Wednesday 26 July 2017

How and Why I Decided to Become a Maths Teacher

If you've been reading my blog for a while and are a hardcore fan, you will know that one really annoying question that I get asked all the time is "Why are you just a maths teacher?" I've written two blog posts on the topic already (part one and part two) but what I've never written about is what made me decide to become a maths teacher. Someone asked me this question the other day and I realised I had to think quite carefully before I answered. I don't think I'd ever really thought about it until then. I wasn't completely happy with the answer I gave, so I made a mental note to think about it again properly when I wasn't in the middle of a chess match. 

I know that when I was 7 years old I wanted to be a teacher. I know this because it's written in my first holy communion booklet (yes, I'm a recovering Catholic). I remember that I used to play schools with my dolls and teddies. My dad has always worked in education, as a teacher and as a consultant. My mum also trained as a teacher, and has done some teaching. But the reason I wanted to be a teacher was probably because I really liked my teachers, and I loved school. It wasn't until year 4 that I met a teacher who I didn't like, for reasons that are obviously far too scandalous to disclose on this blog (OK, it was because she made me stay in at lunch once for talking even though I was just trying to explain to another pupil what they had to do. What a bitch.)

Anyway, I remember fairly clearly that in year 7 my ambition was to be an English teacher. English was my favourite subject, because all I remember doing in lessons was reading, writing stories, and performing. Those three things were and still are pretty much my favorite three things to do in the entire world.  I don't think, however, I'd actually thought much about what teaching really involves. 

I started hating English as soon as I moved into year 8. Although we still spent a lot of time reading (and we were reading Holes which is one of my all-time favourite books) and writing stories and performing, I didn't like my English teacher, and I found the lessons boring. I remember sneakily taking Holes home with me instead of handing it back in, and staying up all night reading the whole thing. I then had to spend the next 8 weeks of lessons totally bored whilst we read it as a class. You know a brilliant way of ruining an amazing book? Read one paragraph per lesson, and thoroughly analyse all of the linguistic devices as you go along. Urgh. 

I think that for the rest of key stage 3 and 4, the careers I had in mind were a bit more interesting. I read a book about stock brokers and decided I wanted to be one. I considered acting and dancing professionally. I considered being an author (actually I still am considering that) and I also really liked the idea of working for a magazine. But mostly, I just wasn't thinking about my career. I was too busy thinking about important teenager things like will my boobs ever grow and does that boy like me back? (Spoiler: the answer was no to both). 

The first time I remember considering studying maths at university was in year 10 when I first read the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. If you haven't read it, you should. It was the first time I read about maths. I'd always enjoyed doing maths and I'd always enjoyed reading, but I'd never put the two together before. It was a revelation! It made me definitely want to pick maths and further maths A Levels. I chose French and Economics too, because I still wanted to be something to do with finance and trading. I was never really that bothered about being rich, but I liked the idea of working in such a challenging and stressful industry.  I also picked Psychology because, and I'm sorry if I'm insulting all psychologists around the world by saying this, I liked doing those personality test things in Cosmopolitan magazine. 

In year 12 I got really into maths. I started reading maths books for fun (not just for my UCAS personal statement). I was especially into codes, and I decided I wanted to be a cryptographer for the government. I loved all of my teachers for all of my A Levels, and being a Maths teacher was my back-up plan. I did briefly consider studying Psychology at university though. The main reason I didn't was because I thought that there were fewer people who were good at maths than were good at psychology, which made maths superior somehow. I know that's a load of rubbish. 

During my first year at university I wasn't thinking too much about what I would do after graduating. I think I had vague ideas about going into banking. In second year, we were offered the opportunity to do the Student Associate Scheme which is a three week paid teaching placement in a local secondary school. I wasn't intending to do it (too much effort) but then at the last minute I decided that if I did want to go into teaching, it would be really useful to me. I think that's what sealed the deal. I wasn't totally passionate about being a teacher, but it kind of felt right. Well, it felt safe and it felt comfortable. Also, this was around the time when there was a big problem with unemployment and the credit crunch and I knew that maths teachers were in short supply, so I'd basically be guaranteed a job. And applying for a PGCE was much easier than doing internships and work experience and appling for a job. So basically, I became a Maths teacher because it was the easy option. 

I applied for a place on a PGCE course, and was pretty happy with my decision. Once the course started, I really began to fall in love with teaching. Not the actual standing in front of a class bit, but the thinking that goes into planning lessons, and the psychology behind learning and understanding. The actual teaching lessons bit of it was my least favourite. It was really hard! But I loved talking about teaching and I loved talking about maths. By the time I finished my training year and got my first job, I was a fully-dedicated and very passionate maths teacher. And I was 100% confident that I had made the right decision.

I've been teaching for six years now. It's had its ups and downs. I've considered changing careers quite a few times. I'm generally happy, but I still can't help but feel I might be missing out on something. And I do still want to write a novel. And write non-fiction too. And part of me still believes my youtube channel will really take off one day. Part of me would like to work for the DfE. Part of me wants to work for Ofqual. Part of me would like to write textbooks and resources. Part of me wants to stay in school and be the head of sixth form. And a very small part of me wants to live in a cabin next to a lake filled with baby swans and play chess all day and not interact with humans.

I suppose the question of "what do I want to do when I grow up?" never leaves you. Or maybe we never stop growing up?  

Emma x x x 


  1. Study is always very important for people. I think that educated people have more possibilities in this life.

  2. This is a very unusual choice. As for me, I never like Math, when I was studying at school. Maybe, it is because I didn't understand anything in it.