Inspirational talk by a University academic: The Story of Dr. Tim Jones

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Life is by no means a singular, straight path. Nor is it made up of a single career, more often than not.

This was the overriding theme of the talk I had the pleasure of attending by Dr. Tim Jones, hosted by the University’s Psychology Society.

In fact, in the case of Tim, life seems to have been made up of a multitude of paths that never appeared to direct him towards where he is now, but have allowed him to make his way to being a successful academic and highly valued member of the University of Worcester‘s faculty nonetheless.

Tim’s presentation took those of us present through his life journey so far, covering everything from his dedicated breeding of rabbits as a schoolboy, through his University education and PhD studies, all the way into how he ended up in his current position at our University.

It was a witty, charismatic talk which entertained all in the room, but there were certainly some very useful messages us students could take from Tim and apply to our own lives as well …In fact, I got a whole page of notes purely made up of observations on his presenting style, which will hopefully come in handy for me in June when presenting research I have been an academic partner for!

Tim began by talking us through some difficult times he had in school, and how these experiences shaped his interest in psychology (little did he know it was called that at the time!), and drove him to not just accept things at face value, but to analyse why they have occurred as well.

He then took us through the various different jobs he took on in his teenage years, through to when he graduated from Plymouth University, including the aforementioned rabbit breeding, working at a zoo, and dancing (the three key pillars for any academic, I’m sure you will agree!).

tim_jones_rdax_200x300As Tim progressed through his journey in education, including his PhD studies and various elements of research he has conducted, the themes of his talk became evermore clear to those of us present.

There is at no point in life an ultimatum, where you have to choose a single career and follow it all the way through to your retirement. You may take on a number of different roles during your life, in various different industries, but it is never too late to find a new opportunity, or take on a new role you may enjoy even more.

Through various different amusing anecdotes about clearing his desk and walking out of a job mid-meeting (although this method was strongly advised against later on in the talk), there was one message I wrote down from Tim which will perhaps be the strongest of the points I took away from his presentation: do what you enjoy, and do it well.

Though he has worked a multitude of different jobs in a variety of different industries, Tim’s main motivation always seemed to be to follow work he enjoyed doing, with people he enjoyed working for and with, and therefore completed to a high standard. So perhaps this is the message all students could take away from him, especially with the ominous end of the third year coming up for many: pick a career path that suits you at the time, and that you enjoy doing, and don’t think a single missed opportunity will stop you getting from where you need to be.

Tim himself said he relied on luck as well as opportunism on more than one occasion, and he certainly turned out alright!

Mainstream or Special Needs? – My placement update!

the classes visual timetable

Mainstream or Special Educational Needs teaching? Now that’s a difficult question.

A question that is hard to answer, having only experienced a few examples of each.

But I have my own opinions and my own paths of life that I wish to take, as you will aswell. But here’s a little update on how my placement is going so far, and my thoughts over this topic. Also, enjoy my random and irrelevant pictures that I have taken over the last few weeks, that include some of what I have taught and what the children have made!

Christmas competition

Christmas competition

As I briefly mentioned in my specific “placement” blog a while ago; in the second year of the Primary Initial Teacher Education course at University of Worcester, you are offered the amazing chance to complete your placement in a Special Educational Needs (SEN) school.

This isn’t for everyone, and you will be placed in a mainstream school as normal if you choose not to sign up to this.

I never once thought that i’d end up teaching in a school that was specifically for children with educational, learning and sometimes physical difficulties. It was always an interest of mine, but not something that I thought I would pursue.
This was partly because I wasn’t sure I would be the right kind of person for it.

When I joined Worcester University, I wasn’t aware of this pathway. When we were told about it though, and I watched a presentation from students who had first hand experience of this SEN pathway, I jumped at the chance. Like I said, I never pictured myself teaching in anything other than a mainstream school, but I was thrilled to get the opportunity to experience a different style of teaching and work with children that would challenge and improve everything that I knew about how to be a teacher.

