As I reflect back over my pre visit placement week, I am thrilled how it went. My school is warm and welcoming and I am working with a teacher who has similar values to myself. I thoroughly enjoyed working with individuals and groups, and I taught 2 class lessons – both of which went well.
I was lucky enough to receive lots of encouragement, advice, and support on many aspects of my teaching so far, however the one piece of positive feedback that meant the most to me was:
You have a nice way with the children and they seem to respond to you well.
The reason that this is so important to me is my firm brief in the value of relationships. I feel that these are crucial and if positive relationships are not formed then a teacher cannot be truly successful. For me, relationships come before the learning. This is related to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs where feelings of safety and security, and feelings of belonging are essential before the individual can reach their full potential (for an overview of Maslow’s hierarchy see https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html).
Some of the ways in which I have tried to build relationships with the pupils over my first week include:
Learning and using their names quickly,
Circulating and making the effort to spend time interacting with every individual,
Smiling and being warm,
Finding out about their interests (through general conversation where appropriate as well as through my ‘getting to know you lesson’- see below),
Telling them a little about myself (again through my getting to know you lesson).
Some of these methods are recommended in this article which notes the importance of positive teacher-student relationships in terms of learning and behaviour management.
Getting to Know You
During my first placement, I didn’t teach a ‘getting to know you lesson’, and regretted it because I felt that I had missed an opportunity to find out a bit about what made the children tick. On this placement I hope to be able to use some of the interests of the children to engage them in their learning.
I began my lesson with a large box (which I had lovingly covered with a patchwork of wrapping paper scraps). Inside the box was a few different items which were clues to tell the class something about me, for example I had a rolling pin which suggested that I like to bake. The children were very quick to work out my clues, but appeared to enjoy the task none-the-less. I used shoulder partner talk and lolly-sticks to avoid shouting out and to avoid the same children putting their hands up.
After this activity I told the class that they were going to tell me a bit about themselves using ice creams! I demonstrated the activity on the board and set them to task. They all created wonderful ‘ice-creams’ with pictures and words on each scoop.
I was very pleased with how the activity turned out and also the enthusiasm that the children showed when completing their work! I had asked for a minimum of 3 scoops but some children completed many more, with one ice-cream ending up 20 scoops tall!
I have made a note of some of the interests, hobbies, and other information that the children shared in the hope that I can use them at a later date.
My lesson, as well as my efforts throughout the week, have allowed me to start to meet some of the Standards for Registration. These include:
1.2.1 I demonstrate openness, honesty, courage and wisdom.
1.3.2 I provide and ensure a safe and secure environment for all learners within a caring and compassionate ethos and with an understanding of wellbeing.
1.3.3 I demonstrate a commitment to motivating and inspiring learners, acknowledging their social and economic context, individuality and specific learning needs and taking into consideration barriers to learning.
During this semester, I am being encouraged to think about my personal philosophy of teaching. Within my first ever post, I wrote a short paragraph about the type of teacher I’d like to become – here’s what I wrote:
What kind of teacher do I want to become?
During my time working in early years settings, I have come to understand the importance of strong bonds and relationships between adults and children. I have found that the best practitioners are those who are open, honest and have a true interest in what the children and their families have to say. I hope to bring these skills to my work within the classroom and to become the kind of teacher who allows every pupil to feel valued and listened to.
My work within the nature nursery has opened my eyes to the many benefits of outdoor learning, from greater concentration and focus to creative skills and health and wellbeing. This is an area which I have found a great passion for and would like to continue as I begin working with older children.
Finally, I feel that I am an enthusiastic and positive individual and I would like to become the type of teacher who other staff can approach for support, ideas and guidance where possible. Within a School setting, no teacher is an individual and everyone is working with a common goal which is to provide children with the greatest possible experiences and opportunities throughout their education. I hope that in the future I can be a valuable member of any team that I am a part of.
I still strongly believe in the importance of relationships. I feel that the best learning takes place when pupils feel valued, safe, encouraged, and supported. This relates to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, where children need to have the strong foundations of their physical and emotional needs being met before their can progress on to achieving their full potential.
I also continue to value outdoor learning, however I have now developed this in that I strongly feel that pupils should be provided with a range and variety of learning experiences and activities. This is because every pupils is an individual with their own needs, interests, and preferences, and by providing different types of activities a teacher can help to support these.
I believe that children learn best through being actively involved in their learning. There is a quote which floats about the internet which sums up my feelings on this:
Tell me and I forget,
Teach me and I remember,
Involve me and I learn
(This quote has been attributed to various different people including Benjamin Franklin).
I have attempted to write an updated teaching philosophy:
I believe that learning is a lifelong process which is as much about the journey as it is about the end goal.
My role as a teacher is to provide learning environments and experiences that will motivate, inspire, and challenge pupils. I hope to provide my pupils with a safe and secure classroom environment where all learning and attempts at learning are valued, and that mistakes are seen as a positive (even by the teacher!) I also aim to value each child’s individuality (in personality, interests, and learning needs) by providing a variety of learning experiences and activities ranging from written work in jotters, to ‘risky’ outdoor play.
I hope to be able to provide my pupils with the skills that the need to succeed within education, and also throughout their lives. This includes problem solving skills, critical thinking, and the ability to question information. I also hope to promote resilience by allowing children to ‘fail’ and make mistakes, as well as try things out for themselves and take risks.
My role as a teacher will vary from leading the learning and playing a very active role, to stepping back and playing a supportive role while scaffolding children’s discovery. I will also aim to be a positive role model for my pupils; getting excited by learning and engaging with the activities and experiences where appropriate.
Some of my further beliefs about teaching and learning:
There’s nothing wrong with a noisy classroom, as long as it is productive noise,
Children need opportunities to talk to support their thinking,
Children also need opportunities to work with others, in mixed ability groups (even across age/ class groups)
I fully expect that this philosophy will be updated and changed again many times as I continue through my training and teaching career. This is because teachers should never stagnate, and must consider new evidence, strategies, theories, and methods. That being said, there are aspects of my philosophy which have developed over years of experience of working with children, and some that are linked with my personality, and therefore these are unlikely to change.
I am a huge fan of outdoor learning! I think my passion has mostly stemmed from my experiences working in a nature nursery, where I saw many of the benefits of the outdoor environment for my children. Unfortunately, I see much less outdoor learning taking place in school.
Outdoor Learning as a purposeful and planned experience in the outdoors. It’s a broad term that includes discovery, experimentation, learning about and connecting to the natural world, and engaging in outdoor sports and adventure activities.
To expand on this, I see outdoor learning as making the most of natural surroundings and resources, it is certainly NOT picking up your worksheets/ puzzles from indoors and taking them out into the garden! Sadly, this is something hat I have seen all too often, from well-meaning practitioners who are not sure about what outdoor learning really is. That’s not to say that there’s no value in taking your indoor learning activities outside – if it’s a nice day and the children will benefit from getting out of the classroom, I completely agree with picking up your books or whatnot and making the most of the sunshine, but it’s important to recognise the difference between this (learning outdoors) to actual outdoor learning.
