Currently, I am in two minds about lesson planning. Part of me enjoys the creativity of coming up with ideas that will (hopefully) engage and inspire the learners, while the other part finds it very challenging to figure out how these ideas will work in practice. Of course, I realise that this will become easier in time, and also when I am planning for a class of real children, rather than hypothetically which has previously been the case.
With that in mind, I attempted to complete the Language TDT while thinking about the primary 5 class that I will be working with on placement. Our task was to create a lesson plan, based on a children’s book, which would meet the following outcome:
recognise the relevance of the writer’s theme and how this relates to my own and others’ experiences
discuss the writer’s style and other features appropriate to genre.
The novel that I chose for this lesson plan is the wonderful: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I decided to plan an introductory lesson, while focusing on just one aspect of the learning outcome – setting.
Within the first chapter of the book, the character of Lucy stumbles into the magical land of Narnia. C.S. Lewis describes her journey through the wardrobe and into another world. My lesson plan involves reading this section and noticing the description given. The children must then use the description to draw their own interpretation of what Narnia may look like. They would then write their own brief description.
As with my previous attempts at planning, I found the Plenary section to be difficult. When I go into my school placement I will observe how the class teacher finishes her lessons and will try to incorporate some of her methods.
I am looking forward to planning lessons that will be implemented as I feel that putting it into practice will allow me to further grasp how timings and assessment methods work.
Earlier this week, I attended the launch of the Upstart Scotland campaign. This is a campaign aimed at raising the starting age of children into schools to 7 years; following the example of many high achieving countries such as Poland, Estonia and Finland.
Currently, children in Scotland start school at age 4-5. It is suggested that this early starting age could be having negative impacts on our children, not only academically, but also in their overall wellbeing. In answer to this, Upstart Scotland proposes that a kindergarten stage should be introduced, delaying formal education and extending the amount of time that children can spend just being children.
The Upstart launch consisted of talks by 2, fascinating and very knowledgeable women. Sue Palmer is the founder of the movement. She is also a literacy specialist and focuses on early education and play. Dr Suzanne Zeedyk is a developmental psychology specialist from within the University of Dundee.
Both speakers placed great emphasis on the importance of play. Now, I am a big advocate of play of all kinds and I always get excited when people recognise its value and worth. Throughout the evening, it was mentioned that we should not have to JUSTIFY play, as if it were an indulgence. Here here! Following this, a point was made that at first I agreed with, but on further reflection I just can’t get my head around:
Why does it always have to be LEARNING THROUGH play?
(Please don’t quote me on the exact wording, but this was the idea.) The suggestion was that play should just be allowed to be play, without the learning emphasis.
The reason for my initial agreement is that, yes, I do feel that children should be given the time, space and freedom to play without adults intervening or guiding in order to meet outcomes.
However, when I was thinking it over at home, I realised that:
Play IS Learning!
In my opinion, there simply is no such thing as playing without learning. As hard as I tried, I could not think of an example of play where no learning was taking place.
Take splashing in puddles for example, on first glance this might appear to be pure play, without any purpose or learning. Then take a minute to think. The child is learning to control their body so that they can land in the puddle. They are learning that if they jump or stamp then the water will splash. They are perhaps learning to take turns, if someone else is splashing in the same puddle. They are learning that if they splash in a puddle wearing their trainers, then they get wet feet, however if they wear their wellies then they can stay dry… You may not be able to map all of these against the curriculum, but learning is certainly taking place.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m sure that Sue and Suzanne would agree with me, and that the point was aimed at ‘play based learning’, which is a very different thing. Play based learning is usually planned experiences with a planned outcome. It is adult lead and has the clear goal of learning a skill or consolidating knowledge. This is the type of play which appears more often within schools rather than free play which is intrinsically led and spontaneous with no obvious goal.
Personally, I cannot see a problem with the phrase ‘Learning through play’ because that is what children are doing all of the time. In fact, I believe that this is what the Upstart campaign is all about! By raising the starting age of formal school, we are giving children more time to investigate their world, explore and establish relationships, develop innate motivation and wonder. We are giving them more time to learn through play.
For more information about the Upstart Scotland Campaign please visit:
A common theme has started to occur throughout our ‘Teaching Across the Curriculum’ inputs; we need to work on expanding our own knowledge.
Of course, this means that we must to continue with our academic reading; ploughing through the textbooks and journal articles, but it also means that we should be brushing up on the vast amount of other information that isn’t covered within university but is oh so important? Let’s be honest, how many of us can remember all about friction or about the bronze age without a little revision?
It is impossible for anyone (even a teacher!) to know absolutely everything. However I feel that having a strong general level of knowledge and understanding in a wide array of areas will stand me in good stead when I am working in the classroom. I’d much rather have a moment of “hold on, I think I read something about that…” than “I have no idea what they’re talking about!” It is also clear that a teacher with a greater subject knowledge, will be able to expect greater outcomes from their class (see this article from TES and this paper for more about subject knowledge.) This is due to a number of factors, but an important one to me is confidence. If I am to teach a subject or a concept; I want to feel confident that I can discuss it with my students and answer any questions that they may have.
Having identified this need, I began searching for some accessible general information to get me started, and that’s when I came across BBC iWonder.
I stumbled across this lovely resource when I was browsing the BBC news website. All of a sudden, and for no particular reason, I noticed the menu at the top of the page. This menu contains links to other areas of the BBC such as iPlayer, travel and radio but it also contains a link to a page that I had never heard of before; iWonder.
BBC iWonder is a homepage filled with all sorts of information, including:
Nature and natural sciences
Religion and ethics
The page is set out with various ‘cards’ which correspond to items in the news, recent television programs or just general knowledge. It is easy to browse and pick out any topics which take your fancy. There is also the possibility of looking at wider topics individually, such as only seeing Science related articles.
The reason that I like iWonder is that it provides accessible, visual and interesting information that can act as a starting point for further reading and research. I would urge others who, (like me,) feel a little overwhelmed when diving straight into a lot of reading, to take a look.
There’s no denying that there have been many changes between the classrooms of the past, and the ones of today. One really important change is the increased recognition of the importance of TALK. The didactic methods of teacher speaking and children listening are being challenged to make room for investigation, enquiry, discussion and descovery.
One of my fellow students recently published a post about classroom set up. Her post highlights the idea that we are now creating environments which aim to enable talk. This is a long way from the individual desks and solitary study of the past. (See the above mentioned post here)
This approach to teaching and learning has many benefits. Discussions, whether they are whole class, small group or within pairs can help to engage students by allowing the to feel involved in their own learning. Classroom talk and discussion can also allow the teacher to notice and address mistakes and misunderstandings.
There are also challenges that may arise while encouraging talk in the classroom. It is possible that a few students dominate the discussion, while others sit back and do not take part. It may also be the case that students do not listen to one another, rather, they are keen to have their say even if it is not relevant to the previous points being made.