I went into this placement just before Christmas, thinking that I would use my experiences and knowledge of SEN teaching purely to help develop the teaching that I would do throughout mainstream schools. Little did I know at the time, that I would fall in love with the school I was placed in and discover a new passion for SEN teaching that I never thought I would.

Shape recognition

Shape recognition

Unfortunately I can’t tell you any specifics about the school that I’m completing my placement at, for obvious reasons.. but one of the great things about the SEN pathway on this course, is that you get to pick your options. We were provided with a list of schools that had available places, and it was up to us to arrange visit days with our chosen schools and pick our first, second and third choice for where we wanted to complete our placement.

During my visits, there was one school that stood out to me in particular. There was also another that was a wonderful school, but I just knew that it wasn’t the right one for me. This is why the visit days are SO important. You may not get your first choice, but if you are unsure about SEN to start with.. then visiting the schools will really help you to learn what type and level of Special Educational Needs will suit you best.

Taking into consideration that I am only about a third of the way through my placement, this is what I think so far..

the work of the day board

The Work of the day board

My main positives of taking this pathway:
- A whole new experience (Obvious, but important.)
- A new understanding of how to handle behaviour and assessment.
- A stack load of new teaching and resource ideas.
- A different feel and sense of community throughout the school.
- Everything learnt can be adapted to mainstream, so if SEN isn’t for you as a full time career, then you will still benefit.

Easter chick puppets

Easter chick puppets

My only negatives so far:
- It is our first assessed placement, where our observations REALLY count. The new experience and style of teaching is daunting and takes some getting used to. Does this effect your assessment? I’ll keep you posted on that, but i’m up for the challenge.
- The possibility that you might be losing out on experience that other students are gaining in mainstream. But it’s all relevant and what we learn is equally important.

I’ve gladly come to the conclusion that I will not choose between the two career paths, because I want to do both!

Of course, I have no idea where I will be in 10 or 5 or even 2 years time. But what I do know is that I will do my very best to experience life as a teacher within both areas.

Science

Science

So, Mainstream or Special Needs? Sorry guys… but there is a different answer out there for all of us that you need to find out for yourself! Good luck, and to all my fellow trainee’s going back into placement soon… have fun! :)

The Misconceptions of a Geography Student – it’s more than you think!

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“I’ve got my full set of colouring pencils ready!”

This is the first thing a friend of mine on another course said to me after selecting an optional geography module.

It was said in a joking manner, but it reminded me of just how wrong the stereotypes of geography at university are. It’s something I want to clear up on behalf of all the geography students!

There are three stereotypes I often hear:

1. “Do you have fun playing with rocks?”

2. “Let me test you on world capital cities!”

3. “I bet you’re really good at colouring in!”

But geography is just not just a mix of the three.  In all honesty, I cannot name many world capital cities and would suck in the ‘geography’ section of a pub quiz, and I’ve only made a few maps since the start of my course! There are a couple of modules that focus on the study of geology, but that is only two out of many choices! (I didn’t actually choose them either).

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Having now studied a module titled Applying Geography, I’ve been considering why such stereotypes of the geography discipline exist.

The subject is said to have one of the most drastic differences between a level and higher level study, and over the years its scope has spread to include…well, almost everything.

We no longer live in the era of cartography (map making!) and discovery, so where are we now?

Geography studies different systems and processes within the world, and the responses to those systems of both human and physical beings.

With both human and physical geographies to consider, we could now say that the subject involves lots of other disciplines, from sociology, health studies and economics, right the way through to ecology, meteorology and natural hazards.

We study a diverse range of topics, learning how to use a variety of research methods and skills that can be utilised in many career paths.

Some scholars also describe the research in the discipline as ‘a conversation’ between different people.

If you consider my independent study topic, then even the unexpected can be made into geography!

In conclusion:

GEOGRAPHY MAKES THE WORLD GO ROUND!

The Experiences of a Students’ Union Election Candidate

1972503_10152229012926273_1867844013_nIn one of my previous blog posts, I wrote about the Student Union elections that take place every year at the University of Worcester.

