Monthly Archives: October 2015

Practitioner Enquiry

What is Practitioner Enquiry? Practitioner Enquiry is a system of stepping back and analyzing practice that can not only improve teaching and learning, but also instigate systemic and cultural changes according to Daniel Lambie. Practitioner Enquiry was highlighted in Teaching Scotland’s Future by Margret Donaldson in 2011 to support pupils learning and mainly teachers to become more engaged with research to support their own practice. Below is a diagram showing how and why the General Teaching Council of Scotland (GTCS) want teachers engage in Practitioner Enquiry.

The GTCS diagram on how teachers engage in Practitioner Enquiry

The main benefit to Practitioner Enquiry is professional development where you are able to improve your practice and knowledge by sharing ideas with fellow educators and giving and receiving feedback. It is really important that you know how to research properly so as to continue adding to this body of knowledge you will slowly be retaining.   By doing this you will also be able to find out new teaching strategies and initiatives and share them with fellow educators and know how to deliver them in practice. This works the other way round too. Here is Practitioner Enquiry in action.

A challenge is, depending on how seriously you engage in Practitioner Enquiry, it does take a lot of valuable time to research everything and feedback to fellow educators when you could be doing other important things such as preparing for classes. You may also be working with fellow educators who “can’t be bothered” or just are not interested in becoming a practitioner who enquires.

As a student teacher I need to look become a practitioner who enquires into her practice to positively evolve my knowledge, teaching styles and practice. Without it I might fail to spot problems with students learning from my teaching skills, stop working well in a team situation and ultimately my own teaching. I will have to question your own practice sometimes to benefit from any of this and to positively expand my learning.

Research into the brain

Here is some of my research into the brain which I have written out and put up as a picture. I feel it is important to find a lot of different ways to make my blog different and this is one of the ways I though to make it a little different. I hope you find it educational and interesting. FullSizeRender

Here is also an interactive website I thought was a great way of reading about the history of the brain in a more interactive way than just reading. History of the Brain – Interactive website

Stress and teaching

Yesterday it was reported by the BBC that teachers are stressed and being ‘reduced to tears’. I wanted to explore this topic further being a MA1 student studying Education at the University of Dundee. Dr Bousted reported in a TES article teachers were being told

“stress is increasingly being regarded as par for the course and part of the job.”

Should this be the case? Is this what I have to look forward to as a teacher? Bursting into tears every night and staying up till 11pm to mark homework? No life? Would a nurse be asked to stay back in a hospital to work 5 or 6 hours longer than their shift? Would that not be risking the lives of the patients having a tired nurse on the ward? As a teacher it will be my job to look after children’s education, prepare classes, marking etc. So maybe it is up to me to find a way of stopping sometimes and taking time to myself. Last year I worked as an Early Years Practitioner where me and my colleague would work hours above our contracted time but rarely did we let that affect our personal time. If we had plans outside of nursery, outside of nursery hours that became our priority. It worked really well and we were happy in our jobs and outside our jobs. Yes, sometimes stressful situations cropped up that lasted a week or so but I didn’t feel stressed all time.

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However, another point of view is the Government need to be supporting teachers which they are clearly not doing. I don’t see that I should be the person who feels isolated, that her work is getting on top of her when there is a Government out there and an Education department whose job it is to protect me in my role as a teacher. There needs to be clear structure in place to support teachers so that stress doesn’t “become part of the job.” Stress can be a horrific condition which can lead to teachers taking time off work and then the children suffering with the swap of teachers. I remember in school when teachers were off it would be a different substitute teacher everyday, none of whom could possibly know what stages we were at, who we were and what we were being taught. With England needing 160,000 additional teachers over the next three years according to statistics, the Government should be doing something to stop this atrocity happening.

So I have given two points here, that I as an individual should be in control of my own stress management and that the Government should be doing something to help teachers stop feeling this way. Is it a mix of both? Which is the right way of helping our teachers deal with stress? Time management or Government action?

Term-Time holidays. Yes or No?

beach-holiday

Yesterday, I woke up to my usual routine of eating my breakfast whilst watching Bill Turnbull and Louise Minchin. They were discussing term-time holidays with Jon Platt who took his 6 year old daughter to Florida on a once in a lifetime family holiday, to which the school charged him £120 for doing so. Refusing to pay the fine he found himself in a legal battle with the Isle of Wight council. Here is the BBC Article on term time holidays. So this got me thinking is it really fair that schools are charging parents that take their children out of school during term time?

Although taking children outside of school for a holiday in Florida should be discouraged, does the Head Teacher of that school really have a right to say that a 6 year old can’t have 1 week off school, especially with his 6 year old having had a 93.8% attendance rate the previous academic year? Not everybody with children is lucky enough to get holiday time when it’s school holidays, especially in a small company. Look at it this way, if every nurse with children, in every hospital in the UK, took off 2 weeks holiday every Easter school holidays, would the hospitals still be functional? So with that in mind, the Government says that everybody is entitled to around 6 weeks every year paid holiday, but not everyone can go on holiday with their children because they can’t have any time off work during in school holidays. So schools charge them, to spend time with their children, the only time they have off work. Is that really fair?

Now the UK Government specifically states You can only allow your child to miss school if you’ve got advance permission from the school. You can easily do this by making an application to the head teacher in advance and then it’s up to the head teacher how long your child can be away from school if they say yes.  Education is one of the most important things in this day and age, so why would a head teacher say yes to a holiday when that child would be spending up to 2 weeks away from classes? Last year 16,430 parents in England were prosecuted for failing to ensure their children went to school (not all of these cases were holidays, some truancy and other issues) but 9,214 of those parents were issued with fines. Fines are motivation to send your children to school. So schools think. But Jon Platt is the perfect example of a parent who wants to take their child for new experiences.