If a teacher is to use talk and discussion effectively within their class, it is vital that rules and boundaries are put in place. In order for these rules to work, the children should be involved in creating them. Rules should be discussed and should be expressed in language which the children can understand. In this way, the rules will be more meaningful and children will be more likely to follow them.
Rules should also be displayed around the classroom and the children should be reminded of them regularly.
Below is a lovely video from Education Scotland, where children are thinking together about how to contribute to a discussion.
Some rules that I will encourage in my classroom are:
Wait for your turn – If children struggle with this then I may use a visual clue. An example of this which I have used with pre-school children is a ‘talking stick’. The person holding the stick is the only person that may talk. Once they have finished then the stick is passed to another.
Respect others – this means actively listening to the speaker and not talking while someone else is.
Think – When contributing; children should ask themselves: is it helpful? Is it relevant?
Further rules may be added, according to the needs of the class, however I would try to avoid having any more than 5 rules, as a big list is daunting and not accessible for children.
Following my placement block, I would like to revisit this issue. I will observe any ‘class rules’ that are in place within my class and how the teacher reinforces these. I will also observe how class discussion is used and the amount of group talk, pair talk, whole class talk and individual work that takes place.
Throughout these posts, I noticed many aspects which I felt add clarity and depth, as well as making the posts engaging to the reader. These include:
Speaking about initial feelings/ past experiences to show growth and development,
Showing enthusiasm and passion for a topic,
Providing links to further reading or resources,
Adding references and quotes,
Showing connections to the curriculum,
Making the posts visual and attractive through use of pictures and videos,
Using a combination of terminology and academic language as well as accessible, every day language,
Speaking about how new understanding and knowledge will impact on future practice,
and identifying areas that they must continue to develop
I hope that these are all elements that I include within my own posts. I aim to use my ePortfolio as evidence of my personal and professional growth, as well as for sharing interesting discoveries and my own ‘eureka’ moments.
This came as quite a shock! With the constant development of new technology and brilliant educational software, I had assumed that more and more teachers would be embracing devices (mobile phones, tablets and laptops), however this article suggests otherwise.
The figures within this article suggest that; while teachers acknowledge that technology can have a positive impact on teaching and learning, the level of distraction is a huge concern. On reading some further comments on the subject, it appears that mobile phones are often ‘blanket banned’ in schools as they are seen to be the biggest distraction. One commenter writes that ipads are used in their classroom with success, while another states that classrooms are about interpersonal interaction and expresses concern that personal devices are too individual. (Read the comments here.)
Despite the negative attitudes of some, it is clear that many educators are welcoming devices and technology within their classrooms. Sources such as this post from Teach Hub point out the many benefits to allowing personal devices, including:
Teaching children to use and make the most of the technology that is available to them. In a society which is increasingly technology driven, these are important skills.
Addressing important issues (such as cyber bullying)
Differentiation as more able children may be able to take their learning further
and student engagement. We know that children learn the most when they are engaged and interested. This means that teachers should aim to use resources that stimulate and excite their pupils.
There are, of course, disadvantages that must be considered (besides the distraction aspect!)
This post from Bright Hub Education points out that if children are encouraged to bring and use their own devices, it could raise issues where some children may not have the ‘best’/ newest devices (if they even have one at all!) This could lead to bullying and can impact negatively on a child’s self esteem. Theft may also be an issue if children are bringing expensive devices into school. The above issues could perhaps be avoided if the school is able to provide devices, however budgets often cannot accommodate this.
The Bright Hub Education post also makes a valid point; that ‘old school’ teaching should not be forgotten. I agree with this sentiment because, as great as technology and devices are, they should be used alongside other varied teaching and learning methods in order to meet the needs of all children.
The use of technology within the classroom will be an area of interest for me when I go out into my placement schools. Previously, I have seen smartboards and PC’s used effectively, but I have yet to see the use of personal devices. I would be interested to see how a teacher can tackle the problems of distraction and of division between privileged and less privileged pupils.
During a brilliant ICT input with Sharon Tonner last week, we were shown how to use various pieces of software to teach children about Animation!
My favourite part of the session was to create a ‘Wallace and Gromit’ style, stop motion animation. We were introduced to a piece of software called ZU3D, which (when hooked up to a webcam) allows the user to take the frames of the animation, even adding the ‘onion skin’ effect so that you can see the precious placements of each model and movement.
My partner and I created this short animation:
Within the curriculum, a similar lesson/ set of lessons could cover the outcomes of:
I explore and experiment with the features and functions of computer technology and I can use what I learn to support and enhance my learning in different contexts. TCH 2-04a
I can create, capture and manipulate sounds, text and images to communicate experiences, ideas and information in creative and engaging ways. TCH 2-04b
Alongside the ICT skills; children may also develop numerous other skills including;
Creative modeling (Working out what kind of models work best for this purpose),
and problem solving.
In order to allow the children enough time to grasp the different elements involved in this project, the learning should take place over a series of lessons. I found it really helpful that Sharon showed us ways in which we could engage the children and make connections between each section of this learning; leading up to the finished product.
A teacher may face a variety of challenges when delivering ICT lessons of this type. One challenge may be that the children are over excited distracted when allowed to use the equipment. This issue can be tackled by the teacher spending time explaining their expectations and making clear the rules.
Another challenge could be a lack of resources. There are many schools which do not have the facilities to allow every student in a class to work on a computer simultaneously. This means that the teacher would need to schedule time when groups of children could use the ICT resources.
Despite the challenges; I can see how these lessons can inspire and stimulate children to learn. I felt very proud of my animation and can imagine that a child would experience similar satisfaction. I also feel that ICT skills are invaluable within the modern world, and fun lessons like these can help children to embrace technology and its many possibilities.
As with many people, my personal feelings towards maths are mostly negative. I continually struggle to get past the mental block where I shut down, claiming “I can’t do it!”
Throughout school my experiences of maths were not overly negative, but neither were they particularly positive. I remember having to memorise times tables (something that I still struggle with to this day), being put on the spot and feeling embarrassed that I couldn’t grasp concepts right away.
Within my family; inability to do maths has become a bit of a running joke. My Dad tells a very amusing story about sitting (or, more accurately; not sitting) his maths O level. While my parents encouraged me to try hard at maths, and helped me with homework and revision, I feel that their own negative impressions of maths fed into my own.
I left school with a C grade at GCSE, and the resolution to avoid maths as much as possible!
This all changed when I decided that I was going to make the move into primary teaching. No longer could I bury my head in the sand, and I realised that maths was an area that would require particular focus and hard work. Returning to maths at college was something of a revelation to me. Things were beginning to fall into place and the “I can’t do it” voice was fading away. This was largely due to the fact that my maths teacher was brilliant. Not only was she very supportive and encouraging, she also took the time to explain each concept clearly and thoroughly. That is the kind of teacher that I want to be.
