I’ve always known I wanted to be a teacher when I left school. Both my parents were in education in one way or another and I can’t remember a time when this wasn’t my goal.
I worked for 17 years as a class teacher in primary schools then moved into 1:1 learning support teaching when I qualified as a dyslexia specialist teacher assessor in 2012. Over time I realised how much more I preferred teaching maths. I loved the challenge of making maths fun and practical enough to break through the barriers of anxiety and show my pupils how to understand the concepts they’d always found so hard.
When I saw a talk by Judy Hornigold several years ago introducing dyscalculia I was fascinated. Immediately I realised that there were several children I’d taught over the years who must have been dyscalculic, but I hadn’t known how to support them. The more I found out about this learning disorder, the more passionate I became about helping those children that struggled so much to understand number.
I was lucky enough to be accepted onto the first dyscalculia teacher assessors courses run by Edge Hill University and graduated with distinction. I am now one of the first fully qualified specialists in the UK. Over the last two years I have been a 1:1 dyscalculia teacher in an amazing independent specialist school. But now I’m branching out on my own.
Remote teaching during the lockdown last year made me realise that I was still able to engage my pupils just as well over the internet and I spent hours making virtual manipulatives and finding games that we could play. Working from home was also great for me as I struggle with an anxiety disorder, so I am moving full time onto online dyscalculia tutoring. Over the summer I will also be setting myself up to be able to run virtual dyscalculia assessments, which are now accepted as an alternative to face-to-face assessments.
Working from home will also give me the time to provide online training for schools around dyscalculia. This is going to be a crucial part of my work as I am so passionate that every school should have some knowledge of dyscalculia. In research terms dyscalculia is around 30 years behind dyslexia, although the pace is picking up now. But it is still so little known about within the teaching profession and I am on a mission to change that school by school! I ran my very first webinar last week and will be presenting to a huge hub of schools in Hampshire and Surrey next week. So the ball has started rolling!
In the end, though, my driving force is a desire to help any student I can to start to understand this foreign number language. Because to a child with dyscalculia this journey is somewhat like being faced with information written in an unknown language. Imagine you were sat in front of numbers written in Japanese characters. It’s very hard to know where to start when you don’t even recognise any of the shapes. To a child with dyscalculia that’s what numbers look like and a word like five, spoken in this foreign language, means nothing. By doing lots of work developing my students’ number sense I can start to translate this language into something they can understand and work with. And nothing gives me greater joy!
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