Category Archives: 1.1 Social Justice

Inset Day – Purple Pens and Labelling Lads

Yesterday’s inset day was a lovely relaxing first day back for the teachers before the madness of the children arriving! Moulsford had booked a local teacher to talk to us from a private school in Oxford who are changing their curriculum, like Moulsford, to a more skills based curriculum. As he started I already liked the idea of what he would be talking about and he ended up keeping me engaged throughout his whole talk and giving me fantastic ideas to come away with to put into practice.

Image taken from google – is this really how we want children to feel when we label them?

The first thing which the gentleman discussed was ensuring as teachers we have high expectations of all our students. One of the problems in teaching at the moment can be the way we label our pupils from “low ability” and “lazy” to “gifted” and “clever”. I had never actually sat and thought about how my own thoughts and discussions with colleagues could have such an effect on the child themselves but I am really glad I have because I have realized now that it can really influence a child and their own expectations for their learning. Even the parents start to pick up on children who are in top sets or low sets and it reminded me of the episode of desperate housewives (I know sorry, but it was a good example) where two of the main characters go crazy trying to figure out which one of their children were in the higher maths class by stealing homework to look at from other children.

Image taken from google – what does this image really say about us as teachers putting children into sets?

Now although that is going to the extremes and is from a made up show, there is definitely something there to think about, because labeling our children as teachers clearly has an effect on our pupils. Granted, this can often be positive with children thriving from the praise of being a “star pupil” or an “A-grade student” but those labelled as “weak” or “unable” are, in my opinion far less likely to try to get better grades. The RSA have an interesting article on a system where at the start of the year every child is given an A grade and they have to continually show good academic work to keep the grade. Their research shows in fact that children are likely to try to hold on to the A they have been given rather than being given a C and to then have to try and bring it up to an A.

Growth mindset is everywhere at the moment and is something which was also discussed about in the talk. I can honestly say I didn’t really understand it fully until yesterday, it was just words that professionals kept using and I was reading in academic books and journals. However, now having done the activities in the talk I can say that I understand more of what growth mindset is and how important showing children that they can change is. Intelligence shouldn’t be seen as a fixed point, it should be seen as something which can be developed. Moreover, failure was discussed at the talk as well and how giving the children an opportunity to fail and learn from it, is just as important as giving children an opportunity to learn. This was then continued as the main focus for today’s morning assembly for the first day back. The head master made the point interactive by having children up at the front and re-iterated the fact that failure is something which should be seen as positive as we are able to learn from it. The following video was also shown, in order to prove to the boys that failure can happen to anyone, not just them.

Image taken from google here is an example of the pit

The last 2 points of the talk were challenging children and giving children informed feedback. I always try to challenge my pupils no matter their age or stage, but I dont challenge them to the extremes where children go into the “panic zone”. The teacher leading the talk discussed “the pit” with us and what using this tool could do for our teaching and the childrens learning. When discussing feedback, we looked at many different ways in which feedback can inform the children of ways they can improve on their work. Many different marking strategies including two stars and

Image taken from google – here is an example of the purple pen of progress in action!

a wish, peer assessment, question and answer were discussed in groups, but overall the main marking strategy I will be taking away from this is the “progress pen”. The idea behind this is that the children will be able to write in comments in their books around the teachers comments about how they will progress in their learning and more specifically they use it to answer their next step targets that the teacher has given them. To be picky, the amount of time this may take students to create a target for each piece of work could be lengthy until they get the hang of it, however the idea behind it is something I like and I feel it is a great way of teaching children that they should be in charge of their own learning!

To conclude, I feel that labeling children can be dangerous and the the RSA have come up with something very different with their ideas of starting off every pupil with an A grade. I personally don’t like to label children, however sometimes when discussing the child’s progress and ability in certain subjects I do see how these terms can creep into conversation, even if they are positive! Furthermore, I definitely think the learning pit and the purple progress pen are teaching tools which I like and would  use in lessons, even as just a student myself to make children in my class feel better about their learning and feedback. It is our job as teachers to ensure that all children feel that they are in a safe space to fail and by teaching them these techniques we can get one step closer to making them feel that they are in a safe space.

