As some may know, I have been supporting a student with his GCSE maths exam since late November. He was in the same boat as I was: he was entering into his fifth GCSE maths exam, and he had pretty much given up.
I met Callum while facilitating his class and he mentioned how he didn’t enjoy maths. I asked him if he was using CENTURY and he said no, he didn’t enjoy it. I said fine. I had been there. I had a lot of strategies put in my face over the three years studying for the same exam and I pretty much had enough of them as well.
So instead, I just sat with him and we did some fractions on a whiteboard. To be honest with you, I was surprised I even knew how to add fractions but apparently, and luckily, I did and slowly they began to make sense to Callum. We did use CENTURY, we used it more and more, but we never replaced actual learning with it. We used it for revision and I was able to see exactly where he was struggling by using the backend data. But if he would rather do a past paper, we did a past paper. If he would rather learn something new with a whiteboard, we’d learn something new with a whiteboard.
I enjoyed every single moment helping Callum pass his GCSE maths. It felt nice to be on the other side and I began to feel probably how my final maths teacher felt. I knew Callum could pass, just like Rich knew I could, and I noticed we fell into the same back and forth: “I’m not going to pass”, “Yes you are”, “No I’m not”, “Yes you are” etc etc.
We did an hour every week just studying maths. I would learn something new and teach him it, although, usually he would just end up teaching me it but by teaching me it I knew he was learning. I ended up taking his vocational maths hour and we did more past paper and focused on one of his weakest topics: Shape. Also one of my weakest topics.
One thing that amazes me is that at any point he could have said “I don’t want to do this anymore.” or he could have just turned me away when I got out the whiteboard in the first place. But he didn’t. He came to every Blended Learning session where we revised, every vocational maths hour where we revised and one time, I even left him past papers to do over the half-term, and he did it.
An important thing about resit learners is they have hope. You might not be able to see it because it might be hidden under a lot of insecurity and doubt, and a lot of negativity, but it’s there. It takes time. It’s not that we don’t want to learn, we just don’t want to repeat ourselves to be in the exact same position three months later. I would not have passed my GCSE maths exam without Rich believing in me. I’m not saying I’m the reason Callum passed, he could do that all by himself. I’m saying that most students won’t try, because if they don’t try and fail, it doesn’t hurt as much. I know all teachers don’t have time to sit there and spend one-to-one time with each and every student and I know that if you could, you would, but sometimes, all we need is someone to believe in us. Someone to dig through the insecurity and the rejection, find the hope and believe in us.
Callum passed his GCSE maths exam and he deserved it. He is brilliant, he is bright, and I believe in him. He can do anything he sets his mind to because he showed the world he can.