What I Have Learnt About Education

I like discovering.

For 15 years I worked in Telecommunications Engineering and pushed by my passion for the subject I moved from company to company, lived and worked in different countries, travelled and met many different people. I learnt about the importance of diversity, the power of awareness in cross-cultural communication, intellectual honesty and determination: defending my own ideas, sharing and influencing, while respecting the value of each individual and always looking at conflicts as an opportunity for resolving differences, improving ideas and achieving together even greater rewards.

Then my son brought me back in time, to school: learning about the planets, the gravity, the beautiful mechanism of nature, the power of the Internet. I felt I could help many children learning about the complexity of the world around us had I been in their classroom. Especially those kids who find maths hard and irrelevant to their life. I felt I could empower them with skills to resolve the apparent complexity of events and phenomena around us, unfamiliar problems, or to tackle any new topic they are not confident with, or even to understand other people’s decisions and dynamics in relationships.

 And now here I am, at the end of my teaching training. But it has not been so easy and straightforward.

Before starting my teaching training, I read a lot about maths in school and how it has changed, the impact maths has got on our future and that’s why I decided to apply for a Maths Teacher Training Scholarship, which gave me a valuable support during the training.

But then, I had to deal with everyday school reality.

My first big surprise was that my enthusiasm for education, for the pure sake of it, is not shared by many. Still, there are teachers who do not understand that maths is a rich set of tools to use daily, not an obscure science for the elected few. Still, there are teachers who are more concerned with my accent than with any of my teaching abilities, looking at that accent as an obstacle to learning for these ‘rural children’ I’ve been teaching to, and overlooking what I can bring to school with my dedication, passion and background. This made me think of the narrow vision of some teachers I have met. Some of them cease being teachers, lose sight of their mission and in blurred vision don’t see individuals anymore but a mass of rural students, that will never move forward from their village daily life. Teachers who stopped believing in the powerful role of education that can overcome any obstacle. Education worked for me, and it makes me feel strong. As Marie Curie said: “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less”. Maths, and in general education, can give us the tools to understand, explain and take our independent and objective decisions.

I find it is unfair some students are given less challenging contents because they are considered low ability students. No surprise their motivation and enthusiasm are exhausted in years of daily diminishing experiences at school.

But I know this is not true and this is what I want my students to understand. I want them feeling powerful by learning.

We can have fun learning maths, we may solve complex problems with the skills learnt during any lesson. We have to try our ideas, use intuition and learn from our mistakes: we can only become stronger. Maths will teach us to reason and problem solving, skills that will be useful in any situation. Our ideas do not have to be manipulated by few, we can create our connections, patterns, make informed choices and think of the consequences of each decision and act accordingly.

As a teacher, I will be successful when, in front of a problem, I can ask my students “how maths can help us here?”

Maths is a skill for citizenship: I’m particularly thinking of the technological era we live in, an epic transformation ahead of us towards a world permeated with applied maths in the form of artificial intelligence, where our awareness and education may define our future even more.

I will keep believing in all my students, offering challenges to all of them. But the first thing I will make sure of is that they believe in themselves too and can make sense of education.

I really hope many teachers, especially my colleagues at IMA, will find that right daily inspiration because “Every man has been made by God in order to acquire knowledge and contemplate. (Pythagoras)”