I couldn’t promote it back then, but I was actually a candidate in this year’s elections!!

Unfortunately I didn’t win the position that I campaigned for (VP Education), however the experience of campaigning is something that I would recommend to every student who feels they would enjoy representing students in the Student’s Union.

As a candidate you’ll do many things that are both fun…great development….and also good for your CV!

Creating a manifesto

First off, when you submit your application form you’ll need to submit a manifesto alongside it. This is a 250 word document explaining what you plan to do if you are elected, that will be accessible to all students during the voting period. When I wrote mine I tried to find a balance between ambitious and realistic. It’s always helpful to speak to Student Union staff members to find out just what is doable in the roles.

Campaign Design

From posters and leaflets, to making a Minute to Win it video, you’ll be able to get your creative juices flowing during elections. It might also be fun and helpful to get some friends in on the act, just as I did! You also get given t-shirts and badges to wear and give out to your supporters!

poster - A4

Speaking to Students

This one is a biggie. To get people to vote for you, and get your name out there, you’ll want to talk to as many students as possible. Gauging people’s receptiveness and practising communication in multiple ways, you’ll have plenty of experience in all of this!

Hustings

One of the main methods of communication is hustings. These are two sessions during the election period where candidates make a small speech and have a Q & A session with students. It’s a bit nerve-wracking, but I also found it a great and thrilling experience – it’s a really good chance to shine in front of others.

The greatest part about the entire experience for me was developing friendships. I met many people and made wonderful new friends, but I also got the chance to see just how supportive my current friends are. It was exhilarating, and although I didn’t win I still had a really fun time.

For more information about running in the next elections, I recommend contacting the SU staff.

Thanks to the University, I’m now a paid touring actor!

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I’m very proud to say that during my time at Worcester I have done a lot as a Drama student and as an Ambassador. I co-run weekly drama workshops at The Hive, I assist in drama open events, I’ve assisted with youth theatre and the National Theatre Connections project and I’m also employed as an actor!

It sounds so weird writing that down and probably makes me seem quite pretentious but it’s true, I’m a paid touring actor! AND I haven’t even graduated!

10152095_10151942663242167_300394727_oFor me, the arts are a crucial part of being a human being and the work that I do through the University has allowed me to give something back to young people, prospective students and to the community. The outreach and communication team are, in a way, investing in imagination and I’m grateful to be a part of that.

In March 2013 I was employed as an actor for a University of Worcester commissioned Theatre in Education piece called ‘It’s Up To You!’ A team of four actors, including myself, and one stage manager were asked to devise an hour long performance/workshop aimed at 13/14 year olds choosing their GCSE options. We incorporated a high level music and six strong (often multi-rolled) characters that experience first-hand the trials and tribulations of balancing friendships, relationships and school work.

The programme also includes an interactive voting system and during the performance, it is the students who have the final say in the decisions the characters make. By using voting software (very high-tech!) the students votes appear on an interactive whiteboard and the majority votes determine how the performance goes. It sounds more complicated than it is, but it does mean we, as actors, are kept completely on our toes because votes are separately casted three times and you can never normally tell which route the students want the characters to take!

10149968_10151942682972167_1476816315_nChoosing GCSE options is probably the first time that anyone has to make an important educational decision; and quite often these decisions affect your future. I know when I chose my options, I wanted to do Psychology purely because my friends were doing it and we got to go to our local Sixth Form College every week, not because I had any interest in Psychology! In hindsight I should have chosen History at GCSE and who knows, maybe I’d be doing something drama and history based now!

Our T.I.E programme encourages students to focus on what they’re good at, what they enjoy and addresses other decisions young people make on a daily basis but also addresses the fact that these decisions aren’t the be all and end all and it’s okay to change your mind.

 

As a group, we started by looking at our own personal experiences from school, revisiting memories and having a lot of laughs along the way! In reality, we were at school not too long ago and although fashions and music tastes have changed, relationships, family matters and friendships haven’t and these were what we found fundamentally important and therefore wanted to explore.

