Sunset Song

imageSunday evening drive up to Inverness for the second week of my orientation placement at Muirtown Primary School and the sky was so awash with colour: incandescent yellows and golds, candy floss pink and luminous glowing orange, I had to pull the car over a couple times on the journey just to soak it all in. Also the sunlight was that intense it made it near impossible to see where I was going.

The soundtrack was Classic FM (obviously), Jamie Cullum’s album ‘Catch the Sun’ and Alicia Keys ‘Songs in A minor’. If I lose my voice during my placement weeks it will likely be from singing my heart out in the car to and from Inverness.

The photos don’t to it justice, but pair this view with an almost empty road the whole way up and the three hour journey was a delight.

 

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Off To The Highlands I Go

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Monday morning, the first day of orientation placement for the PGDE and there I was sitting at home waiting and wondering, with no school allocated to me: no room at the inn it would seem.  Slightly frustrated, and one of the last seven students on the course not to know, it was difficult to focus on using the time productively and not succumb to the allure of catch-up TV on BBC iplayer. After some half hearted attempts to read over material for on campus classes two weeks into the future, I decided to take myself to the gym and let out some steam in a ‘box fit’ class, which was thoroughly enjoyable (my arms were feeling it the next day).

Back home from the gym in time for tea and an email from the University to say they had finally secured me a placement, and that the sooner I could get myself to Inverness the better for getting started. Well, some three hours drive northwards (to a new driver/car owner) Inverness is really not a commutable distance so it was a pretty quick turnaround to amble together printed out paperwork and think “right, who do we know in Inverness?”, and get myself there on the Tuesday.

That was then, and the first placement week has passed smoothly. I was successful in securing lodgings with a friend of my mother’s who kindly took me in at twenty-four hours notice and I managed to drive there by myself, singing all the way and following my senses to get there and find the school.

The school is a lovely place, with nine classes and a nursery, and it has a really bright and colourfully organised feel about it, which is a very good sign. All of the members of staff at the school that I have met so far are kind and welcoming, and my ‘mentor’ is encouraging and confident. Her practice is one which I can relate to and learn from, and I think I will do well in her classroom.

The first day went passed in a blur, though I scribbled down plenty notes, as we were covering for the primary five teacher who was off ill so it was a good opportunity to be in with that age group, and interesting to make comparison with the primary seven class which I will be working with for the majority of my time in the school.

20160915_162408The thing which caught my interest first at the school was to find out more about the very prevalent promotion of ‘eco awareness’ across the school, primary six pupils collecting recycled food stuffs from the kitchens and staffroom to be cold or hot composted (who knew there were different composting methods), to the ‘outdoor classroom’ and the raised planters outside each classroom which each class is responsible for.

On the Thursday I joined in with the ‘Gardening Club’,  and it was with much delight that I was given a tour of the grounds by the five children and shown the rhubarb, brambles, plum trees, and potatoes, all of which had grown rather wild over the summer holidays. It will be our job to get things organised over the coming weeks. This week we had the smelly task of checking the hot composter and the teacher drew to our attention that more sawdust will be needed when the ‘composters’ add the food scraps on a daily basis. One primary five boy, the ‘head gardener’, agreed that he would take on the responsibility and join the ‘composters’ on their daily rounds and check they knew exactly what they should be doing.

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Although the ‘outdoor classroom’ is a little overgrown after the summer holidays, with a little love and attention it will be back in business in no time, and I think it’s wonderful that each class has their own raised box for planting produce including tomatoes, pumpkins, carrots, parsley, strawberries…there is even a grapevine, it’s tendrils needing a little encouragement to wind round the framework of the tunnel structure. It was a lovely sunny September afternoon and there we were, five children and two adults, picking plums from the trees to sample there and then and to take away home too. On the Friday one of the teachers sent her class outside during ‘golden time’ in the afternoon to pick all the ripe plums, which were then piled up on a table in the corridor for anyone to take home. I just think it’s a lovely atmosphere to in, and I’m looking forward to finding out more about the goings on at school.

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Poetry Exercise

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Today I realised that I can get a little carried away and caught up in something creative. This isn’t a negative thing, however, if there are time constraint on how long you should be devoting attention to a task then an irrational need to perfect something is a little bit of a hindrance.

