Teacher Tips

  1. IKEA

One of the most exciting things about becoming a newly qualified teacher for me, is the chance to create and decorate my own classroom! I am already thinking about my future reading corner, the organisation of desks, the stationery pots, the book shelves and other resources…BUT one main issue is money since everything has a cost. However, shops like IKEA are the perfect place to buy reasonable and good quality products which are perfect for a primary school classroom. Maybe you can organise a group trip to IKEA with your teacher friends!

  1. TES / Teaching ideas / Twinkl

As you all know, being a teacher involves a whole LOT of planning and evaluating. Luckily, there are lots of fantastic resources available online to help. My favourite is TES (Times Educational Supplement), as it is completely free and has thousands of wonderful ideas for lessons across every subject, in addition to assessment methods and tracking pupil progress. I don’t know why I have only just discovered TES this year… but better late than never!

  1. Talk to others

By talking to the people around you and asking for advice, it can help to give you different perspectives – whether it’s from parents or teachers. Even by asking your parents questions about your time at primary school, it might open your eyes to the perspective of parents and the importance of communication within the school environment.

Thanks for reading… I hope you enjoy the rest of this beautiful weather!

Anna 🙂

Setting Up a Sandwich Year

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog posts for the past eight months, you’ll know that I’ve been on a work placement in the USA. In this blog post, I’ll cover some of the intricacies of setting up a sandwich placement, particularly a work placement.

My sandwich year (a term that the Americans find very funny) took place between the 2nd and 3rd years of my BSc Genetics degree – this is the period of time that most people choose to complete their sandwich year in. If your course offers the option of a sandwich year and you choose to take one on, you may be able to find a link from one of the lecturers in your department. If not, then you can find one yourself! There’s a fair bit of paperwork to do before your placement year can be approved. For example, if you’re on a sandwich work placement, Erasmus year abroad, or study abroad year then you need to fill in a transfer form. As well as this, there’s a health and safety risk assessment that must be filled out prior to approval and a form for “approval for paid/unpaid leave of absence for external travel”. If all this paperwork is putting you off, fear not! Edge Hill has a placement officer that will help you through all this and make sure you understand what needs to be done before you go.

Another thing that is a key concern when undertaking a sandwich placement is cost. You can still take out your regular student finance whilst on your year out. Edge Hill charges a small fraction of your regular tuition fees that cover admin costs whilst you are away, and your student finance will cover it. You may also take out an additional maintenance loan to help cover living costs if you want – this is your primary funding and should be taken out before you apply for any additional support from the university, such as the Student Opportunity Fund, which I have blogged about previously. The Student Opportunity Fund also requires paperwork, but your personal tutor or placement head of the department should be able to help you – it requires things like a breakdown of costs and summary of the activity you are taking on.

Edge Hill Life Hacks – Everyone’s free (to wear sunscreen)

Everybody's free to wear sunscreen

Everybody's free to wear sunscreen


Coming to the end of my first year at Edge Hill University I thought it would be worth while writing a blog as a homage to one of my all time favourite songs and essays. The title of this blog might seem odd if you haven’t heard Baz Luhrmanns “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”, adapted from Mary Schmich’s column “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young” – (You can listen here and read here) but here goes anyway.


If I could offer you only one tip for the future, studying would be it would be it. The long-term benefits of studying have been proved by professors, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own first year experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the experience and ease of first year. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the experience of first year until you graduate. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as far behind as you imagine.

Don’t worry about exams. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to write a dissertation by chewing bubble gum. The real exams in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 8 p.m. before social on Wednesday.

Give something a go every day that scares you.

Karaoke.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours. Invest in relationships.

Relax.

Don’t waste your time on social media. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s not on a mobile phone.

Remember firsts you receive. Forget the fails. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old essays. Throw away your old timetables.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what job you want from your course. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they were even studying. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds are still in classes.

Get plenty of sleep. Be kind to your ears. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Don’t expect anyone else to write your reports. Maybe you have a best friend. Maybe you’ll have a smart partner. But you never know when either one might not want to help.

Don’t mess too much with your looks or by the time you’re 40 your dyed blue hair will have fallen out.

Be careful whose classes you take, but be patient with those who teach them. Teaching is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the bin, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the studying.


 

Lesson Planning

Hello everyone! I hope you’ve had a lovely weekend and you are feeling refreshed for the week ahead! My two weeks of placement so far has gone super fast, I can’t quite believe it! Since I should be planning my lessons right now… I thought I would procrastinate and tell you how I plan them! (hopefully this might help you teachers out there!).

