Talking Teaching with Maxine McKew, Kerry Elliott and Sophie Murphy
00:00 - Maxine McKew
I'm Maxine McKew, and this is Talking Teaching.
00:12 - Malcolm Turnbull
Australia's local hero for 2018 is Eddie Woo.
00:22 - Eddie Woo
I stand before you, not as an individual, but as a proud representative of every teacher around the country, who labours day after day, year after year, because we know the power of giving a child the priceless gift of an education.
Once upon a time, we thought that reading and writing were unusual skills reserved for special people in society. Now we know literacy is essential for everyone. My conviction is the same truth as mathematics. Almost half of new teachers leave the profession in their first five years.
That needs to change. The price in education isn't really about what we do in ceremonies and special occasions. It's about what we do every single day, and the way that we think and speak and make decisions about our country's schools.
Our children, our future generations, are depending on it. Thank you.
01:31 - Maxine McKew
Hi there. And, yes, it's local hero of the year, Eddie Woo, who is the focus of our podcast this month. The recent Gonski Review highlighted the fact that Australia is not a country that accords much status to its teachers. We need to change that, and there's no doubt that math teacher, Eddie Woo, is putting his incredible energy and his imagination into doing just that.
For those of you who might not be aware of the back story, Eddie's fame beyond his own classroom at Cherrybrook Technology High in the northwest of Sydney, began to grow when he began starting to post his math classes on line. Initially, for a student too ill to attend class. That simple step led to Wootube, which now has tens of thousands of subscriber, and has clocked up millions of hits from students, really, all over the world.
I decided to try it and picked out one of Eddie's classes on probability. I thought I'd watch it for about five minutes. Fifty minutes later, I wondered where the time had gone. It was as absorbing as being lost in a really good book, and that's the whole point about Eddie. Yes, he's a teacher utterly in command of his subject. And, yes, he has a dynamic presence. But he understands something fundamental to the process of learning.
That is, that it's about narrative. Tell a story, a relevant story, and you'll immediately have your students hooked. Eddie's own background is instructive. He was from a high achieving family, but he wasn't always happy at school. That didn't really change until he encountered two teachers in high school who he says treated him like a human being.
The importance of that connection between teacher and student never left him, and ultimately motivated his own choice of career. One of the most important qualities that Eddie Woo brings into his classroom every day is empathy. He knows what it's like to be the kid who feels a bit left out, or the kid who doesn't quite get it the first time.
Eddie Woo, welcome to Talking Teaching.
03:36 - Eddie Woo
Maxine, it's a pleasure to be here.
03:38 - Maxine McKew
Now, Australia Day Awards ... you've been in Dubai recently. The Commonwealth Bank Award. I mean, does this feel like another universe you're [living 00:03:46] in?
03:46 - Eddie Woo
It's incredibly surreal. I certainly veer far away from the familiar classroom where I'm so comfortable, but definitely have been learning so much on this journey, I know it's worthwhile.
03:57 - Maxine McKew
I'd have to say the thrill for many of us who work in education is the way these awards are putting a national focus on teaching in such a positive way.
04:05 - Eddie Woo
Well, I think that, you know, in our country, education is in that position where everyone has their hand in the pie, and everyone cares about it, which is fantastic. But we're used to being a political football, I mean, thrown around, and just a topic about, you know, funding, and reasons for why we should be re-elected or not. And, so, it's been really delightful to have the, the cultural discourse around this ... be something that's celebratory and really exciting.
04:31 - Maxine McKew
And, of course, you've got a couple of messages, I mean, about the wonders of math, obviously. And we'll come to that, but I think the other interesting message that you really seem to be promoting in your interviews, and all the rest of it, is just how hard and challenging teaching is, and, again, that's an important message to get out, isn't it?
04:49 - Eddie Woo
Well, as I was mentioning before, seeing as so many people in this country, or pretty much all of them, have had their experience of education, this is this uh, two edged sword of having such a wonderful, universal education system that, you know, we have this value that young children should have this experience as they grow up, but this often gives us a sense that, "Oh, well, I- I went through that. I'm an expert at that," and most people don't see even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what a teacher actually experiences and goes through as they work in a school.
