Can/ Should Holidays be Learning Opportunities?

Hello,

I have finally returned to blogging – hooray! I’m sorry for the absence, it’s been a busy few months, but as things are starting to wind down this term now, I should hopefully be able to blog more.

Today, I thought I would blog on a debate that has often raged in education: can, or should, holidays be opportunities to learn? In my opinion, I agree that yes, holidays can be opportunities to learn, though whether they should be depends upon what sort of learning is being advocated.

Of course, revising for exams and reading material to keep up-to-speed with classes is important if you’re a student; and learning about new mark schemes, syllabi, and methods of teaching is important if you’re a teacher. What isn’t constructive though is when you ‘breeze’ through these tasks, i.e. you do them to get them done, not really caring if you can only recall bits of information here and there. That sort of approach is likely to make you feel disaffected, and maybe even stress you out when it comes to the time where you have to draw on your knowledge, because you tell yourself (consciously or sub-consciously) your task is going to be boring. You might ‘breeze’ because you want to relax, which is perfectly understandable, but it won’t help your learning or relaxation in the long-run.

On the other hand, what if you do the work straight away/ quickly, because you’re excited by it? That’s great, you’re more likely to learn something, but maybe take some time to review it later. If you leave it for six weeks, you might forget some things, and it might make it harder to get back into the ‘flow’ of term-time. I remember how, after the summer holidays, me and some of my classmates (in primary and secondary school) would comment on how our handwriting felt a lot slower than it did before the holidays, because we didn’t write at speed in the holidays as we did in class. It would take some time to get used to it again!

The above concerns what I call formal learning. Now, I’m going to relate a personal experience of formal and informal learning on holiday. As you may know, I visited Turkey in the Summer for a holiday, and I took fiction and poetry books for University with me. Now, I’m not advocating that you take work on holiday with you for formal learning, but I did because:

1). It would be near the end of August when I came home, and I didn’t want to be stressing about trying to get lots of reading done in advance for University starting in mid-September.

2). I’m a Literature student, and I love reading! So, my reading would be both entertainment, and helpful preparation (how very reminiscent of a Horatian phrase…).

I ‘relaxed’ too though: I went swimming in the pool, I went out into the town, etc. What really captivated my attention though was the Turkish language and culture. This was cue for me to start informally learning Turkish, which I found gloriously different to English, my first language.

I arrived home missing Turkey, and anticipating the next time I could visit. What have I done since then? Well…

1). I bought a Turkish language textbook with CD in order to learn the language to an intermediate level (it was the highest level I could find, though I would like to become fluent).

2). I started listening to Turkish music. I love it, and try to listen to some every day. I even sang a bit of a song to my friends in the library one time, which rather amused them.

3). I have researched a little bit into Turkish culture and history.

4). Looked up how to make lavash (balloon bread). One of my friends also told me there’s a Turkish restaurant not far from where I live either – I cannot explain how much I want to go. Perhaps I can practice my Turkish there?!

5). Became extremely excited when I found out that, in one of my modules at University, I would be studying Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s Turkish Embassy Letters from the 18th century. We only looked at two of the letters, but I intend to read them all over the Christmas holiday for fun. Yes, really – fun. I started looking for other Turkish literature too.

6). Researched TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) courses. I was so inspired by learning Turkish on holiday, that I thought, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be great if you could help people speak English, in addition to teaching literature?’

Basically, my holiday kick-started a complete fascination with a country’s customs, culture, language, food, and history. I didn’t set out to learn, and I never expected my holiday to ignite such curiosity (though I am an inquisitive person, so perhaps I should have expected this of myself).

Therefore, I conclude that holidays can be learning opportunities, opening your mind up to things you never previously considered. Learning should always be encouraged, though in what form, how much, and when it takes place, all depends on the needs and desires of the individual concerned.

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Now I want to hear from you, please: where do you stand on the debate? Do you have any experiences where you have learnt inadvertently?

