Author: Haddy Joof

An interview with our Cohort 3 Scholar Saffron Blake

How are you finding the Future Teaching Scholars programme so far?

When starting the programme, I was a little bit apprehensive as I didn’t know anyone. However, on the first day of the National Conference I met so many likeminded people as well as some of my now closest friends. The scholarship has provided me with invaluable experience, observing incredible math teachers as well as a very strong support network, where I feel comfortable asking for help and advice with my training coordinator as well as peer support from the friends I have met plus the pupils who are at my Regional Training Centre (RTC).

What motivated you to become a maths teacher?

Seeing my primary school headteacher having an incredible rapport with the staff, pupils and parents inspired me to want to help others, putting a smile on someone’s face and making a positive impact to the lives of others. Over the years I have been a part of the Royal Air Force Air Cadets as well as competitive dance groups. I enjoyed learning new skills however I loved teaching skills to others; when discussing with my Mum what I should do when I am older she said to me why don’t I become a teacher. I have always loved maths from a young age, I remember practising for hours to ensure I would always win the timetable contest at primary school, so when I was in college I went to my secondary school for work experience in the maths department and it just solidified that I wanted to become a maths teacher.

Most people say that it is a dangerous game making your hobby your career, however over the past 3 years, being part of the scholarship, my passion for teaching has just developed so much deeper, and I cannot wait to learn more.

You share some great explanations, tips, and exam techniques on Instagram and TikTok.

What was your motivation behind mathswithmissblake?

During this year I have been working at a school as a cover teacher, but when we were put into the second lockdown I knew that a lot of students would struggle revising at home with no face to face contact, and as a student myself I felt awkward asking questions in lectures during online lessons and I assumed students at school may have felt the same.

I have used TikTok since July 2020, and saw other teachers making comedy sketches but a few were making curriculum content and I thought it was a great way to make learning more interactive and more current, by producing short informative videos using trending songs.

I created @mathswithmissblake in January 2021, as I had not seen many math content creators. I wanted to create content that would be easy to understand, informative and useful.

I was a student not too long ago myself, so I felt that I could use this to my advantage since I can understand and sympathise where students struggle in maths as well as the pressures in today’s society; with this account I not only focus on maths but also growing your self-belief as I believe these go hand in hand.

How do you come up with content ideas for mathswithmissblake?

I always ask my followers what they would like to see from me as I want to help them as much as possible. As well as this, I think back to the time when I was doing my GCSE’s, and during my final year exams, and think of what I would have wanted to read and what would have helped me to overcome obstacles.

I usually ask this during my live sessions, by using polls on my Instagram, and some students also leave comments. I then usually choose topics that have been asked for by several students. I am also trying to include revision techniques, how to deal with exam stress and the importance of mental health.

What’s your favourite post or tip you’ve shared on mathswithmissblake?

I have enjoyed sharing different exam revision techniques as I think this is such a key point to teach students but I feel that this is something they are afraid to ask their own teachers, as some have said to me it is something they feel like they should already know.

I have also shared the importance of exercise and have recently partnered up with a yoga instructor to show students different exercises and breathing techniques that will help calm them down during exams, this was really fun and a bit different!

You’re entering your ITT year in September, are there any particular aspects of ITT training which you are looking forward to?

I honestly cannot wait to be in a classroom again so I can build relationships and ensure I can help each student individually.

I am looking forward to meeting the trainee teachers within the school I will be working at as it will be good to have peers that are experiencing the same so we can help each other through stressful periods.

I have also bought a lovely new planner and I can’t wait to use it (Yes, I am that teacher with notepads for every day of the week).

How did you find the process of securing a teaching role for your ITT year and the support provided by the programme?

The support from the Employment Coordinator was extraordinary. Not only did she provide exceptional help for my CV and personal statement; she also helped with interview style questions and was there for support, she made me feel so at ease in anxious situations.

I applied for the Harris Initial Teacher Training Programme as I thought the scheme was bursting with opportunities. The interview process was a little daunting as it was on Zoom and I did have some technical difficulties. I was worried that the lesson I had prepared was not going to work as I was using a football and water to visually show volume of shapes and one of the interviewees couldn’t see me. However, it did go well, and I found out the same day that I was accepted. I was just overjoyed as I know that the Harris Federation is an excellent teacher training provider and that they want excellent teachers.

A couple of months later I met the principal of the school where I had secured a job, and I was told that trainees would get matched with schools that will help them grow and if there is anything specific they could help with, they would try to facilitate this. I asked to work at a school with a sixth form and where there was a big focus on extracurricular activities, and I was thrilled to find out that this school was just that! Meeting the principal was a wonderful experience as the school ethos and focuses aligned with what type of teacher I aspire to be and made me feel at ease, knowing that this school isn’t just about grades but for growing their students into confident, powerful individuals.

What is one thing you could tell a pupil reading this, who is unsure of what career path to follow?

Do not fear what others say, remind yourself where you have come from and be proud of yourself for taking a step forward when you can. Stay focused and stay inspired; you have the potential to become anything and the only obstacle in your way is how much belief you have in yourself.

Don Stewart Tribute

It has now been a year since Don Steward, whom many may remember through his keynotes to teachers and the wonderful resources he had published, sadly passed away.

Don inspired students and teachers as a superb maths educator for over 40 years, collecting, trialling, and disseminating ideas for effective learning. Don was actively engaged in mathematics education discussion via online articles, his personal blog and talks for Maths Hubs and several mathematics subject associations.

He was extremely generous, always willing to give up his time to answer questions or provide materials and ideas for others.

Don Steward is sadly missed by all in the mathematics education community.

We highly recommend Don’s blog MEDIAN to our Scholars and maths teachers, which Don created as a freely available resource and has since been used by teachers across the globe, continuing his legacy and passion for mathematics.

How to get more classroom experience

Often people have pointed to how learning to teach is like learning to drive a car.  It is all very well understanding the theory, but it is only really through time in the driving seat (working with real children in classrooms) that effectiveness grows.

Experience supporting Scholars into employment over the last three years has shown us that those Scholars who seek out additional opportunities to develop often thrive more easily in their first year as an initial teacher trainee. Alongside this, getting additional more extended experiences can be a real help in interviews and during applications because it will give you more to talk about in your application letter and when asked about teaching during the interview.

Below is a list of suggestions based on things that Scholars already in employment have found useful:

  • Contact the school you went to and ask them if they would like you to help out as a teaching assistant in maths or physics lessons – the school you went to will be very likely to be enthusiastic about you deciding to become a teacher and may well need more help following the Coronavirus health emergency.  A really valuable way to spend a couple of weeks after your finals and once you are back home before the end of the school summer term.
  • Talk to your Regional Training Centre co-ordinator to see if there are schools in their teaching school alliance that might value teaching assistant support.
  • Look for opportunities to do tutoring of individual students.  The government is rolling out a major programme of tutoring to support catch-up in schools following the health emergency.