Category Archives: 3.4 Prof. Reflection & Commitment

I know the caterpillar is hungry but do I need to know why?

Another fun filled expedition with my Ruby to delve into the world of science. This time it was another impromptu discussion brought up by the world around us. The location was the cycle path along by Barry Buddon (army base), a lovely contrast of environments: golf and a train track on one side and gunfire on the other with a wildlife rich walk slap bang in the middle. We often walk along here to watch the trains, identifying the company names and cargo we think they might be carrying and to where. Ruby’s keen eye spotted something large and furry as she rode her horse Star (bicycle) along the path. I was welcome of the break as her four wheels move much faster than my two legs.

The following video is of her recalling knowledge, the catalyst for this being the presence of the caterpillar. Ruby appears to be hanging like a cocoon in this video and Ollie the dog is a bit out of puff (it isn’t me). My mini scientist then went on to discuss the different appearance of the cocoon and caterpillar in relation to whether the insect would be a moth or a butterfly. The brighter or greener the outside then it was more likely to be a butterfly. The darker or hairier the outside it was more likely to be a moth. Every day is a school day! Ruby deduced that our fluffy caterpillar would most likely become a moth but we would have to come back to see because it would be unfair to take it home.

As a child I learnt about the butterfly life cycle, read the Hungry Caterpillar, was able to dig and explore outdoors whenever I wanted at home and was amazed by their delicate but intimidating presence on a trip to Butterfly World in primary 1. Considering that was 24 years ago I believe this shows what a profound effect the whole topic and the teacher had on my love of creepy crawlies. Spiders are even included in that. I understood we were much bigger than them, we should care for them and they have very important jobs to do. Within the science benchmarks for early years, SCN1-01a discusses consideration of growth and sorting organisms by features. I find this a tenuous link really, which made me question why the humble butterfly’s life cycle is one regularly taught, what children gain from this and why did this work so much better outside.

Instruction from Education Scotland in the Science Benchmarks is to allow children to develop understanding and skills in a practical manner(Benchmarks, pg2). My memories are vivid due to hands on experience outside of a classroom. But does real life experience in the outdoors engage learners? Currently the Association for Science Education, a UK organisation, champions the need for outdoor education in the field of Science education. In Scotland specifically, Education Scotland have the Curriculum for Excellence Through Outdoor Learning document, that encourages “planning for spontaneous local visits when weather is favourable.”(pg13) Slightly confusing terms: having to organise something spontaneous and only head outdoors if it is sunny?! We live in Scotland. Furthermore, science education is explicitly mentioned once (pg8) in the outdoor education document and the outdoors are mentioned only once (pg2) in the benchmarks. Consider also that a recent (2016) paper by the University of Edinburgh, Outdoor Learning in Scotland:Issues for Education, identified that not enough was being done beyond policy making to insure children had true engagement in outdoor education. This was due to a lack of training, provision, awareness, facilities and accountability (pg3).

I am just doing as I am encouraged at University and questioning the didactic methods in the hope that this will help me be the teacher I want to be within the Scottish education system. I know, from experience in classrooms that last minute trips do happen whether it is a trip to the playground to read a book or wandering in the local area to discuss homes. I can’t however, help but think that maybe more teachers would feel more confident in utilising the outdoors if they felt wholly encouraged and at times told. Theorists such as Pestalozzi and Froebel championed outdoor education, an area I am passionate about. However more recently and most succinctly, Priest (1986) established outdoor education as a system that was dependent on six factors: it was a method; it utilises the wealth of knowledge from experiential theorists like Dewey and Pestalozzi; it is essential for learning; it provides learning opportunities across cognitive, emotional and physical development; it highlights that our curriculum is naturally cross-curricular and a key component is that many relationships contribute to a child’s education (Watchow, Brown, 2011, pg18). This encourages me to pursue my pedagogical stance whilst teaching science.

How could the butterfly engage children in outdoor learning? How can it not? The butterfly is just so magical! The charity, Butterfly Conservation have an interesting breakdown of the scientific and educational value the butterfly and moth hold within the UK, all under the heading Why Butterflies Matter. This got me thinking of a stimulus for a topic about extinction, migration and adaptation in the natural world. The butterfly is a prime candidate.