I look forward to reading your responses!

Jessica

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A New Academic Year!

Hello!

I’m sorry for the lack of blog posts during August and the beginning of September. ‘What have you been doing?’, you may cry. Well…

  • I was writing a blog post about a Teaching and Learning conference I attended in July, but I wasn’t sure how much to put into it. It started becoming essay-length, and I thought ‘Is that really effective for a blog post? Should I break it up into two parts, or is that redundant giving you would be posting them consecutively? People don’t want to get bored reading, and you don’t want them to miss the detail of this inspiring event.’ So I mused, and I meant to take my notes for it on holiday to finish it off. Once I was on holiday, I thought, ‘I’ll finish my blog post’, and then I realised I had forgotten my notes – bad blogger! I did have advanced reading for University though (yes, I took books to read for class on holiday with me)…
  • In early August, I spent a good deal of time promoting my blog posts about A-Level Results Day on Facebook and Twitter. I was determined to help as many students as I could, and some lovely people helped me spread the word – a massive thank you to them!
  • I went on holiday to Turkey. This was my first time visiting Turkey, and I was truly amazed by it: the people were friendly, and the culture was fascinating (at different points of the day, I could hear the call to prayers, which was wonderful to hear). I also started learning Turkish for fun, because I found the language so intriguing. I’m determined to become fluent, and I can’t express the excitement I felt when my language book arrived through the post!
  • I’ve been getting ahead on reading for University. I didn’t have to, but now I feel so prepared, which hopefully makes for some less stressful weeks in the first semester.
  • I’m a Student Representative for my course, and in July I asked my fellow students what I was doing well, and what I could do better for them. The people who replied left me some really lovely comments, and as a result of that conversation I’m organising at least a couple of things, including a fundraising event next week!
  • Generally supporting people, including my friends and new students to the University.
  • Joining in education chats on Twitter, which is rather fun and inspiring!
  • Planning blog posts
  • I did a four-day leadership course through my University from the 7th-10th of September. This was truly inspiring as well (it even involved a visit to a primary school), and it made me realise something: I don’t want to be a teacher anymore, I need to be, in order to help future students. In combination with my holiday in Turkey, my teaching aspirations also expanded, and I want to undertake a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) course. I’m not sure which course to do, though two lovely people gave me advice, and when to do it, but the goal is there!

So that’s what I’ve been doing. I start the second year of my undergraduate English course tomorrow, which makes me so excited! I will finish the Teaching and Learning conference blog post and publish it by the end of next week – hopefully, I will do the conference justice!

What have you been up to this Summer? Are you starting a new academic year, or have you already started? Leave a comment below, and I will reply as soon as I can.

I hope you all have an amazing week!

Jessica

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I’ve just realised I’ve had this blog for 6 months now. Here is to many more months (and years) of blogging on ‘Teaching Aspirations’!

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A Friendship Between the Sciences and the Arts?

Hello,

As you may know, I study English at University. I study it because it is one of my favourite subjects, but when I was originally looking for University courses I looked for Physics courses, because I love that subject too. This has struck people as rather unusual in the past, and it might strike you the same, but I love those subjects (I was so happy to find a book about Science and Literature a few weeks ago), and I find they cross over in some respects. Now some of you that just read that last clause may think, ‘Nope, you can’t mix Science and Art. They’re too different. At school I hated Science, but I loved Art as I got to be creative, etc.’ Well I want to explain to you my view: Science is as much of an Art, as Art is as much of a Science.

The Sciences are stereotypically seen as the logical, ‘cold’ subjects where you use lots of numbers, formulae and experiments, and the Arts are seen as free, imaginative and emotionally ‘warm’. I challenge these stereotypes. Yes, of course you use numbers and experiments in the Sciences, but does it not take imagination to come up with a scientific theory? Do you not need the ability to write concisely yet eloquently, a skill practiced in the subject of English? Alternatively, let us consider English and Art: indeed, both are very creative subjects, but do they not require planning, logicality and expertise? Can they not be reviewed with a critical, ‘cold’ eye?