Again, is it right that the Head Teacher of a school gets to decide when you can take your children on holiday? Well I really don’t think it is. Holidays can be some of the most educational experiences of anybody’s life.  I myself have learnt about and swam with dolphins, visited egyptian pyramids, climbed mountains in Switzerland and learnt a lot about American history in museums throughout various holidays in my life. Yes we all learn about these things in a classroom setting with our peers and friends, but experiencing them is something different. Could we not as teachers encourage learning on the holiday by asking them to write a paragraph each day of something they learned or enjoyed? Bring things into class when they come back and give a little presentation? Write a story based on something they saw, encouraging English? Ask them whilst they are away to learn a new word everyday in the language of the country they are going to and teach the children all the words when they come back? These are just a few possibilities.

So having read what I think, I ask you as a reader, is it really fair that schools are charging parents that take their children out of school during term time? Comment below with your views.

Picture from:blogs.glowscotland.org.uk

Reflection as a Student and a Teacher

Reflection is a serious thought about something you or others have done. We reflect everyday and don’t even realise it, by asking ourselves what went well? What didn’t go well? How do I feel after that?

Reflection in learning is really important part to being at university, college and school. You must reflect on the work you have done so that you know how you can move forward with your learning. I always read my feedback sheets carefully and sometimes even question teachers or lecturers on what they have said if I am not clear on the feedback. For example by doing this in school I found that my writing and reading skills slowly improved during my english essays and eventually I have reached where I am today by reading the feedback forms. Watching this video will help you as a reader to understand what reflection is..

Reflection is a fundamental part of being a teacher. You should always reflect on how an activity went and what you could have done better as a teacher and what would have made it easier? By doing this you are helping children year after year by making the same activity better. Other ways of using reflection as a teacher are, often a child does not understand something you are teaching them and it is up to you as a teacher to sit back and reflect and think or different ways of teaching the same thing.

Active Learning

Active learning is defined as “a process whereby students engage in activities, such as reading, writing, discussion, or problem solving that promote analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of class content.”

As a student at University, active learning is something I need to become more aware of. I always write notes in lectures and tutorials, which is a form of active learning. when i get home I rewrite my notes so they go in better. Another way I use active learning is by writing questions I need to ask myself before I read a book, essay or article. I leave gaps and fill in these questions as I read as a form of note taking, then I can refer back to my note during my writing. I have formed peer groups and we regularly meet up to discuss the lectures/ tutorials we have attended and also what work is coming up. We actively help and encourage each other by giving each other our opinions and supporting each others work. Active learning is not just something I need to think about though during my time at university, I need to think about it when I become a teacher too.

Active learning can develop through children’s play, some of these are called spontaneous play, planned play and purposeful play. Play is one of the most valuable things a child can learn from. Fredrick Frobel (1782-1852) was a German teacher and felt that play is the most important chapter in a child’s development. Play materials were the basis of Frobel’s education system and they included blocks, pets and finger plays. From this Frobel developed the first educational toys which he first named as play materials and they are still used today in assisting active learning.

As a teacher we should be spotting children’s active learning and react on it. In early years settings active learning is encouraged and having worked in a nursery for a year I found active learning the best way to teach young nursery age children. By using active learning in the nursery I was linking it in with the Scottish Government’s Curriculum for Excellence four capacities by rewarding them for using active play. Certificates etc, made them become confident individuals. We also encouraged parents to join in with active play by spotting thing the children did at home and writing them a “star moment” for us to put on the wall. Star moments encouraged the children to use active learning more.

Personal vs professional presence on social media

There are so many social networking sites out in the world, how can we possibly as educators keep up? A new one is being made every day and I feel education in Scotland needs to embrace it in the correct manner. Children are growing up with there parents on social media right now, and they are on it too? We can’t shelter them from it so we have to embrace it. However, using social media as a teacher means that you might have to make the decision, do i make my account private or professional?

Teachers for years now have been caught out with inappropriate photos or posts because they haven’t been careful about what they’ve shared. Posts can be put up in a fit of rage and sometimes the most innocent of posts can be misconstrued and manipulated by children, parents and society. As a teacher you have a GTCS guideline to follow – http://www.gtcs.org.uk/web/FILES/teacher-regulation/professional-guidance-ecomms-social-media.pdf and faliure to follow them could result in you being diseplined and even the law could come into it. The basic rule I feel as a teacher or in any professional role is always think before you post – could this affect my career? In the classroom this is the same, many parents are afraid of the technology and won’t let their children use it at home and some can’t due to lack of funds. Therefore using social media in the classroom could cause some problems, especially if parents aren’t happy.

However, making the social media account professional means that you can use your account alongside other methods for work – which is great? Aren’t teachers always looking for a new way to teach kids? There are thousands of possibilities out there for using social media with children in the classroom, and providing you warn them of the dangers, and they use it sensibly, they can learn so much from it. You can get the children to run a twitter/instagram/glow/tumblr/pinterest page on behalf of the school asking them daily to tweet about something they have learned in school, something they are excited about that is happening at the next assembly and they can promote local fundraising events for the school or in the community. This would be an amazing way to get parents to see what the school are doing as well as teaching the children ICT skills, English skills and tie it all together with internet safety and what is appropriate to post? It can be tied in so well with the curriculum, we need to use it as a resource. And this is just one idea. The possibilities are simply endless. Social media in the classroom doesn’t have to be scary. I personally feel social media needs to be embraced within schools and taken with a positive attitude.