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PE Teacher Teaching Mathematics, Where have I heard that before?

Callum Martin is a PE and mathematics teacher from Sir Thomas Wharton Academy. He is also a previous student achievement leader and currently associate assistant vice principal. 

PE Teacher Teaching Mathematics, Where Have I Heard That Before?

Teaching out of specialism is a daunting task, Every PE teacher will know full time PE jobs are hard to come by and at some stage you have to make the difficult decision to "branch-out." Over the past three years, I've spent and increased amount of time teaching Mathematics and I've highlighted below how this has helped me grow as a practitioner and is something I've come to love doing.

Great teachers are great teachers and confident teaching builds confidence in students.

Keep in mind that you are a teacher of children not just of subjects. Your go-to behaviour management strategies, relationship and rapport builders can all remain the same. You might be teaching a different subject, but you don’t have to completely change your teaching style

Take the skills you already have within your subject specialism and apply them to your lessons outside of your specialism.

Request Support and Training

Never hesitate to ask for help. Your school is there to support you, and nobody will think less of you for asking for assistance when teaching a new subject. I'm lucky to find myself working within a Mathematics department that have supported me from day one and have a culture that allows for help & support at regular intervals. Whenever I'm teaching a topic where I'm not as confident, there's always someone within the department that will share ideas and provide feedback.

Speak to colleagues about their experiences teaching a new subject or for their expertise in your new subject. You might be worried they’re busy, but being part of a team means you will repay the favour later in the year. As I'm currently in the middle of supporting year 11 during their summer examinations, a number of the Mathematics department have covered my PE lessons and hopefully have a new appreciation for all things Physical Education related. Exposure to two different subject areas has certainly allowed me to develop as a practitioner.

You could look for assistance further afield on social media. Facebook groups and Twitter are good places to start, where people will gladly swap tips and resources. Don’t feel intimidated if you are new to interacting in social media forums, they are usually remarkably supportive. I've found that using social media for all things education related has helped me develop different ideas & methods of topic delivery.

Is there an opportunity to participate in some training? Consider external training sessions, joining a network within your local authority or partnering up with a member of the new department so that they can mentor and support you. It is important that you are able to use this as an up-skilling and CPD opportunity.

Be Prepared

Teaching something new or different does usually mean further study. Start by studying the specification closely and try to stay a week ahead in your lesson planning.

Gather some relevant, good quality resources. Co-planning lessons & shared planning is something that has really helped me over the past three years. If I'm ever stuck for ideas for teaching area of a circle for example, a member of the department will always be willing to share how they deliver the topic.

Mentally prepare yourself for the challenge. Learning to teach another subject can push you out of your comfort zone but this is something that has definitely moved my teaching practice forward. If you would have said to me three years ago that I'd be teaching Mathematics more than I'd be teaching PE I would've declined the job in an instant but three years down the line I'm sharing clips of my Mathematics lessons as good practice and starting to make the transition away from practical PE.

"A Teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary." – Thomas Carruthers

Celebrate your success

Teaching out of specialism is not easy and should be celebrated. You have worked hard to adapt your teaching strategies to a different audience. Whether they are just much smaller human beings or simply students expecting a history expert before them. If you can navigate your students through their own learning and provide them with opportunities to succeed then you should feel a huge sense of achievement. I know from my own experience that I'm immensely proud having taken the step away from my specialist subject.

Prepare for uncertainty

Undoubtedly, someone will ask a question about your new subject that will have you stumped.

This can lead to embarrassment, especially if the students then decide to go on the offensive with comments that are the stuff of nightmares, such as the classic, ‘You mean you don’t know, sir? Then how come you’re teaching us, sir?’ I find the easiest way of dealing with this is simply to be honest. I don't pretend to know all the answers within Mathematics, I'd be lying if I said I did but what I have done is ensure I'm as prepared as possible to support every single student that are in my classes. Effective planning, attending subject specific training and Subject Knowledge Enhancement Courses have all been of great use over the past three years.

Teaching out of my specialism is something that once terrified me, but now it's something i enjoy on a daily basis. I hope the above is of some use when setting out on a new subject journey. Personally, I’ve found that once you get over the initial anxiety, there’s a lot of learning & progress to be had.

Feedback on what you have read is always welcome! Thank you for taking the time to read.