I was very proud to be able to achieve an A grade (Band 1) at Int 2 maths last year.
Despite this success; when I think about maths now my initial reaction is still “I can’t do it!”
During this week’s Introductory lecture, we discussed maths anxiety and the very common negative attitudes towards maths. It was pointed out that innumeracy appears to be socially acceptable within the UK. Few people would admit “I just can’t read” in the way that many laugh off their lack of maths ability. This flippant attitude needs to be challenged and changed as maths skills make up a huge part of our lives, from planning our time and schedules, to organising our finances.
Following the lecture, I have begun to read ‘Mathematics Explained for Primary School Teachers’ by Haylock. The first few chapters discuss the negative attitudes towards the subject and the anxieties that student teachers experience as they begin to teach maths to children. It also covers the wider concepts that make up our maths curriculum.
One of the points that stood out to me is that we must allow the children to question, investigate and explore maths. This leads to understanding which is 100 times more valuable than simply learning by rote (following a procedure which may only work on that specific problem.)
The book has also, already challenged some of my pre-conceived ideas. For example, Haylock writes about equivalents and how they apply to times tables. For example; 7 x 8 is equivalent to 7 x 4 (28), doubled. While I knew this to be the case, it was pushed to the back of my brain because I felt that I should just know that 7 x 8 = 56. In maths, there are many different routes to finding the answer. My internal dialogue of ‘should‘ is unhelpful and may be the cause of some of my anxiety.
In order to build my confidence with maths, I must engage with it on a regular basis. I have been using the Online Maths Assessment tool which is provided through the university, however I find the process of receiving a score to be daunting and off-putting, so am also approaching my maths revision in other ways:
I have been reading and reviewing my previous maths notes
I have ordered the workbook that may be used alongside Haylock’s book, which I will work through in order to deepen my understanding and strengthen any areas of weakness.
The impact on teacher anxiety surrounding maths is discussed in this article. It points out that anxieties could mean that teachers spend less time with their pupils working on maths. They may also stick rigidly to rules, and teach by rote, due to lack of deeper understanding. This will almost definitely have a detrimental impact on the pupils’ learning and will likely influence their own opinions of the subject.
I do not think that I will ever be 100% confident in my maths ability; however, if I wish to be a successful teacher, it is vital that I learn to approach the subject with understanding and with a positive frame of mind.
It’s no secret that science was far from my favourite subject at school. While I can remember exploring imaginary worlds in English and laughing with my friends in PE, my memories of science lessons consist of boring teaching and Bunsen burners that we were told not to touch!
My attitudes towards science changed a little as I moved into my role as an early years educator. I was lucky enough to attend a CPD session, held by the Dundee Science Centre, which aimed to encourage practitioners to embrace science with young children. I vividly remember the session, as it involved plenty of wonderfully easy and stimulating activities which we could take and try for ourselves. I came away from the session feeling inspired and confident that I was going to make science a larger part of my children’s experiences.
Throughout my work with pre-schoolers, I feel that I was able to provide inviting and age appropriate experiences which touched on some scientific concepts and ideas. I am now looking forward to being able to explore these areas in more depth as I begin my work with older children.
This week, I attended my first Science input. As an introductory activity; everyone was asked to prepare a short experiment which we shared with a partner. My chosen experiment was to push sharpened pencils through a plastic bag containing water. Rather than causing a horrible, wet mess on the floor (as you might expect) the bag remains water tight. This is because plastic bags are made of polymers which are long chains of molecules. When the pencil pushes through, it simply separates the chain rather than breaking it.
In Science (as with many of the curricular areas,) practical activities are extremely beneficial to learning. While chains of molecules could be a difficult concept for children to grasp; presenting the information as an experiment makes it stimulating and engaging, as well as bringing the information into a real world context.
Following the input, we were set a TDT which involves planning a science lesson.
I have chosen to focus on Space, and am using the current show at the Dundee Science Centre (entitled ‘Destination Space’) as a stimulus.
The Experiences and Outcomes relating to this area are:
Planet Earth (continued)
SpaceLearners develop their understanding of the Earth’s position within the universe while developing a sense of time and scale. They develop their understanding of how our knowledge of the universe has changed over time and explore ideas of future space exploration and the likelihood of life beyond planet Earth.
I have experienced the wonder of looking at the vastness of the sky, and can recognise the sun, moon and stars and link them to daily patterns of life.SCN 0-06a
By safely observing and recording the sun and moon at various times, I can describe their patterns of movement and changes over time. I can relate these to the length of a day, a month and a year.SCN 1-06a
By observing and researching features of our solar system, I can use simple models to communicate my understanding of size, scale, time and relative motion within it.SCN 2-06a
By using my knowledge of our solar system and the basic needs of living things, I can produce a reasoned argument on the likelihood of life existing elsewhere in the universe.SCN 3-06a
By researching developments used to observe or explore space, I can illustrate how our knowledge of the universe has evolved over time.SCN 4-06a
My SMART Targets:
Specific – I will plan a lesson for a primary 5 class on the topic of space, meeting the criteria for SC2-06a.
Measurable – I will create a 2 A4 page plan
Achievable – I will use the internet and university resources to gather information. I will discuss ideas with classmates and will visit Dundee Science Centre to find out more about the ‘Destination Space’ event.
Relevant – The recent launch of the British astronaut; Tim Peake, has been in the news and it is likely that pupils may have heard about it.
Time bound – I will complete this plan by the end of my 2 week observation block.
I hope that through the planning and hypothetical preparation of this lesson, I will develop my own scientific knowledge in this area. It is also a good opportunity for me to practice the planning process which will be a big part of my future career.
None of us live in a bubble. This means that when I become a teacher, I must be prepared for the fact that my pupils will probably have access to the internet, social media and the news; and therefore will be exposed to the terrible and frightening incidents which take place globally.
This week, I came across AN ARTICLE (from the guardian) which talks about the way that primary teachers have broached the subject of the recent Paris attacks with their children. I was interested to find that both had used different approaches and methods, but the key messages and learning were the same.
The first teacher did not necessarily plan to bring the Paris attacks into her learning for the day; however when a child spoke about it, she recognized the opportunity to address some fears and, even more importantly, some misconceptions:
“I asked the children who they thought Isis were and why they had attacked France,” she says. “Sadly some children said they acted in this way because they were Muslims; that Paris was ‘just the start’ and that Isis was planning to poison our food and water.” (The Guardian, 19th Nov 2015)
It is really disturbing to find that children are struggling with such horrible ideas, and if these are not addressed then negative attitudes towards others may continue to grow into prejudice, discrimination and racism.