I have come across both students and teachers who say they love one subject and hate the other, and that is perfectly okay, as it would be a shame if people did not express their opinions. What I find sad though is that maybe nobody said to them, ‘why do we not look at this subject you “hate” in a way you understand or prefer, so that maybe you could enjoy it a little too?’

That being said, there is a secondary school Science teacher, Rob Wilkinson, who uses some of his original art in his work. You can check out his work over on the Facebook page, ‘Rob Wilkinson Art’.

He creates some pretty cool images, doesn’t he? I think they are very visually striking, and creations such as those in the ‘School worksheets, pen & ink.’ album might be fun aids to help students learn and recall information, and even inspire them (please do not use any images without the artist’s permission – it would be copyright infringement otherwise). What I also love about them is that they make a deliberate link between Art and Science – hopefully the students will be able to realise how wonderfully the two disciplines can work in co-operation, and start to make more links between them.

This hope is something I want to realise when I become a teacher, so that maybe students can learn to enjoy both, and as a result do better in both (even if they still prefer one over the other). We need to develop a friendship between the Sciences and the Arts for the love of learning. A friendship can exist, but nothing will come to fruition if we do not try to help it do so. ______________________________________________________

What do you think about the divide between the Arts and Sciences? Were/ Are you a student who greatly preferred one discipline over the other? Let me know what you think, I would love to hear from you.

Have a nice day,

Jessica

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A Little Update

Hello

Just a quick update tonight. You may have noticed that ‘Teaching Aspirations’ has a lovely new banner at the top of the page (the banner is also on my Facebook and Twitter pages, along with an excellent logo). These images were created for me to use (and I asked permission again, to make sure I could use them) by the amazing and lovely Stephanie Gallon, blogger extraordinaire. Thank you, Stephanie! You can view her blog, here: https://stephanieanngallon.wordpress.com/.

I also want to say thank you to you, all of the people who have ever read my blog, are reading it now, or will read it in the future. I really appreciate it.

Jessica

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What Could I Do When I Have My Results? Advice for Further Education Students

Hello,

You may have seen my previous post ‘A Short Guide to Results Day and Clearing (a Video Blog)‘. This post is a second part to it, though it is not a video blog this time. Today, I thought I would give further education (examples: A Level, BTEC, Scottish Higher) students some advice on what they could do when they receive their results. The routes are organised into specific categories:

Results better than expected/ wanted/ needed

  • Adjustment (University). If you are already planning to go to University, and you receive results that are better than you expected (well done!), you will highly likely (unless something went wrong) receive an unconditional offer from your first choice University.  This means you will be able to attend it in the new academic year. If you want to though, you can look at Adjustment. Adjustment is the process provided by UCAS, through which students who achieve better results than expected can keep their unconditional offer, but also have a look at other courses or Universities they may want to attend instead.

If you find a course or a University that you are interested in, then like Clearing, you ring the University in the hopes that you could obtain a verbal offer. If you receive any verbal offers, you may want to consider your decision carefully, and if you want to change your chosen University or course, you request to be released from your unconditional offer (you should be able to do this, check UCAS), and select the course and University who gave you a new verbal offer.

If you decide that you do not want to change University or course, then everything is okay, as you still have your original unconditional offer.

Good luck at University!

Results as expected/ wanted/ needed

Well done! You can do anything listed under ‘Any of the above outcomes’.

Results lower than expected/ wanted/ needed

Ah, I understand this situation. I hope you know that as long as you tried your best that is all that matters, and you can still be successful after this. It is okay to cry (remember to bring tissues with you on Results Day, and also somebody supportive if you want to), but let me just repeat a part of my last clause, to make sure you read it: you can still be successful. So what can you do?

