e-Qualitas are pleased to introduce Charlotte Fell, who joins us for the new academic year as maths Subject Lead.
Charlotte is an experienced educationalist, who has worked extensively in teaching Secondary maths, as well as delivering Initial Teacher Training to school-based trainees.
As maths Subject Lead, Charlotte will work directly with e-Qualitas’ trainees as they work towards their maths QTS on the Schools Direct and Teaching Apprenticeship Programmes. Additionally, Charlotte will be supporting e-Qualitas in the development of its curriculum for maths ITT.
We caught up with Charlotte for a Q and A session, offering an insight into her background, experience in ITT and schools, as well as her thoughts and values around education as whole:
(e-Q) What is your background prior to joining e-Qualitas?
(CF) My degree is in Intelligent Systems, which is maths, Computing and Psychology; this led me directly to a career in secondary maths teaching. I spent eighteen years teaching students from year 7 up to further maths A-Level, with 9 years as a Head of Department. As Head of maths, my department was successful in increasing the number of students taking the subject at A-level –achieving consistently high grades. I have written and run masterclasses for the Royal Institution, and I’ve always been driven by the goal of increasing the popularity of maths in schools. More recently I co-founded a successful national maths and physics SCITT (School Centred Initial Teacher Training).
Alongside this I completed a 2-year master’s degree in Teacher Education at the University of Oxford, which I really enjoyed. My dissertation was focussed on mentoring and the relationships between trainees, mentors and teacher educators.
What drew you to your role with e-Qualitas?
It is well documented that there has been a shortage of mathematics teachers in the UK and I strongly believe in education as a means of social justice; my role at e-Qualitas really ties those factors together, as my job helps to fulfil the shortage of mathematics teaches who are so fundamental to secondary education.
I genuinely find it interesting to work with trainees, learning about their motivations for getting into teaching. That is inspiring and motivating to me, as trainees bring new ideas and perspectives. Joining e-Qualitas provides an arena for me to use my skills in training aspiring teachers, while enjoying these aspects of ITT that are so rewarding. e-Qualitas is a well-established community of teacher educators, which I am really excited to be a member of.
What do you enjoy about educating the educators of the future?
Educating teachers, specifically in maths, is important in ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity at school. Something I would like to challenge is when it seems to be socially acceptable for adults to say they either don’t like maths, or that they are rubbish at it. I can recall hearing parents offer these as reasons not to help their children with their maths homework in the past. I think it would be a positive step to eradicate that in the future; this is something I talk to my trainees about. Adults often talk about a fear of maths, drawing on their own experience of education. This is something that specifically maths teachers must deal with. My goal is to educate my teachers to make their classroom a place where everyone feels happy to discuss ideas and volunteer answers, where it doesn’t matter if their answer isn’t correct first time.
Do you think maths presents any other subject-specific challenges like this?
Mathematics is one of the few subjects that appears on the news; In 2015, for example, there was a GCSE question (about Hannah and her sweets) and it made the national news, with a great deal of discussion around it across social media. Maths is a really loaded subject, which is something trainee teachers need to be aware of.
How much importance do you feel wider subject knowledge has in teaching a subject’s curriculum?
The skills a student learns in maths are highly transferrable to other subjects, the workplace and adult-life in general. The ability to assimilate information for use elsewhere to problem solve – by making links with information – is relevant in so many different situations. Showing your ability to grasp an abstract concept and to apply rules to it to work to a solution is a good skill to have, which a good maths teacher can develop in their students.
What do you consider essential qualities in a good teacher?
Enjoyment is essential for a good teacher: it is essential that they enjoy their subject and that they enjoy working with their students. I strongly agree with e-Qualitas’ Curriculum Intent that intellectual curiosity is a vital quality in an educator; they should want to learn and always ask questions. Alongside this, I would say that a high level of emotional intelligence is equally important, and an intellectual curiosity to continually develop this. A teacher should be reflective, stepping back and looking objectively at their work – with a view to continually improve their teaching.
Which areas of maths could be most challenging for trainee teachers?
Teaching maths for your students’ wider understanding is something that trainee teachers must grasp from the start. While there can be value to teaching parts of maths as algorithms and sets of rules, it is more important to appreciate the fundamental underlying concepts in mathematics.
While you do need to understand mathematical techniques, there is no wider algorithm for understanding; for example – if a maths question doesn’t tell a student what ‘kind’ of problem it is, it could be difficult for them to solve it. This means teaching students how to identify the maths problem they are required to solve, as opposed to simply teaching them how to solve specific problems within the classroom setting. I think that element of teaching and understanding pervades all areas of the subject.
Strong subject knowledge is key to this aspect of teaching. The challenge is understanding the pedagogy of maths and then teaching it in a way that gives students an understanding of the subject, as opposed to a set of rehearsed algorithms for solving problems.
How did your own teachers inspire you?
In my mind, the teachers who really inspired me were the ones who really took an interest in our success as their students. Students respond positively when a teacher takes a genuine interest in their work and is pleased when they do well. The teachers who inspired me were those who took that personalised approach, getting to know students and their output within their subject.
What are you looking forward to about the start of the academic year?
I am always excited to start working with a new cohort of trainees. I’m fortunate to have had time to develop a maths-specific curriculum, so it will be enjoyable to start delivering this and getting to know the trainees as I do so.