The gems are probably the best-preserved fossils of any butterfly  photo credit New Scientist

Imagine the conversations and investigations that could occur from placing this image or even better an imitation of this in a small wooden crate surrounded by shredded paper and handled with white gloves delivered with a stamp from the Scottish Museum? Or bury it in the play ground or shallow trough for children to excavate. Taking the children butterfly spotting in spring, can we find any? Why not? What can we do to bring them here? You could possibly explore life cycle, adaptation, extinction and most importantly conservation. The E&O being SCN2-01a the survival and adaptation of a species. I would be interested as an adult, let alone a child.

Whilst meeting Es and Os is important and guaranteeing progression enables life long learning I cannot help but feel a prescribed curriculum could occur if sole focus of meeting E&Os is stringently followed. I understand it is discouraged within the Benchmarks and that they are not for assessment but I had to scour the Experiences and Outcomes to shoe-horn the butterfly life cycle in when I know it is covered so frequently and how exciting it can be. There is no doubt that science lends itself to inquiry-based learning, in the outdoors with field work and that is aided by interest, opportunity and passion. Not ticking of boxes.

As Ruby and I discussed her bike may well have ended that caterpillars hurried journey to safety and food. Being outside, being aware of the human role and responsibility in the world of nature is one that is dear to my heart. An area I believe science in the Scottish Primary can really uncover and have lifelong impact upon.



Learning a new skill is sometimes daunting. Applying the skill gives you that wee bit more confidence then showing others gives a degree of confidence in the skill.

This week I learnt how to upload a video from my iPhone to YouTube then to my eportfolio, in a somewhat seamless manner. Although I am not scared of technology I think that I truly lack enough knowledge to say I’m an expert. Put it this way, I’m not scared to crash a few computers and reboot a couple more in my quest to become a techno master.

The video I chose was my daughter’s first ever book review. She is 5, an avid reader and I tend to buy her books from charity shops (Oxfam often have children’s books for 49p), eBay or TKMaxx. The book she picked for this review seemed to fit nicely with my current elective, Science. The book was Albie’s First Word by Tourville and Evans. The book is about Albert Einstein and how for being the father of relativity and scientist extraordinaire he did not speak till late into his childhood. It is an interesting read for children and adults alike, with a short biography about Einstein at the back. I feel it would encourage children to question the world of science and allow them to imagine they can be the next Einstein. No matter what. There is an undertone of Autistic behaviour described but in such a nonchalant way. Ruby picked up that, although he did not speak, he was trying. He communicated in his own way.

The way my own daughter reads has made me question the language I will use in a classroom. Why should I aim low or underestimate the children’s comprehension or grasp of language. Adams (1999) discussed that teachers aim to use words they believe the children will easily understand but that if they are not stretched or exposed to more subject specific language and a  wider vocabulary then teachers are doing them an injustice(pg37-38). In saying that Moyles (2003) argues that in order for children to feel confident attempting and using newly acquired vocabulary they must be put into comfortable situations where trial and error are embraced (pg40). When a challenging word is said by the teacher, it has to in turn be explored and the children’s connotations of word meaning addressed for it to be beneficial. I find reiterating the word, adding a sing song voice to it, pretending I have forgotten the meaning, using a visual prop and also parroting the word helps it sink in.

Personally, I feel that books are the door into extension, experience and engagement with new exciting words. As a teacher I hope to provide the chance to engage with the written word as often as possible and in as many medias as possible. I understand that reading a book (even if that’s make believe), is a very personal and private experience. Reading aloud to peers is daunting and often detrimental. I want them to be Charlie Cook in the Julia Donaldson novel where all they needed was to “curl up in a cosy nook to read their favourite book.”

Adams, R., Ali, S., Bassi, K.L., Hussain, N. & Brock, A., 1999. Into the enchanted forest. 1st ed. Wiltshire: Cromwell Press Ltd.

