Before volunteering as a Maths Champion, I had never worked with children and was a bit nervous. It was a wonderful experience! I was a Tuesday volunteer assigned to class 5. I would share a cab (paid for by the volunteering office, in case you’re interested) to and from the school with other volunteers. We spent three hours from 9 – 12 at Deepcar St John’s CE Junior School for 7 weeks from November to December.
I will admit that it wasn’t particularly great when I was struggling to wake up in time to get to the Union for an 8:20 taxi pick-up but watching the pupils try to understand maths concepts and then work through answering questions based on them was rewarding. Also, looking at their answers and doing quick mental maths to know if they are on the right track was fun.
I learnt a thing or two about myself and teaching as a result. The first of which is that I won’t mind being a primary school maths teaching assistant for a couple of months. Before November, I would have declared that any classroom type of job is not for me but not anymore. I was struck by how much work it takes for teachers to get all their pupils up to speed within the same time – especially since they (like everyone else) learn at different speeds. I had never given thought to how much hard work it is for one class teacher to do that and was very impressed with the provision of exercises with different difficulty levels for the pupils to work through. While some of them worked through them quickly, others needed support and definitely got it.
Nevertheless, I can’t help but worry about cases where the child to teacher ratio is appalling and the children who don’t get much-needed support because of it. I suppose this is the point of volunteering in university – getting exposed to different worlds outside yours because it is so easy to get wrapped up in the student life bubble.