Sunday, 13 November 2011

Thank You for the Maths: Dedicated to my Maths Teachers

As a teacher, I've noticed that although you're changing peoples' lives every day, it's quite rare to be thanked. I know I've not been in the game long, but I've yet to have a proper, sincere, thank you from a student.

I can't really complain about this though, because when I was a student, I never thanked my teachers. And I have a lot to thank them for: outstanding GCSE and A level results, a maths degree and a postgraduate qualification. They did good. (OK, except maybe my English teacher...)

So here it is, long overdue and probably misdirected: my thank you to all of my maths teachers.

When I started secondary school, maths wasn't my favourite subject. I did like it, and I knew I was good at it because they'd put me in for the level 6 paper in my year 6 SATs. I seem to remember saying that English was my favourite subject back then, because I loved reading. At some point in my school career, I went from not really caring about maths one way or the other, to absolutely loving it. Who's responsible for this transformation? It had to have been my maths teachers.

I don't remember many particularly fancy lessons. We didn't have an interactive whiteboard and the most kinaesthetic we ever got was cutting and sticking. But the care and support my teachers gave me got me through my GCSEs, A levels, and degree with good marks, and inspired me to become a maths teacher myself.

When I was in year seven I did something pretty bad. The worst thing I've ever done to this day. And my maths teacher was the victim of it. What I was so grateful for was that she put it behind us straight away and still treated me the way she would any other student. A few years later she taught me AS maths and she did a truly excellent job, delivering what I realise now is a very tricky syllabus in such a straightforward way. I owe my success in C1 and C2 to her and my other AS teacher. What this has taught me is that when a pupil does something bad, even if it feels like a personal attack, I should try not to let it ruin the relationship. Because that pupil probably doesn't mean it at all, and will appreciate everything I've done for them in ten years' time.

My A level maths teachers (2 for AS, 2 for A2) greatly influenced my life as it is today. It is because of them I chose to do maths at uni, it is because of them I chose the particular uni that I did, and it is because of them I'm now a maths teacher. A lot of the teaching techniques I use I subconsciously picked up from them. Their teaching is still helping me today, as I use lesson ideas I picked up from them 6 years ago.

I want my teachers to know how much I appreciated the comments they wrote on my work and on my reports. I realise now how long they take to write, but they really do have an impact. I still remember many of the comments they made at parents' evening, and every now and again I like to read my school reports and I still feel that warm glow of pride. Unfortunately I also still remember the time my year 9 geography teacher wrote "Is this some kind of joke?" next to the essay I'd written for homework.OK, so I'd written it on the bus on the way there but it wasn't that bad!

I wish I'd said a proper thank you when I was still in school. Not the day I left sixth form, but way back in year seven, and eight, and every year after. Once a week, every lesson, every time they marked my work, the first time they got me to explain something at the board (that was the moment I knew I wanted to be a teacher). I didn't say it then so I'm saying it now: THANK YOU!

What would you thank your teachers for if you could go back in time? What do you think your students will be thanking you for in 10 years?

Emma x x x

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