So, I'm very keen to be able to shine a light on all of that.
05:21 - Maxine McKew
What's your, uh, working week like? And, I know, this year is atypical, but let's say, you're head of maths at Cherrybrook, that's your day job. What's a normal week like?
05:32 - Eddie Woo
A normal week is uh (laughs), a head of department role, I realize that my time no longer belongs to me. So, I get in nice and early as a head of department, generally around 6:00 or 6:30, because-
05:44 - Maxine McKew
I mean, you say head of department. How many teachers?
05:46 - Eddie Woo
Cherrybrook Technology High School is a large school, so we have about 2,000 students, and, uh, which means that I oversee 18 staff. Um, which is its own challenge. I do have a- a co-head of department to assist me with that because it's a lot of people to keep track of and to support in their own professional development, but uh, it's a big, too, and it's great. It's a very diverse sort of set of strengths and weaknesses that need to be all brought together.
06:10 - Maxine McKew
And what time do you get to leave, and then uh, I guess, start again and putting together Wootube TV?
06:14 - Eddie Woo
Yep, so, you know. From 6:00 or 6:30, I want to have that time where I can be in my own head space before the first classes begin at half past seven. So, our extension students who are in senior school, will begin at 7:30, and go to 8:30, and then the rest of the school begins.
06:30 - Eddie Woo
Our school day is 8:30 to 3:00, and so, in that space I'm doing, you know, 80 percent of a normal classroom teacher load, is what I have as a head teacher. And, in between all of that, is all of the- the joys of being a leader and administrator, whether that is looking over assessments, um, designing rubrics, student discipline, interacting with parents, being a part of the entire school executive, and making sure the policy which comes down from above is actually implemented at the classroom level.
All those little in between bits that take me up until 3:00, and then, after that is when we actually get time to sit down, have collegiate conversations, uh, all of the normal things a classroom teacher does in terms of marking, planning, and all that kind of thing.
07:17 - Maxine McKew
I'm guessing 50-60 hours a week?
07:20 - Eddie Woo
I've never done too much thinking about, uh, you know, the actual calculation of the hours, which, I understand, is ironic being a mathematics teacher. Partly because I guess I've never really thought about, you know, as teachers we don't work in a factory. The car is, is assembled, it's finished, it's out in the manufacturing line, it's done. A teacher's job is never done. Fifty or sixty hours doesn't sound all that distant from what I actually experience on a day to day basis.
07:45 - Maxine McKew
Let's go back a bit. You were at, uh, James Ruse Agricultural High School, in Sydney, a top selective high school in the country, really, so that must have been a terrific experience. But, I noticed you mentioned two teachers in particular who were great influences on you, and they featured in the recent Australian story, but you don't mention the person who taught you maths.
08:05 - Eddie Woo
08:07 - Maxine McKew
Why is that?
08:07 - Eddie Woo
My experience of mathematics at high school, I would say was quite typical in that I didn't enjoy mathematics very much. Uh, there was no teacher I could have remembered clearly, and said, "Oh, yes. Everything came into crisp focus and clarity." Um, I, I meddled along and sort of made sense of mathematics as much as I could, but English and history and the humanities uh, were the subjects were the subjects that I naturally gravitated towards.
It wasn't as though I hated mathematics, but I, I didn't see any need to, to philosophically question, "Why are we studying this subject?" I didn't have any experience that made me, made me question, existentially, "What is this about?" "Why am I doing this?"
I understood it just enough to be able to conduct myself fairly in tests, get reasonable marks, and then sort of get on with the things I really did enjoy.
08:56 - Maxine McKew
So what switched on to maths then? And the idea of maths teaching?
09:00 - Eddie Woo
You mentioned those two teachers who I had before, Mr. Brown, who was my agricultural teacher, and Mr. [Best 00:09:06] who was my music teacher. They were the people who first lit that spark, I suppose, in my mind that you know, teaching is something that I could do. And so, when I came to year 11 was the point where I realized, education really is the space that I want to move into, and of course, the question became, "Well, what should I ... What should I do?"
