12 November 2020|Business Growth, Latest Posts, Launching a business, Resources
By Anne Morris. I can still remember my ‘lightbulb’ moment very clearly. It was 2nd March 2012 and I was reading an article in the Independent when the BBC News programme in the background covered the same story I was reading about: research had revealed that 50% of adults in the UK could not manage basic mathematics.
As a maths teacher, I just found this so sad. I had met intelligent people who did not know what even and odd numbers were, simply because they missed those lessons then never had the confidence to raise it again. How many more people were missing just one or two lessons, not knowing prime numbers, square numbers, basic number bonds – and ending up with this impacting on their overall understanding of this vital subject?
Well, half of us, clearly. Half of UK adults had not had the confidence to put their hands up and ask for help.
I started to look into how we could get around this – I knew that one on one tutoring was part of the answer, as you can’t hide a lack of knowledge from the person sitting in front of you and it’s easier to admit it to one person than to a group.
But how to deliver those facts and transfer that knowledge, without knocking someone’s confidence further?
The answer was in Peer Learning – recruiting energetic young people to support others who just a few years younger. By relating to them, engaging with them and making it fun, they could develop that confidence. While it made perfect sense to me, it took a while to convince others to come on board.
My own confidence took a number of knocks when schools told me time and time again that it was too much of a risk, or they couldn’t see it working. It was only when invigilating a maths exam as a volunteer that I got the chance to connect with two fantastic
sixth form maths students who asked to join me on my first contract. As expected; they made it fun, they related to the pupils easily and they gave them the confidence to ask questions and speak up if they didn’t understand.
And this is the key. When I was setting up, I was confident in my idea. I got rejections but I knew it would work and I kept plugging away. If someone doesn’t have confidence in themselves, and if people don’t show confidence in them, it can have a huge impact on their output. It’s up to all of us to help develop confidence in others. It’s not difficult, and the same techniques teachers and tutors use apply to entrepreneurs and employers:
Raising your voice as a tutor or teacher rarely works. It might grab the attention of the audience, but they won’t warm to you and it won’t help them concentrate or retain information. In the same way, it’s key for a business leader to stay calm. Stress is infectious and does nothing to generate good results. Manage your moods through apps like Headspace, take walks, have several deep breaths if you start to feel anxious. These are simple approaches but popular for a reason – they can work.
Your pupil or your employee might not know the answer to an equation or a business conundrum, but they have the right to their opinion – and by taking the time to listen to it and discuss it, you are giving them respect. We all need to know our thoughts are worthy, even if they are not 100% the right answer to the problem at hand: only by being able to voice them and discuss them, will we have the confidence to have more ideas – and next time, the idea could be the right one at the right time.
This doesn’t mean we need to be all singing all dancing cheerleaders to others. But we need to enthuse and give credit for getting things right. It’s the old carrot and stick analogy: everyone performs better with a carrot, and the best carrot in my opinion, is praise. Public praise. Telling someone they have done well is great – telling others they have done well is even better. What a way to lift each other.
All of the above needs to be consistent. While this year has thrown more pressure upon all of us, it’s imperative that we don’t let that pressure impact on our work. That’s not to say we shouldn’t talk about pressure or take time to recognise its impact: quite the opposite. We should talk about it, and deal with it, so that it doesn’t affect the way we deal with each other. Being consistently calm, listening and praising can still be done.
Having started with just an idea eight years ago, I’ve now grown my tutor organisation to place hundreds of tutors in primary and secondary schools for full year placements, meaning almost 1m younger learners have benefitted from individual attention, additional support, raised grades and renewed confidence.
A good teacher believes in their students’ abilities and is able to recognise and draw out a young person’s strengths. Good managers will do the same for their team – someone else demonstrating confidence in you is the biggest confidence boost you can have, after all.
About the Author
Anne Morris is a former Maths teacher. She founded Yipiyap which provides peer tutors to schools all over the UK. Created in the northwest in 2012, the organisation harnesses the talent of high-achieving school leavers and following a thorough interview process, places them with schools for their gap year.