Moyles, R.J., 2003. Just playing? The role and status of play in early childhood education. 1st ed. Suffolk: St Edmundsbury Press Ltd

Science or… Magic?

Third year… how did that happen?!?

This year I have chosen to take Science as my elective and you will all be lucky enough to see me vlog my encounters as I rediscover knowledge and inquire further into the world of lab coats and STEM subjects. This will help me to enthuse the children I will one day teach and reflect on areas I must improve to enable a passion for science to grow. I am lucky enough to have my own child (here’s one I made earlier) and even luckier that i can ask her weird and wonderful questions that she just answers.

At university we got stuck right in conducting an experiment with various unnamed substances, water, test tubes, spatulas, safety goggles and gloves. All the fun stuff. The reactions all differed and got more exciting as we worked our way along. This evoked plenty of discussion and speculation, therefore it would be an experiment I could use with a class to judge the level of the children’s understanding and scientific vocabulary.

Crawford and Capps 2016, believe that in order for teachers to engage children in science there needs to be a level of metacognition, where the teacher challenges children’s interpretations through questioning (pg16) insuring they are thinking about how or why they think certain things. So that is where I started, asking Ruby questions to discover what she knows and scrape the surface of how she thinks, in order for me to challenge her appropriately and give a sPark to science.

I have none of the fun stuff at home, so i just asked questions as we went about our day. Ruby responded without prompts or helps and I tried my hardest not to impact her thoughts too much.

I believe she is roughly at first level regarding some materials and there is room to explore further impact upon soluble and insoluble substances, “I can make and test predictions about solids dissolving in water and can relate my findings to the world around me. SCN 1-16a”

Leading on from our discussion Ruby became fascinated with coffee and what would happen in different water temperatures. I promised her we would try her experiment, she informed me that it is of utmost scientific significance.

The next video is where we explored this concept with Ruby’s experiment about coffee, which plays a very large role in her mothers life. School days are long and she is very giggly…

To be honest, this ties in with me realising how little of the scientific vocabulary I could use with confidence. I need to brush up on my knowledge of what I want her to gain from these experiments, the learning intention if you will. As far as I am concerned I wanted Ruby to consider the effect of the water temperature on the changes in the coffee granules. From what I see looking back she understood that the hottest water gave the quickest change and from this understood that the cold water would be the slowest. Also we used mathematical language with volume and number or size of things. Inter-disciplinary learning is happening, not to any great degree but conversations allow for us to explore so many subjects. It was fun and we introduced some new words; soluble, granules, prediction.

Moving on I feel I need to further explore what children gain from science and specific lessons that I could provide them within a classroom. I think I struggle to comprehend how important and individual science as a subject becomes for each child. For every 5 children that love categorising living and non-living things there are 5 more who prefer to explore conduction. if they have passion for an area and we need experts in these fields surely I should nurture that? For me, science is all around us and it should be explored as children discover it, so I would prefer to allow children to learn through real-life encounters. These can be what I facilitate and then step back, becoming part of the scaffolding, watching and extending their discovery of magical science.  Opposed to, “oh what experiment will tick my Science Experience and Outcome box.”

What I have gained is a respect for the new world that children are constantly learning from, the more they explore the more questions they have. I think the magic of science can help open more doors and allow for many questions to be asked.


Eh ken how tae dae a poem

For being such a diverse and vast element of language and literacy, I feel poetry may not be utilised as widely as it could. Not only can poetry be instantly accessible and emotive, it also allows children to see language in a fun and concise way. Poetry allows a multitude of opinions to form and many interpretations to stem from, an often short piece of text.

In the classroom it can be used to expose children to current topics, provoke discussion and debate while showing that language can be a tool that can be adaptive and personal. If a child is given the techniques to create their own poem they have the tools to explore word use and actually (dare I say?) play with words. Roald Dahl, Tony Ross, Shel Silverstein, giants in the children’s literary world and they ALL have collections of poems. Instead of spending hours reading from a class novel, should we not be dipping in and out of poetry? Finding commonalities between poems and themes while possibly getting a truer vibe of who the authors are. Poetry can be so so personal and reflective.