I very quickly gravitated towards secondary, because I loved seeing when you come into high school, and you're 12 years old, and your bag is larger than you are, and you're so needy and dependent on guidance and direction from the adults around you, you move from that, six years later, to becoming more or less an adult, deciding their own trajectory in life, and making decisions about being a citizen, contributing to your community in society, and that transition was such an exciting thing for me to be a part of that, that was why I decided secondary.
And then, the most natural direction to go in was the subjects that I had natural skill in, which were English and history. So, I turned up at the University of Sydney with those subjects written on my enrolment form.
10:10 - Maxine McKew
And this is ... You enrolled in a Bachelor of Ed?
10:11 - Eddie Woo
It was a combined degree, uh, Bachelor of Education, Bachelor of Arts, and so, I was literally standing there in the faculty of education waiting with my uh, academic transcript in my hand, and uh, one of the professors at the University was sort of shuffling up and down, chatting to the new enrolments, um, making small talk while we waited to get to the front of the queue, and literally, without as much as saying, "Hello," he came to me, had a look at some of my paperwork, and saw that I did Mathematics Extension 1, which is the second highest level you could do in New South Wales schools, and on the spot said, "You should consider becoming a mathematics teacher." You know, it was a very-
10:49 - Maxine McKew
10:50 - Eddie Woo
Gwyneth Paltrow sliding doors moment, which is dating me a little bit, but uh-
10:50 - Maxine McKew
10:55 - Eddie Woo
It was a ... Now, I didn't know this at the time, but obviously he had in mind a- the different areas that people were coming into within the faculty. The different areas they were going out to, and the needs that there were, not just in New South Wales, but across Australia.
11:09 - Maxine McKew
Your whole future turned on a chance-
11:11 - Eddie Woo
11:11 - Maxine McKew
... chance encounter.
11:12 - Eddie Woo
It really did. It's fair to say that the seeds for me accepting his suggestion really were laid earlier on, you know. Mr. Brown and Mr. Best embraced me as a student, as a human being, even though I was not a gifted musician. I'm not a gifted musician, nor a gifted agriculture student, but for them I was a human being who they wanted to grow, and for me, you know ... I remember being in my first year of education lectures, and he rang for the first time, um, articulated what I'd understood for so long, but didn't know how to say. That teachers teach students first, and subjects second. And so, for me, it was not about what area, what particular subject I was going to go into, what domain of knowledge. I just wanted to help children grow and flourish.
12:00 - Maxine McKew
You must feel blessed, actually, that you had those teachers because, again, in listening to other interviews, you were, perhaps, you know, unhappy in your primary schooling. But you found two people who could see the whole you.
12:12 - Eddie Woo
I was shocked interacting with them when I entered high school because I was not used to having that uh, that dignity and respect being given to me. It was a whole new experience. And so, uh, yes, I, I don't believe in luck, personally, but I feel incredibly grateful to have had educators like that, who, who shaped and- and, uh, guided me as a young person, which is what fills me with a sense of- of moral purpose, and that imperative now, that I understand conversations which I have, which I- I do not remember, can have this immense impact on the young people with whom I interact with. I know that because Mr. Best and Mr. Brown don't remember the particular conversations they had that literally changed my life forever.
12:55 - Maxine McKew
So you get your degree, you're in the classroom as a newly minted secondary maths teacher, what's that like?
13:04 - Eddie Woo
Coming into school for the first time, uh, was a violent experience-
13:09 - Maxine McKew
13:09 - Eddie Woo
... because everyone has an experience of school, and so they have, they have an image in their mind of what they expect and what they see of what teachers do, and so, I, I remember, for example, uh, being given my first senior class, which was Year 11, 2-Unit Mathematics, which is what it was called, which was less than what I had done as a student. I thought, "How hard can this be? This is gonna be, you know, a walk in the park." And then, to realize that knowing something as a student, and then knowing it to teach someone, are two completely different realities. Something as simple and fundamental as say, you know, calculus, is about understanding rates of change. And that was something I thought I knew. I thought I knew.