The article continues to talk about another teacher who wanted to cover the aspects that he felt to be essential, without being specific to the real-life incident. This teacher spent time with his children; learning about the various different religions and discovering what they are about:
Instead, they talked about the origins of children’s names and how many come from Christianity, Judaism and Islam. They then discussed what these religions all represent: love and peace. “We talked about the value of respecting other people and respecting where they are from. We had a really positive discussion,” he says. (The Guardian, 19th Nov 2015)
I think that both of these teachers show integrity and strength by taking it upon themselves to bring the atrocities of the Paris attacks into their teaching in one way or another when it may have been easier to avoid the topic altogether. I know that I would be very nervous about saying something which could offend or upset. Knowing this has made me realize that it is critical that teachers are well informed and mindful of everything that they are telling the children.
Despite being located in England, the lessons of these teachers clearly uphold the principles of the Curriculum for Excellence. One of the four capacities of the curriculum is for children to become Responsible Citizens; involving an understanding and acceptance of the beliefs and cultures of others. The principles and practice section of the Religious and Moral Education section of the curriculum also states that:
Through developing awareness and appreciation of the value of each individual in a diverse society, religious and moral education engenders responsible attitudes to other people. This awareness and appreciation will assist in counteracting prejudice and intolerance as children and young people consider issues such as sectarianism and discrimination more broadly. (Education Scotland)
Overall, I have learned that if I want to be a good teacher, it is important that I can approach and discuss difficult topics. I must be able to consider the impact of my own and my pupil’s attitudes while being aware of the negative portrayal of others through sources such as the media or even sometimes from family. I will strive to create an open and honest classroom culture where children feel safe and able to ask questions and discuss their anxieties, but will also encourage acceptance and respect; reinforcing that everyone is an individual.
I was shocked to stumble across this article on the TES website. It applies to English Primary Schools but I feel that it is typical of the blame and shame attitude of today’s society.
The article describes how some teachers have been sending home ‘fat letters’ to inform the parents that their child is overweight. However (surprise surprise) this has not been found to be effective and health officials are now calling for it to be stopped.
Now, I’m not arguing that obesity is not an issue within the UK, the statistics clearly show that a large percentage of our children are overweight and this is a real concern for their health. My issue is that, of all the letters that were sent out;
Half (51 per cent) understood its purpose, while 20 per cent had received information as a result of the programme that had been useful in helping their child lose weight. (TES reporter, ‘Fat Letters’, Nov 2015)
This means that half of the families who received this letter did not even know why they were being contacted and even less were prompted to take action from it. In a way, this relates to my earlier post about feedback. It seems to me that these letters are likely to cause feelings of embarrassment, shame and guilt however, the statistics above suggest that they fail to provide the necessary information or guidance to allow the parents and child to tackle the problem.
The article also makes suggestions about more effective ways to approach the obesity issue, including healthy food vouchers and more access to after school clubs.
I feel that although steps have been taken including a focus on ‘Health and Wellbeing’ in Scotland, it is still vital that we as educators place higher importance on teaching children and families about healthy lifestyles and providing opportunities for children to be involved in healthy, active activities. In my opinion, the development out outdoor learning experiences is an extremely valuable tool in fostering a love and enjoyment out exercise. This is embraced within many early years settings however opportunities are less within primary schools. This may be due to time restraints of lack of outdoor environments that are considered suitable.
I hope to be able to encourage and promote this style of learning as I begin my teaching. I have been reading a wonderful book entitled ‘Dirty Teaching’ which is a practical guide to taking your school lessons outside – packed full of really useful advice as well as ways to approach challenges that may arise. I hope that my passion and enthusiasm for outdoor learning will be a positive influence to the children as well as with the teachers and staff that I will be working with.
Using some of my previous reflections and came up with the following words which I feel pertain to what it means to be a professional teacher:
In order to further develop my understanding, I then watched a program about another type of professional, to see if the qualities that I associate with being a teacher also apply. I chose to watch ‘One born every minute’, focusing on the work of the midwives and health professionals.
Throughout this show, the level of professionalism from all staff involved was highly noticeable. I could see how all of the words from my word cloud also applied to the professionals on the show. The program gave some wonderful examples of the health professionals giving informed advice for example regarding epidurals and natural/ pool births. They were also calm and confident despite working in stressful situations, as well as being kind and caring while giving reassurance to the woman and her family.
Professionalism in this situation is absolutely vital, as the clients (the mother and the baby) are extremely vulnerable. They are relying completely on the knowledge and expertise of the health professionals around them to bring the baby into the world safely. This is a very stressful and frightening time where issues and complications can arise, and it is essential that staff are able to make decisions quickly.
A recognisable dress code is in place for health professionals. This is partly for the sake of health and safety, but it also helps the clients to quickly identify the individuals who are helping them (particularly as the mother is unlikely to be spending time reading name badges while she is in the grips of labour!)
Part of the show that struck a chord with me was when one of the midwives mentioned the importance of being able to ‘have a laugh’. There was a lovely moment where we saw the midwives having fun with each other in the staff room; dancing and laughing together. This reminded me that despite our responsibilities, it is impossible to be serious 100% of the time. More importantly; we SHOULDN’T try to be serious 100% of the time! We all have personalities and lives outside of our jobs that are just as valid as our work is. Personally, I would rather have a midwife who has a bit individuality than a perfect ‘robot’, despite the fact that a robot may have all of the information and can do the same job. This is a message that I will take with me while training to be a teacher; allowing myself to have a few quirks as long as they do not impact on my ability to be a professional.
If I were to develop a degree which would train health professionals, I would place high importance on practical learning while observing experienced and highly qualified staff at work. I would also involve a large portion of reading and research, as it is important to understand the theory behind the practice. I think that a large amount of real-life experience adds depth and reality to the situations that the students read about, and means that students are also able to see the personal qualities that are vital to succeeding within this role.
For me, this is also the case for students who are training to become teachers. Reading, research and lectures provide key information, however it is the classroom experience which solidifies the understanding and moulds us into future educators.
Feedback can be one of the most valuable tools throughout education. That is, if it is done properly! As wonderful as it is to be given a good grade for a piece of work; without feedback pointing to what exactly you did well, the grade has no impact on your future work. On the other hand, if you had issues while carrying out a task; appropriate feedback can help you to realise your mistakes and build on your weaknesses so that you are more likely to succeed next time.
While mulling this over in my head, I watched this TED talk about feedback for teachers. Its focus is on America but has key messages which are international:
The key points that I took from this video are:
No-one can become truly skilled at their role without feedback from others
the best performing countries have formal feedback systems
successful systems involve younger teachers getting a chance to watch master teachers at work
Self evaluation is also a useful form of feedback, as seen in the demonstration of a teacher recording herself in classroom and using it to reflect
The idea of some teachers receiving one word feedback (“Satisfactory”) ties in with my earlier thoughts about a grade being meaningless without explanation. In order for us as teachers to develop and improve, we need to be: encouraged, through identification of our strengths and appreciation of our efforts and also challenged, through suggestions of improvements or introduction to new ways of approaching a problem.