I feel it also allows children to vocalise and experiment with a wider vocabulary. When they have to search for a word that conveys a statement or emotion in one word, opposed to using a few. I know from my own primary experience (over 18 years ago….) that getting up to recite poetry may not have been the most anticipated event but I did feel I had achieved something. Of course all children would relate to performing poetry differently but equipping them with coping techniques and cultivating an environment that celebrates the confidence and self assurance it can take. The process of practice, repetition, allocating time in class for peer input and support. The children could be allowed greater personalisation and breadth when choosing their poems.

You know yourself that when you are asked, while sat at your desk, to read a page from the class novel there is NO WAY you are actually taking in what you’re reading. You nervously wait your turn trying to guess what page you will be reading, you read as fast as you can and have no idea what you’ve read to the class, take a few minutes after to check your cheeks are not too red and return to breathing normally, by which point some other poor child is reading faster than you did about who knows what? Poems can enable a child to understand comprehension and exploration of texts in a more manageable way.

The following two poems (that took me, the computer illiterate fool that I am, over 20 mins to put together), would be a perfect introduction to a topic on War, present struggles and from two viewpoints . The view point varies from a young Syrian girl (left) to a soldier (right). Both are current, relevant and emotive.



Discussion central above!!! For an upper years class I feel this could bring relevant news stories into the class without having to watch the news or relying on playground fears.

In short, as that’s what poems do best…. Poetry is for all. For the now. For local dialect. For topic, discussion and engagement. Literacy =  language, talking, listening, writing, reading and poetry brings it together, let’s have a blether and allow poetry to untether, our passion for poetry, now and forever. BOOM.


Internationally Inspired

Back to the grind.  Watching numerous TED talks is the grind yeah?? This year is set to bring about a whole new plethora of knowledge and interests. I have chosen to take the International Baccalaureate elective and my reasoning for this is to broaden my own approach to teaching while also increasing my experience in a classroom. At 28 I have in no way learnt all I can from ‘life’ but I feel I would gain more from a school based placement than a work or community based one. Especially at this point in my own journey.

I would have loved to go abroad and see the IB in an international context, unfortunately my motherly duties dictated I pursue a more local route. Therefore I am on my way to a local IB school next March. Knowing where I’m going has allowed enthusiasm to grow and enabled me to embrace the international mindedness at the IB’s core. Indeed, the more I read and inquire into the Primary Years Programme (PYP) the more I draw similarities between their ethos and my own personal teaching philosophy, a predominantly constructivist approach.

I would be outside learning and engaging with the local environment every day if I could. Teaching children more about taxes, inflation, seasonal foods, local wildlife, budgeting, questioning and local industry. When a child’s inquiry is given adequate time and genuine response then a child can build their own set of beliefs and values. This is not because there’s not room for it in the classroom but learning within REAL context and genuine interaction will surely help it to stick better. Children can then attach their emotional state/environment to the information in order to recall or build upon this when needed. This is all a very personal view point into how I believe all children and adults are individuals, however I have also experienced these benefits first hand. It is also  Children are more than capable of discovering links and applying their growing knowledge when they are given opportunity and challenge.

I cannot help but compare and contrast the Curriculum for Excellence with the PYP programme when we first inquired into the IB. I couldn’t help but assume (never assume people!!) that the CfE wanted to possibly emulate the well established, ever evolving IB (1960s). The PYP’s focus on child led inquiry may have the equally floral jargon but the CfE ultimately lacks the specific trait of: investment. Not just constant financial investment (invigoration) but emotional investment from all involved. The IB was a philosophy created through necessity, for an international curriculum that met the needs of those who embraced the international approach to life and work. Parents/carers choose the IB schools as an alternative to the local schools and their curriculum, not just because it suits their lifestyles. The CfE wanted to breed excellence and prepare Scottish children for the world, however it wasn’t deemed a needed leap by all within the education system or those who use the schools. The choice and investment is not as universal.The IB also has 40 odd years on the CfE, that’s a wealth of hiccups and triumphs leading to subsequent and on-going development of the curriculum and approach.