13:53 - Maxine McKew
What was the wake up moment that was, "Uh-oh"?
13:56 - Eddie Woo
(Laughs). I was there standing in front of a student, his name was Benny, and I um, I said, "Okay, Benny, this is, this is what the first principles of calculus are, and I put them up on the board, and they seemed, they were crystal clear in my mind, and there was just this look of uh, his, his, his eyes were just completely glazed over, and he said, "I don't get it."
And I realized that, "Oh, wait. Hold on," but I didn't ... didn't I just, I- I looked, I-
14:20 - Maxine McKew
"I know this, don't you?"
14:22 - Eddie Woo
It was ... and I realized, this was the moment that so many of my teachers had given me of um, "Eddie, why don't you understand? It's so obvious to me." It's very difficult to come out of that experience, and to inhabit a student and their confusion, and to empathize with them in their moment of perplexity. And I realized, Oh. It's not knowledge, this is, this is coming back to my earlier point. It's not knowledge of the subject that's primary, it's knowledge of the student, and where they are at, and where you need to take them in order to give them the right learning experience. That's what makes an educator.
14:54 - Maxine McKew
Or as another one of our guests has said on this podcast, "It's what you do with what you know."
14:58 - Eddie Woo
(Laughs). I've been teaching for 10 years now, but every day I have a new experience of realizing, okay, here's, here's a new student, a new individual, who's unique in the, the mathematical history and journey they've brought to over 13, 14, 15 years to come to this place where they are now, in their conversation with me, and that demands a whole new approach.
Different subtlety, or fundamentally, to all the different conversations I've had with the hundreds of thousands of students I've encountered before, and uh, I used to be intimidated by that moment. I was, certainly, as a first year teacher, but now I approach that with excitement because it's almost as though he's a new creative challenge for me. How am I going to bring you from where you are to where you need to be?
15:42 - Maxine McKew
So, Eddie, what would be your advice to beginning teachers?
15:49 - Eddie Woo
When I think of myself as being a teacher, I realize that I was focused very much on techniques and, and knowledge, and on a ... you know, learning about ... wrap your head around this enormous syllabus document and try and understand all the ins and outs of it. And, of course, that is uh, that's a necessary part of the puzzle.
But, really, I think it's so wonderful that in Australian professional teaching standards, the first item is--Know students and how they learn. And if there's one thing that I want all early career teachers to understand, it's that you, you need to know these people sitting in front of you. You need to uh, understand what makes them tick ... What they love, what they hate, and want to change about the world, so that you can, through that knowledge of them, and your connection with them, connect what knowledge and skills you have and your responsibility as a teacher to convey to them.
You know, I've often heard it said that just as air is the medium for sound, relationship is the medium for learning, and if you do not know your students and cannot connect with them on that personal level, then um, you're merely, not to use it in a derogative way, but you're merely lecturing at them. And that will not produce real learning in the end. It might be a start, but it cannot be your end.
17:06 - Maxine McKew
What about connecting with students of very different ability levels? And, this is true of any class, but let's say, at Cherrybrook. How do you ensure, in particular, say that quiet kid that never causes a teacher any problem, but in fact, you know, they are underperforming because they're under the radar?
17:27 - Eddie Woo
One of my um, dreams for um, the teaching profession, one day in the future, is that uh, every teacher, as a mandatory part of their initial education, goes to in, in Sydney, where you'd see the National Institute of Dramatic Arts. Understanding what it means to be a teacher, you understand that a primary part of it is taking on a persona, um, in fact taking a many different personas.
You stand there in front of 30 students, and each one of them requires something different from you. Some of them require you to be a- (laughs) a strict disciplinary, who doesn't accept anything less than their very best efforts and the, the most perfect work, because you know that's what they're capable of.