  1. Understand children’s prior knowledge

I find that the most important thing is to find out what the children know, and what they want to find out. Questioning children at the beginning of the lesson is really helpful to get an idea of the extent of their understanding. Whether it’s more or less than expected, it makes it easier to adapt the lesson content when you teach it. Prior to the lesson, looking at previous lesson plans and written work / evidence of learning will allow you to be more specific in your planning.

  1. Use your feedback

Being a trainee teacher involves learning from mistakes and knowing what is effective to a child’s learning. By thinking about your feedback to your previous teaching, it will allow you to personally evaluate your teaching methods and approaches to improve for next time.

  1. Adapt to different needs

Always have a plan B. Consider the differentiated abilities within the classroom and plan for different learning styles – visual, auditory, kinaesthetic. Make sure you have extension tasks to challenge pupils in addition to considering the help from teaching assistants, children with special educational needs, and children with English as an additional language.

  1. Be Creative

Ensure you use varied teaching approaches with a variety of resources. Children can only concentrate on one thing for a certain amount of time – as for any adult! Engaging them with creative tasks will encourage the use of their imaginations and active learning.

  1. Have a read over the teachers’ standards

Familiarise yourself with the Teachers’ Standards to ensure every standard has been/will be met.

I hope these few ideas are useful to you, drop me a comment if you have any questions! Thanks for reading, have a good Monday!

Anna 🙂

A Visit From Home and A Paper In The Works

Around mid-April, I was visited by a friend from home – Hollie, who went to the same sixth form as I. Fortunately enough, I had a few days off to show Hollie around the city and make the most of their time over here. Having come over in early Spring, Hollie got to experience Midwestern weather at its most capricious – with the weather nice enough for shorts bookended by light snow and heavy rain. Whilst the sun blessed us with heat, we trekked around the city, visiting The Bean and shopping in some indie “thrift” stores that didn’t seem to be entirely secondhand. I also took another trip to the Neo-Futurists to see The Infinite Wrench. As per the nature of the show, in the time between my two viewings, the individual plays had changed entirely. Although I preferred the shows during my first viewing, I did get to go up on stage this time, which makes two for two on ‘member of my party being directly involved in the show’!

On the rainy days of Hollie’s stay, we still braved the cold outdoors to visit the Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. Honestly, a highlight of the day we went to the planetarium was Pokemon Go Community Day – we both caught some gems including our first shinies of the game and the North American regional exclusive Tauros. On the last full day, I showed Hollie some of the best and worst that Chicago has to offer – the Impossible Burger and Malort – one being a delicious vegan meal, the other a harsh drink that has a lasting bitter flavour.

During my days back at the Arboretum, I’ve been making progress on the work that’s going into the upcoming paper I’m working on with Lane and Andrew. I’ve already managed to create a few nice boxplots and we’re starting to see some interesting results from our analyses – time to get it written up into a suitable format! Working inside at the arboretum whilst it’s sunny and fairly warm outside makes a change from last Autumn when I was working in the prairie. Over at the Museum, I’ve assisted on the bait capture stage of the experiment, a stage that is similar to using the Bioanalyzer in that although it’s a simple procedure, the pressure is on with timing and expensive reagents.

Board-Games and Field-Work

Towards the start of April, I went to not one, but two board game parties – both for the birthdays of some Chicagoans. Sarah from the Arboretum and Katie who is Arb-adjacent, the housemate of someone who works at the Morton. I finally got to play Settlers of Catan, a game I’ve wanted to play for about a year but never found the opportunity to – although simple in its basic rules, a lot of strategy can be implemented. Lately, I’ve come to realise that I enjoy these kinds of events much more than going out to a crowded club or bar, something that I certainly enjoyed during the previous two years at university. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m in a new place with new people that has pushed me to enjoy a more quiet setting over a high energy one.

I enjoyed my first Seder at the start of Passover, complete with vegan Matzah ball soup and many cups of wine. There was a condensed reading which was very informational and interactive – a piece of Matzah, the afikoman, was hidden before the service and since there were no children present to look for it, we did. Also, being the youngest at this dinner meant that I read a specific part of the text.

