Reflections on the First Week of Training to be a Maths Teacher
22nd September 2019
I have probably just enjoyed my longest summer break for the foreseeable and so it is probably unsurprising that reverting to a school-style timetable and moving halfway across the country has made this week quite a bit tiring. Nonetheless, my first week of teacher training has been a thoroughly enriching experience.
Having moved into Birmingham at the weekend, I had my first session at university on Monday morning. Sessions varied from discussing the psychological impacts of teacher behaviour to encouraging us to remember the emotions involved in being a pupil in the classroom. It was striking just how much reflection is possible when a lesson observation has a focus – this will be important to remember when I get into school.
Being educated in Northumberland, the culture and diversity in Birmingham schools is a lot different from what I am used to, so Wednesday’s Whole School Issues sessions provided an invaluable insight into the educational context of Birmingham. A key takeaway was the importance of school for many children. In particular, the role schooling has in instilling the rightful pride they should have in their city – despite negative press – through the multitude of positive schemes the city’s schools support (including the Rights Respecting Schools Award).
As the week drew to a close, we covered more aspects of teacher methodology, but the most fascinating conversations were with my fellow trainees whose participation in debates about educational problems (like setting in maths) stretched my mind. Being a successful mathematician certainly requires you to be able to convince yourself that your own thought process is logical and correct. It seems being a successful mathematics teacher is partly an art of seeing problems from many angles and respecting their different merits.
Despite the long first week, I was thrilled to attend the first Maths Scholars CPD event at Aston University on Saturday. Ever since accepting the scholarship after my interview day – which was such an exciting day of maths chat – I had been really looking forward to the first event. The enthusiasm of everyone I met was infectious. We had sessions highlighting the power of historical context in maths lessons, a guide to the fantastic resources provided by NRICH, and an incredibly fun hands-on session constructing tetrahedra, cubes and snowflakes with spare stationery. I came away from the day feeling even more enthused about my subject and with many useful resources.
As I write this blog and make my reflections at the end of my first week, I remain exceptionally excited about the year ahead. The context of teaching and what is expected of teachers is hugely complex, yet small things that we do can have a massive impact on a child's life.
By Jonathan Winfield MMath, Maths Scholar, University of Birmingham.