And there will be a student right beside them who will be crushed by those very same expectations. And, in fact, brings with them many scars into the classroom, particularly in a subject like mine, uh, where what they need is someone to nurture, and support, and guide them, and,
Then there will be someone right alongside them, who doesn't need support, so much as they just need to be endlessly questioned because they think they know everything. They think they're masters. They're used to getting high scores, and highly ranking in every one of their tests, and they need to be rattled, and be placed in a position of confusion for a little while to realize there's a big, wide world out there that, they know nothing about yet.
And, just in those one, two, three students, being able to take on that persona. To- To shift on a dime. Um, to be able to say to a student up the back who- um, whose parents are going through substance addiction right now, and what he comes to school for is to be in a safe place, where there's order. And a bell goes, and he knows where he's going next, and he knows when it's time to eat, where he needs to go. Each one of those students needs something different.
My primary mechanism for curriculum differentiation is to be able to know what is it these students need on a personal level, and then I can give them what they need academically.
19:34 - Maxine McKew
I notice you're also um, a part of a program where you help very disadvantaged students, and that's in the year of maths, as well? What's your approach there?
19:42 - Eddie Woo
I've taught in many schools that are highly resourced and have um, every socio-economic advantage that society can speak of, and so I feel a real moral responsibility, um, to be able to share that with those who do not enjoy such privileges um, for a young age or through a series of circumstances, as they advance through school.
I work with the University of Sydney, um, in their Expanding Outreach Program, looking at students who are traditionally underrepresented in tertiary education. And helping them see high levels of senior mathematics are something which you're capable of ... Even that "me" statement, that this is something that you can actually aspire to. It's often uh, immensely life changing for students who've never had it even invited to them, that this is something you can embark on. "Yes, University, is something you can actually achieve, or will open doors you can't even imagine at the moment."
And, so, coming to students with that assumption. That saying, "Yes, you're capable of this. You- You might need tremendous amounts of support and guidance, but that doesn't mean that you cannot reach these heights." That- That's a really important part of the function that I perform with these students.
20:55 - Maxine McKew
You must have seen some pretty poor kids that you've been able to, you know, light a spark in, and who've actually got over their own sense of failure. Would that be right?
21:05 - Eddie Woo
Self-concept is such a huge thing, particularly in mathematics. Perhaps more in mathematics, than anywhere. Uh, by way of illustration, in- a Wikipedia, I'm the font of all knowledge, in Wikipedia there's a page entirely devoted to mathematical anxiety. There's no English anxiety. There's no scientific anxiety-
21:05 - Maxine McKew
I didn't know that (laughs).
21:23 - Eddie Woo
It's a- I'm very familiar with-
21:23 - Maxine McKew
But, I'm not surprised.
21:25 - Eddie Woo
... this well stocked page. Now, that just speaks to the fact that, uh, you know, student's self-concept is so decisive in how they, they feel and approach this subject, and so, one of the key uh, key methods that I've found ... key strategies, has been thinking about my subject, uh, thinking about mathematics, actually as less of a subject, and more as a, as a sense ... As a way of perceiving the world.
I have horrendous eyesight, you know, it's common for people to be long-sighted or short-sighted, I'm actually- I have one eye that's short-sighted, and one eye that's long-sighted, which means you might think I can see everything, it actually means I can see nothing. You're far away in the distance, you're a complete blur. If you're close to me, I can't focus.
But, I would never dream of saying, "Oh, I struggle with seeing. So, therefore, I'm just, I'm just not a seeing person. That's not a part of, that's not who I am. I, I do what is necessary in order to um, provide support and interact with this world and perceive it, and mathematically I understand that people need support. People need to be given that, that kind of um, extra remediation or guidance, or whatever it might be.
But, mathematics is for everyone, just like seeing is for everyone. And, in fact, we close ourselves off from perceiving huge parts of the world. If we walk around with eyes closed, and if we, we, enter society without understanding that we have a mathematical lens through which to look at it.
22:52 - Maxine McKew
Let me bring this to the national level because, as you know, part of our national angst at the moment is about the fact that even with our brighter students, they are underachieving. We see that in the, the Pisa data, but it's, it's particularly true in both maths and science. How do we reverse this? (Laughing). The big question.