Over the at the Field Museum, I used the Bioanalyzer for the first time, which was slightly daunting if only for the fact that each individual chip costs around $60. I also attended another talk, this one by Nathan Lord on jewel beetles, their incandescence, and how and what they see. Fascinating stuff, stretching over a broad range of disciplines from biochemistry to taxonomy. Another Super Speaker, Meg Staton, was at the Morton Arboretum in early April also, presenting on a citizen science app, TreeSnap, which aims to help affiliated scientists gather data on specific trees such as the American Chestnut or Ash trees.

Back in the field, I was put to work outside as the prairie restoration project is coming alive again after Winter. The prairie needed to be burnt to rid the site of last year’s dead growth, and I assisted Mary-Claire in readying the plots so that they were in the best condition for ignition. Sadly, I missed the actual fire, as the conditions were so good that the burn team completed their work in a flash.

A Fund for Student Opportunities

If you follow my blog posts here on Inside Edge, you know that I’m currently in the United States of America, on a sandwich placement at the Morton Arboretum. I was fortunate when arranging up this work placement that Edge Hill University had just set up its Student Opportunity Fund (SOF) – a fund that students can apply for to help them make the most of career enhancing opportunities. The fund’s goal is to make sure that no student at EHU passes up a potentially life-changing experience because of the financial burden it might impose.

When I was in the midst of applying for my placement as a Research Affiliate at the Morton Arboretum, I realised quickly that costs would add up. An updated passport, a visa, flights and insurance would quickly put a hefty dent in my finances, leaving my maintenance loan severely lacking for the year abroad. Thankfully, my personal tutor, Paul Ashton, and the Money Advice Team (for whom I was working for at the time as a Money Buddy) informed me about the Student Opportunity Fund and that I could potentially be successful in acquiring additional funding.

Any student on an undergraduate or PGCE course attending EHU can apply for the fund, which will supply them with up to £2000 to support the proposed activity. The projects can be near or far, large or small, requiring the maximum amount available or a portion. Applications could cover travel and accommodation expenses, for example, for unpaid work experience or volunteering; interviews or assessments not covered by the employer; or conferences, festivals, or events where you’re showcasing your work. The fund could also cover costs of developing and making creative material.

Many students have already made use of this amazing fund to enable them to experience some wonderful opportunities that improve both their transferable and career-focused skills:

Applications are judged by a panel and must be submitted over ten working days before the panel convenes. For this academic year, 2017-2018, the remaining dates of convention are:

  • Friday 13th April 2018
  • Thursday 3rd May 2018
  • Wednesday 6th June 2018

Spring in Chicago

 

The new logo and slogan on the north facing entrance of The Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois.

Whilst I spend most of my time in the city now, since I work in the Pritzker Lab at the Field Museum labs instead of at the Arboretum, I do work at the Arb on Thursdays. During this time I’ve been analysing the data gathered from biomass and vegetation indices in R, working on a potential paper. I’m quite proud of the various graphs I’ve made, utilising the “ggplot” package. Since this is a group effort, we’ve taken to using GitHub to streamline our workflow. Although I’ve used GitHub to access other people’s data before, I’ve never used it to upload my own data and collaborate with others. The process has been largely straightforward and we’re making good use of the system.

I made an exception to my usual schedule the other week when I worked at the arboretum on Monday. This was because there wasn’t just any Tree Talk happening, there was a Super Tree Talk. Presented by Nathan Swenson from the University of Maryland, this talk was on the structure and dynamics of tree assemblages, from traits and phylogenies to transcriptomes and functional phylogenomics. Back at the Field Museum, I’ve recently also attended talks on indigenous archaeology and the root microbiome.

Just down the road from the Field Museum is Adler Planetarium. I’d never been to a planetarium before until a few weeks ago when I went to “Adler After Dark” with Diana. As you might suspect, the event was in the evening, at a time when the planetarium would usually be closed. Although there was a theme (game-night), we’d never been to the standard exhibits or shows, so those were the priorities of the evening. The two shows we saw were on the “Cosmic Wonders” of the observable universe and of the sky as seen from Chicago on that night. The first showed the many deep sky objects humanity has observed, including the incredible photo of 5,550 galaxies from Hubble’s eXtreme Deep Field, featuring galaxies formed just 450 million years after the big bang, and a photo of gravitational lensing on a galactic scale. The second pointed out the many asterisms and constellations visible in the night sky. We also were given a tour of the telescope and got to turn the roof – very fun. That night also marked the second time I’ve held a piece of the moon and Mars!