That brings me to another bugbear of mine – those teachers or practitioners that refuse to take children outdoors if it’s a bit rainy, a bit cold, or a bit muddy! My favourite saying is “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing!” (a quote which has been attributed to various different authors). This aversion to taking children outdoors appears to be quite common at this time of year, and I wrote a little about it on my Early Years blog – “Now that the weather’s turning cold”. On the other hand though, health and safety must be a concern. At the nursery where I used to work, the one type of weather that would keep us indoors was high winds, due to the numerous trees around us and the danger of falling branches. Other than that, rain or shine, we were outdoors!
Health and safety is an important consideration when taking learning outside of the classroom. Firstly, ratios must be adhered to. The NSPCC provides the following recommendations for adult: child ratios within the school grounds:
4 – 8 years
1 adult to 6 children
9 – 12 years
1 adult to 8 children
13 – 18 years
1 adult to 10 children
And the Scottish Government state that during excursions with children and young people under the age of 18, the ratios should be:
1 adult to 15-20 group members for excursions where the element of risk to be encountered is similar to that normally encountered in daily life, e.g. excursions to sites of historic interest, most field work, local walks etc
Additionally, the requirements of any children with additional support needs, the general behaviour of a class, and the perceived level of risk of the activity must also be carefully considered when taking children away from school premises. For safeguarding purposes, it is also recommended that there are always 2 adults present.
Before taking children to a site for outdoor learning, a risk assessment should be carried out. This means that the teacher should visit the location and note down any of the potential dangers (including during the travel there and back), and the measures that will be taken to prevent/ reduce these dangers. Within the wonderful book ‘Dirty Teaching’ by Juliet Robertson, it is suggested that risk assessments can also be conducted with the children. This allows them to take ownership of their own safety.
Outdoor learning can provide brilliant opportunities for ‘Risky Play’. This is the type of play that is exciting, pushes boundaries, and has the potential for injury. It is through this type of play that children learn to manage risk, and also learn resilience. While adults can sometimes be anxious about allowing children to engage in this type of play, Play Scotland states that children often associate their risky play with positive emotions such as fun, thrilling, and pride.
In this BBC Radio broadcast Sian Williams explores resilience and the science behind it. Resilience describes the ability to ‘bounce back’ from difficulties. Some of the points raised in this documentary include:
it is important that individuals recognise and appreciate their feelings. Allowing yourself to recognise that you are feeling sad or scared can help your brain to recover,
it is important that individuals are taught strategies to support them in dealing with future adversities,
resilience should be taught from a young age,
From a personal perspective, I feel that it is important that a teacher has good levels of resilience, as it is a job where we will likely be faced with many challenges and difficulties. A lack of resilience could lead to teachers suffering with mental health issues such as stress and anxiety, and could also cause some to decide to leave the profession all together. This is something that I need to be aware of within myself, as I have suffered with anxiety in the past and I have a habit of taking criticism personally.
With regard to the pupils in my future class, I feel that it is critical that I give the children chances talk about their feelings and emotions in various circumstances. I also agree with allowing children to ‘fail’ or ‘get it wrong’, as this provides opportunities for growth and learning. I am personally against the rise of the ‘everyone gets a medal at sports day’ culture that I have seen in some settings, as I feel that this is not reflective of real life. In the real world, there will be situations where you do not win or succeed. What is important is the way that we deal with this, learn from it, and move on.
As mentioned in one of my previous posts, I hope to spend this year working on developing into my own kind of teacher, rather than simply imitating my ‘host’ teacher. That is not to say that I wont use the elements of good practice that I observe, or wont follow the advice and guidance of my teacher, but it means that I will also try to approach teaching in my own way.
I also recently attended an input where we considered some of the early pioneers of education. During this input, I was encouraged to consider what my fundamental beliefs are about childhood, child development, and the role of education in this. My ideas of childhood are influenced by my own experiences as a child, and my own work and
observations of young children. These are some of my strongest beliefs about childhood:
Children are naturally curious, inquisitive, and eager to learn,
The Early Years have a HUGE impact on children’s personal and academic lives,
Children flourish from spending time outdoors in nature,
The best way that young children learn is through play (a combination of planned and spontaneous).
I am a big fan of the theorist Froebel (1782-1852), who believed that “play is the highest expression of human development in childhood for it alone is the free expression of what is in the child’s soul.” This statement echoes my feelings that play is essential and children MUST be given time to play, but unlike Froebel’s structured play approach, I feel that they should be able to play it in their own way. Here is more information about Froebel and his approach.
*EDIT* Following today’s input, where we continued to look at the early pioneers of education, I discovered that my previous experience and ideas of the Montessori approach are misguided, and that I actually agree with many of her ideas. Previously, I had seen an example of ‘montessori’ as children picking pre-designed and adult created drawers, with resources that were designed to develop a skill (for example opening and closing buckles, poppers, zips, etc). I found this to be very limiting and extremely structured. What I now understand is that the Montessori approach emphasises the importance of a well designed environment and that children should be able to play and explore without too much adult intervention. These are elements that I wholeheartedly agree with.
In my opinion, school does not currently tap into the most effective ways for children to learn and develop. I feel that children are too quickly pushed into the ‘sit down and get on with your work’ model, particularly when they begin school in p1! Of course, some schools/ classes may have different approaches, perhaps allowing a little more time for play, but ultimately they are bound by the overall system (traditional and results driven). I feel that the lower end of primary school should be arranged more like nursery, where children’s interests are sensitively followed and their learning is self-directed through play, while being skillfully scaffolded by qualified adults.
The idea of children beginning ‘formal school’ too soon in the UK is one that has been discussed in the news, and is the focus of the Upstart Scotland Campaign.
So, on the back of all of this, I’ve been thinking about what kind of teacher I want to be. This list is influenced by my experiences in Early Years, my reflections on my first year, and learning from life placements, my personality, and my overall beliefs about what makes an effective educator:
One who gets excited about lessons,
One who attempts to get children actively involved in their learning,
One that does not rely on worksheets and textbooks,
One that tries new things,
One that gets outdoors,
One that embraces technology but isn’t dependent on it,
One that sings!,
One that has a sense of humour and is fun (as much as is appropriate),
One that uses children’s interests and passions in their learning,
One that takes the time to build meaningful relationships with all of my children.
While I know that this list may grow/change during the rest of my course, and as I get into my teaching career, I feel it is a helpful starting point for my professional identity.
I can hardly believe it! 3rd year is almost here, and this is the point where all my hard work starts to count towards my final qualification!