23:12 - Eddie Woo
The $64 million dollar question. The first thing I suppose to say is that, as with all big questions like this, um, there is no single response ... no silver bullet, and I think we all know this, but it still needs to be said, right at the beginning, because many simplistic solutions have been thrown in the air, and uh, we need all of them at work if we're going to move the needle on um, our performance in science and mathematics.
If I had to point to a single thing, which I, which I know is, even if it is not singularly decisive, it is an enormous contributing factor, I could talk about effect size if I had the research in front of me, but the, the main thing that I would say contributes to mathematical uh, growth is, is student's and parent's mindset toward the subject.
Uh, 95 percent of people come to this, uh, this subject with a, with a fixed mindset about this is something you can do, or you cannot. You have this, you're born with this ability, or you aren't, and you discover whether you have it or not, and once you've made that discovery, you found out, oh, you're a mathematics person, or you're not. Then, you reali- you say, "All right. Great. You go spend some time with that," or "That's okay, Maxine, you have other gifts. You have other areas in which you can, can grow and be tremendously gifted in. Let's, let's spend time on that." And having that kind of fixed mindset is fatal to a student's development of mathematical understanding.
Mathematics is a practical subject, just like music, or like a sport. And, they talk about the 10,000 hours of uh, practice that's required for mastery in areas like that. And so, if students, instead, come to this subject and say, "I need to come with a [picture 00:24:55] of resilience, and be able to say, "This might be challenging, but it's worth my time and effort." And, mathematicians I, I often say, are not people who find mathematics easy, they're the ones who enjoy how hard it is. And if we, as a culture, and as a society, as a country, can embrace this subject with its challenges, then I think that is the first and most important step to reversing this, this trend that we've been seeing.
25:20 - Maxine McKew
I know you were in Singapore for a period last year because of the, the Commonwealth Bank Award that, that you received. Do you think we can learn something from them in terms of boosting our performance? Particularly, in maths?
25:32 - Eddie Woo
One of the primary lessons I learned from my time in Singapore is that the way they ensure that mathematical, indeed, all subject pedagogy and expertise, is, is bolstered and strengthened, is by ensuring that those, uh, best practitioners remain in schools.
In Singapore, they have three teaching tracks, where if you want to specialize in curriculum and policy, you can go down that level, that, that track. If you want to go into administration and leadership, at, at an organizational level, you can go down that track. But, 80 percent of teachers are on the very unoriginally named, teaching track, where there's an understanding that you want to remain in the classroom. You want to advance, and not just be an effective classroom teacher, but a senior teacher, lead teacher, master teacher, and that expertise-
26:19 - Maxine McKew
That expertise has value.
26:20 - Eddie Woo
That expertise and knowledge is valued and kept in schools where it can make a difference to students and to the following generations of teachers, as well.
I think that would go a great way to be able to, uh, changing the way that early career teachers are supported, and can bring best practice to their students.
26:39 - Maxine McKew
I've left the obvious question to the last couple of minutes, but, of course, it's your use of technology that means that you've now have a global audience. You've got a global classroom of students. What, what strikes me though, Eddie, in watching your videos, there's no great bells and whistles, it's basically a locked off camera on you, at your whiteboard. There's interaction with your students, and I think when I've tried to sort of look at the power of what you do, you obviously bring high energy, but you're very well organized with that lesson. There's a logic and a narrative flow, if you like, to the whole lesson. So, it seems to me, you've thought through this very well, and you're simply videoing it, and a lot of other people can see it. Now, have I captured that, do you think?
27:22 - Eddie Woo
I think that's a fair summary. I mean, for me, technology has never been the focus. Every effective technology that has changed the face of human history has understood one thing, which is that technology is an amplifier of human physical strength, or, or, or human mental ability, or, or human spirit. So, for example, two really obvious choices, I say, the printing press and the Internet.
Both of those changed the planet, and now the world is unrecognizable pre-Internet, pre-printing press because each of those technologies touched our human, our desire to communicate and to share ideas. That was the real power. It's not about moveable type, or about, you know, signals going along a wire. It's about human ideas that once shared are so much more powerful because they can change the face of society.