Following a workshop on poetry today (Literacy) we were asked to work individually or in pairs to write a haiku. Having looked online the night previous and typed “what is a haiku” in the search engine-just to double check-I felt quite confident in my creative writing ability that I could go off and get this done quite quickly. The “modern” element of the literacy task also included creating an online slideshow using a website called ‘Photopeach’ and this took a little more time to navigate than the initial creative process of writing a haiku.

Off to the library I ventured, for the first time, to sign on to a computer and log onto the ‘VLE’. A thought had come to mind on leaving the workshop “right, what shall I write about…well, how about something I’ve seen recently on the news…”and running with this I decided to think about the international refugee crisis. Whether or not a haiku is a suitable form of poetry to encapsulate such a complex theme is open for debate, however if I am to encourage children as a teacher in the classroom to develop a sense responsibility and global citizenship then I should be prepared to address a plethora of topics and current events.
img_0176Note pad to the left, I put pen to paper and scribbled down some words following the traditional haiku structure: three lines; five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five syllables again in the third. I tried to think about a single thought that someone might have and how one thought can be powerful, poetic, and emotive.

Next came the fun and “high tech modern teaching” bit.
Setting up an account with Photopeach was easy, and creating a slideshow was simple too, so I feel that this is a resource which I could use effectively in the classroom and that children would respond to really well. However, this is where my creativity became a little entrenched. After searching quite quickly online for appropriate photographs and selecting a track on ‘YouTube’ which I felt would give a suitable tone to the poem, I was disappointed that I was unable to download the video and save the url link as the task had instructed. In a classroom situation I would have to think on my feet in a situation like this, if I hadn’t already checked beforehand about certain restrictions on websites-you always have to upgrade to get all the perks; I learnt my lesson.

The haiku has been posted on the University discussion board as instructed by the TDA and I have enjoyed reading others and seeing what my peers have come up with given the same task.

Below is the link to see what I came up with:

http://photopeach.com/embed/11gltno

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First Week Down

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-On writing this I listened to this playlist on 8tracks: Autumn Morning playlist

Well, according to ‘MyTimetable’ it’s week four, and I was assured by a member of staff that this is as discombobulating to teaching staff as it is to the students. However, administration must have their way, and so here I am at the end of my first official week at the University of Aberdeen (aka end of week four).

The week began with an almost overwhelming amount of information thrust upon us all, numerous acronyms needing to be deciphered and matched up with lectures, ‘workshops’, and many, many folders within folders on the ‘VLE’ (Virtual Learning Environment) ‘MyAberdeen’. Tutorials are referred to as workshops because I suppose this creates a more interactive, participatory environment and less of a passive learning space. We were told in the introductory lecture on Monday morning that the we are being trained mirrors the way we should try to structure learning in ‘the classroom’, and I think this will prove to be a very effective part of teacher training, learning by doing and seeing how things work in practice within our own learning as prospective teachers.

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I have enjoyed my first week, I feel that today (Sunday) I have the handle on things a little more than I did on Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday when the most frustrating thing to get to grips with was the timetabling system. I will refrain from going into details at length but needless to say initial hiccups have been tweaked and tuned and (I think) all is working properly in the intricate web of the VLE. I think I have completed all the ‘TSDA’s’ (Tutor and Self Directed Activity)required for the upcoming week though I know that there are more documents available to be read, and as of yet I haven’t picked up a single book purchased a few weeks ago from the recommended reading list. *

I have met some kind, like minded people already, and realise that my transition back into studies has been far less complicated than it has been for those who, for example, found out at the last minute that they had been accepted for a place and had to up sticks and fly from Ireland three days before term started. On the first day, I met C. in our mutual ‘Professional Studies’ class and we ventured to the library to take a quick look around before exchanging phone numbers and going off to battle our own individual ‘to-do’ lists. C. and I have since been in touch regarding work for next week (ie “what do we actually have to prepare again?”) and will be in the same class on a weekly basis, so I think an ally has been made early.

