When I trained to become a teacher one of the areas we studied was maths. Now at school I had never been particularly good at maths but I didn’t realise how deep rooted my fear of maths was until I had this experience studying at University for teaching. One day we were in class and the lecturer said right everybody stand up. He then started firing out times tables questions and if you got it right you sat down. I could feel that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach and immediately I was transported back into my primary classroom. By the time he got to me I was a nervous wreck. 5×3 he shouted and a million thoughts went through my head – ‘Oh no I’m the oldest here I should be able to answer that’, ‘Why am I taking so long?’, ‘Gosh I’m going to look such a fool’ and eventually I said 15 and sat down with a feeling of relief washing over me.
Reflecting on this experience made me realise how many children must feel that panic when asked a question. I realised that it was not about my ability to answer because of course I know what 5×3 is but it was about feeling vulnerable and not wanting to make a fool of myself. So the way I could support children to take risks and try to answer questions was to create a classroom environment which was safe and supportive.