  • Re-sit. This probably sounds like a horrible idea, but if you are so disappointed with your results, or your teachers or family members advise you to, you may want to consider re-sitting. There is no shame in re-sitting, as long as you try to learn where you went wrong (ask your college or sixth form whether they can request your paper/s back on your behalf for you to learn from your mistakes – you, or the school, will have to pay for these though), and try your best in the next academic year. Trying your best does not mean overworking though, as I overworked in my last year of A Level and that had a negative effect on me and, I believe, my results. If you are worried about your employability prospects, as I was when I received my results, talk to a careers advisor (or a teacher/ family member/ friend who understands this area).
  • Ask for a re-mark. If your result is close to the next grade boundary, you may want to think about getting a re-mark of your paper/s. If you do get a re-mark, your result may go up, stay the same, or even go down afterwards. It can be a difficult decision, and you or your school will have to pay for the re-mark, so talk about this option with your teachers (and your family too if you want).

Any of the above outcomes

No matter what happens, you can do any of the below:

  • Gap year. You might have already planned to do this, but if you feel too overwhelmed and do not know whether you want to go to University or get a steady job, you may want to consider taking a gap year. A gap year is a perfect opportunity to travel, to build up work experience, and to work out what path you want to take (though you can always follow a different path later in life, you are never resigned to one path). Just remember you want to be able to tell future employers what you did (productively) in your gap year, if you choose to take one.
  • Clearing (University). I went through this route, so I just want to re-assure you that by no means are you a ‘failure’ if you go to University via this method. I say a bit more about it in the video blog I mentioned at the beginning of this post, but basically Clearing is where you can find courses with vacancies at Universities across the country. The major difference, from applying to University earlier in the year, is that you must receive a verbal offer/ offers first, and then only select one course when you login to UCAS. When your choice is confirmed, you can get ready for University!
  • Job/ Apprenticeship. You might already have something lined up, or you might just decide after getting your results that you would like to find a job or an apprenticeship. Try not to worry too much if you think you are too late for an application – have a look on websites and in newspaper listings as soon as you can, if not straight away, with an idea of what sort of area you would like to work in/ what would be helpful to your career goals. If there is a careers advisor at your college or sixth form, it might be a good idea to talk to them – they should be able to help you efficiently. Make sure your CV is up-to-date, and good luck!
  • Celebrate. After you leave your sixth form or college, you students who received the results they wanted, or who received results that exceeded your expectations, might start thinking about where and how you are going to celebrate. If your results were lower than expected/ wanted, you might just want to go home and think about your options, or let yourself feel upset for a bit, but it might be good to go out and ‘celebrate’ with your family or friends. You probably think I mean that sarcastically, but I do not mean it so. My parents took me out for a meal to celebrate, because even though I was upset with my results, and they were upset for me, they were still proud of me (we had a meal when I received my GCSE results too, and they were higher than I had expected). Getting through further education is a major accomplishment, so well done (even if you do not believe it now)!

You may feel surprised at the number of options listed under ‘Any of the above outcomes’, and that is because I do not want to suggest a certain route for a student to follow. For instance, those who achieve highly may not want to go to University (even if they showed a prior interest, or are expected to by others), and those who do not achieve as well as they wanted to can go to University if they so wish (dependent upon the entry requirements of the university/ universities they are interested in attending). I want students to realise that there are so many options open to them.

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If you are a student, or a parent/ carer of a student, expecting their results, please feel free to share this post with other students. You may also want to make notes if you want to discuss the options with your family, your teachers or even your friends (I might have missed some options, but these are the ones I know of – please tell me if I am missing anything. A different website might take a different approach, and it is never bad to investigate other websites with something so important as results advice, as long as they are impartial).

Let me know if this post is helpful – I would love to hear from you. If you’re reading this before Results Day on Thursday 13th August in the UK, good luck!

Jessica

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A Short Guide to Results Day and Clearing (a Video Blog)

Hello,

I thought I would try something a bit different today and post a video blog.

