Feelings and observations about my first experiences of teaching maths

Hannah MorrisWhen I started teaching maths as part of my PGCE course, I felt quite intimidated and overwhelmed. I had been intrigued and excited by the discussions with my tutors and colleagues about teaching maths in a way that involved more discussion and debate, problem-solving and global challenges. However, that was all so far removed from my own experiences when studying maths in school that I wasn’t confident about how I would create that environment myself. 

As well as this, I found it difficult to invent questions in advance or to pre-empt where pupils would struggle. This meant that I tended to plan a lot more activities than I needed to for every lesson, just to make sure that I wouldn’t have to invent something in the room. This was useful because I had plenty of extra time whilst studying at university to learn programs and build my familiarity with useful resource banks. However, I knew it wouldn’t be sustainable and that worried me. 

The trepidation about my first full lesson only grew as my placement approached. My in-school tutor arranged for me to have my first lesson on the first day in school, which in hindsight is something I really appreciated and would recommend to anyone else feeling nervous at the prospect of taking their first lesson. As soon as I was actually in the room, I was energised and exhilarated. I loved working with the pupils and seeing how different ideas and activities landed. I also found that even when things went wrong, I simply focused on what I would do differently next time. My anxieties and concerns were very out of proportion with the actual experience of teaching, and having realised this I proceeded to feel a lot more relaxed about my other upcoming lessons. 

I also noticed how much progress I had made in this area when stating at my second placement. I found that I was now relaxed and excited about meeting new classes and much more able to adapt in the room and invent relevant questions or extension activities as needed. I think it’s important to remember at the start of the course that you’re just beginning your career, and it’s ok if things aren’t perfect straight away.

One observation I would also like to share is that I took a long time to refine my lesson plan pro forma. This proved really useful both for improving my practice and managing my university administration. The prompts I had included (particularly ‘purpose’, ‘logistics’ and ‘probing questions’ for each activity) helped me to plan and try to predict how the lesson might go. I’d encourage everyone to take some time to really consider and explore what will be most useful for you in your pro forma, and fine tune that over your first few lessons. It made a big difference and helped me to feel more confident as I went into each of these early teaching experiences. 

By Hannah Morris