn’t be possible in a classroom.

‘Inspired by a range of stimuli, I can express my ideas, thoughts and feelings through creative work in dance.’

EXA 0-09a/EXA 1-09a/EXA 2-09a

As I slowly become more familiar with the Curriculum for Excellence it’s becoming clearer and clearer what is trying to be achieved in Scottish classrooms and I honestly think it’s an exciting time to be entering the profession of teaching.

Walt Disney, the new generation is coming for you!

When I reflect over my years at primary school, the sort of lessons that stand out in my memory are without doubt the ones that were a little different from our normal day-to-day schedule. It was for this reason that the idea of teaching animation in a classroom really captured my imagination. I know for a fact that it would be the sort of thing I would have loved as a child and if done right, I can imagine it being a lot of fun to teach as well as to learn! I really appreciated the way that Sharon demonstrated (in just an hour!) how we could build up a child’s understanding and skills in the animation world through a number of different progressive lessons. As a class we went through the various stages, starting with the basics and moving onto sophisticated animated productions. I was introduced to programs that I had never even heard of before and was surprised to find how easy they were to use and to understand. In my experience, primary aged children can be exceptionally intuitive when working with technology and I can only imagine that a classroom full of children could produce some really interesting pieces of work! I particularly loved the idea that lessons such as these could be a new and interesting way to incorporate and develop various elements within the curriculum- language skills, IT skills and even communication skills. The workshop really helped me to start thinking about the various opportunities open to us as modern teachers with such a wide access to technology and equipment. There are so many different ways to capture children’s imagination within the confinements of a classroom and I feel both inspired and excited to start exploring this concept in more detail over the next few years!



Peer Review- TDT Part 2

I really enjoyed receiving peer feedback on my original post titled ‘what is it to be an enquiring practitioner?’ The comments made by my colleagues were both positive and insightful, but at the same time very constructively critical.

It was the consensus of the comments that I could’ve gone into more detail in providing examples of the positives and negatives regarding being an enquiring practitioner. Prior to the comments, I hadn’t registered the fact that I needed to go deeper to really answer the question fully. Having this highlighted to me was one of the most beneficial aspects of this task.

In terms of providing feedback, I really appreciated the opportunity to read my colleagues work and see how others answered the question. Each post that I read took a slightly different approach from the next and had a unique attitude. This was really interesting and I think I will continue to use this technique to learn from my colleagues in the future.

I feel that this has been a useful task in drawing attention to the benefits of peer review. Where previously I wouldn’t have been particularly positive regarding the advantages to performing such a task, I feel that because the comments made by my peers really helped me to notice the weaknesses in my writing I will be far more inclined to continue using peer review as I continue my professional development.

What can we learn from other professionals?

Working in a professional manor is something that is far from limited to the teaching career. Consistently displaying respectable professional attributes, behaviour and good conduct are paramount aspects of many lines of work. This is effectively communicated when watching ‘One Born Every Minute’- a programme following specific stories of a hospitals delivery suite.

Throughout the entire programme the various professionals involved during the birth of a baby- including nurses, midwives and birth specialists- displayed a number of noticeable professional skills. For example, each member exhibited an obvious level of concern and care for their patients. They helped to keep the people in their care as relaxed and peaceful as possible by using calming language and maintaining a consistent qualified and well practiced demeanour. Through remaining relaxed and in control of the situation, particularly throughout difficult situations, they displayed great levels of expertise and experience for their given speciality. They showed skills in assessing each patient as an individual and what the best form of treatment would be for that situation and person, treating each individual with respect and in high esteem- exactly as one should. Each person dressed both respectably and appropriately whilst still managing to express individuality and personality- for example, by wearing a Hijab.

I felt that throughout the entire programme everyone involved displayed professionalism. Consequently, even when patients were going through an intensely distressing time, they were kept up to date and constantly aware of what was going on. I can only imagine this helped to make a truly horrible experience as easy as possible considering the beyond difficult circumstances. For me, this has really emphasised that having a strong level of knowledge and expertise is closely linked to behaving professionally.