Let me know what you think please.

EDIT: I did not want to overwhelm you with too much information in the video, and I was awaiting permission to mention this (I have now gained permission), but I also used the Exam Results Helpline a day after Results Day, when I was still upset about my results and feeling unsure. They are a free service who offer impartial advice to students about their results. I messaged them via their Facebook page, but you can also ring them on 0808 100 8000. Additionally, they have a Twitter page, which is also helpful for keeping yourself up-to-date with them. I hope this information proves helpful to you, along with the video below.

Jessica

Disclaimer: I was not paid to mention the Exam Results Helpline, I just thought it might be helpful to mention it, because a student reading this could end up using it.

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A Gothic Fiction Playlist

A blog post I wrote for Spectral Visions. Hopefully, it could be used to inspire students t(or anybody) to read or compose Gothic fiction!

Spectral Visions

Jessica Cartner is a first year BA English student at the University of Sunderland. Her interests in the Gothic are monstrous and the humane, Romantic Gothic and Victorian Gothic.

Hello everyone,

My name is Jessica. The blog admin recently inspired me to create a Gothic fiction playlist, and they provided me with this opportunity to share it with you. The pieces are not ranked, though I tried to arrange their order to make your listening a little more interesting:

Wuthering Heights – Kate Bush

Perhaps a little predictable, but this 1979 number one hit was inspired by Emily Brontë’s Gothic novel of the same name. Bush’s vocals are innocent yet ghostly, and as you sing along, you may just feel like wandering around the Yorkshire moors…

Fade to Grey – Visage

With those budding synthesisers, ethereal French and English vocals, and hypnotic rhythm, this song will haunt you for many…

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Four Tips for Remembering Quotations

Hello,

I seem to be finding a lot of inspiration that does not rely on news stories lately, so my second blog post today is inspired by somebody I know who is currently preparing for their final A-Level exams. This person wondered if I had any tips on remembering quotations for a Literature exam, and I shared with them the methods I used, and still use, so I thought I would also share them with you! The tips below I mostly use to remember quotations from poetry or drama, though they can also be used for remembering quotations from novels (and for remembering formulae and constants in Mathematics and Science):

1). Read the lines aloud. Nothing helps me to remember lines more than by reading them aloud, by performing them and repeating them at various times. If I am trying to remember quotations of various characters, then I will assume different voices for each of the characters by varying my tone, pitch and pace (though if a stage direction denotes how I must perform a line, then I will perform it that way). People may think you are crazy if they find your performing your own one-man show, but when you can remember those quotations it will make you feel awesome. You could even ask somebody to join in with you to help you practice your lines! Now some of you may cry, ‘I need to remember Shakespearean or Middle English quotations, how will I manage to remember them when the language is so different to what I speak now?’ A recommendation I have often heard is to find a version of the text you are studying that has footnotes to help you understand some of the words. My personal tip with Middle English words is to think about how you try to pronounce a modern English word you see for the first time. Break the word down into syllables if you can, and sound the words out. What do they sound like? I often feel like I am speaking Geordie (the dialect of Newcastle in North East England) when I read Middle English aloud.

2). Create a notebook or poster or cards of quotations. Writing the quotations down, and jazzing them up in any way you see fit, for example, highlighting, writing them on coloured paper, doodling next to them and so on, can also help you to remember them. The best things about cards and notebooks is that they are portable, so if you have an urge to revise when you are not near your text or filed papers, then voilà, you can.

3). Watch or listen to performances. Similar to my method in tip one, where I assume different voices for different characters, listening to actors say the lines can also help to lodge them in your memory, as their tone and pacing will be different to yours. It gives your learning a bit of variation.