I have been involved in giving and receiving feedback in the past, particularly through my job as Deputy Manager in a nursery. I took part in peer observations, which, unfortunately in my experience, did not work very well. This was because staff were unwilling to be objective and constructively critical about their friends and therefore rarely suggested any areas for improvement, making the observations a pointless exercise. Apart from observations, I also held numerous appraisals and reviews where I was responsible for giving feedback about a member of staff’s work. I often adopted the ‘praise sandwich’ technique where I began with encouragement and identification of the individual’s strengths, then discussed some areas for development and how we could work together to support this. Finally, I finished with more praise and encouragement. I found this to be a reasonably successful technique as staff appeared to leave the meetings feeling positive and motivated.
What does feedback look like within the classroom?
Feedback is not only essential for us as adults, but also for children throughout their learning in schools. Children can be given feedback from their teachers, their parents, and from other pupils and peers. HERE is a lovely post about different forms of peer assessment within the primary classroom. I will be interested to see different approaches and methods in action when I go out onto placement and am excited to use some of these within my own teaching.
One feedback system that I have seen in action is “2 stars and a Wish” where students are told 2 things that are good about a piece of work and one area for development. This system was briefly discussed at one of my inputs and I must admit that I am slightly torn about it. Whereas I appreciate that feedback is vital for pupils, and I like the fact that the 2 stars mean that there is more positive than negative comments; I still feel that teachers need to be very careful. Should there always be areas to improve? is it enough to recognise the accomplishment of one of the previous improvements? I think that the teacher must be very aware of the individual pupil’s personality and needs, as it could result in a child feeling that they are never good enough and potentially giving up.
How do I feel about giving and receiving feedback?
Following an input about peer reviews and feedback, we were asked to comment on our fellow students’ eportfolio posts, ensuring to give constructive praise and criticism which was directly linked with the success criteria. I found giving feedback to be quite challenging. I am very aware that in writing, a comment that was intended to be helpful can come across as critical and so I was careful in my phrasing.
I have not yet received any feedback from other students for this task, however I have had comments from others on some of my earlier posts. I am always excited to see comments as it makes me feel that someone has made a connection with me and my topic. They can also help me to improve the content of my posts in future, for example one comment (from Derek on ‘School Uniforms’) noted that I could include sources for additional reading. I had not thought to do this before but now I try to include links where possible so that any readers can find the information and make up their own mind about issues.
I understand that feedback will be a huge part of my journey to becoming a teacher, and it is a skill which I must continue to work on. In the past I have been guilty of taking criticism slightly personally and having an emotional response. This is not helpful and could actually have a detrimental impact on my personal and professional development. Completing this exercise has helped me to recognise this potential barrier and I hope that gaining this awareness will help me in the future.
There is a wonderful quote from Professor John Hattie which states: “The biggest effects on student learning occur when teachers become learners of their own teaching” (cited on Teaching Scotland, 2014). To me, this says that a successful teacher is one who does not stagnate, rather is continuing to grow and develop within their own professional skills. It may be easy to think that once a student has completed their teacher training (whether that be a 4 year degree or an intense PDGE year), then they have learned all that they need to know and must simply go out into the workplace and put their learning into practice. However the reality is quite the opposite, and a teacher must be committed to undertaking continual, career long learning.
This career long learning, ties in with the concept of being an enquiring practitioner. An enquiring practitioner is one who is engaged in the process of continual reading, research and professional learning which has a profound impact on their work. It involves reflection and evaluation of ideas, concepts and theories and consideration of what has worked or not worked when put into practice. There is a challenge to all teachers to be autonomous and rather than accepting all information and advice given to you from ‘the powers that be’, take it upon yourself to find out WHY you are working a certain way.
The below diagram illustrates the many different aspects of being an enquiring practitioner:
This diagram reminded me once again of the many roles and responsibilities of a teacher and made me consider the importance of selecting the right individuals for the job. There is no room for a ‘can’t be bothered’ attitude when it comes to the future of our children!
Enquiry can take place either personally; when a teacher reflects upon their own practice, or collaboratively; where a group work together to investigate a question or problem, bringing their findings and ideas together to create a pool of shared knowledge and a deeper understanding for all involved.
There is a clear connection between practitioner enquiry and CLPL (career long professional learning) as it states on the Education Scotland website: “Career-long professional learning is based on the concept of teachers as enquiring practitioners who engage in deep, rigorous, high impact professional learning…Teachers recognise the need for professional learning to impact on professional practice, the quality of learning and teaching and school improvement” (Education Scotland, Undated). This reinforces the idea that a teacher needs to remain up to date and relevant through continual training and learning.
There are numerous benefits of working as an enquiring practitioner, the most important being that having a wealth of knowledge and shared experience will allow the teacher to provide the highest quality experience and learning for their pupils. Collaborative research and investigation can also help to open new doors for teachers, into areas that they may not have explored before. This can help to maintain enthusiasm and motivation, without becoming ‘stuck in a rut’ of the same routines and practices day-in and day-out.
Despite the many positive aspects, enquiry based working is not without its challenges. One of
these challenges could be that a teacher is not confident in trying new ideas or sharing their findings with their colleagues for fear of being questioned or challenged. This means that their teaching practice may not progress and develop. Another challenge is that “enquiry tends to be ‘situationally unqiue'” (Stoll, 2003 Cited on gtcs.org.uk, Undated). This means that the findings may only apply to one individual situation and it may be difficult to generalise. On the other hand; the skills that are involved in enquiry are general and can begin to develop the teacher into a confident and autonomous individual.
As a student teacher, I feel that my understanding of what it is to be an enquiring practitioner will be a great advantage to me as I can begin to foster the skills and attitudes at this early stage. I have previously been involved in continual learning through my work within nurseries (as CLPL is a requirement of registration with the SSSC). Sadly however, I did not find this a very positive experience because often I was sent on training courses that were not particularly relevant to me. I also found that often the other course attendees were there simply because practitioners were required to be present for a certain number of hours per year, rather than because they are motivated and passionate about their own development. I was always disappointed in the limited amount of training possibilities and was not encouraged to take part in my own, individual learning.
I personally find continual learning and enquiry to be both exciting and challenging. I look forward to working alongside other, like-minded individuals in an environment of mutual passion and interest in the subject at hand. I feel that an attitude of enquiry will spur me to be open to new approaches and ideas while preventing me from ever becoming too ‘comfortable’.
It is obvious to me that the ability to reflect effectively is essential when it comes to both teaching and learning.
In the past, I may have thought about reflection as being a fairly passive, ‘wishy-washy’ type of exercise. To me it only concerned those who were thinkers and not do-ers, however through reading and research I have turned my view around. REAL reflection is an action!