Image taken from goolge

 

Week 2 – Reflection

Each week on this placement, I must right a short reflection on my time at Moulsford and link it to the GTCS Scottish Standards for Provisional Registration. It was the last week of the Spring term before they boys go off on their Easter break and there was a lot of random days and lessons that there wouldn’t be in the average week at Moulsford. However, is any week a normal week when it comes to school life? Either way, I took it all in my stride and have had an extremely productive second week at Moulsford.

Image taken from google – lovely to see lots of music tuition going on this week and to see what an important part it is to school life

On Monday it was one of these days, where it was a day full of house music and I wrote the blog post Musical Madness at Moulsford all about the day. This is a tool that Moulsford as a private boarding school use to bring children throughout the school to work together on a common goal. As a musician myself I found the day a fantastic way of speaking to the boys and forming a professional relationship with some of the members of staff that were in the house Bering. Furthermore, I found myself having discussions with staff members from across the school, all in different roles, about the work that they do on a daily basis, most of which I found insightful. As a teacher it is important to develop a culture of trust and respect with other members of staff and the pupils and I feel by taking part in the activities here at Moulsford I am doing this. Moreover, Cremin and Arthur (2014) concur, and believe that by managing a team of adults to ensure that all children can access a range of curricular opportunities, adapted to the children’s own needs in this type of culture, it will facilitate a child’s learning.

On Tuesday it was a normal teaching day where I spent the majority of the day with the pre-prep children and staff. This lead me to write the blog post First Time at Phonics, because it was my first ever encounters with phonics in a teaching setting. I had no idea how useful phonics could be to children in the primary classroom and on Friday morning discussed even teaching a lesson on phonics early next term. Furthermore, on Tuesday I also attended forest school for the third time where we did a Gruffalo hunt with the children. The children all seemed to really enjoy it, although by the end of the hunt were getting rather tired. This made me think about the amount of activities in Moulsford which are packed into the average school day which can be immensely fun and rewarding, however the longer days could lead to tiredness. Since my time here I have found that the length of the school day is definitely a big difference between private schools and government run schools with some children attending school from 8am to 6pm. Following Tuesdays excitement, on Wednesday,I was extremely excited to be invited to attend a pupil council meeting with the staff and boys. A one of my goals is to learn about schools from all aspects I personally felt that watching the children discussing matters throughout the school that are important to them was really interesting. Additionally, I was able to see the trust and respect that there needs to be between staff and pupils in a school once again after Monday. The day did make me think a little more as well about my goal which is to learn about schools from all aspects from the kitchen to the classroom. Furthermore, as important as the staff members are in a school, the children are equally as important and over the coming weeks I think I will try to speak to some of the boys in the school about their experience at Moulsford to gain an insight into this aspect of a school.

On Thursday I spoke to the lovely team in Learning Support and wrote the post Learning for Support and Support for Learning about the experience. I felt the experience made me closer to successfully completing one of my goals “I want to learn about schools from all aspects from the kitchen to the classroom”. The Integrity Standard for Provisional Registration (GTCS, 2012, pp. 5) “critically examining the connections between personal and professional attitudes and beliefs, values and professional practices in order to inform and shape personal and professional development effect improvement” is linked closely with this goal. To gain more of an insight into what a learning support staff members role in the classroom is, I went on to read chapter 8.2 Working together: other adults in the classroom by Cremin and Arthur (2014) in Learning to Teach in the Primary School.

By Friday, the school was in a quick paced flurry of excitement as the term was about to end. Each class was tidying up their individual form rooms, making mothers day cards

Image taken from google – it was great to sit in on Mark Reading where this was a huge theme throughout the morning!

and easter gifts to take home. As mentioned earlier, I myself had a chat with the Year 3 teacher about doing some lessons of my own at the beginning of next term. To start with, over the Easter break I will be planning a lesson on rivers, mathematics and phonics to each last an hour. To help me plan I will be referring to the National Curriculum (Department for Education, 2017). Before the children all left for their break away from education, it was time for Mark Reading which is something I would usually refer to as an achievement assembly.