We have been divided into groups, one for Professional Studies and the other for Primary Curriculum which covers across the year: Literacy and English, Mathematics, Health and Wellbeing, Science, Expressive Arts, Social Studies, Languages, RME/RMPS. I am in Group 16 for PS and Group 5 for Primary Curriculum, and it took around three hours including several emails back and forth to those in the know to figure this out.

I was a little taken aback that some of the curriculum areas such as Languages only have a few one hour time slots on the timetable next term, and that this will be sufficient teacher training to prepare us for putting it into practice in the classroom. However, this is not a criticism, and I trust in the training and also in my own initiative and professional interest that I will be capable and prepared for the classroom. I suspect the more you put into the studies at University, and the more you read and inquire when on placements then the more that will get back in return.

I am yet to spend much time on campus strolling through Old Aberdeen which really is the most picturesque part of the city, so will endeavour to do so at greater length instead of hopping in the car to drive home (the car still being the novelty of the moment-with an active focus on parallel parking needed).

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*After this is posted I will return to ‘The Origins and Development of the Curriculum for Excellence: Discourse, Politics and Control’ (Humes 2013) and keep underlining as I go with my pink ball point pen.

Unemployed Again

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I am writing this sitting on a train south bound to Edinburgh, so will keep it brief as I like to read and absentmindedly gaze out of the window on train journeys; added bonus, I am currently sitting in a window seat with a table all to my myself, so I’d like to stretch out my legs whilst I have the luxurious opportunity to do so.

Student life commences in nine days. This week I worked my last shift at both my tutoring and café job and yesterday I was actually struck by the first wave of uncertainty. Feeling unsure and nervous as well as full of anticipation, it is a strange mix of emotions to launch oneself from secure employment into the slip stream of something new. I know what I’m doing in restaurants, but I’m a little out of the loop at being a student and certainly have no idea what it feels like to be a teacher in training. That’s rather exciting I suppose, and the wheels are very much in motion for that.

But first, off on holiday I go. Two nights in Edinburgh catching up with family, friends, and soaking up the Fringe Festival atmosphere; I suspect my heart strings will pang once again for the beautiful city that still feels like home. Then onward south to London for five nights in the capital filled with theatre, dinners, shopping, and general touring about and birthday shenanigans before I fly back home on Sunday and start classes on the Monday. What a week ahead.

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Here We Go…

Whilst thumbing through new books piled high on my left, a cup of tea to my right, and soothing Classical Christmas carols playing (controversial I know, but I like to shake things up) I wonder where to begin. How to best start organising my brain into “study mode” so I can give myself a jump start a few weeks prior to returning to the books after four years of making my way in the world with the skills and knowledge I gleaned first time round.

On the 22nd August term begins at the University of Aberdeen for those studying for a Post Graduate Diploma in Education, and as of today I am registered and enrolled; “sign, sealed, delivered, I’m yours” student life, for one more year (though never say never). I fell out of love with tertiary education at the end of my undergraduate studies, and told myself I would only go back to university if I was willing and able to immerse myself fully and without naive distraction. I always thought that I would enjoy working in the teaching profession, musing over primary and secondary, but I was right to take a few years to let life play out, to see if the inclination towards teaching grew to an invested interest and chosen career path, and it has.

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So, where to begin? How best to give myself a leg up and hit the ground running?

Well, I decided to start studies calm and stress free, the idea being that I can channel this forward at the year unfolds. I have started reading through the first of a number of compulsory texts making little notes to myself as I go, yellow sticky labels at the ready so that I don’t need to write on the pages (in-case I want to sell them on second-hand at the end of the year…yes, I’m thinking ahead). I have two coloured pens at the ready for highlighting and drawing little clouds around headings, and I guess I’ll just keep it this simple for now; read, annotate, reflect, repeat.

And start a blog! Six months or so ago I started my first blog project which I share with one of my oldest friends and we express a little creativity online from time to time to keep our brains and our hearts open to the world around us. After a few positive comments from unexpected places I thought it might be interesting to create a new space for writing, one that pays particular attention to my thought and experiences during the academic year ahead. So here we are, a little work in progress and no doubt a terrible temptation for procrastination but c’est la vie, I’m going to get started.