The act of reflection involves not only thinking about and evaluating what you have read, or what you have done, but also what this means for your future actions.
My research has led me to 3 key theorists regarding reflective learning: Kolb, Schon and Gibbs.
Kolb (1984) devised the reflective cycle (below) which emphasises the continual nature of reflection and how each stage influences the next. This is helpful to me as a learner because I can see how the process of reflection can impact on my ability to absorb information and develop my own ideas. I believe that it will also be very relevant to me as a teacher as the ability to reflect on my approaches and lessons will allow me to identify any areas of weakness, as well as ways in which I can approach them.
Schon (1983) split reflection into 2 categories:
reflecting in action (whilst taking action)
reflecting on action (after the action)
The first type of reflection is one in which a teacher must be very skilled. They must be able to assess the learning that is taking place and the effectiveness for their pupils, while being realistic and flexible enough to make alterations if appropriate. I didn’t realise it until now, but I have used this form of reflection while working within nurseries. Occasionally I would come to the children with a carefully planned activity which had taken me a long time and I was very pleased with. I had clear learning goals and I was adamant that it would work well, however when putting it into practice I found that the children were not engaged. At this point I needed to quickly deduce the reasons that the activity was not working, and make changes.
The Gibbs cycle of reflection (1988) breaks down the steps involved in reflection even further, acting as a useful practical tool which I will use to develop my reflective skills:
I believe that taking a pride in your work involves engaging with active reflection. Teachers are encouraged to engage with Career Long Professional Learning (CLPL) which allows them to remain up to date with new approaches, however without effective reflection these new ideas will not be integrated into current practice meaning that no-one will see the benefit. The GTC standards state that both a student and a fully registered teacher must
reflect and engage in self evaluation using the relevant professional standard;
In order to meet this standard I will continue to develop my own reflection skills through use of this blog as well as in less formal situations such as discussions with peers.
One of the key messages that I took from this video is that an exceptional teacher is one who is truly passionate about what they do. A passionate individual who takes pride in their job will not be satisfied just doing the bare minimum. They will be dedicated and motivated to continually grow within their own skills and knowledge so that they, in turn, can support others.
Another point which I found interesting was that this video makes comparisons between doctors and teachers. It isn’t common to think of teaching as being as vital as medical care but without a sound education, an individual’s life chances may be severely damaged. In the same way as with doctors; teachers cannot work half-heartedly or even have an ‘off day’ as this could have a potentially irreversible impact on the pupils.
Teamwork is highlighted as an essential element within both professions. I think that a professional needs to be willing to seek and accept help from others as well as providing help and support where needed. It is only through this teamwork and interdisciplinary working that pupils can be given the greatest opportunities throughout their education. A professional teacher cannot be selfish. There is a lovely example of this on the above video where a teacher learns of new methods about teaching maths. Instead of keeping this to herself, perhaps seeing the benefit within her pupils and receiving praise for herself; she shares the information with others. This leads to a team of teachers who are all able to provide superior lessons and teaching to their pupils.
Finally, a professional teacher must strive to keep up to date. The GTC standard for career-long professional learning says that a teacher is:
Committing to lifelong enquiry, learning, professional development and leadership as core aspects of professionalism and collaborative practice
There is continual research and new findings which impact education, however if a teacher does no embrace new ideas then they cannot provide the highest quality of education to their pupils. While working within nurseries, I witnessed a changed from Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to Career Long Professional Learning (CLPL). This emphasises to me the fact that a teacher can never stop their personal learning and development.
This video shows that the idea of being ‘professional’ involves a wide variety of issues.
Miss Catherine Long mentions the teacher’s role within a society. She points out that benchmarking and statistics which are available to anyone who wishes to see them causes added pressures on teachers as they are being compared and valued by their ability to make their pupils pass tests.
Mrs. Nursen Chemmi reinforces the importance of professional, appropriate behavior. Teachers act as role models for their pupils and displaying desirable traits within themselves will reinforce these behaviours within the children. I believe that this does not refer to the classroom only, rather that teachers should conduct themselves in a professional manner in any situation where they are in public. (This connects with my previous post about social media.)
Mrs Colleen Walsh adds that teachers must be non-judgmental. It is not appropriate to treat a child differently according to their home situation. This does not mean that the teacher should be ignorant of the situation or even ignore it; they should instead aim to support every individual child while being mindful of any issues or potential challenges.
Mrs Erin Smith talks about the importance of communication. This is connected with teamwork and interdisciplinary working. She also makes the link between effective communication and relationships, saying that this professional manner will allow teachers to help parents, families and pupils.
Following a really important albeit slightly terrifying input from Derek yesterday, I have been reflecting on the use of social media both within a professional and personal context.
I can see why some teachers may choose to have separate accounts for their personal and professional lives. Using just one account for both could be seen to be risky; if privacy settings are not carefully monitored, you could be allowing others into areas which you may not want on display. This was the case for some unfortunate primary school teachers recently, who enjoyed a night out and, as many of us do, decided to post the photos onto facebook. Sadly, these photos were seen by a student who proceeded to distribute them. Such photos can call into question a teacher’s ‘fitness to teach’ and can also destroy their good reputation among pupils, parents and colleagues; a reputation which may have taken years to build up.
Another aspect that must be considered when using social media is casual comments. When posting a status update intended for friends, it may be easy to speak in a way which could be taken completely differently by an outsider. The GTC Scotland have identified this risk and therefore suggest: “Teachers (therefore) need to be alert to the risk that actions which might, on the face of it, seem quite innocent can be misunderstood and misconstrued by others.”
This article reinforces the idea that professionals should think carefully before posting anything online. The phrase that struck me is “Once it’s out there, it doesn’t come back.”
After reading these articles, I decided to check my own social media pages. I currently use 2 social networking websites: Facebook and Twitter.
When checking my Facebook profile I felt reasonably confident, as I take care in the way that I portray myself and what I post online. I have decided that I do not want pupils or other people to be able to find me and therefore have changed the name on my account. I also used the Privacy Check-up option to ensure that all of my posts are private and that I cannot be tagged in any other posts without my knowledge. I was surprised to find how many aspects of my profile are automatically made to be public unless I specifically go to change them. I found this site to be a useful resource because it points out any aspects that you may not have considered and gives instructions as to how the audience for such posts can be altered.
My Twitter account (@EarlyYearsIdeas) is purely for professional purposes. I started using it while I was working within nurseries as a way to share ideas and good practice with other early years workers. I enjoy using twitter as it has allowed me to become a part of various communities, follow relevant ‘hashtags’ and even host some evening chats. I feel that this is a brilliant way to share, encourage and support others who are working within the education sector and I have been truly inspired by the passionate individuals who I have connected with from around the world. Here is a wonderful blog post about connecting on twitter and one of the discussion evenings that I am regularly involved in.