After the performance, if we have time, we talk to the students about our own personal experiences and, in turn, they can ask us questions. This lets the students know, I hope, that we understand what they’re going through because not too long ago, it was us making these decisions.10168412_10151942663477167_271546574_n

After weeks of rehearsal, we began touring the programme every school day to secondary schools across the Midlands (and even Wales!) between the 10th of June and the 5th of July. We performed in classrooms to group of up to 30 children three times a day, five days a week. We also performed a couple of times for staff members at the university and I think it’s safe to say the performance was very well received! In fact, it was so well received that we were asked to tour again at the end of January this year and also this summer. It was a bit of whirlwind, to be quite honest, and it was very tiring but also great fun.

The whole team really have been great. The programme has been directed by one of our Drama and Performance lecturers Alison Reeves, who specializes in educational theatre (as far as I’m aware) and Julie Fisher who does tons of youth theatre work and is 1796605_809806049046659_1850771991_ncurrently studying for her MA in Drama at the university whilst working in the Outreach and Communications departments! It’s all go!

We also found late last year that the university had put us forward for a prestigious HELOA (Higher Education Liaison Officers Association) award, which we were shortlisted for! A team from the Outreach department went on to present the programme in January at the annual conference and we only went and won!

 

So I can now turn around and say that I’m an Award-Winning Actor! We’ve now been asked to tour the programme again this summer for four weeks and we’re also taking it to the Natural History Museum in London for a week in June as part of Universities week 2014 – all expenses paid!

One of the best things about this programme for me has been the friendships formed between the group (as cheesy as it sounds). When you’re working every single day with a small group of people, it’s fair to say you become pretty close.

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Driving for miles around the country, laughing (sometimes bickering) and performing every day, doing something we all feel very passionate about is the most amazing feeling and I cannot thank the university enough for this experience. Bring on the summer!

My journey to become a teacher – Gap year or no gap year?

gap 5

A topic that has cropped up a few times in conversation recently, is how much everybody wants to travel the world.

When I was younger, I never really thought I’d be the travelling type.
I never really thought that I’d feel independent enough to want to book myself a round-the-world plane ticket.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love my course and being at University (as you’ve all heard a million times,) but I do wonder when my time will come to explore all of the places that are on my bucket list.

gap 6

Being a teacher is, and has been for years, my biggest ambition. I got accepted into  University of Worcester straight out of sixth form and it seemed like too much of a great opportunity to defer. I guess secretly that I was a little worried that if I took a year out, I might somehow forget how to study and miss my real chance of becoming a teacher.

I’ve loved University so far and wouldn’t ever want to change the experiences that I’ve had.
But.. do I regret my decision to not take a gap year?

I do of course, envy those of my friends that had the time, the money and the bravery to take a year out after school and see the sights. I also seriously envy my best friend from back home who has just bagged herself a year studying in Hawaii. (I know right!!)

gap 1But, one of the brilliant things about having a career in teaching (as many people like to point out,) is that we do get a lovely summer break. Of course it is likely to be filled with medium term plans, marking and stacks of paper work, but it does give me hope that there are still many summers coming up that I can spend travelling.

I wanted to travel a few years ago, but becoming a qualified teacher was my first priority. So University it was.

Little did I know at the time though, that I would in fact get to experience a bit of the travelling life, when the University offered me a scholarship to teach for a month in Madagascar, at the end of my first year. I got the best of both worlds in that sense and explored an incredible country. More can be found about my trip on my Extra Opportunities blog.

If travelling feels like the right path for you, then do it. Studying or working can always come later.
And the same goes for booking that plane ticket. Get your studying out of the way first and travel later, if that’s what you want to do. You never know, you might get lucky like me and have chances to do both at the same time!

gap 3

I guess this blog is aimed at helping those who may be wondering whether a gap year is for them or not, or for those who are in the same position as me.

My advice, if you choose to take it, is to do what feels right for you at the time.

One of the things that has become so apparent over the last few years, is how pressured we all are to grow up fast and make huge life decisions before we are ready. Decisions so big and scary that I feel like I’ve missed out on so many things already, when I’m only 20!