And, so the way that I've used technology has been about amplifying the love that I have of story. You know, I, I ... It took me a long time to realize that this was something I was doing very subconsciously. From the first page of a book, you meet the characters, you, you set up narrative tension, and that drives you, in a good book, to, to read the next chapter. To know what the conclusion is because you can't help it. Y-Y- You're in a new world that you cannot help but discover and explore on your own.
And, for me that's exactly what a good lesson is. I want to plant that seed of perplexity. To make students wonder why is it that a bolt of lightning, and, and the arteries going through my arm, and the, the sprawling branches of the gum tree that I'm looking at outside ... Why should they all have the same shape? What on earth gives them all the same geometry? Now there's a question. Now you want to know. Now, I'll spend the next 45 minutes explaining fractal geometry and, and telling you why that is-
29:21 - Maxine McKew
29:21 - Eddie Woo
Um, and using technology to amplify that, and help other people experience that with me. That's what's made it successful.
29:28 - Maxine McKew
And when you take students along with you, and they're going, click, "Yeah. I get it," that's terrific, isn't it? What's the best thing a student's ever said to you?
29:38 - Eddie Woo
The best thing a student said to me (laughs), he was, he must have been 20 years old, and I taught him, it must have been, um, five or six years prior, as a year nine student uh, with hormones running around his, his, his mind and his body, and uh, he was just a student who was, was excited about school because it was his opportunity to prove himself and find his identity, and impress people. And, I said-
30:01 - Maxine McKew
It was his stage (laughing).
30:01 - Eddie Woo
That's right. I said, "Tim, I see you're a gifted performer, and uh, you need to channel that energy somewhere, and, uh, you need to channel it better than just distracting your friends, and distracting yourself from something you're eminently capable of, of learning, if you can take a moment to stop uh, trying to be an actor on a stage for a minute, and actually step into this world of mathematics with me."
And, as a, as a year nine student, he hated me. He loathed every minute in my classes when I said to him, "Nope, I'm gonna channel you this way, and I'm gonna take those, that great skill that you've got and bring it into, in another direction." And he came back to me as a second year business student, and he said to me, "Sir, I didn't like you when I was in year nine, you didn't give me what I wanted, but you gave me what I needed before I knew that I needed it, and, that's what set me on this path. I wouldn't be here without you."
And, to ha- that's a gift that every educator gets to possess. We get to see students not as they are, but what they might become. And, we, we get to help them get on the road to becoming things they would never imagine, but we can see, and that's an immense privilege and it's new every single time. And, it's what makes me roll out of bed every day ... for me to be excited about who am I gonna be able to do that with today?
31:35 - Maxine McKew
Eddie, thanks so much, it's been great talking to you, and I'm sure a terrific thrill for our Talking Teaching listeners. Good luck with this year.
31:42 - Eddie Woo
31:44 - Maxine McKew
And if you want to check out some of the techniques that Eddie Woo uses to engage high school students in maths, you can take the links on the Talking Teaching site to take you through to his Wootube videos.
Well joining me in the studio now, Sophie Murphy and Kerry Elliott. So what did you think of what you heard. I mean, Eddie's a remarkable communicator, isn't he?
32:03 - Kerry Elliott
Oh, absolutely. And, you know, if you think about exceptional teachers that you've had, they often find something in you that you didn't see in yourself or, and, they turn you on to their passion. And, I think Eddie really exemplifies that. He talks about um, his passion, and he also sees things in other people that, you know, that last story he gave about um, the student, he saw things in that student, and brought them to the surface. So, I think that's really important because children often make up their minds about maths and how they feel about maths by late primary school. So, it's really thinking about how do we go about getting kids excited and interested in maths that they don't come to, "Well, actually, I'm not good at maths."
32:49 - Maxine McKew
Sophie, this issue about the mindset that children bring to maths, which Eddie uh, talked about. Now, you've been in the U.S. recently. Exactly the area that you've been hearing about, isn't it?
