Snakes. Who loves snakes? Certainly not me! I have always been scared and rather phobic about them, and I can feel my heart beating faster at the mere thought.
But this afternoon, I spent about 30 minutes discussing snakes: species, ways of caring for them and breeding them. This did not put me in my comfort zone at all!
However, my Neurodiverse, highly Maths Anxious, and chronically disengaged pupil absolutely loves snakes and has three of them! We had been looking at pie charts when a question came up about pets. I have been teaching her for a while. Though I have been able to connect and establish a reasonable rapport with her over her amazing artistic talents, I knew nothing about her love of reptiles until today. It wasn’t something that I knew that meant so much to her until now. I wish I had previously known, but at least I do now…
We careered off-piste from Maths into her excitedly and animatedly explaining so many details that I never knew, mainly because I am so scared of them.
I was open and honest about my anxieties, and she was kind and empathetic toward my fears. Suddenly, the roles had reversed. Instead of being in the position of an expert and her being the anxious one about anything with numbers in, I was now the anxious one when we talked and looked at photos of different breeds. She was now in a position of power and was the expert in the (Zoom) room.
Being able to talk about something she knows so much about was so good for her mental well-being, and I could almost see her swelling with pride as she explained her snakes to me.
This is where if I had still been in a classroom situation, I would have pretty much had no choice but to shut down the conversation and plough on with the planned lesson about interpreting pie charts. In school, as teachers, we are under so much pressure to stick to the curriculum, come what may, taking out the humanity that needs to be involved in nurturing children.
If I had been observed, they would have commented that I failed to keep the lesson on track and the pupil had failed to meet the expected progress within the lesson.
Well, that is the beauty of being an educator outside the school classroom; I could do what felt right and was most beneficial to my pupil right at that point. That was indeed talking about snakes.
This episode made me feel humble and yet again enabled me to experience the emotions that pupils have when they come to me after years of chronic Maths Anxiety. Years of feeling scared of numbers and out of their depth. Years of feeling foolish amongst their peers.
My role is so much more than just delivering Maths content; it is about empowering children to feel better about themselves and get themselves in the right mindset to start to learn.
Next lesson, I am sure she will be less anxious and will be able to trust me, relax and be more able to engage with her learning. So half an hour of snake talk for me will have been more than worth it!
#mathsanxiety #snakeanxiety #fear #dyslexia #dyscalculia