My first 2 years at university have been brilliant so far, and I have learned so much – not only about the course content, but also about myself. I’ve discovered that I really enjoy learning, and (for the most part) I find assignments to be positively challenging.
1.Continue to get involved in extra activities and opportunities (beginning with being a ‘buddy’ for the new MA1’s.)
2.Continue to work hard to achieve the grades that I want.
3.Approach my Science elective with a positive attitude and open mind (despite being a little nervous about it as science is far from my favourite subject!)
4.READ! Read and read and read and read some more. I was beginning to get better at this during MA1 but feel that I can manage my time better to ensure plenty of time for extended reading. I particularly want to read more journals and academic writing.
5.Find a Learning from Life placement which will be challenging with plenty of transferable skills.
1. I feel that I have achieved my first target, as I have attended 2 #Pedagoo events and am looking to work with a few course-mates to perhaps arrange an event of our own at the uni.
There have been some barriers to this goal; Although I signed up to be a buddy, and attended the first meeting session, I have not found any opportunity to work with or support the first year students.
Another barrier is that I moved house, from Dundee to Fife, in November. This move has made it more difficult to attend extra-curricular activities such as the Christmas choir. Now that I am more settled and have worked out travel arrangements, I hope that I will be able to get involved again.
2. I have continued to work hard and have mostly achieved the grades that I aim for. There was only one assignment which resulted in a lower grade than I’d hoped, but after discussing this with the marker, I was satisfied thatI had been ‘on the verge’ of my preferred grade, and I could see how I could improve my work in the future.
3. I am not sure whether I achieved this goal. I attempted to embrace my science elective, but found it very difficult. I felt that the content and delivery was slightly more aimed at those who had more of a science background than myself (I haven’t done science since high school – and that was 14 years ago!) Never the less, I worked hard and was able to pass the assignment.
4. I have definitely begun to read more around all of my subjects, using the ‘big picture’ documents to guide me towards academic journals and other additional reading. Despite this, I feel that I could continue to improve this, and I have begun to read even wider, including literature which is not necessarily on the reading list or directly related to my modules, but which I feel will support me as a teacher.
5. Now this is a goal which I can confidently say I have achieved! I was thrilled to find a learning from life placement which was interesting, challenging, and incredibly rewarding.
Goals for MA3
Become my own kind of teacher. In other words, I want to be the kind of teacher that I want to be! In my first placement I very much imitated my mentor teacher – due to anxiety about the year group, and about teaching in general. Now that I have had more experience, and have built up my professional knowledge in a variety of areas, I feel that I am more able to approach teaching in my own way (See my next post where I consider what this means).
It also helps that my MA3 placement is in the ‘Early Years’ area of primary, which is the age group that I am most comfortable with. In order to achieve this goal, I need to really think about the kind of teacher that I am going to be – but that is a topic for another post!
Be more experimental. I recently read a blog which gave advice to student teachers. One of the pieces of advice was to try things out and be experimental, as now is the time to give things a go! This has struck a chord with me, and also links with my first point. I don’t want to be a ‘worksheet’ teacher. I really want to connect with my class and give them experiences (and learning) that will engage, inspire, and stay with them.
Keep on reading! I have begun to keep a record of literature that I have read/ want to read for my own professional development. This is not necessarily reading which is directly linked to the course, assignments, modules, or lectures, rather it may be books recommended by teachers on twitter, or blogs that I come across during my general browsing.
I can’t believe that’s my first week of placement over already! What a brilliant week it has been!
Here are some of the experiences that I have been involved in:
During the Kodaly sessions, I saw p1 children learning about the foundation elements of music, including rhythm, pitch, and tempo. This learning happens in a fun, active, and play based way, which reminds me of the circle games that I might use with my pre-school children at nursery. An example of this was when children were learning about tempo: they made 2 trains (standing in a line with their hands on the person-in-front’s shoulders), with one being the fast train, and one being the slow train. As they moved around the room, each train had a chant:
Engine, engine, coloured green,
The fastest train I’ve ever seen!
Engine, engine, coloured black
going slowly down the track!
The children were also required to use the additional skill of walking their feet in time to the beat of their chant. This helped them to recognise that the tempo of their chant related to the speed that they were moving.
I feel that I can definitely bring this style of learning into my own teaching and look forward to using this in my Early Years placement.
These sessions allowed children to learn and practise different rhythms and patterns. They did this through call-and-response, a ‘Simon says’ type game, and drumming along to backing tracks.
I loved how these activities seemed so simple, however involved many different skills; listening, remembering, motor skills, and creating different sounds using the parts of the drum. Children had also learned about the history of these drums, speaking about where they were from and what they would have been used for in the past.
Children learned a few simple chords which allowed them to play along with some songs. They practised the fingering for these chords and looked at how to strum these in time with the song (which is linked to reading music). These lessons were also linked with learning that was taking place outside of music lessons, for example, some children had been learning about fairy tales and folklore, and therefore were learning the songs: 3 Billy Goats Gruff, and The Ugly Duckling.
I was very impressed at how well the children were able to create the chords (placing their fingers in the correct places on the strings and frets) and strum in time to the songs! Many children even managed to read the words and sing along at the same time. This activity is helping them to develop many skills, including those used in sight reading music.
Orchestra and Wind Band
I was a bit nervous about these classes, as I was asked to bring my clarinet along and play with the children. While I CAN play, I’ve never been hugely confident in my ability, so this pushed me out of my comfort zone. That being said, I’m really glad that I did, because having my instrument allowed me to make a connection with some pupils (fellow clarinet players) and I feel that it helped children to respect me as someone who ‘knows what they’re talking about’.
In these lessons, pupils were practising their fingering and formation of notes, as well as timing and being able to listen to those around them. One way which they did this was through a ‘Hocket‘ style activity, where children were split into 5 groups (of mixed instruments) and given one note each. The conductor would then point to the groups, indicating that it was their turn to play. In this way, the children could play some simple tunes (e.g. Mary had a little lamb), and some even had the chance to be the conductor and create their own tunes by pointing to the different groups.
This was such a simple activity, but was great fun. It also allowed the children to practise a note that they may not be confident with, without the added problem of changing between notes. I can see how this activity could be used in a future music lesson, as it could be used with any instruments – from chime bars, to xylophones, to recorders…
Rock Band is a fantastic project that I saw taking place with 2 p6 classes. It involved children learning instruments that may be used a band, such as guitars (electric, acoustic, and bass), drums, keyboards, and their singing voices. They had been learning music from different decades, starting with Elvis’ ‘Hound Dog’, then The Beatles ‘Love me do’, and now moving on to Bob Marley ‘3 Little Birds’.
During a previous week, the classes had been videoed, allowing them to review their work and decide on 2 stars and a wish. The children were told that they would be making more videos so that they could set up their own ‘Rock School’ Youtube channel. This sparked a lot of excitement, and the children could hardly wait to start designing their channel logo.