Considering this, I feel that my attitude towards how different learning styles should be prioritised throughout a degree has changed. Where I still believe that practical based training should play a massive part of learning, I understand in a much clearer way that performing background reading and attending lectures is also vitally important. Without knowledge and a clear understanding of your profession, how do you expect to behave with integrity and in a way that demands respect?

Alongside the impressive behaviour of the professionals throughout the programme, I also particularly liked when the camera focused briefly on a man cleaning the corridor of the ward. I felt that this discreetly highlighted the need for all professionals to work together and successfully for operations to run smoothly.

Through watching this programme with a critical eye, I first and foremost feel that I have a renewed sense of respect for professionals. Throughout my studies, I want to remember how impressive it is to behave in a way that displays true proficiency and expertise. I want to be a teacher that not only works as an efficient educator, but as a role model for each of my pupils.

A reflection of my understanding of my academic skills

Online Unit- 2B)

After spending time working on unit 2 of the online modules, it’s come to my attention that my knowledge and understanding of basic grammar is in particular need of developing. I’ve realised that although I feel confident in my writing abilities, I desperately need to address my understanding of the English language ‘rules’ when it comes to writing as well as furthering my knowledge of why things are the way they are. I found the Study Skills Book (pages 252-265) particularly useful when it came to defining common grammar terms and what they are used for.

As well as highlighting specific areas that I am in need of developing, I also found the exercises encouraging. For example, when reading the assigned pages of the Study Skills Book, I felt comfortable and confident with the information regarding sentences and paragraphs.

I think over all it was a useful exercise for me to systematically address my knowledge of the basics and I now feel more secure in my understanding of my own academic skills and abilities.

Values and Virtues

As an extension to being asked to discuss and define 5 different professional virtues, I found myself considering what I thought were some of the most important qualities to display as a teacher and why. And after spending some time on the task, it has become clear that each trait I value highly is closely linked to the other. But even more obviously, they’re all about acting and behaving in a way that I would be proud to demonstrate to my pupils.

  1. Conscience
  2. Integrity
  3. Honesty
  4. Tolerance
  5. Respect

Your conscience allows you to evaluate your actions and your thoughts with a moral sense of what is right and what is wrong, either before you act on them or after. I believe that having a professional conscience in the teaching field is vitally important-understanding that as a teacher your actions, your words and your behaviour can have serious repercussions to a child’s understanding and experiences of education is, in my opinion, central to your journey to becoming a person of educational influence.

Both in my personal life and as an aspiring professional, I feel that to have and to display integrity is crucial. To exhibit the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles in your daily proceedings shows honour and reliability. I believe that this in turn demonstrates that you are a serious professional who is willing to stick to what they believe, even if this is difficult.

Honesty is, of course, an important virtue to honour both professionally and personally. Reputation is important, and if you have one of sincerity and truthfulness people will be willing to take your word seriously. And in my opinion, trust is an incredibly important part of being respected.

To show tolerance is to demonstrate the ability and the willingness to accept opinions or behaviour that you might not agree with. If we are to teach our children to grow and develop into effective contributors and responsible citizens, we must also teach them to understand that people will not always agree with their belief or outlook. And therefore it is our responsibility as educators to illustrate the kind of behaviour we expect from our children by having an open mind and displaying tolerance when necessary.

I think that in a professional sense, to show respect is to have due regard and to value people and their work. This in many ways goes hand in hand with tolerance- even if you don’t agree with someone’s views or work ethic, it is still important to treat everyone with respect and professionally.

Is it time for a shake up?

One of the most thought provoking podcasts I’ve listened to since coming to study Education at university was one by a Sir Ken Robinson, a man who along side other things acts as an international adviser of education. During a talk titled ‘changing educations paradigms’, he compares our current education system to that of a working ‘factory’. He comments on the idea that we are still using a system designed for a completely different era to that of which we’re experiencing now- the industrial revolution- and he asks the relevant question of ‘why is it we put our children through education by their age?’ In reference to this he states ‘it’s almost like the date of their manufacture is the most important thing we have to consider!’ and for me, it was this that sparked a personal revolution in the way I view our year groups in this country.