To conclude this reflection, during 3 of these days on placement I have written 3 critical blog posts about my time here at Mouslford and feel that I am critically examining personal and professional attitudes and beliefs and challenging our own assumptions and professional practice which is also one of the Standards for Provisional Registration (GTCS, 2012, pp. 4). Furthermore, to add to my practice I am completing my goals through frequent academic reading which I am referencing in the blog posts and observations in the school itself. Being away from the Prep school for 3 weeks will certainly be bitter sweet as after a busy term at the University and going in to placement straight away has left me shattered but, I am have the experience of a lifetime at Moulsford and just want to keep going back everyday.

 

 

References

Department for Education (2017) National Curriuclum. [Online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-english-programmes-of-study/national-curriculum-in-england-english-programmes-of-study (Accessed on 25th March 2017).

GTCS (2012) The Standards for Registration. [Online]. Available at: http://www.gtcs.org.uk/web/FILES/about-gtcs/standards-for-registration-draft-august-2012.pdf (Accessed on 25th March 2017).

Teresa, C. and Arthur, J. (2014) Learning to Teach in the Primary School. Abington, Oxon: Routledge. Chapter 8.1 – The changing role of the teacher

Week 1 – Reflection

Each week on my placement I will be writing some short weekly reflections about what I have been up to and what I have learned whilst linking it up to the GTCS (2012) Standards for Registration. My week started out rather nervously on Monday with my first day and I honestly don’t think I have ever felt so welcomed anywhere as I have done at Moulsford this week. I met the headmaster and all 3 of the deputies where one of them kindly showed me around the school so I wouldn’t be too lost. After this it was my safeguarding induction with the deputy for pastoral care for the school. I went on to spent some time with the pre-prep aged children and then with the Year 3’s for maths, but lunch was the biggest surprise of the day where it was family service, my first ever experience of this before. I am much more used to the classic go up to the counter where the dinner ladies serve up the meal rather than the teachers serving the meal at the table and then eating with the children. It is certainly a big difference to anything I have seen before in a government run school and as it is one of my goals to see the difference between the private and government run I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are

Image taken from google – I am used to seeing this kind of lunch service. Family service is a welcome change for me and it is much nicer to see teachers eating and chatting with pupils at lunch!

differences which are quite easy to spot when you are looking for them so completing this goal should not be an issue for me. My day ended with the Year 3’s doing English and coming home to write up Learning from Life – First Day Nerves.

Tuesday was a fantastic day of meeting more of the boys and staff throughout the school and seeing more lessons in action. In the afternoon I set off to my first ever forest school session which I wrote about in The Moulsford Forest School Experience. My main observations from the day were how much play and imagination through nature was key to forest school and a vital part to Moulsford’s ethos as a whole school, with many expeditions and activities for the older children. Jeffery and Craft (cited in Hayes. D, 2010, p. 110) state that these types of opportunities in schools should be seen as an attribute rather than a teaching technique. Moreover, I definitely feel from my observations, that in this particular private school, play and imagination through nature is a key quality that some government run schools are less able to uphold. Additionally, I am definitely seeing the values, culture and role of private education at Moulsford which I am showing through writing about my experiences in regular blog posts which is important for the social justice part to the Standards for Registration (GTCS, 2012, p. 5).

Image taken from google

Wednesday was filled with lessons with many of the older students from Years 4, 5, 6 and 7 many of whom I was yet to meet. In art I was helping the teacher who is also the second master of the school and found that as in government run schools the deputy teachers also have classes of their own to teach. In the french lesson with the Year 5’s I found that a lot of emphasis was put on interactive learning of 5-7 words and revising their meaning for the rest of the lesson by putting them into sentences, playing games and learning the sign language for those words. This similar practice as I have seen in language education in government run schools Scotland and both practices have been extremely interactive. Following this lesson I went on to read Successful Teaching Placement in Scotland: Primary and Early Years (Medwell, J and Simpson, F. 2008, chapter 4) to see the value of interactive language lessons in a classroom and found that teaching in an interactive way can not only address children’s learning through different sensory channels but this also means that you as the teacher are able to make assessments of more children. Modern languages at Moulsford are compulsory as they are in Scotland with Scotland having specific experiences and outcomes (Scottish Government, no date) for children for listening, talking, reading and writing but with schools being able to choose which modern language they teach from first level. Similarly, modern language tuition in England under the National Curriculum (Department for Education, 2017) is taught from key stage two and states that “teaching may be of any modern or ancient foreign language”.