I was really impressed with how enthusiastic and engaged the children were with this project. I think this this is partly because the children were given a choice in which instruments that they wanted to learn (which had led to some beginning formal music tuition in their chosen instrument). I also feel that these children were enjoying learning songs that they could recognise, rather than classical music, or music simply designed for learning.
I would love to be involved in a project like this in my future teaching career, however I would need the support of another teacher (or teachers) who had some musical ability in the keyboard and the drums as my own musical knowledge doesn’t stretch that far.
On Thursday, I saw 2 classes as they ran through their final rehearsals for their big show on Saturday – The Rite of Spring, which is taking place at the Caird Hall. These dances had themes connected with nature (the sun and global warming, and trees and deforestation). Every child had a part to play, with some taking on solos and more complex routines. Not being a dancer myself, it was great to see the variety of simple movements, and how these came together to create a lovely complete dance. I was also interested to see how the children’s own ideas were incorporated into the dance, giving them some ownership and pride over their work.
The dance teacher had a great rapport with the children, oozing enthusiasm and praise and I feel that this inspired the children to work harder as they wanted to impress him. He was also willing to dance along with the children – filling in for any who were absent, or just demonstrating new movements. This reminded me of the importance of putting my own self-consciousness to one side and being willing to get involved in the learning, as this can support the children.
I was hoping to attend the show this evening, but unfortunately will not be able to make it. However, from what I saw at the rehearsals, I know that it will be a wonderful event!
Oh, and I was also involved in the opening ceremony of the brand new Sidlaw View Primary School! The children put on a fantastic musical performance and it was wonderful to see such a range of talents.
As you can see, this week has been very busy!
I’ve had the chance to see lots of different aspects of the Aspire project, and work with many different children from p1 to p6, in a variety of different schools. This is a completely new way of working for me, and brings some challenges. One of these challenges is that it is difficult to get to know the children very well, especially as a music session may last for as little as 40 minutes, and that may be the only time during the week that I worked with a class. Despite this challenge I was impressed at the way that the Aspire teachers interacted with the pupils and had built positive relationships. This is something that I will continue to work on as my placement continues and hopefully my timetable will not change very much, meaning that I will be working with the same classes from week to week.
This week, I have also had the chance to speak to some of the teachers in the different schools. All teachers that I spoke to seem to have a positive view of the Aspire music project, and of the experiences that are offered to the children. One teacher reinforced the idea that many teachers do not feel confident to teach music (as discussed in my previous post) and stated that she was very pleased that the children had the opportunity to learn with the Aspire team who had the specialist knowledge that she did not.
Next week I hope to take on an even more active role in all of the music sessions. Now that I have an understanding of what goes on in each of the different lessons, I hope that I can help through team-teaching and acting as a support teacher for children who are struggling. I hope to also have the opportunity to lead some sessions, particularly the Kodaly classes.
I will also speak to the Aspire teachers about how they plan their lessons and links to the curriculum. I am interested in how the learning that takes place in these sessions could be linked into cross curricular learning, and how it can support other areas of the Curriculum for Excellence. I would also like to find out how (if?) the Aspire teachers record and assess the learning that takes place in their sessions.
As I prepare for the beginning of my Learning from Life placement (tomorrow!) I’ve been doing some reading about music education and the value and impact it can have on children.
There have been many studies which have investigated the benefits of music education. Standley (2008) and Hallam (2010) report that well planned music activities can improve children’s language and reading skills, and Roden et al. (2012) found that musical experience can aid memory skills.
These studies appear within a wealth of other research. Here are 2 TED Talks which consider the impact of music on brain development:
I particularly enjoyed this TEDx Talk, where Richard Gill discusses the value of music education:
The key points that I took from this talk include:
Music education should be introduced with our young children;
This can take the form of listening, focusing, and imitation, e.g. nursery rhymes;
Music is not prescriptive, instead it evokes, suggests, and implies;
Allows children to access a different way of thinking to the other curricular subjects;
The act of singing can have links with the development of literacy;
Music is worth teaching for it’s own sake;
Every child should have access to properly taught music education, from a properly taught teacher.
The last point interested me, as I have also recently read an article which explores how trainee teachers feel about teaching music. This study was conducted in England, however I feel that the findings will also apply within Scotland. Hallam et al. (2009) agree that children have the right to a high quality music education, however the research shows that many trainee teachers and NQT’s feel unequipped and unable to teach this subject effectively.
The study showed that teachers who were able to play one or two instruments were more confident in teaching music, however this was a smaller percentage, meaning that in many classes and schools, music education is being neglected. Among other suggestions of more training and CPD for teachers in this curricular area, it was proposed that the use of specialist teachers, whether working independently or alongside the class teacher, could have a positive impact. Relating back to what Richard Gill said above; children should be provided with their music education from a properly taught teacher.
I have not yet decided whether this ‘properly taught teacher’ needs to be a specialist, or whether it can simply be a primary teacher who embraces music in the same way as any other curricular area. There are many of us on my course who would admit that we are less confident teaching maths, science, ICT… however we wouldn’t dream of avoiding these subjects! Instead, we must recognise that it’s our responsibility to continually develop our own professional knowledge and skills.
I hope that my Learning from Life placement will allow me to develop my own confidence and skills in teaching music. Despite being able to play 2 instruments, I currently lack confidence in this subject, perhaps because I am not fluent at reading musical notation. My visit day has already helped me to feel slightly more confident as I was able to see the level at which the children were working, and how this was linked with the ‘figurenotes’ approach. During my placement, I will have the opportunity to work with a variety of music specialists, where I can observe and learn some of their techniques and teaching methods. While working with the children, I will also be able to practice working with sheet music and notation. I hope that this will improve my ability to teach my future classes, allowing them to benefit from the highest quality of music education that I can offer. I also hope that my musical experience may allow me to support other students and even teachers who lack confidence in this area.
“I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning” – Plato
Hallam, S., Burnard, P., Robertson, A., Saleh, C., Davies, V., Rogers, L., and Kokatsaki, D. (2009) ‘Trainee primary-school teachers’ perceptions of their effectiveness in teaching music’ in Music Education Research, 11(2). http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14613800902924508
Hallam, S. (2010) ‘The power of music: Its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people’ in International Journal of Music Education, 28(3). DOI: 10.1177/0255761410370658
Roden, I., Kreutz, G. and Bongard, S. (2012) ‘Effects of a school-based instrumental music program on verbal and visual memory in primary school children: a longitudinal study’ in Frontiers in Psychology, 3. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00572
Standley J. (2008) ‘Does Music Instruction Help Children Learn to Read?’ in Applications of Research in Music Education, 27(1). DOI: 10.1177/8755123308322270
I love a good story! Whether it’s in a book, a TV show, a movie or even a friend telling me about their weekend – stories are what keep me interested. How boring life would be if we just told each other the straight facts.