The media often portrays social media in a very negative way, highlighting the dangers and minimising the benefits. I do believe that children, as well as their families, must be made aware of the potential dangers of online communication however I do not feel that these dangers should cause us to shy away from a potentially engaging and inspiring resource.
I have seen many positive uses of social networking in a professional sense. Numerous classes, schools and youth groups now have their own websites, blogs, facebook pages or twitter feeds in order to communicate with members and share information. Within a school this can be used to inform parents about what the children are learning, allowing an insight where before only a snapshot would have been available at parents evenings or on report cards.
It is clear that schools are beginning to recognise the importance of teaching children about online threats. This article from Herald Scotland introduces the idea of a formal award taught to older children. While I think that this is a step in the right direction, I strongly believe that safe habits and an awareness of dangers should be taught to children from the moment that they begin accessing the internet independently. Younger and younger children are now possessing their own devices meaning that cyber safety is an area which primary teachers must be able to address with confidence.
While conducting my reading, I came across this page with links to social networks for younger children. I think that directing children towards other sites such as these, away from the widely used ones such as facebook and snapchat could help to avoid some of the dangers young people face however the threats will never be completely eradicated.
I believe that, in order to be effective teachers, we cannot keep our heads in the sand when it comes to social networking and the internet. If a pupil is experiencing an issue or is looking for some advice, it is our responsibility to help them and this is only possible if we have a good understanding of what they are going through.
This week we have been introduced to the Online Literacy Assessment (OLA) and Online Maths Assessment. These are diagnostic tools which we are able to access and use in order to identify any gaps or weaknesses in our understanding. This allows us to seek help if needed or put in some extra work to ensure that we are ‘up to scratch’ and more importantly; able to teach these skills to others!
I’ll be the first to admit that maths is not my strong point. I attended college last year with the primary goal of achieving a high grade in my maths as I knew that in order to become a teacher, it is important that I have the ability to approach a range of mathematical problems with confidence. Over the year I was able to grasp far more than I’d hoped, and I came away with an ‘A’ which I was incredibly proud of. That being said, the mere mention of the OMA brought back my familiar anxiety and feelings of self doubt.
The way I was thinking reminded me of an article which I read a few days ago about Fixed and Growth mindsets. The article in TES referred to these within teachers as it warned them to beware of their mindsets about their own abilities as well as their reactions towards challenges.
The mindsets are the brain child of psychologist Carol Dweck. Put (very) simply; a person with a fixed mindset gives up easily, believes that talent is something that you are born with and that intelligence is fixed (i.e. some people just aren’t clever and so there’s no point trying). Alternatively, someone with a growth mindset believes that natural talent is just the starting point and that abilities and achievements come from dedication and hard work. These people develop resilience and are able to approach difficulties positively.
When I am putting myself down about my math abilities, I am having a fixed mindset. I need to put aside the idea that I’m no good at maths and remember that through hard work and plenty of practice I have been able to cope with some fairly complex ideas in the past. I feel that using the OMA (as well as the OLA) will be very helpful to me as I build my own confidence.
I also believe that being aware of my personal mindset will be a valuable tool as I progress through my studies and into my placements. In order for me to be a successful teacher; I must be able to instil positive attitudes towards learning within my pupils. This is impossible if I don’t ‘practice what I preach’ and therefore I must strive to embrace challenge while accepting support and guidance.
This evening I attended the second part of the STEM cpd, following on from last week’s visit to the Verdant works.
This time we had the opportunity to try out an activity or learning idea that we might use with a class. I chose to make a loom:
I was able to try out some of the tools and equipment which may be available to a class, and to experience some of the challenges that children might experience. I found that sawing the notches in my loom was difficult and if I was going to use this activity then I would need to consider alternatives. We also looked at some different joints that could be used. I opted for the simplest method which was to glue the pieces end to end, reinforcing the joint using cardboard triangles. It might be interesting to use this as a learning point with the children and to experiment with which joints are the strongest.
Here are a couple of the other creations from this evening:
I really loved the miniature bricks and think that this would be a lovely way to explore architecture. This team found that creating the archway was a challenge and noted that they would use a mould or frame in future.
The car lift is made using hydraulics where one large syringe is connected to 3 smaller ones. When the large syringe is squeezed, the water splits into the 3 small ones causing them to lift the car.
This cpd gave me lots of ideas and lots of food for thought. It was clear to see how this hands on style of learning could add depth to a subject and help to make it more meaningful. I was proud of my accomplishments and can imagine how satisfied a pupil may feel.
In the past, I have used the VARK system (Fleming, 2001) to reflect on my learning style, which showed that I am mainly a read/write learner. This means that I learn best by reading over material, taking time to digest it and then writing answers, responses or notes. Since completing the VARK test last year, I have also worked to develop my learning so that I can become more of an auditory and visual learner. I feel that it is most beneficial to be able to use a variety of learning techniques and therefore I will continue to experiment to find styles that work for me.
On completing the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory test, I discovered that I fit into the type ISFJ. This means that I am fairly introverted, use my own personal values and beliefs when making decisions and avoid conflict. I would agree with the characteristics; especially the idea that I learn best when given alone time to reflect and think about what has been covered. One area of my personality that does not seem to fit in with the MBTI assessment is that I am not afraid to express my opinions and ideas in a group. In fact, I am quite often the first to offer a response as I like to be involved in discussions and to receive feedback.
I found the video about active learning to be really interesting. It confirmed some of the ideas that I had already thought about regarding rewriting and going over my notes to ensure that there are no gaps in my understanding. This will also mean that they can be a useful resource in the future.
I think that this understanding about different learning styles and active learning will also be useful when I become a teacher. It is important to recognise that all children are individuals and approach learning in their own ways. As a teacher I will need to provide activities and learning opportunities that can meet the needs of my class, including children who like to get ‘hands on’ and learn practically in groups and those children who prefer to work alone or quietly.
Being able to work effectively in a group is an essential life skill. Throughout my studies there is much to be gained through working with others such as clarification of ideas, discussions about different topics and the potential for new approaches to be introduced. Everyone within a group is coming in with different backgrounds and life experiences. We all have different levels of education and most importantly; all have different personalities! I feel that bringing together these varied individuals allows us to gain a much deeper and broader understanding of any topics that we are working on.
In the past, when working in a group I have found myself trying to become a leader. I do feel that I have some skills in this area, but after reading Belbin’s 9 team roles I have decided that I am actually more effective as an ‘implementer’. I am dedicated, hard-working and like to get the task done.
Working co-operatively will be a large part of my future role as a teacher. I will be expected to work effectively with other teachers and members of staff within the school as well as outside professionals. I must be able to share my own thoughts and opinions while accepting and understanding those of others. Through doing this I hope to be able to build effective partnerships and relationships that will allow me to be a highly successful practitioner.