Although it seems natural to accept the fact that different children learn at different speeds and therefor achieve milestones at different points both academically and emotionally, I’ve never considered that our education system should model this truth. Up until recently, having only ever experienced the Scottish education system, it seemed only natural to me to go through school along side children my own age. However during my year teaching in west Africa, I was exposed to another style of ‘streaming’; each year group varied in size, ability and age. Initially this struck me as being disorganised and made it even harder to set appropriate work for the whole class. However upon reflection, and considering Sir Robinson’s comments, this idea of children being grouped together by something as meaningless as age seems more and more bizarre.

Perhaps it is time to shake up the way we educate our children. As Sir Robinson states, we’re no longer living in times of industrial revolution. Does that mean our whole education system is obsolete? However if we were to stop putting children through school with their peers, would that potentially create a void for social development…would it create a system where the ‘more able’ children excelled but the ‘less academic’ were left behind?

Should our personal online presence merge with our professional one?

After reading the GTCS code regarding safe use of social media as a teacher, my initial thoughts are that everything stated in the guidelines are both fair and just. I feel that the quote at the start of the guidelines sum up perfectly the over arching issue of why it is important to take the use of social media seriously; ‘Maintaining the public’s trust in the individual teacher and in teaching as a profession sits at the heart of being fit to teach, and this can be undermined not only by behaviour occurring in a teacher’s professional life, but also within their private life, including activity online.’

I’ve come to learn that how one presents themselves online is vitally important. I think it’s easy to forget how quickly others can judge your identity solely down to what they see on the Internet. For example, when working for a local company in my hometown, it was brought to my attention that the employers first looked through the Facebook of each and every prospective employee before even inviting them to interview for a post. It was at this point that I registered how important it is to keep my online persona as real and true to myself as possible and I started to evaluate everything I did online with a new vigilance.

It’s through understanding the weight and importance of maintaining a professional online appearance that leads me to believe I, at least initially, won’t be marrying my professional and private presence on social media. I am of course without doubt that social media and resources found on the Internet have a well-deserved place in the classroom when used appropriately, but I am yet to see the benefit of merging your personal and professional image online.

Where in some situations it might be appropriate e.g. using one’s Twitter account to share information related to their work etc, I feel that generally speaking merging your professional and personal activity online unnecessarily exposes you to a number of challenges as a professional that you might not be faced with otherwise. Through experience, I am very aware of how easy it is to be misinterpreted online and to have your intentions completely lost in a muddle of misconceptions. I would imagine that for this to happen in a professional environment- and as a result to have you fitness to teach queried- could potentially be extremely damaging to both your professional and your self image.

However regardless of what I believe in terms of using my private social media for professional use, I am fully aware that social media will be used in the classroom. And I believe that it should be! With social media playing such a massive part in the lives of pupils, parents and in our social culture, I believe it would be catastrophic for educators to ignore the movement online and not to embrace the developments. Therefore, I think it is vitally important to have an understanding of how to be a professional online so that both qualified and perspective teachers know exactly where they stand in this new and advancing online world. In fact, this is absolutely necessary when it comes to equipping not only ourselves, but our children, to navigate this potential mind field. I feel that the fact that GTCS have outlined specific guidelines for this issue sufficiently highlights the relevance of understanding how to have a professional presence in the online world and that the penultimate section in particular, ‘how can teachers minimise risk when using electronic communication and social networking?’ helps to make it clear how to avoid having issues in this area.

I look forward to the challenges ahead regarding my role as a teacher. However, I believe there is vast importance in equipping oneself to be able to avoid unnecessary battles, and being well versed in how to maintain a professional image online seems like the perfect place to start.