Over the last couple of weeks, our lectures and workshops have involved looking at all kinds of children’s literature, and thinking about how we might use these to support children’s language development (talking and listening, reading and writing.) Continuing with this, I have decided to look at a picture book in more depth and explore some of the ways that I might use it within the classroom.
The book I have chosen is: “I’m the Best” by Lucy Cousins
As you may be able to tell – this book is aimed at younger children (early years or early primary.) It is very eye catching and appealing as it uses bright colours and bold illustrations as well as simple text which describes what is happening in each picture.
Before reading the book, I would spend some time with the children, talking about the front cover – identifying the key features such as the title and the author. I would also ask them if they could guess what the story is going to be about, supporting them in looking for the clues. I may also ask the children to think of things that they are ‘the best’ at.
After that, it’s time to begin reading. This story is about Dog and his friends. Dog is good at identifying the things that he can do well, but he continually boasts that he is ‘the best’!
While reading, I would encourage the children to join in with the repeated phrases (“I won. I’m the best.”) I would also ask the children to look at the expressions on the faces of the characters and think about how they might be feeling. Why do they think that they are feeling that way? Do they think that Dog is being a good friend?
As a reader, I would ensure to use intonation and expression in my voice to exaggerate and emphasise the meaning behind the text.
At the half way point in the book, the story changes. The other animals decide to show the dog that he isn’t the best at everything and that they are the best at certain things. Before moving on to this second half of the story I would ask the children to predict what they think might happen next. Doing this can support children’s logical reasoning skills. It may also help them to think about what they may do in that situation.
As we continue, I would again ask the children to think about how the characters are feeling. What has changed from before?
Don’t worry – the book has a happy ending! Dog is feeling sad that he isn’t the best at all of the things that he thought he was, but his friends reassure him that he is the best at being their friend and they point out the things that make Dog special.
Feelings and the language of emotions can be difficult for children to master, which is one of the reasons why I really like this book. It is obvious how the character is feeling (through the illustration) and at the turning point in the middle of the book, the characters express that they are feeling sad. The conversations between the children and the teacher, as they read this story could also help to develop the children’s vocabulary and language skills in this area. Learning the language of feelings can help children to manage their emotions, or approach someone if they are needing support. These are critical life skills.
I feel that this book would also be a great starting point for discussion about how everyone is different and special in their own ways. This could link into activities to do with the Growth Mindset (Dweck 2012.) The children could be asked to identify something that they believe they are good at, and something that they would like to improve.
Another direction would be to use this book to support learning about social skills and how to be a good friend to others. A lovely activity (which I have seen on Pinterest) could be to encourage the children to write down/ say something about another person that they do well.
Following story time, I would provide opportunities for the children to explore and extend the story by themselves. I would create a ‘story table’ with puppets or props from the story so that the children can role play or play out the story in a small world setting. I would also display some of the pictures from the book in the art/ creative area so that the children may be inspired to create their own illustrations. A ‘word wall’ could also be created to display the new vocalbulary that children have learned. These new words may not necessarily come straight out of the book (as it uses fairly simple language) but also from the discussions that have arisen.
I would ensure that the story book was readily available for the children in the reading area and I would also re-visit the story multiple times, so that the children become familiar with it and can begin to think of new questions or comments.
One of the key points that I’ve picked up from our Language lectures is that it is absolutely VITAL to instil a love of reading into our children and to continue to nurture this as the children grow and develop. I am a keen reader at home and I have always loved story times in nurseries. I hope to bring this love into my teaching with primary school children.
It is at story time that the teacher’s enthusiasm for books is transmitted regularly to children. – Ann Browne (1996)
During my teaching placement I was able to see how much the children enjoyed and responded to the class novel, however this was just ‘fitted in’ when there was a free 10 minutes. As a teacher, I hope to be able to devote appropriate time and space to stories – showing my children how much I value reading and a good book.
After a seemingly endless summer, it’s almost time for me to get stuck into second year!
With that in mind, I thought that this is a good time for me to reflect on the last year, and think about what I want to achieve and get from MA2.
Thinking back (MA1)
My first year at university was an absolutely fantastic experience. I met lots of new people and started to find my feet in the new academic setting. I worked hard to complete essays and assignments, read about all sorts of theories and strategies, attended lectures and shared via social media. Despite all of that, I think that the most challenging and rewarding experience of the whole year was my first teaching placement.
It’s impossible to know what to expect when you go into a school as a student teacher. What will the school be like? What kind of resources will they have? Will my teacher be supportive? Will I get on with the class? Am I ready for this?? I was additionally nervous because I was going into a P5 class – a big step from my comfort zone in the Early Years. Luckily, during my observation weeks I quickly found that my class teacher was incredibly patient and supportive, and the class (though a bit hyper and excitable) were a fantastic bunch of children.
So… What went well?
Aspects of this first placement that I felt were successful include:
Building relationships with the pupils:
My placement school placed high importance on supporting the whole child while considering their individual situations and needs. During placement, I really enjoyed spending time with each child finding out about what they enjoy and their current abilities. I attempted to use the little details that I found out in conversations and lessons; ensuring that the children knew that I had listened to them (for example, asking a child how they got on at their first Karate lesson the night before).
As I got to know the children, I also began to think about ways in which I could support them during teaching and learning. As well as more formal differentiation and support strategies, I also thought about the children who were perhaps a little shy to contribute their ideas, and so planned more opportunities for partner talk or thinking time to support them.
Working with others:
During my placement, I had the opportunity to work with many talented and passionate individuals. I worked closely with my class teacher, discussing all aspects of my practice as well as the children’s needs and development. I also worked with other teachers in the school and witnessed how the team works together to support each other. An example of this were the staff in the nurture room, who worked closely with some children in the school. I observed my class teacher speaking and sharing with these staff regularly in order to support the pupils in the best way possible. I witnessed staff sharing teaching ideas and providing guidance to each other, and I became part of this – sharing the resources which I had put together for a lesson with another class.
I was inspired by the commitment of all staff within the school. Almost every teacher was involved in some sort of extra curricular club – either at lunch time or after school. I tried to become a part of this by helping at art club on a Wednesday at lunch time, attempting to plan a few simple activities. If the placement had been longer then I would have liked to become more involved in this, planning more interesting and exciting activities which could be completed over a few weeks.
Planning engaging and interesting lessons:
This was perhaps my favourite part of the whole experience. I thoroughly enjoyed planning for lessons which would grab the children’s interests and engage them with various learning activities. I worked hard to prepare resources and experiences which involved practical, active learning, discussion, investigation and times for group/pair/individual work.