As part of our online tasks, I was asked to reflect on the things that help or hinder my learning. I feel that it was useful to consider the factors that may become an issue, while positively planning ways to address them.
What helps my learning?
How can I utilise this?
Having good quality notes to review
· When taking notes, write as much as possible in my own words· Use colour coding or highlighters to make key information stand out
Having a clear plan of what time I have and how I am going to use it
· Continue to use ‘to do’ lists, diaries and time tables in order to ensure that time is not wasted and a good balance between studies, work and home life is achieved
Sharing and discussing with colleagues
· Make use of the discussion boards in order to connect with fellow students· Use the eportfolio to discuss and share ideas
· Continue to be a part of communities on twitter where current teachers as well as student teachers connect
Having an effective and organised work space
· Ensure that my study space is kept clear and free from distractions where possible· Keep resources (note pads, pens, reading materials) in study space so that time is not wasted finding them
What hinders my learning?
How can I address this factor?
· Use my timetables, lists and diary to make sure that I am using my time effectively· Take breaks while studying
· Talk to my fellow students about work
Becoming distracted by other chores and responsibilities
· Set aside dedicated time for household chores and other work· Use the library for dedicated study time so that I am away from the house
Staring too many things at once and not having a clear focus
· Time management and effective planning will allow me to keep on track
Distracted by Social Media
· I will aim not to have my phone with me when I am studying
Not being ‘present’ in the lesson and distracted by taking very detailed notes
· Look over lecture ppt or notes before the lecture where possible· Only take notes of additional information that is not on the ppt or will not be uploaded to the VLE
· Following the lecture, go over the ppt or materials and take notes.
While driving home today, I heard a news story about children failing to get enough exercise and the potential dangers of this including cardio-vascular disease and even diabetes.
This got me thinking about the responsibility of schools and teachers with regard to the health and wellbeing of young children. How can children be expected to achieve high academic grades if their health is poor? Some children may not have gardens or outdoor spaces, or have opportunities to join sporting clubs due to money or family situations and therefore it is essential for teachers to plan energetic and outdoor opportunities into school time.
I also started thinking about the types of exercise and energetic learning that is offered to children during school. In my experience, it is fairly limited within PE, sports days and ‘play times’ or breaks.
During my own childhood I was not very sporty and I found organised, competitive games very off putting. As an adult I continue to avoid competitive sport and I am useless at the gym, however I have discovered a love for walking and exploring natural areas such as hills, beaches and forests. As a teacher I hope that I can bring a variety of experiences to the children that will allow them to be active in ways that they all can enjoy. I am very passionate about outdoor learning and feel that, if planned and implemented carefully, this could be used as a helpful tool for instilling a healthy lifestyle from an early age.
‘The Study Skills Book’ by Kathleen McMillan and Jonathan Weyers is a book which includes lots of practical guidance and advice for those moving into the realms of higher education and university. I have found it an interesting and informative book so far and am sure that it will be a valuable resource as I continue my studies.
Being a mature student who has lived away from home for many years; I am confident with negotiating bills and household finance. Despite this, money continues to be an area of concern for me and I am currently considering the option of a part time job. I do not want to take on anything which will have a detrimental impact on my studies; particularly as I’ve had to give up so much in order to get to where I am now. This is not a decision that I will take lightly.
The book covers much about getting settled into a new city and a new home, however this does not apply to me as I have lived in Dundee for over 6 years now.
Adapting to University studies
I have always been an organised person who thrives on schedules, diaries and lists. Over the last year, as I completed my Access course at Dundee and Angus College, I was able to improve my study space at home so that it can be used effectively. I was also able to become well practiced at planning and using my time wisely in order to complete tasks and reading for a range of subjects while also keeping on top of the demands of everyday life. This is a skill which will be invaluable throughout my time at University and indeed in my career.
During my previous studies I looked into the different learning styles and found myself to be mostly read/write orientated. However I also discovered that visual notes are effective and this is a method which I have begun to use in my own note taking; using mind maps and spider diagrams where appropriate.
The style of teaching and learning at University is an area of excitement for me. I am used to conducting my own reading and research, as I have done much of this through my work within the Early Years and also during my college studies. I feel that taking so much responsibility for my work and learning will allow me to take pride in the results that I achieve.
In the past I have found that reading over the PowerPoint notes beforehand is a helpful method of being able to remain focused and present during the lecture. I hope to continue this method while taking a few notes which can prompt or remind me of areas to conduct further reading.
Development of personal skills
I feel that my life experiences, career and previous studies have provided me with a selection of useful, transferrable skills, however there are also many which I hope to improve and develop over the coming years. I have identified a few of my own areas of improvement, including:
Take more risks and occasionally move out of my comfort zone
Become able to accept professional criticism and avoid taking it personally
Become more confident with maths and numerical problems
Reflect on my experiences and learning effectively in order to make improvements or change in the future.
I am already taking steps to improve myself, for example; I will continue to use this blog in order to develop my reflective skills. I will continue to reflect on my own skills while completing the Online Tasks that have been set.
My overall goal and what I’m hoping university will provide me
My goal is to become a skilled and high quality primary teacher which is why I will continue to work hard in order to achieve my potential. I hope to succeed in my education and come away with a good final qualification which will open doors to me. In longer term I also hope to begin a family and also to travel around Scotland, as I have not yet explored much outside of the main cities.
University could be said to limit my options as I am taking a specific course with a specific end role, however as a mature student I feel that I have had enough time and experience to make a fully informed decision about where I want to go, and therefore this focussed route is the most appropriate.
In 5 years time I hope to be fully qualified and feeling confident as I begin my long term career. I hope that university will help to develop my personal and professional skills so that eventually I may be able to take on some extra responsibilities; for example some leadership roles.
One of our TDT’s this week was to watch this clip from RSAnimate:
This video discusses the fact that our education system remains very much unchanged from when schooling became available to all, whereas our children and the needs of our society have changed greatly. I was particularly interested in the part about Divergent Thinking and the fact that children start by being able to think laterally about concepts but this ability declines as they are ‘educated’. It reminded me of this cartoon which really illustrates the idea that we are not teaching our children to think for themselves, only to conform and think in the way that ‘we’ have decided is right. It also shows that a teacher cannot teach children to think in new and different ways if they continue to think in the same, closed and traditional ways.
I am a strong believer that this needs to change and children need to be allowed and encouraged to be individuals; learning in ways that excite and inspire them. I feel that the Curriculum for Excellence has begun to take steps in the right direction, placing more focus on children’s interests however this seems to become less important as children move through their school life and have to focus on learning the concepts and information which will be covered within formal tests and assessments.
By challenging our traditional approaches to teaching and learning, we may be able to open up education to those who are currently failed by the system, and (as mentioned in the above video) we can hopefully move away from sorting individuals into the two very narrow categories of ‘academic’ or ‘non academic’.