Inquiry is key to the IB and that is allowing children to question the world around them, delve into the possibilities that arise from mistakes or success and reflecting upon the whole process through a peer and self-reflecting lens. The whole international aspect is not just physical it is about the willingness to adopt another’s viewpoint and respect the world we share. Yes, it does sound idealistic in the way I’ve written it but I think that’s my favourite part. The IB helps children foster clear self-image, allowing them to attribute their success to the whole journey not just the outcome.

I’m looking forward to learning more about the IB approach and allowing it to inter-link with my current teaching philosophy, driving it forward.


And the Oscar for best film goes to…..

In the short time frame from first semester to second semester I already feel a lot more at ease when I see ICT on my timetable. I am basically guaranteed to have an interactive and productive lesson. Experiences I can pass on to the children I hope to teach one day.

The most recent has topped the tables and is the fore runner for ‘most fun day’ at university yet! Sharon introduced us to the impact of simple animation and the ease with which we could then implement that in the classroom. We were shown the software programmes Pivot and Zu3D.

Within the curriculum for excellence,  TCH 3-09a – using appropriate software, I can work individually or collaborativey to design and implement a game, animation or other application. Above and beyond that, throughout the activity I felt I gained confidence and skills that I could then apply to different concepts and it could open onto a discussion about the power animation has in adverts and the consumer world around us.

The software could be broken down into digestible steps dependent on age group. Communication and active listening would be needed but I feel that if the children can be shown by example on a larger scale, that support coming from not only the teacher but their peers would help cement the steps. Being able to make mistakes and then shown that there are ways and means to correct them would also be beneficial.

We were able to collaborate and bring our ideas together to create what I can only describe as Oscar-worthy, Crash-Mash

Hold your applause… I found the activity fun and there was scope for so many different ideas! We got to add music and could have delved further if spaced out over a few lessons.

I believe the lesson could be approached in a constructivist manner like Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. Utilising the skills of their peers and working with the teacher to build on those skills and develop them further. This would then lead them to feel confident enough to complete a group task and voice their opinions. The cognitive constructivism would need to be addressed individually and this could mean going round the class, possibly writing down the steps or making that information visual with a step by step guide opposed to just verbally relaying the information. The outcome itself is something that could be kept for evidence and a point to build upon through further steps. But watching the groups work would be an insight into their communication and delegation skills. Opening up the chance for a field trip to a computer programming base within Dundee.

Sharon also gave us helpful advice about how to keep the children’s attention and I would like to open a lesson like this with a visual and audio stimulus. Getting the children to close there eyes and listen to a piece of music then possibly watch a short animation with no sound. Being able to then make the link between the two and the co-dependency of these stimuli in the world around us.

I look forward to trying to integrate this animation lesson into my placement school as I have seen they engage heavily with twitter and coding. It’s definitely an area I need to research and I have got copies of a couple books I feel will help. Hopefully I can read myself a bit more savvy but hands on experience will be better to reflect upon and grow from.




Do you believe in magic?


“Science is when I use my experiment table” this was the response my three year old gave when I asked her, “what is science?” That experiment table is used for mixing paints, baking, building, popping balloons, doing float/sink tests in a basin and much more. It’s a well-loved wee table.

In Richard’s introductory lecture we had to come up with a small experiment in order to show ourselves how easily science can be implemented into the curriculum but mainly how fun it can be. For me, the science subjects in High School meant I was always sat at a dilapidated wooden bench that was covered in menchies. The teacher stood up front writing down endless equations, making us watch documentaries and we may have seen the occasional Bunsen burner or test tube. Way, way back in primary school (over 16 years ago) I can’t remember a “science” lesson… I remember getting to construct a bridge, make string telephones, study the life of a plant, cut up big plastic bottles to measure rainfall, a whole mesmerising project on mini-beasts and getting to be hands on at the Edinburgh Butterfly Farm. I can remember back even further, to playing with water and sand in nursery, as well as a “find out who is tallest” activity.

