My transformative moment in teaching

I have just come across an excellent series of videos where leading educators discuss the moments that transformed their teaching lives.This can be found at

The videos are touching, interesting and show reflective practitioners letting us in on the moments in their career that really made a difference to the way that they saw themselves as a teacher. I think that this would be a really good exercise for any of us to indulge in and therefore decided to add my own (although without the video accompaniment!).

I think that my transformative moment was when I was teaching the dreaded subject of fractions to my Year 6 (Grade 5) pupils in the Primary (Elementary) school that I taught in at the time. I thought I was a progressive sort of teacher and had tried my best to go through the usual textbook examples of how to get children to understand fractions. We had divided pieces of paper and I went through the mantra of “whatever you do to the top you do the bottom of the fraction”. The children smiled back at me and they tried their best.. until I decided to see the ones who couldn’t “get it” on a one-to-one basis (this was me being very progressive and understanding the child and trying to have a personal connection to them and explain it all so that they would certainly get it now.)

One of the people I saw was a girl who I will call Sarah (not her real name). She seemed somewhat nervous coming up to see me at my large teacher’s desk. She showed me her book with every fraction “sum” done wrong. I was just about to do my progressive 1 to 1 with her when she suddenly burst into tears and sobbed to me “I just don’t get it”.

This too me aback. I could see the power that we teachers have in these children’s lives and the way that we can make them feel inadequate and frankly stupid. I had not realised that I was contributing to this child’s negative mindset about her abilities in mathematics. It was after this that I decided that I needed to promote a positive self-image in the children I taught and that I was not here to make them cry or make them feel bad about themselves but to encourage them to learn in whatever way was best for them.

I am now a consultant in primary mathematics and have tried to pass on the ideas that we are not here to drill in techniques to my fellow teachers.We are about the promotion of learning and that means starting from the point of making children enjoy mathematics and understand its power to help them in their lives.

I wonder what your transformative moment was? I would be interested to read your comments.

About malbell

I am a retired Teaching and Learning Consultant. Previously I was a Primary school headteacher and deputy headteacher. I enjoy reading, doing MOOCs and learning new things.
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