My favourite lesson was entitled ‘Character Detectives’ and was developed from an idea which I’d come across online. This lesson involved the children working in their tables groups to decipher clues to provide them with information about a character. Each table had a box with items inside such as fake text messages, family photographs, plane tickets, junk food wrappers… Once the children had looked at all of their clues and discussed together the meaning behind each one, they were then required to write a paragraph about that character. I felt that this lesson was very successful as the children were engaged and had lots of imaginative and creative ideas. I had made sure to place the focus of the lesson onto the discussion parts, as I have read that the best creative writing happens when children have had the time to talk through their ideas.
Delivering this lesson has given me some insight into the type of classroom that I hope to have in the future. I want to encourage the type of environment where children can share and explore ideas together, being creative and supportive of each other.
Areas for development
There were many challenges for me during this first placement. I felt that there was a lot to learn and at times it felt a little overwhelming. I quickly learned to start using my time wisely and making the most of any free moment at school.
Timing and Pacing:
I knew that this would be a challenge when I began this placement, as I am used to working in
nursery settings where children have the whole day to work on activities and skills. In a primary school however, this is not the case – and lessons occur in very short blocks! I found that I regularly had to change my plans, particularly my plenaries due to a lack of time at the end of the lesson. This also affected my pacing in terms of the ‘teaching’ sections of my lessons, and I found that an over-awareness of time caused me to rush.
I tried a few different methods to address this issue such as writing key times onto my plan and online timers, however this continues to be an area that I will work in in future placements. I hope that through experience, I will be able to better judge how long each part of the lesson will take.
Classroom and behaviour management:
Every class in every school has different behaviour challenges to deal with and my placement class was no different. There were a few challenging characters, but mostly the class were just a little excitable and hyper.
I worked hard throughout my time in the class to develop my ability to manage behaviour, using the strategies in place at the school. Some of the methods which I found effective were non-verbal gestures and cues, warnings and positive praise. My class teacher advised me to develop my use of tone of voice to make it very clear when I am being serious/ stern.
Throughout my placement, I was supported, advised and encouraged by my class teacher and my university tutor. I feel that I learned so much which I can take away and use to positively influence my next teaching placement.
Looking forward (MA2)
I have set the following goals for MA2:
Continue to get involved in extra activities and opportunities (beginning with being a ‘buddy’ for the new MA1’s.)
Continue to work hard to achieve the grades that I want.
Approach my Science elective with a positive attitude and open mind (despite being a little nervous about it as science is far from my favourite subject!)
READ! Read and read and read and read some more. I was beginning to get better at this during MA1 but feel that I can manage my time better to ensure plenty of time for extended reading. I particularly want to read more journals and academic writing.
Find a Learning from Life placement which will be challenging with plenty of transferable skills.
This morning my brain is buzzing with a thousand thoughts. Through a connection on Twitter (did I mention that I love social media?) I was advised to listen to a wonderful show on BBC iPlayer entitled ‘My Teacher is an App‘.
This is a fascinating piece about the ever increasing role of technology in education. Much of it is centred around America’s ‘Silicon Valley’, but the points made are equally valid in a UK context.
On the show, various professionals discussed their opinion of where education is headed. At the beginning of the show, it was mentioned that we are moving towards a society of one to one computing in an educational situation. Some of the proposed advantages of this include:
high levels of engagement
Up to date information and resources (as opposed to textbooks which quickly date and become obsolete)
The radio program introduced us to Salman Khan; the creator of Khan Academy. Khan Academy is a non-profit organisation which provides short instructional videos/ lectures in the form of Youtube videos. This means that they are accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Khan proposes that our current models of teaching (involving grouping students and standardised testing) are vastly outdated and suggests that the Khan Academy model is more suited to the learners of today.
Below is a ‘Ted Talks’ video of Salman Khan discussing the use of his videos in learning:
As Sarah Montague (the radio presenter) points out; one of the huge benefits of teaching in this way is that pupils can learn at their own pace. A video can be paused, rewound or re-watched as many times as a learner requires in order for them to grasp the concept. There is also no fear of ridicule from peers, as no-one needs to know how quickly or slowly you are learning.
Within his talk, Khan mentions the idea of the ‘flipped classroom’. This is a model where traditional teaching and learning methods are reversed. Students are required to watch short educational videos at home before the lesson, and in class time they undertake tasks which are more like traditional homework activities. It is suggested that this method will allow teachers to spend more time addressing children’s individual needs, whether that be support for specific problems, or challenge for the more able.
The BBC radio show also discusses the use of video gaming in learning. Nolan Bushnell, the “father of modern video gaming” and founder of Atari, discusses his online resource: Brain Rush. This is a website full of short, educational games, designed to allow learners to develop skills quickly. Bushnell speaks about making learning fun and addictive, claiming that children can learn almost anything through gaming. It is also suggested that gaming can help pupils to review and memorise information, although these claims cannot yet be substantiated.
One group of schools in America which have embraced the use of technology is Rocketship Education. In these schools, children spend around a quarter of their school day online. Results in these schools are said to be very high and Rocketship suppose that this model of teaching will help to close the attainment gap. One of the issues of this model of teaching and learning is that the use of technology means that fewer teachers are employed. On the other hand, those teachers who are employed, are paid very competitive rates compared to standard teachers.
Taking digital learning even further, is the idea of ‘Virtual Schools’. In this situation, students do not attend school in the traditional sense, rather, they are responsible for undertaking their own learning via the internet and technology.
I find the idea of technology gradually replacing teachers rather unsettling. While I am completely on board with personalised learning and tapping in to the tools which engage children, I do not feel that the social and emotional aspects of development can be met without building the strong and important relationships with teachers and significant adults. In my opinion, technology and digital tools should be used alongside teachers and lessons, in ways that extend and deepen pupils’ knowledge and understanding.
When discussing Virtual Schools on the radio show, Sarah Montague raised the same issue that immediately popped into my head – what is keeping the children from becoming distracted and going off to do something else? While pupils may be motivated to learn about subjects that interest them, I cannot imagine them maintaining the self discipline to persevere at more challenging subjects, when temptations such as video games or TV are close by.
Never the less, virtual schools are a concept which may be appearing within the UK. In 2014, the Telegraph posted THIS ARTICLE proposing plans for a state funded ‘virtual school’.
Towards the end of ‘My Teacher is an App’, listeners were presented with a theory of learning and education which contrasts completely with the previous, highly technology based models.
The Waldorf approach places focus on child development through free play and expression through art, music and nature. These schools emphasise playing and exploring through natural and organic experiences. In this type of education, the use of technology is discouraged until children are older (around 13 years) and it is even suggested that technology could impact negatively on children’s ability to form relationships and express themselves creatively. Find out more about the Waldorf approach HERE.
Shields and Behrman (2000) also believe that excessive use of technology may have numerous dangerous effects on children, including access to unsuitable content, and reducing physical activity which may lead to obesity. In THIS JOURNAL, they discuss the need to limits and strict controls on the use of technology with children.
