Neil Goldwasser, Dyslexia support tutor and adult numeracy tutor

Job Title: Dyslexia support tutor and adult numeracy tutor

Organisation: Hertford Regional College

Qualifications: BSc Combined Honours (Hons) Mathematics with German, The University of Nottingham

-BSc Combined Honours (Hons) Mathematics with German, The University of Nottingham
-Postgraduate Certificate of Education in Post-Compulsory Education and Training (PGCE/PCET), The University of Greenwich
-OCR Level 5 Certificate In Teaching Learners with Specific Learning Difficulties (Dyslexia), Broxbourne Dyslexia Unit I’ve always been good at maths since primary school, but I think the important thing was that I enjoyed it as well. I often regard maths problems more as puzzles, which I find intriguing and satisfying to solve. Given my interest in the subject as well as its usefulness and application, maths was the natural choice when choosing my university course, though I have to admit that I wasn’t 100% sure what career I would follow afterwards. I had considered both accountancy and teaching, but it was after university that I found my calling. I decided to test the water with teaching by signing up to a private tuition agency, and discovered that I really enjoyed it and found it to be very rewarding.

I then started working part-time as an hourly-paid maths lecturer at HRC, an FE college primarily delivering vocational courses, again to give myself some experience to assist my career choice. When a vacancy for a Learning Support Tutor role came up, I knew that this was the perfect role for me, as I had enjoyed the 1:1 aspect of the private tutoring so much; building such a strong rapport with the learners and really noticing the positive effect that it has on the individual.

I have now worked for the department for 5 years, teaching literacy as well as numeracy to students with learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism etc…, and have also been ‘lent’ to the Skills for Life department for 3 of those years, running Adult Numeracy classes. I still thoroughly enjoy it, especially since every session I teach is different, both because I am teaching to individual students and because I support students across every department in the college. This means that one day I’ll be teaching ratio and measurement to hairdressers, the next complex algebra to the electricians, and so on… I have also really enjoyed my various roles; supporting learners 1:1 both in- and out-of-class, team teaching some whole-class programmes, and running others independently. In addition to this, I am also the departmental ILT Champion, involving an active input into college-level decisions regarding IT services and policies, delivering training both to my own colleagues and cross-college staff, and developing eLearning resources, …so I’m certainly kept busy!

The main characteristics and skills that I consider essential for my job are patience, organisation, a willingness to tolerate the paperwork involved in teaching (there’s a lot!) and most importantly for my role in Learning Support, an ability to think outside the box and adapt your teaching styles/methods to the preferences of your learners. The majority of my learners have been taught the maths before but for whatever reason, it hasn’t stuck. Teaching it the same way again is unlikely to lead to successful learning, so I need to find a new way to address the material, often by making it contextually relevant to the learner, paying attention to their preferred learning styles and proven methods for working with students with learning difficulties, and so on. This is another aspect of my job that I love; the challenge of finding ways to ensure learning where previous attempts had failed.

It can be hard work at times, but it’s always rewarding, and I’d certainly encourage others to follow my career path. If they were to experience first-hand the gratitude of the learners and the difference it can make to their lives, I don’t think they would need much more encouragement.

You can hear Neil talk about his work in episode 7 of the Travels in a Mathematical World podcast.