33:00 - Sophie Murphy
I, I've just spent the last three weeks over in the United States at a large mathematical conferences, and I listened to Jo Boaler, who has an incredible work on mathematical mindsets and what it means to be what Eddie is, in this inspired and passionate teacher. But, also, to really bring the research to the forefront of what it means to change the mathematical mindsets of students and how we can do that.
33:27 - Maxine McKew
So what were you hearing in the U.S. about, say, where the neurosciences is going on this?
33:30 - Sophie Murphy
Well the neuroscience is really interesting, and so, Jo Boaler, is, is grounded in this, and she works at Stanford University, and her book is well known in the math area, but is also widely read beyond that, and really talks about the issues in neuroscience, to say that, our mindset needs to shift. And, that there are some mathematical practices that we do in classrooms every day that really affect the mindset of children, and our students, and so her research has really tackled that.
She's got some really interesting ideas and concepts that we'll be talking to in future episodes, with Jo about her work, and about mathematical mindsets. I thought about Eddie a lot, and I thought about that idea that he talked about, to amplify and to communicate with high expectations, was something that resonated with me.
So, something that all teachers and all of our listeners here at Talking Teaching can really take on, and that is, the high expectations. So, whilst Eddie is a passionate and inspired teacher in math, uh, and really is looking, I think, at those mindsets of the, the students to turn it around, I think that his expectations are very high of all of his students.
There's a method to this, so he's structuring his lessons so that it's scaffolded in a way that students can be successful, and it's really wonderful to hear.
34:52 - Maxine McKew
That's right. Lots of really good lessons there, I thought for, for many other teachers to pick up on. So, Sophie, you need know that we'll be continuing the conversation, certainly, around maths.
Well, just before we go, we want to say thank you to the many listeners who took the time to catch our first podcast. We're right at the beginning of this. We've been watching your tweets, and reading the emails. And, Kerry, I think you've got a couple of comments you wanted to refer to.
35:14 - Kerry Elliott
Yes. We had Carissa from Schools Plus reach out to us just to say congratulations, but also to share with us some great stories around Australia. I know she works with the Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards, and she's sent us through some really fantastic stories of some of the award winners, which hopefully, we will be up able to catch up with in future podcasts.
35:35 - Maxine McKew
And Sophie, I think you've been watching the Twitter feed?
35:39 - Sophie Murphy
I have. So, we've got Talking Teaching, so tt_teaching, as our Twitter handle. Well, we had many teachers make some comments, but two that um, I'd like to share.
One from Jen Noble, who said, "Thank you for this. It's a great initiative," and she's really looking forward to podcast two, so we're excited about that. And, Julia Pageant from Braemar College said that she thoroughly enjoyed listening to this in her office, while working away at school. And that's what we want to hear. We want to really get into the school context and have teachers, not only listening to us, but talking to each other about what we're talking about, too.
36:12 - Maxine McKew
That's right, and I got this really appreciative email from Michaela Epstein, and Michaela is a former maths teacher, now works at Maths Pathway, and she said, "I like the format, and the way it dips in and out of hearing different voices," and, of course, she was referring to the conversation with our highly accomplished teachers in podcast one. And, she said, "Having a teacher perspective in there is super valuable," which, of course, is what we're all about.
And I got this one from Tim [Padsen 00:36:37], who teaches at Geelong Grammar. Kerry, he was picking up on uh, your story at South Melbourne Primary in the interview that you did with the Principal there, Noel Creece. Tim said, "Noel Creece taught my daughters when he was at Lara Lake. He's a creative and thoughtful educator."
I thought that was a nice comment. So keep those comments coming in. Any suggestions you have about stories you'd like to hear covered. You might want to, as well, put a review on iTunes, and keep the conversation going with your colleagues.
That's all for now. We'll be back early next month. Talking Teaching is produced by myself, Maxine McKew, Sophie Murphy, and Kerry Elliott, and is recorded and mixed by Gavin Nebauer at the Horwood Recording Studios at the University of Melbourne.
Bye for now.