Image taken from google

Additionally, Wednesday evening was a treat for me as I was invited to attend the lion king which was a production put on by the year 7’s. This was AMAZING and treated just as a professional west end production would be with singing, acting, sets and lighting. As one of my goals is to learn about schools as a whole from the kitchen to the classroom I was surprised to find that members of the school from all areas had played a part in the production from the set design and costume, making to the music to the advertisement and selling of the tickets. Teaching staff, office staff, learning support staff and boarding staff all had a part to play and the children that I spoke to at the end of the night said that even with all the work and how tired they felt they had overall enjoyed playing their parts the Lion King and were very thankful to the staff from all areas of the school for what they had done to help them put on the performance. There were 4 shows in total with children taking turn about on each night for the main roles which you rarely see in government run schools. From experience it is usually a fight for the main parts with one performance, but here at Moulsford everybody gets a fair chance at the role they want no matter their background or grades which is able to be done through the amount of performances.

Image taken from google

On Thursday I was working with the year 7s all morning who were naturally rather tired from their performances in the Lion King each night. The teacher had taken this into account and explained to me that their English lesson would be slightly more relaxed than normal but I still observed some excellent teaching practice. Moreover, the children were looking at pictures and explaining what the scene looked like to fit what type of film it may come from (e.g. horror, comedy, fantasy). The teacher used a lot of question and answer for his assessment methods and was extremely positive with the children’s answer using phrases such as “I see this too”, “I agree” and “how does it make you feel”. Pollard, et al (2008, chapter 6) explains that keeping positive praise a constant stable in the classroom and also keeping corrective language positive, is a sure way of keeping challenging behaviour to a minimum. Throughout the school so far I have seen no instances of challenging behaviour, not even just the simplest shouting out in class. Although, the school, like government run schools, has a behaviour policy I am yet to see it needing to be put in action and wonder if the amount of positive praise used by teachers has something to do with the low levels of challenging behaviour in private schools such as Moulsford? I continued my Thursday with a Latin lesson which I reflected on in Cognita De Vita and then ended my day with another visit to forest school with a different age group.

My last day of the working week was Friday and I spent a lot of time in English lessons with Years 3-8. The one exception to this rule was a Learning For Life lesson, something which each class in the school does a the same time where children do different activities from gardening to having visitors in to discuss future job opportunities. This is not a lesson that we have in Scotland and I believe in something that is specific to English education as when doing some more research into it found that RSA Academy (2017) also have this as part of their curriculum. Ending this week on this note was definitely a great way to end the week by learning something new and taking part in some fun gardening activities. I am looking forward to next week where I will be continuing to see the differences and similarities between government run and private education, working with a different curriculum and learning about schools from all aspects from the kitchen to the classroom.

 

References

Department for Education (2017) National Curriuclum. [Online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-english-programmes-of-study/national-curriculum-in-england-english-programmes-of-study (Accessed on 18th March 2017).

GTCS (2012) The Standards for Registration. [Online]. Available at: http://www.gtcs.org.uk/web/FILES/about-gtcs/standards-for-registration-draft-august-2012.pdf (Accessed on 17th March 2017).

Hayes. D (2010) Learning and Teaching in Primary Schools. Exeter: Learning Matters.

Medwell, J and Simpson, F (2008) Successful Teaching Placement in Scotland: Primary and Early Years. Exeter: Learning Matters. Chapter 4.

Pollard, A., Anderson, J., Maddock, M., Swaffield, S., Warin, J. & Warwick, P. (2008) Reflective Teaching. (3rd ed.) London: Continuum International Publishing Group.

RSA Academy (2017) Learning for Life. [Online]. Available at: http://www.arrowvaleacademy.co.uk/Departments/Learning_4_Life.aspx (Accessed 20th March 2017).

