Diary of a subject leader
Real issues in the life of a fictional Subject Leader
My heart sank as I spoke to a mother and her daughter during a parents’ evening last month. She is a hardworking student yet struggles in maths, mainly due to a lack of confidence in her own ability. This was confirmed as she expressed her dislike for the subject, a viewpoint which was then echoed by her mother. Why is it that some adults will openly admit that they ‘can’t do maths’ as if it’s some kind of achievement?
I left contemplating how we could turn this around and overcome the stigma with which maths is sometimes viewed. Since many of the parents’ preconceptions were formulated while they were at school, we as a department wanted to invite them into maths lessons, allowing them to experience not only the kind of work their children were undertaking, but also for them to see that maths teaching was not necessarily as they had experienced in the past.
After presenting the idea to the senior leadership team, it was agreed that the maths department would run a workshop where parents would be invited to both attend and participate. Year 7 seemed an obvious place to start, providing parents with an opportunity to familiarise themselves with both the school and the types of activities encountered within lessons. All department members contributed to the activities, all of which were chosen specifically to encourage both parent and child to work collaboratively in developing problem-solving strategies.
Once we had set a date, the organisational focus changed to the practicalities of the event. We needed to consider the various stages of running the workshop, from the moment the parents entered the school premises to the time they left. Fortunately we got on with the admin team, as their organisation, time and assistance became vital.
As the parents arrived at the school, they were escorted to the workshop to join their child. Some looked terrified. The uptake was promising, with just under half of the students having a parent present. Our aim was to get both child and parent talking about maths by undertaking accessible problem-solving activities and it was not to be about learning ‘new’ maths. After a hesitant and nervous start by some, the room soon buzzed with noise and mathematical conversation. Phew!
The feedback received at the end was very positive. Many parents and children seemed to appreciate the opportunity to work together and arguably view each other in a new light. The event was a success and possibly the first of many, providing the need for such an occasion continues. Somehow, I suspect it will.