Posts Tagged ‘media’

Stop with the negativity

February 12, 2016 Leave a comment

This post was first published here, on Labour Teachers, 9th February 2016.

So, this went viral this week. The latest in a long line of post that surely impacts on the already crisis hit recruitment of new staff into the profession. These articles are seemingly written by people eager to combat the myth of lazy teachers working 9-3, but I don’t think that this myth exists anymore. Certainly no one I know actually believes it, and even if they did it wouldn’t matter. I know I don’t only work 6 hours a day,  and so do those closest to me, who cares what others think.

I worry for the author of the article, if this truly is their day then I can see a burn out happening for them in the very near future.  I will admit, a few of the things rang true, but if your day truly contains all of these elements everyday then you need to stop putting insurmountable pressure on yourself.

I work long hours, but I certainly don’t work from 7am to 11pm every day. I would never get time to see my family if I did, I would miss seeing my daughter growing up. That’s 15 hours a day. 75 hours a week. That’s an unsustainable life. If you have found it is actually your life you need to take stock of what your doing.  You need to take a breathe and reflect. You need to work out how you can do what you’re doing more efficiently otherwise you’ll cripple yourself.  And if the weight of this pressure is coming from external places, then you may need to look for a new school. If you intend to make a career in this you may be looking at 50 years til retirement. And no one can work 75 hour weeks for 50 years.

I doubt that anyone actually does encounter all of these issues in a single day, most of us will have encountered most of them, at some point in our teaching lives, but to frame them as a daily occurrence is a worryingly dangerous thing to do at a time where we cannot recruit enough teachers into our schools. How many fine young minds have read this viral article and switched away from thoughts of the profession?  I know at least 1 of my Y11s and at least 1 of my Y13s who have been put off.

The negativity needs to stop. I love my job, I basically get to talk about the beauty of mathematics all day long, a lot of the time with people really keen on the subject. I am alway pleased when students go on to study it at higher education. It would be a shame if others missed out on such a great job because of articles like this, and the often negative secret teacher.

What are the challenges facing maths teachers?

June 21, 2015 2 comments

This post was originally published here on Edustaff on 26th June 2015.

A while ago I received an email asking what I thought were the main challenges facing maths teachers, and it got me thinking.

The challenges fall into two main categories. There’s the problems all teachers face and then there’s the problems that are more specific to maths teachers.

For the wider profession, the main issues revolve around the negative views of teaching and teachers that seem to be all too prevalent in today’s world. I’m not sure where they stem from, but I don’t think they’re helped by the scorn the media throws onto us, especially during the strike action the other year.

These challenges seem exacerbated by the government rhetoric that has seen education secretaries refer to teachers as “enemies of hope”, “dealers in despair” and “enemies of promise”. Breaking these negative stereotypes is also not helped by the military analogies used. Recently the Prime Minister announced he was to “wage war” on coasting schools. I agree that no school should be coasting, but using terms like ‘wage war’ gives the positive change we are aspiring to a very negative spin.

I don’t know how we, as teachers, can alter this. We already work our socks off to ensure that the learners in our care get the best possible education… I guess we just keep up the hard work and hope the negativity drops.

I believe the main maths-specific issues also centre on perceptions. However, the challenges here are down to the perceptions of maths espoused by many people, rather than the perceptions of the teachers themselves.

I’ve heard a Head of English say she never understood algebra and it didn’t do her any harm; I’ve heard teaching assistants say “I’ve never understood maths”; I’ve heard a Deputy Head question year 11s as to why they’d consider choosing a “boring” A-level.

Astonishingly, I’ve even heard a teacher tell a class “I don’t know how to change the score out of 40 into a percentage, ask a maths teacher.”

Students hear this and get instantly turned off. They often hear these views at home from parents who either “couldn’t do” or “didn’t like” maths. I had a year 7 learner the other year who had an in-built learned helplessness on algebra. She used to say “my dad’s the cleverest person I know and he can’t do algebra, how do you expect me to.”

After a lesson on quadratics, I asked her, “How did you find that?”

“It was well easy,” she said, “it’s only algebra I can’t do.” It took all I had to explain it was algebra without laughing.

I think this example suggests that the parents in question were failed by their own maths teachers. I think the best way to combat this is to really make sure this generation love maths and do understand it, avoiding a similar situation in the future.

As for the teachers, we all need to support each other. If teachers of other subjects are struggling with basic maths, we can help with that, and if they can start to realise the damage they do when rubbishing our subject, surely they would stop! I’d never think of slagging off another subject to learners, and I wish everyone felt the same.

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