Beside me sat a solemn little girl. Lucy* was six years old, with huge brown eyes and a frighteningly matter of fact approach to life. “What do you like best about school?” I asked,
was the immediate reply.
This was no great surprise as Lucy’s mum had already told me that she had problems getting Lucy to go to school. She had never been keen but things had gone from bad to worse and, now in year 2, Lucy habitually felt sick on certain mornings. Sometimes too sick to go to school. Her mum had spotted a pattern and it looked like she was suffering from maths lesson tummy ache! Days that were to include maths reasoning were the days when sickness struck.
Investigating some extra maths support from MagiKats may not have seemed to be the most sympathetic response from her parents but they recognised that Lucy was going to have to live through another decade of maths lessons and had decided that she needed help.
Having tiptoed around the issue I reached the point where I had to ask the killer question
“What about maths?”
The reply both surprised and saddened me.
“I used to enjoy maths, it was fun, but I’m no good at it now. Mrs Jones says I’m not good at it so I belong on the bottom table.”
What? Her teacher had told her she was no good at maths at age 6! I know there is a teacher shortage but that one, in my opinion, was in the wrong job.
Before I am tempted to give my full opinion of this “professional” I will move forward with my story.
Lucy and I worked together on a MagiKats placement paper. It was soon clear that, in truth, she had good maths ability but did not just accept what she was told. She asked “Why?”. Not for lack of understanding but because she actually understood too much to just accept what she was told if it did not make sense to her.
Lucy thrived at MagiKats. Working in her small group at workshops, she tackled age appropriate topics and was positively encouraged to question. She established her own understanding of topics and went from strength to strength. Her learning was not limited by any teacher’s expectation – she pushed forward, soon developing the confidence to explain her thinking to others in her group.
She is now in year 5 and is top in maths at school. We are immensely proud of her, as are her family. Most importantly, she believes in and is proud of herself.
Less happily, her friend’s year 2 sister has just developed literacy stomach ache. She is coming to see me on Saturday. Guess which teacher she has!
By Jan Lomas, Principal at MagiKats Farnham and Curriculum Director at MagiKats HQ.
*”Lucy” is a real child, but her name and photo have been changed.