To find out about you I thought it was a good idea for you to have an understanding more about me and why I am so passionate about what I do.
A bit about me first…and my Maths Anxiety
My name is Judy, and I’m 52 years old. I trained as a Primary Teacher when I was 30; before that, I was a qualified Mechanical Engineer. Although I’m well educated and qualified, I did have issues at school, quite big ones…
I was a very unhappy, very anxious girl, and I had social difficulties and struggled to fit in with my peers and teachers. At various points in my schooling journey, I really struggled. I now know what happened was because I am Dyslexic and have ADHD (and probable Autism too.) These were only finally diagnosed in my 50s, so I have spent my whole life not being diagnosed and not understanding why I found so many things so tricky. I have only recently learned to not mask and to just be me!
When I was in Infant School, I found it hard socially, but I had no academic problems as I had learnt to read before starting school. This sounds like a conflict with Dyslexia, but it’s not uncommon.
When I went up into Junior School when I was 7, things started to unravel academically, and I found it really hard to ever put pen to paper. I found it very hard to get my ideas down, and I spent most of my time frustrated with myself because I couldn’t show what I could do. I did have excellent ideas sometimes, but I couldn’t structure my ideas well enough to get them down on paper, and other times, if I was given something very open-ended, I genuinely had no idea where or how to start.
I now know this was due to my Neurodiversity, but at the time, I had no idea; it was the 70s, and my parents or teachers didn’t notice either. They just thought I was just not doing as I was told. But I had an issue with not being able to initiate and start tasks – which is part of Executive Functioning. I still find it really hard to be able to get my ideas down on paper. Computers now have spell and grammar checking; I have found coping strategies and use assistive technology.
Until I was 8, I had no problems with Maths and was quite good at it; I was also quite confident. It wasn’t an issue for me until I entered a class where I experienced extreme Maths Anxiety. I talk more about this in a later video.
Things improved for me for a while, but I still found experiencing overwhelming anxiety and being able to meet my potential challenging.
I went to High School in the days before SATs tests existed, and I was put in the wrong set. Once we had exams at the end of the year, they moved me up to the top set, but I had just spent a year doing lower work, so I found it hard to catch up with my new classmates. Again, I didn’t really fit in the lower set and then didn’t fit in in the high set either. I did catch up and got through my O-Levels ok; then, I moved into the 6th form to take my A-Levels.
At one point, I was unwell physically and missed some school, and when I went back, I had tremendous anxiety and put so much internal pressure on myself to try and catch up. Unfortunately, this triggered a mental health breakdown, and I ended up missing over a month of school. After that, I was in a situation where it was now genuinely difficult to catch up. My anxiety, particularly my Maths Anxiety, as I took maths A-level, kicked in at a very extreme level. I lost all my confidence in my ability to do the A-Level Maths, and my ADHD rumination mindset went into overdrive!
As is the case with many Neurodiverse children who are masking and not being themselves nearly all the time, I was still so desperate to fit in that I refused all offers to drop down a year group and restart my A-levels in the year below. I just couldn’t contemplate being in the wrong year group, so I tried desperately to catch up but never really had much hope of doing so. By this point, I then had massive Maths Anxiety again, and as was to be expected, I lurched towards the end of the U6th, knowing that I couldn’t do and I couldn’t show what I needed to be able to do an exam. I had massive panic attacks in all of my A-level exams. With no exam accommodations or extenuating circumstances taken into account, needless to say, I failed them all completely.
At age 18, I was so desperate to fit in and go off to university like everyone else; I felt like my life was over, and I was distraught. But I picked myself up, went back and did a one-year A-Level course at a college. At that point, I learned many helpful study skills and techniques. I got on much better and my confidence, by and large, returned. Unfortunately, I still had huge panic attacks in my actual exams. Still, this time I did manage to do slightly better and scrape through and was accepted to University to study Mechanical Engineering.
As always, there was another twist. The course was not what I expected or had been described. I had hoped it would be a practical, vocational course, which would have suited me, but it wasn’t, it was just really hard maths! I persevered, desperate not to lose face by dropping out. In those three years, there were many times when I completely lost my confidence, and all of my Maths Anxiety came flooding back again.
I graduated, and I worked in industry. After the birth of my son, I decided to return to University and retrain to be a Primary Teacher, which is what I wanted to do and knew I would be good at.
That was over 20 years ago, and I enjoyed my time as a class teacher. I always found writing on the board really hard and felt under pressure to write and spell correctly on the board, which I knew I found hard to do.
However, I believe that my own difficulties enabled me to be a much better teacher than if everything had been plain sailing throughout my school time. Empathy and understanding of how the struggling children in my class felt helped me teach them better and with more compassion.
I taught in both state primary and in a prep school where I spent 3 years as head of Maths. I enjoyed working in that school because I could play to my strengths and focus more on the Maths and science.
I also lived and worked in a boarding school for many years with my family. I moved into a tutoring role as well as the pastoral boarding house duties. I worked in the learning support department teaching Maths to children from 11 to 16. I was also working as a private tutor.
I have seen things from the viewpoint of a child struggling to meet their potential with huge anxiety issues, and I’ve been a parent of a child who is Neurodiverse and found things tricky. Different things are more problematic to him than to me but tricky nevertheless.
I’ve also been a tutor for the last nearly 12 years. I came out of the classroom for the very last time 3 years ago, and I’m now a full-time online Tutor and trainer.
So although I teach Maths, and I enjoy teaching Maths, and I enjoy Maths myself, there is still a difficulty with my Maths Anxiety, ready to pounce in the background if the wrong circumstances come along.
I developed my tuition into the field of Neurodiversity & Maths Anxiety and have undergone much CPD and other training.
I find it satisfying to help my pupils overcome their anxiety and start to thrive. I’ve been doing this for 12 years and on and off, and in that time, I’ve helped hundreds of children turn around how they feel about maths.