6 Top Tips To Build Confidence In Teaching Maths
I’ve spent at least 5 hours on this lesson plan. I’ve had an hour to set up. I’ve had at least 4 weeks of training on how to deliver it. Yet, there is a type of nerve creeping in that I have not yet experienced in any type of public speaking I’ve done. This is a message to anyone starting, or thinking of starting, teacher training. You will be nervous. You will forget something in a lesson. You will make mistakes under pressure. Most importantly though, all of these are okay.
Before we get any further, a little bit about me. A few years ago, I got 2 separate master's degrees in maths from different universities. I started a PhD but very quickly quit. I enjoyed the job of teaching first-year students and got on board with maths outreach. I soon found myself working as an in-school tutor and now I am in my first few months of ITT. Tangential to all of this has been my hobby of drama. I’ve acted since primary school and did ludicrous amounts of improv at University. So, when it came time to actually stand in front of a class and talk about a subject I am trained in, I thought “This will be a relaxing walk in the park”. It is not.
As a teacher, you have a lot of different jobs to do in a classroom. You are the educator, greeter, administrator, logistics manager, time keeper, note-taker, safeguarding officer and marker, just to name a few. Doing all of these things perfectly is never going to happen, let alone in your first year of teaching. So, here I will provide some of the best tips I have acquired from experienced teachers about how to look as confident as possible in front of a classroom.
1. Be Prepared
I know this might sound basic, but get all the equipment you need ready as soon as possible, plan lessons a few days in advance to let them fester in your mind and make sure to get all of your printing done early to avoid any issues. Get answers ready, even if you think you know them, and even if you want to do them with the group. It always helps to have an answer sheet you can look at to be sure. A lot of teachers like to do the questions themselves beforehand to have answers AND check how difficult the questions will be.
2. Pre-empt the misconceptions
Ask yourself where do you think students will mess up? What mistakes have you already seen? Think about these now and how you’re going to explain why they are incorrect.
3. Know the topic
Some students will amaze you with the interesting and deep questions they will ask about a topic. If you don’t want to get caught out by these, ask yourself some questions about the topic before your lesson. Think about why we teach it, how it came about and where it’s used in the modern world.
4. Remember you got here
Already being accepted on this course means you have a good knowledge of maths and you are constantly building your knowledge on teaching as well. When you’re surrounded by other mathematicians, it can be very easy to underestimate your own skill.
5. Accept that you will make mistakes
Good teachers do all the previous points, but this one makes a great teacher. You have to accept that you will make mistakes in your maths, misspell something or forget a resource. When this happens, do not think badly of yourself. Pause and ask yourself, what is the best move from here. Mistakes happen to the best of teachers, but they do not let it stop the learning. They work out a solution and make a seamless transition to plan B.
6. Have backups
Speaking of plan B, have one. Worried you might forget equipment? Learn where the department keeps its spares. Forgot to print something off? Have a digital copy you can get up on the board. Think the work might be too hard or too easy for the class? Have some back-up questions that can simplify the problem, or challenge those that are getting ahead.
This list is not exhaustive but it is also not required. I know a lot of teachers that can be amazingly confident without some of these, and some that are still anxious with all of the boxes ticked. Try them out and see what works for you. I hope it offers a little bit of help right now.
By Callum Ilkiw
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