4). Take a quotation quiz. I love quizzes, whether taking them alone online or playing them with a group, and since they are not called that fear-inducing word exams, they can help you to feel more relaxed in answering questions. At A-Level, one of my English teachers split our class into two teams, and we had to finish off or remember quotations from the plays we were studying. It became competitive, but it was extremely fun, and it helped us to learn. As a result, I always message a few of the teams members if I hear a quotation on the television, and it can lead to us starting a conversation!

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These are my four tips for remembering quotations. They are only suggestions though, and I am sure there will be other methods you can use.

Do you use any of the above tips, or have some of your own? Post in the comments below!

Jessica

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Seven Songs for Motivation

Hello,

A short and fun first post for today, I thought I would share with you seven songs that comprise part of my motivational playlist. Hopefully, some of these songs should make you determined to work and achieve the results you want to achieve!

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‘Dreamer’ – Livin’ Joy

‘She Bangs the Drums’ – The Stone Roses

‘Running Up That Hill’ – Kate Bush

‘Things Can Only Get Better’ – D:Ream

‘Move On Up’ – Curtis Mayfield

‘Dreams’ – The Cranberries

‘I’m Gonna Get You’ – Bizarre Inc

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What songs would you add to this list? Comment below!

Jessica

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Hopeful Thinking for the Assessment Period

Hello!

It has been a long time since I last posted on my blog, but I found out some blogging etiquette that disrupted my planned posts (i.e. you cannot quote and cite an article in a blog post as you would in an essay, you must contact the author/s of the work and ask for their permission to refer to their work). I thought to focus on my assignments at University first though, and since I am now near the end of my assessment period, I thought I would do a quick blog. I know some students (at all stages: University, sixth form/ college, secondary school and primary school) are not near the end of their assessment period though, and this blog post is dedicated to those students. Below, I have outlined five tips for keeping the exam period a happy and healthy time:

1). Be organised. I love organisation, and there will be a blog post on organisation in the future, so now I am going to tell you a few benefits of keeping organised. The most obvious is that it just helps you to know where you are, what you are doing and when you are doing it. It gives you a finish line, a target, and you are not running around chaotically, trying to work out your bearings. You can feel extremely satisfied when you tick things off your to-do list, whether it is one major thing, or a few small things. It feels good, and you can breathe, no longer submerged in a list of tasks. Physical organisation, whether it be a diary, or files, or storage boxes, can also look really pretty (depending on your point of view of course).

2). Keep healthy. You need to keep physically and mentally healthy, especially in high-stress times. This means eating and drinking right, avoiding potentially harmful substances, exercising, and taking the time to de-stress and have fun. For ways to de-stress, try looking at what extra-curricular activities or support systems your educational establishment offers, and explore the ones you think will be most helpful for you.

3). Find the right work/life balance.  I cannot stress the importance of this. You need to put in some effort in order to learn, and you need to revise to make sure you do not forget information, but you also need to learn to take a break so that you do not burn out. Overworking is just as bad as underworking, so you must find the right work/ life balance for you. If you need some help in establishing one, talk to a family member, a friend, or a teacher.

4). Ask questions. Before you come out of that exam, or hand in that assignment, thinking, ‘Oh, I should have asked my teacher/ lecturer that question last week when I had the chance’, ask them! They are not going to think you are stupid for asking a question/ questions. Whether you are just unsure, or you did not catch that point they made, I think they will just be happy you take the time to care that you understand the subject you are studying. Teachers can get really stressed by the idea of their students not understanding something, so if you do not understand, asking questions will keep you both happy.

5). Stay positive. It is easier said than done, but you really do need to keep positive, and it is an important task all year round. Think of one positive thing about your course, and think of one positive thing about yourself (perhaps every few days, or however often you see fit). If you cannot, ask a friend. Here is one: you are a caring and patient person to have read this post so far!

You have probably heard these tips reiterated so many times, but they are important, and they are coming from a student who overworked and should have taken a few of these tips herself some time ago. She is taking them now, and they are really helpful.

Finally, I just want to wish you good luck with your assignments!

Jessica

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