I am fascinated by the idea of the Khan Academy, Brain Rush, and the flipped classroom, and would love to see it in action within a real class. Despite this, I have to wonder whether it could actually work in our schools. While many pupils do have access to computers, tablets, phones or other devices to access the internet, there are those who do not. How does this model of teaching and learning support those who cannot access the videos before the class? Maybe a school which uses this model would provide access to ICT facilities before/ after school so that all pupils have the opportunity to access the resources?
Another issue of using technology in education is that many schools do not have the budget to provide computers/ devices for all pupils to use. Or, some schools do have computers, but they are old, slow, outdated machines which take an age to load and are perhaps cannot run the software that you want to use. I wonder if the rise of technology in education will create further inequality between schools, where some can access resources which others cannot.
I find it interesting that there appears to be a divide between the big push for outdoor learning and learning through nature (such as Forest Schools), and the growing role of technology in education. My opinion is that, like everything in life, there needs to be a balance. I firmly believe in the value of free play and natural play, but can also see that technology has an important and increasing role to play in children’s learning. It is the role of the teacher to provide opportunities for both.
Listening to the radio show has opened my eyes to some of the wonderful digital tools and resources which exist, and ways in which technology may start to change the way in which our education system works. Whether or not Virtual Schools take off, or the ‘flipped classroom’ begins to appear in more schools; I can see how teachers and educational professionals must continue to be flexible and reflective as discover the best ways to teach their pupils.
Recently, I was lucky enough to be asked to host #ScotEdChat. This is an hour long Twitter discussion, where teachers and other professionals can share their thoughts and ideas on a given topic. Our topic was the use of blogging and social media in a professional context.
(Click the image to read the ‘Storify’ log of the evening’s tweets).
#ScotEdChat was a brilliant experience with a lively chat. Many people participated by Tweeting about their own experiences with social media and blogs, both personally and professionally.
Following the chat, I’ve been thinking about the value of social media and online digital spaces for the purpose of shared professional practice. The Standards for Registration (GTCS) note the importance of sharing and collaboration. This can be seen in Professional Values and Personal Commitment:
Engaging with all aspects of professional practice and working collegiately with all members of our educational communities with enthusiasm, adaptability and constructive criticality.
Committing to lifelong enquiry, learning, professional development and leadership as core aspects of professionalism and collaborative practice.
and also in 3.4.2. Professional Reflection and Communication:
Adopt an enquiring approach to their professional practice and engage in professional enquiry and professional dialogue.
As a student teacher, I feel that any support, advice, guidance and ideas which I can gather from experienced professionals is invaluable. Of course, these can come from my lecturers and teachers in my placement schools; but why not extend my knowledge even further by discussing pedagogy with teachers and experts around the country or even around the world? That’s where Social Media comes in.
There are numerous different forms of Social Media which a teacher may wish to become involved in:
Facebook is a site where users create a profile and can share statuses, photos, videos, links etc with other users.
Pros: As you probably know, Facebook is hugely popular and widely used. In 2013, 28.9 million UK users accessed the social network (statistica.com) and this number is projected to continue to grow. Facebook includes groups which can be public or private. Some teachers choose to share ideas for activities as well as teaching advice through these groups. Here is a list of some teaching Facebook groups.
Cons: While many people like to use Facebook for personal use. There are concerns about privacy on the site and it is vital that teachers take precautions to protect themselves online.
Yammer is accessible to anyone with a glow login. This means that it can be used by teachers, professionals and pupils alike. It is a space where individuals can share posts and links; enabling collaboration as well as discussion.
Pros: ‘Public’ posts are still only viewable by other glow users. This may be appealing to those who are not comfortable sharing with everyone on sites such as Twitter. Yammer also includes groups and hashtags so that posts can be directed to specific audiences. One major advantage of Yammer is that it can be a place for pupils to connect and share.
Cons: Although it is growing, Yammer is still relatively small. This means that there is currently less sharing than on larger sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Twitter is a place where you can follow other professionals, creating a ‘feed’ of their posts. You can also share short, 140 character, updates including text, links or media.
This is my personal favourite social media site to use on a professional basis. As an Early Years Practitioner, I have engaged with thousands of like minded individuals and have found twitter to be an invaluable resource. As a student teacher, I am continually discovering useful articles which others have shared.
Pros: Twitter is a popular website for teaching professionals to connect and share. Hashtags are used to collect ‘tweets’ together (for example: all tweets with the hashtag #uodedu appear in one search/ list) and this is the way in which twitter chats are organised. With millions of users, Twitter allows individuals to easily connect with practitioners all around the globe.
Cons: Twitter can be a little hard to get into – with chats being fast paced, as well as many people using short-hand (due to the 140 character limit) and specific lingo. It can appear daunting for new users.
One of the wonderful things about social media is the accessibility. Around 76% of adults in the UK own a smartphone (deloitte.co.uk, 2015) which means that they can access the internet (and social media sites) almost 24/7. Whereas in the past, a teacher may have had to wait until the next day to ask the advice of a colleague, they can now post a question onto Twitter/ Yammer/ Facebook etc and often receive an answer very quickly.
Another positive aspect of professional sharing and connecting in this way is the support which teachers can offer each other. It is no secret that teaching is a difficult profession, but having a large support network of like-minded individuals can help to reassure and encourage.
Professionals in the education sector are required to undertake continual professional learning such as attending training courses or professional reading. I have also seen professionals in the Early Years sector using Twitter chats as CPD – keeping records of the conversations using Storify and then recording their own reflections. I feel that this could be a valuable additional resource for teachers.
Finally, becoming involved in social media can allow teachers to keep up to date with current issues, legislation and changes to the curriculum. As students; even if we do not yet feel in a position to comment on these issues/ changes; it is essential that we remain informed while beginning to develop our own professional opinions.
It must be noted that not everyone is convinced about using social media as a tool for professional development. Pregio (2011) writes that “perception and usage of social media varies wildly, and due to the inherently fluid and malleable nature of the platforms themselves we are still in the process of assessing all their possibilities.”
During #scotedchat, it was mentioned that some people do not feel comfortable putting their own opinions and perspectives out there. HERE is a wonderful blog post from Susan Ward, who discusses the fear and unpleasantness associated with negative comments, feedback and even bullying over the internet. This anxiety is an idea that many of my fellow students have explored when discussing feedback on our ePortfolios. I can fully sympathise with this as I often worry about what others think of me, and whether I am ‘good enough’. However, I feel that in order to develop and grow as professionals, it is important that engage with important issues. During another chat, last night, this issue was again raised and the common consensus was that very often there is no RIGHT answer or 100% correct way of doing things.
As teachers, it is our responsibility to prepare pupils for life and the wider world of work. In today’s society, this increasingly involves the use of digital technologies as well as social media. I believe that, In order for us as teachers to be able to engage and support students, it is essential that we have an understanding of the tools ourselves. While I am confident with some aspects of these, I know that there is much more that I can learn. In my next post, I will explore some of the uses of digital and online resources in primary schools. I look forward to discovering more of the Office tools through Glow, while reflecting upon how I may use these resources to further teaching and learning in the classroom.