It just goes to show that science is all around us, we can choose to engage and ask questions of the world we live in and the universe around us. That, to me, is science. Children should be able to tactically, visually and cognitively approach queries they have. That work can be solo or in a group environment. The key is letting them figure it out… the mistakes can be half the fun.

For my TDT I decided to investigate forces, in relation to the experience and outcome SCN 2-07a in the Curriculum for Excellence; by investigating how friction, including air resistance, affects motion, I can suggest ways to improve efficiency in moving objects. I am not going to lie, the internet is a wondrous invention. After various “Fun children’s force experiment” Google searches I saw how to lift a bottle of rice with a chopstick. It looked simple, inexpensive and fun. Perfect. Then I started to read into the science, the how? How would I explain this to a room of children? What would they gain? The answers were simple.

The combined weight of the rice and bottle were less than the force of the friction when the chopstick was forced into the bottle of rice, thus making it “stick” and act as a handle to lift up the heavy bottle of rice. The answers only left me wanting to know more. I feel it would be beneficial next time to do a comparative experiment with either less rice or a different substance. To show that it is not just the weight but the friction. Friction force can only happen with solid objects, unlike air resistance and fluid force (viscosity). There is then the opportunity to develop on to discussing aero-dynamics, building there own cars etc.  How is force measured though? How do you find out how much rice is enough? Does it have to be a wooden chopstick or would a screwdriver achieve the same? Could it work with different substances in the bottle? Our bodies have joints, why does the force of friction not erode them?

I stumbled upon the Co-efficient of Friction; how easily one object moves in relation to another. The higher the co-efficient of friction the less movement and the lower the co-efficient of friction the more movement. These are basics but they can open up onto a breadth of activities and lessons or tie into a number of projects: space, the human body, travel, properties of substances and even history if we spoke about the discovery of friction. A healthy balance and inquiry into a few of these areas should be explored.

If I have the opportunity to help a class get involved in this experiment the avenues of investigation to go down are so vast. Linking to the current interest in the UK based astronaut and the re-entry of the shuttle or even a topic as simple as travel and the need for aero-dynamics. However, I also feel able to delve into specific aspects of the science behind it with them. I made a huge mess, went through a lot of rice but it was all part of the interactive fun and communication. For younger children it is magic and it could then be revisited and developed later in their school careers. The varying complexities depends on the engagement and interest the children have and how I can spark that! I was considering a montage of people slipping on ice… the need for friction!

My SMART plan would be-

SPECIFIC- Create a fun experiment to open up the concept of force and develop current understanding

Measurable- Develop a lesson plan and cost of materials

Achievable- Use online resources, Curriculum for Excellence, peers, teacher on placement and gauge the children’s interest

Relevant- Links to sparking lifelong interest, creativity and inventiveness

Times- aim to utilise the placement time and then reflect on the lesson a week after completion of placement


Dreaded Peer Review

I was actually dreading leaving feedback on peer’s work within the eportfolio. The prospect of having to nit-pick someone’s blog post, often packed full of personal thoughts and opinions, filled me with nerves. I know that I am a sensitive soul and can quickly focus on the negatives and overlook positives. I’m my own worse critic but this also means I can’t often step back and re-evaluate work.

My first taster was constructive feedback on my own post, the only criticism being my paragraph length and the lack of view from a teacher’s viewpoint. I breathed a sigh of relief, the positives far outweighed the negatives and those negatives highlighted were areas I wouldn’t have considered myself. I felt I could definitely look into shortening my paragraphs (I get more than a bit carried away at times). I took it from a student perspective as I have little insight of being a teacher but I understood the need to understand the implications on my future profession.

After reading the feedback on my own post I saw how styles of feedback differ, some people write matter of factly, some write conversationally. I tried to give any constructive criticism within questions. So opposed to pointing out critiques I tried to pose questions to further thinking. I appreciate the matter of fact style people have because it is straight to the point and comes across in a more “two stars and a wish” approach.