Thankfully though, I have realised recently that you do not have to pick one or the other.. there is time for both.

Because of this, I will continue to browse through travelling websites and brochures for many years to come, and eventually I will jump on that plane. But right now, I know that I made the right decision for me at the time.
My dream job comes first, and University iof Worcester can provide me with that.

Play Your Part in Moving the University of Worcester Up in the World

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For most students applying to Universities, or even those just laying down some groundwork to apply in years to come, University League Tables play a key part in their research to decide where it is they want to go.

Now, this sort of research can go one of two ways. It can either reinforce previous opinions of institutions people may be interested in or keen on, or it can turn them away from Universities they previously were fond of.

It all seems very official at the time of looking, but one thing most University students are aware of, especially after they have been at a certain institute for a year or so of their degree, is that these League Tables are by no means the be all and end all when it comes to decision making for prospective students.

Take, for example, studying sport at our beloved University of Worcester (unexpected turn of events, I know).

The table can only show a certain amount of things, and these are things that are usually easy to measure and are deemed suitable to form an accurate opinion on the University course as a whole.

This means there are some things which just can’t make it in to the table. The more specific stuff, like the level of placement opportunities offered or the wider quality of life and activities in the city itself, get summed up in broadly titled categories like ‘Career Prospects’, which means some of the information is lost (to a certain degree) along the way.

Now, one thing that greatly affects this League Table every year, forming the very basis of the entire table, is the National Student Survey. This is a survey that all third year students have the opportunity to take towards the end of their time at University.

From  the perspective of an Institute Rep, here, this is an absolute dream opportunity for third year students. You not only have the chance to reflect upon your entire experience at the University, but have the opportunity to do your bit in making your degree count for even more.

The League Tables take into account not only the level of feedback given at the University, and the ratings put forward for each question, but even have a section for the percentage of students who filled the survey out.

Now, from a student’s perspective, this is fantastic. It is not only future students who are aware of these league tables, and where the University stands, but future employers as well.

So, when I am offered the chance next year to make my degree count for even more, and display the University in the best light I possibly can, I am certainly going to take it.

So…. now I have hopefully  used this blog to dance my way into all your hearts (you’ll see why that’s clever in a moment!) why don’t you do the same, current third years? :-)

Here are a couple of videos showing some of the fantastic work you have done this year that will hopefully trigger some more happy memories from across your three-year span at the University.

Enjoy watching, and remember to follow the link below once you’re done to give your opinion on your time at the University! It won’t take long, and I promise it’s worth it!

http://www.thestudentsurvey.com/

Drama students: Doing a written dissertation is optional.

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When I say this to people, they automatically reply with ‘I HATE you!’

I tell them that next year, I’ve got the choice of doing the standard individual research project or a final performance.

If I do choose the final performance, I will work in self-selected groups or on my own. I prefer the latter!

This project gives me so much freedom as I can choose whether it’s devised, text-based, applied or a whole mixture of these.

This practical project also requires a great deal of effort, time and patience.

I have to be responsible for all aspects of my performance, including technical, scenographic, marketing, audience liaison and production, as well as the acting side of things.

There will be a tiny bit of written work towards the Final Performance. 2,000 words.

Okay, it might not seem so “tiny”, but I’ve talked to some people that have to do a 10,000 word project. So, I think I have it lucky…

The writing will give me the opportunity to show and reflect on my individual research and contribution to the project. I will have to add in ideas and approaches from the theorists into an appropriate area of performance.

Whether you do an independent project or the final performance, you will be allocated a supervisor.

They will offer advice in the selection of a topic or approach appropriate for Drama and help keep your ideas realistic!

But it’s up to me to prove the ability to work independently in both researching and presenting a topic of my choice. The supervisor will offer me guidance, support, advice and commentary, when appropriate.

I’m already starting to think on what I need to start doing for next year, as I don’t want to leave it to the last minute. With whatever subject(s) you’re studying, it’s the right time to start thinking of a topic.