There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to teaching! Throughout planning, implementation and reflection, it is essential for a primary teacher to recognize that every pupil is an individual. This means that there are numerous learning approaches and preferences throughout any class.
In 1987, Niel Flemming devised categories of learning in order to encourage teachers and students to think about different learning styles. This is known as the VARK model.
VARK stands for:
Visual: learners who have a preference for images or visual representations of information,
Auditory: learners who prefer to listen to information (for example in lectures) or perhaps use music to aid learning,
Read/Write: learners get the most out of reading texts and writing information
Kinesthetic: learners prefer practical, hands on experiences.
If you would like to find out your learning style; there are many online tests available. I used THIS test which revealed that I have a multimodal learning style with a preference for the read/write and visual approaches.
While I agree with this result to some extent, I feel that my preferences depend on the type of learning that I am involved in. For example; if I am trying to learn facts and figures for a test, then I prefer to read and write, however if I am learning how to bake a cake or sculpt a model, I would choose visual and kinesthetic methods.
There has been much debate around the validity of learning styles. One of the main criticisms is that there is no empirical evidence that the use of learning styles improves student performance within education. In fact, it has even been suggested that focus on learning styles may have a detrimental impact (Venable, 2011.) Lafferty and Burley (2009) argue strongly against the use of learning styles, stating that “Learning styles are subject dependent, they are teacher dependent, they are temperature dependent, they are emotion dependent etc. In fact they are dependent on so many things, that they are on a continuum and therefore not measurable, and do not exist.” This supports my own feelings about my learning and therefore, as a teacher, I would avoid grouping pupils due to their perceived VARK preference.
On the other hand, I feel that learning styles are a helpful concept to know, as they encourage teachers to reflect upon the ways in which they deliver lessons. This relates back to my “one size fits all” comment; as a teacher who only presents information in a didactic way is not appropriately supporting those pupils who may learn best in a practical way. It may also be beneficial for students to be able to recognize which learning styles work for them. Flemming and Baume (2006) point out that “any inventory that encourages a learner to think about the way that he or she learns is a useful step towards understanding, and hence improving, learning.”
As a primary teacher, I will strive to deliver lessons which provide opportunities for all different styles of learning (albeit not necessarily all at the same time!) I hope to avoid the mindset that these styles are fixed but rather to encourage children to continually explore the different approaches to their learning.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
Following an input all about what it means to be a professional, I have chosen 5 virtues (among many) that I feel are important to teaching.
I feel that respect is a crucial characteristic of a teacher. It applies to all relationships, from those with each child in your class and their families, to colleagues and individuals within the wider society which you may come into contact with. It may be a cliché but I believe that “respect is a two way street”. This means that if you wish to be respected by the pupils in your class, you must treat the pupils with respect. I feel that this can be achieved by taking a holistic view of each child, being mindful of their situation outside of school as well as within the classroom.
I feel that kindness is linked with many other attributes such as empathy, compassion and conscience. As with respect, kindness supports the relationships that are built between the you and your pupils. A kind teacher must have the children’s best interests at heart and should be willing to to help others wherever possible.
In my experience, pupils quickly lose respect for teachers who they deem to be ‘unfair’. This relates to a sense of justice that is within us all. Every child must be treated as an individual with their own opinions, beliefs and needs which are of equal importance to everyone else. It is also important that behaviour management and consequences are clear and always followed through. If any preferential treatment is shown then some children may decide that their is no point in trying.
A teacher must be able to understand that everyone learns in different ways and at different speeds. It may be frustrating when teaching a subject that you find to be interesting, or a lesson that has taken a lot of careful planning, to then find that the children aren’t focussed and the lesson isn’t working. Despite this, a teacher must be able to continue, or use their reflective skills and flexibility to re-think the lesson. Another example of a situation where patience is importance is when dealing with behaviour issues. A teacher who gets angry or even gives up on a child is unlikely to see positive results, whereas a teacher who is patient and strives to use positive methods of working with children will find that their job is more enjoyable and far more satisfying.
I feel that honesty is linked with respect. If others view you as an honest individual, they are likely to listen to and respect what you have to say. When working with children, there may be times when the you do not know the answer. In situations like this, I feel that being honest and using the situation as an opportunity to research or conduct an experiment is positive and helpful to learning whereas a dishonest approach may lead to confusion or mistakes.
When communicating with parents and families, I believe that is is important to be honest about any issues or areas of weakness. This will allow you to work together to approach these issues and is far more effective than trying to handle them within the school alone. It may not always be easy to be honest, particularly when delivering undesirable news, but ultimately it is our responsibility and avoiding issues may lead to greater problems later on.
All these virtues will allow a teacher to be a good role model to their pupils. They also contribute to creating a class culture where everyone is safe, valued and included. As well as the above virtues, I maintain that a teacher must have continually high, yet realistic expectations of their pupils, pushing them to achieve their potential. They must also be passionate about their job and committed to providing the highest quality learning and experiences to their pupils.
I’ll be honest, my primary school days seem like a very long time ago! When I think back, I can honestly say that there were no occasions when I was made to feel different or separate due to my gender. For me, this all began when I moved into secondary school and started making subject (and later career) choices. One particular example was when choosing our work experience placements; it was clear to see that the boys were being placed in more manual roles whereas many girls were steered towards the caring settings.
During my primary school years I was lucky to have a mix of male and female teachers. I think that this was important and very beneficial to me as each teacher brings their own individual style and it can be argued that males and females approach tasks differently. While attending placements in recent years, I have often found that primary teaching is female dominated. I hope that this is a trend that will change as I truly feel that strong role models from both sexes provide children with the greatest school experience.
When I was at school, it tended to be the case that girls played with other girls and boys played with other boys. It would be unusual for a girl to have a boy as a best friend. It seems that this attitude has begun to change, as when I observed the children in some of my placements, girls and boys seemed to be far more mixed during their free play time.
Although I believe it is important to recognise and celebrate the differences between individuals, I do not think that gender should be used for separation and categorisation. It should never impact on the opportunities or experiences that children are given.
After writing this, I stumbled across this article which is a really interesting read about a 7 year old transgender child and how the school went about supporting them. It is a lovely success story and really encouraging to see the steps that can be taken so that each and every child’s needs can be met. I think this ties in with the ethos of GIRFEC where children are listened to and their views are taken seriously. Sadly, the article goes on to say that many schools are not so understanding. I think that the heads of these schools need to consider their overall goal and address their out-dated views in order to meet the needs of today’s children.
This quote stood out to me: “As teachers, we have to educate everyone about difference and not segregate.” (Barnes, founder of Educate and Celebrate)
‘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’.