When it came to writing feedback on others it was a challenge. Many met the criteria and all I could give were new discussion points that led on from their work. It gave me an insight into how personal our blogs can be and therefore highlighted how one topic (the enquiring practitioner) can have a multitude of varying interpretations. It showed the need for collaborative work and the differing ways people can engage in constructive review and the chance this gave to start new dialogue.

I know that as a teacher I will be forever learning, whether that be from peers or the children themselves. I will need to grow thicker skin and appreciate that people don’t have to agree or like my ideas, often the constructive feedback resonates the loudest. When I become a teacher I want to be aware of how my wording will effect young, impressionable children. Indeed any difficulties or mistakes they make are a direct correlation to how well I am doing my job. So when I highlight areas for improvement in a pupil’s work I am in turn highlighting areas I need to cover more clearly. Peer to peer feedback will become easier as we get to know personalities and we can adapt that for the individual.

In conclusion being an enquiring practitioner opens up the need for valuable feedback and honest critiques. There is no point researching areas that will be of no wider use and there is no point in sharing that information if there isn’t a willingness to make change and adapt. This was a helpful exercise and I aim to make more time to not only read other’s work but also leave my thoughts.


I don’t know, let me find out.

An enquiring practitioner is ultimately an individual who seeks to gain more relevant knowledge. They further research aspects of interest or need and are then able to relay these to others. This allows the investigative work to become more than reflection, while also consolidating information that has been learned. For us on our journey to becoming teachers, it is of benefit to fully immerse ourselves in this ethos, as it is hoped that practitioner enquiry will become a day-to-day occurrence in Scottish schools.

As a student teacher the concept of being an enquiring practitioner seems to fit nicely with the theories and inputs we have heard so far and indeed what we do as university students- learn. If we expect and encourage student autonomy we have to also be ever improving as teachers. Learning and sharing of information should be on going. As students we use the eportfolios to highlight and hopefully discuss areas of research and interest. It is reassuring for me, as a student teacher that as a qualified teacher there are guidelines in place to justify and encourage ongoing knowledge. We are in a modern society and teachers can come under scrutiny; we are not the once entirely trusted “do as the teacher says,” profession. To have documented and shared research to back up our teaching and methods, will help us fair against any doubts or insecurities parents or colleagues may have. That is of double benefit as through practitioner enquiry we adopt a more critical eye and will therefore be in the position to improve our own practice. An enquiring practitioner can foresee possible routes of research and further study; for pupils and teachers alike. Another benefit is the impact our research can have on the curriculum, to make change we must be the change. It is through collaborative and engaged research that those suggestions lead to action. Being an enquiring practitioner will open the door and be a direct link to the passion we have for our chosen line of work. As a student teacher our grasp on being an enquiring practitioner can benefit us on placements; being able to engage in the wider school community and contribute to any meetings, parents evenings, in-service days, workshops etc. No teacher should rest on the laurels of past techniques, without knowing that is the best current method.

So lets look critically at the concept of the enquiring practitioner. To me, a student teacher, there was that level of assumption that this idea of on-going learning and evaluative investigative research was a given. So giving it a name and a section of GTCS was a bit of an eye opener. For me this highlighted that not all teachers engaged in on-going research or peer interaction and valuable development. Another disadvantage or critique would be the self-serving role of individual research. The want to highlight new ideas and thinking without a critical and professional approach; not engaging deeply enough with these. As a student teacher we will also have to question and practice becoming an enquiring practitioner on placement. This means we will have to take into consideration that what works for one school may not work for another. Don’t blindly adopt techniques without doing further situational research. Indeed it may be hard to focus on research coming to a productive end. Pulling in research when necessary and not allowing tangents, unrelated to teaching, to occur. Also, thinking from a student teacher, perspective; imagine going through hours of engaging research to then be told by peers or higher governing bodies that the work is of no significant value or to go back to the drawing board. It is throughout our student lives that we will gain the expertise to cope with this constructive criticisms and keep the drive.

I’ve found as a student teacher that most lectures are new and exciting, but what can’t be covered in the hour long lecture is up to us to research. To practice becoming an enquiring practitioner I have to take the initiative and engage in conflicting ideas/methods/theories as well as my peer group. By doing I can become.

