'You may have a bad lesson, but you come back and it's brand new the next time'

24th January 2003 at 00:00
Name David Attwell Age No comment Current post Teaching mathematics at Dylan Thomas school, Swansea

Career to date?

I worked as a naval architect in the Ministry of Defence, doing warship design, and acted as project manager on the construction of various ships.

I left that and did jobs ranging from shopkeeping and being clerk to the community council, to working in a concrete factory. In early 2000, I saw a two-page spread in a newspaper - a call for engineers to go into teaching.

I was quite taken by it. I got lots of encouragement to have a go, so I did. I took a PGCE at Swansea University and qualified at the beginning of August 2001. I'm now in my second year of teaching.

Why did you become a teacher?

I had given private tuition in mathematics over the years - I started in my twenties. At the bottom of it all is an inner confidence that I knew how to do it. I have an affinity towards the subject. So it was knowing that I had something I could enjoy, but I could also offer something back. Also, I needed a fresh challenge.

What's the best thing that's happened to you so far?

Pupils who say how much they enjoy maths, even though you know they haven't grasped the principle you've been trying to get across. Yet they still say they enjoy it, and you know there's a challenge there for you to make sure you get that principle across.

And the worst?

A serious fight broke out between two boys in a maths class during teaching practice. It was the first time it had happened with me and I thought, 'what the devil do I do?' I just shouted my head off, made a fuss, and hoped for the best. Fortunately it worked.

What do you like most about teaching?

Having a fresh challenge on a daily basis. This is in sharp contrast to some of the work I did previously - some projects had a five or six-year time scale, and you could get quite disheartened at times. In teaching, you may have a bad lesson, but you come back and it's brand new the next time.

What is your dream job?

I have no ambition to climb. But I would like to get a level of rapport with each class so that the desire to learn maths becomes spontaneous.

Top tip?

Read Peter Hook and Andy Vass's book Teaching With Influence. It has so many good examples and useful strategies. One of the most useful quotes in the book is: "The only thing in the classroom you can control is yourself".

If I go in with that attitude each day, I find that really helps.

interview by Martin Whittaker

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