Back on Earth, I had a Skype meeting with the Tree Charter’s Student Council – a group I was chosen and have been volunteering for since early 2016. The organisation, which is affiliated with the Woodland Trust, are partnering with NUS to engage Students’ Unions around the country. I’m very excited to continue working with them in the future.

Placements in Education – Tips!

Hello everybody! I hope you’re all having a lovely Easter (and Pesach)! In my first year, professional practice took place from the end of November to the beginning of February. Throughout this placement, it taught me a lot of things and made me realise how I can improve this year. You may feel nervous or overwhelmed when given all the information for your placement, but this is completely normal! I thought I would list some tips to help calm your nerves!

Introduce yourself to other teachers

No matter how nervous you may feel, once you talk to teachers at the school you will feel more comfortable I guarantee! They will be welcoming and are there to give advice!

Don’t be afraid of the staff room

Following on from this, you should not avoid the staff room! You are there to get to know the teachers, and they also want to get to know you.

Ask, ask, ask!

One of the most important aspects of placement is to ask questions. You are there to learn and improve your skills as a teacher, so it is important to ask your mentor any questions you can think of. For example, I feel I did not find out enough information about assessment on my last placement. So this time around, I know to question what types of assessment are used and how often they are implemented.

Get to know your school

In your first week, try to find out where everything is – which classroom is which, where the toilets are, where the head teacher’s office is etc. Throughout your time on practice, it is important to know where to take the children if you are asked to guide them to another place.

Go to staff meetings and events

Yes, these things may make your day longer… but when you have less planning to do one night, you should take advantage of every opportunity. It is important to observe the structure of meetings, to find out what types of preparation is necessary when teaching a class of your own. In addition to this, attending and helping out with school events will provide you with a varied and unique experience (as well as contributing to your Teachers’ Standards).

Be reflective

Professional practice isn’t going to be perfect… teachers expect your lessons to flop sometimes. But the important thing is to know how to pick yourself up and improve for next time. Analyse how your lesson went, make notes and talk to your class teacher/mentor about aspects of your teaching that went well and those aspects that didn’t.

Make the most of it

And finally…make the most of your experience there! Celebrate your achievements, learn from your mistakes, and remember every moment is leading up to teaching your own class one day!

Feel free to drop me a comment if you have anything you want to ask. Thanks for reading, have a good weekend and bank holiday!

Anna 🙂

Plants, Shows, and Skates

Shortly after returning from Boston, I took a trip to Garfield Park Conservatory. The conservatory hosts a number of rooms, each with a different theme – the front room is home to palms, the centre room to ferns, and another to aroids. The show room at the time of my visit was featuring the Spring Flower Show, “Hashtag No Filter”. Next up on the list is the Chicago Botanic Garden, hopefully, I’ll make it up there in time for their orchid show.

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Also towards the end of February, I saw a reading for a play called Eleanor Absolute, which is based on true events and tells the story of a journalist, Lorena Hickok, and her romantic relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt – whilst questioning who gets to decide on a person’s legacy. The play was written by someone I met earlier this year, Hannah Verdon.

In early March, I went to another show, this one with Molly, who drove up for the weekend. This show was called The Infinite Wrench and was by a group called the Neo-Futurists. The show is an hour long and the aim is to perform 30 short plays, with interrupting “wrenches” that add a new dimension or obstruction to the performance. Some plays were silly and short, others were longer and heartfelt, Molly was even chosen to dance in one of the shows. It was worth enduring the cold for as we queue to get in (we arrived far too early).

The following day, Diana and I made it down to Maggie Daley Park on the final day of ice-skating on their rink. Having not skated in years, and never being proficient at it anyway, I think I faired fairly well by simply not falling over. Diana pointed out that it was easier to skate with speed and, although far more nerve-wracking, she was right – we picked up a decent pace as we made a few loops around the ribbon. Our time on the rink was cut short by the Zamboni, but it was a nice day out and the park was nice to walk around.

I mentioned in a previous post about the Student Union elections that I was running for a part-time officer position. Sadly, I did not win the election, but the elected officer has a good team to work with and I’m sure the position is in capable hands. I did, however, win the Sandwich Placement award at Edge Hill University Careers Award Evening! Although I couldn’t make it to the Evening itself, my personal tutor, Paul Ashton, collected the award on my behalf and a video of the announcement was sent to me, very kindly, by the Careers Team.