…if we are to achieve the aspiration of teachers being leaders of educational improvement, they need to develop expertise in using research, inquiry and reflection as part of their daily skill set.’ (Donaldson, 2011:4)

Teachers on professionalism

What makes a teacher who makes a difference?

The following values are taken from the GTCS Standards;

Professional Commitment

  • Engaging with all aspects of professional practice and working collegiately with all members of our educational communities with enthusiasm, adaptability and constructive criticality.
  • Committing to lifelong enquiry, learning, professional development and leadership as core aspects of professionalism and collaborative practice

It is stated how important commitment is to being a teacher, in Video 1 the similarities between doctors and teachers are highlighted. I understand the viewpoint but must disagree on the severity of life and death used. There are many successful, functioning human beings who lacked a professional teacher in their lives. There are not as many individuals alive and well after being at the hands of an unprofessional doctor. The teacher makes a difference when their is accountability and commitment but more so if the child, family and community are behind the teacher. The teacher must adapt to her surroundings and meet the needs of her students and their families. It is this hark back to the respected teacher that is highlighted in the video.  These teachers only know they are making a difference because the feedback from communities and the impact they have on the entire education system. Going above and beyond is an understatement, the willingness to actively engage, challenge and develop the system as well as themselves. This commitment to the profession is about knowing your place within it is subject to change. You are responsible and accountable for the education you provide. So to be a teacher who makes a difference you must want to first BE that difference.

Teachers on professionalism

In the second video Miss Long highlighted the introduction of benchmarking, the across board way to see if a teacher is succeeding. I can see the stress this may cause but it is mainly a benefit. Children deserve equal opportunities and the access to efficient teachers. Mrs Chemmi discussed the importance of a professional personality. Children imitating the actions and words of the teacher. This made perfect sense but local dialogue or a relatable accent can be of benefit when talking with parents. Adaptability is key, children should have a positive, polite and professional constant with their teachers and the teacher herself should be professional enough to adapt to that. It was Mrs Walsh and Mrs Smith I related most too. Speaking to children in a manner that won’t offend their home life is something I have first hand experience with. It takes a great level of professional conduct to approach an incident of profanity in a nursery setting! The child should never feel ashamed of their background, if it is difficult it is to build upon, if it is entitled there is scope for diversifying. I have always been intrigued with early years language acquisition and the little importance based on professional manner in private nurseries. It is a pot luck. Professionalism is about the teacher embracing the profound influence they have on the children they teach and also encompass the impact the have in the child’s wider world. With teachers now being a child’s likely Named Person, as part of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, the teacher’s influence is solidified both inside and out-with the classroom.

Worker or Professional?

As this a purely personal reflection on the message this video sent to me I feel I can be honest. From Mr. Christie I saw an idealised view of a teacher, the message that teachers should be appreciated and should be carried on our shoulders. They were all wishes, not reality. This mollycoddling perception, publicly voiced to reiterate the notion of the teacher as a valued member of society: but only when they do a “great job”. It is unjust to assume all teachers do a great job, as in all professions it is hard to equate. It is then easy to brand them all the same and in knowing not all are great, the pay can stay the same. Why pay more when not all teachers deserve to be carried on shoulders.

Karen Lewis saying she was an “educational worker” upset me. I am aware that too many teachers don’t just punch a clock and do a job. They have passion and commitment to their profession. The career itself demands extra hours, further study, planning and continuous development. A union is important and I am unsure as to whether Karen was pretending to be obtuse, as that is how she feels she is treated; or whether she genuinely thinks teaching isn’t a profession. No matter how she felt she is clearly a teacher currently within the system and if her morale regarding her chosen “profession” is so low it leads to many questions. This quote resonated with me and relates well to Karen and the message I took from her speech.

“The system which makes no great demands upon originality, upon invention… works automatically to put and to keep the more incompetent teachers in the school. Where their time and energy are likely to be..occupied with details of external conformity”

J.Dewey 1941