What, Or Who, Inspired You To Become A Secondary Mathematics Teacher?
Teaching has always been a path which I've seriously considered from as early as in primary school. This is largely owed to the influence that my own teachers had on me, and the high regard which I held for them. My high school form tutor, Mr Champion, had the greatest influence of all on me. He was not afraid to try new things, and he always went above and beyond in putting the students first – gaining him a huge amount of respect from students and staff alike and helping to forge a positive future for his students. Mr Champion inspired many, myself included, and he helped solidify that teaching was the career for me.
In my schooling days, Mathematics was always my strongest subject. It was one that I just got, and I didn't have to think too hard about it to be able to do it; it just came naturally, and this was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing for the obvious reason that I could get the answers to problems in class (and subsequently I got the grades I needed), but a curse because I often couldn't explain why the answers I had got were right. I knew the process but didn't understand it. I never questioned this, though. Instead, I just accepted that I didn't need to know why things were the way they were in maths – I just needed to know that they were the way they were.
As time went on, I became more intrigued by the question of "why" in maths. I realised that through consideration of "why", I would be able to deduce links between certain results and methods in maths, and this would make the whole subject easier to utilise and apply – and it did. I loved exploring maths in a deeper sense and gaining a true understanding of how it all works and how it all joins up, and this just made everything click into place. No longer was I having to memorise methods and algorithms, but instead I was able to deduce ways of solving problems just by having a better understanding of what the problem is actually saying.
Much of this deeper understanding of maths came during A-Levels and at degree level, but it is all stuff which would have made so much sense to have seen earlier in my education. For example, Mathematics is often taught in a very out-of-context, abstract manner, and this is hard to grasp for some students. At A-Level and beyond, a lot of context is provided for the maths we do in KS3/4 which had no clear application before and thus was very hard to visualise. When I saw the application of some of this maths though, it sparked interest and excitement, as it made me realise that Mathematics is present almost everywhere we look.
In the penultimate year of my 4-year Mathematics degree, I undertook a research project on Mathematical communication, looking at the “Popular Mathematics” genre in which authors strive to present high-level Mathematical concepts to a general audience. This provided me with an insight into a wealth of techniques in making Mathematics accessible and exciting to the uninitiated, to allow the reader to experience the joy of learning, and to allow them to develop an interest in asking questions and wanting to know more. I loved working on this project, as it allowed me to reflect upon and deeply analyse ways in which some of the high-level maths that I had seen could be made accessible such to capture the interests of anyone – regardless of their prior knowledge. This project gave me an awareness of the challenges and rewards of teaching, reinforcing to me that teaching is a career that I would seriously enjoy.
From the inspiration I took from my own teachers and my own critical moments in learning to the opportunities I've had to explore ways of communicating mathematics and the experiences I've had in applying this, my inspiration to become a secondary mathematics teacher has come from all over the place at every stage of my life. There is no single influence which pushed me to wanting to pursue this career, but instead a whole host of things which prompted me to explore the career path in greater depth. Of course, there were times where I pondered on other options, such as pursuing a career in academia, but it always came back to teaching – and that's how I knew that teaching mathematics at secondary level was the right career path for me.
By Shay Jordan
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