Scottish Government. (no date). Curriculum for Excellence: Introduction. Edinburgh: Scottish Government [online]. Available at: https://www.education.gov.scot/Documents/all-experiences-and-outcomes.pdf (Accessed on 14th March 2017)

A schools intake of children – It’s not for all!

I am back fresh from Florida and thought that on the train I would get familiar with the goings on in the UK since I was away. So, apparently according to the BBC education section online, the biggest thing that has happened since my departure 10 days ago is that children are missing out on places in the schools in England that are considered “better”…  And you can pretty much bet that if it is happening is England it is happening elsewhere in the UK too. Scotland in my case.

It got me thinking, should it really be that much of a battle to get into a decent school these days? Have we still not passed the years where all the schools are teaching different levels of education? If every school in Scotland (or England/Britain in general) is now teaching the Curriculum for Excellence (or the equivalent) then why are parents so unhappy when their child is accepted into a school? Why do we think certain schools will be detrimental to a child’s learning, where I came from in the highlands of Scotland it was that school or another on 45 miles away! Every teacher in Scotland has to  go through the same rigorous and expensive 4 years of University Education (plus probation if you want to be picky), and pass too. Even with that, most schools are given the same amount of money to run their school annually. So what makes the standard change from school to school? In the article Councillor Marland from Milton Keynes even goes as far as to say..

“Unless schools, or someone, steps into coaching the poorest families on admissions, then it’s those from affluent backgrounds that will get the good places.”

Well it is well known that every teacher is different and not every teacher will put the same amount of effort and time into the lessons to make them at a good standard. It’s a tricky subject to write about too, but we also need to face the fact that some people are very judgemental about people even if they don’t say it and poorer families just don’t get a look in because of prejudice. Have you ever seen a child from a poor background go to a school like Harrow? Now that is just my opinion based on some of the things I have seen during my practice that people are judgmental about the way people live their lives. I have no physical evidence to back up what I have said so please feel free to disagree but most people will read this and say – yes I have or know somebody who has judged someone before, even if it is nothing to do with education.

Do we really want subject all the children in the education system to this??

For some reason Nicola Sturgeon and her Government have decided that testing every child in Scotland will close the vast attainment gap that is quite the problem here in Scotland. Yes – because putting a poor 7 year old in front of a test when they are having a bad day is going to close the attainment gap and solve the problems this country has. Come on Nicola? Surely you can come up with something better than that? Teenagers in S4, 5 and 6 all have to go through the rigorous examination system set out by SQA year after year and it’s nearly impossible for them to change their score if their having a bad day. Thats a lot for a 15-18 year old to handle let alone 5-11 year olds! I still remember that feeling of impending doom getting a D in my Gaelic test when I was 9 and having to go back and tell my parents (although there were very caring and loving and just happy that I passed, but that isn’t really the point). We are asking children to go through a lot to close an attainment gap when they might have teachers and schools who are not prepared to go the extra mile to help them towards that grade – and that’s if they even get into what society considers a decent school in the first place!

But prejudice against childrens families and how much they earn doesn’t just stop there! Oh no, once you get out of school it continues to the colleges and universities with certain courses only being for students who come from a “poor” catchment area. Everytime I think about this my brain instantly screams WHAT! Are universities and colleges seriously taking students just because of where they come from! With the drop out rates the highest they have ever been and some students going through an absolute battle to get into university, should universities and colleges not be taking students in who actually want to learn and have a passion for that course. I tried for 3 years to get into teaching and that is one of the hardest things I have ever been through. I am also happy to write that when I went to an interview at Glasgow University I was asked what my parents did for a living! One year later and I am still furiously wondering what my parents have to do with me being desperate to become an educator. I should be taken on my credits as my own personal achievements – not the fact my mother is an administrator and my father a musician and shop owner. I could rant about it more – but I won’t for your sanity as the reader.

We can all dream about a prejudice free system – I frequently do but right now I must get off this train to be back to the freezing Scottish weather, my holiday blues and accept that for the moment, it’s just a dream.

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.

The eportfolio in the form of this WordPress blog allows you to pull in material from other digital sources:

You can pull in a YouTube video:

You can pull in a Soundcloud audio track:

You can pull in a Flickr page

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

You can just about pull in anything that you think will add substance and depth to your writing.