I once knew a woman who taught basic literacy to adults. She surprised me one day by talking about what i can only describe as the psychological aspects of her work. She said that it was quite important for an adult literacy teacher to not have too many 'issues' because they needed to deal with everyone else's.
Basically she felt, quite correctly, that you couldn't teach and adult to read and write without them facing quite a few of their personal demons on the way.
As I begin working through maths I now see more than ever how right this is.
You see on one level it is difficult to admit you can't do something. Especially if it is something that everyone else apparently can. Basic numeracy is just one thing. Round here everyone has got A-levels and that means that everyone has got at least a C for their maths GCSE. Even if they are doing a degree in History. So you really lay yourself open if you say, actually I can't do this. Asking the odd Mathematics undergraduate to explain fractions to you or angles is quite a hard thing to do. People often hide behind "I can't do that." I once heard DJ James Whale on TV telling people that due to his dyslexia he refuses to read or write anything. Although he has actually written a couple of books since then! But you get what I mean.
The other day I was sitting in chaplaincy trying to work something out when I heard someone doing a PhD sniggering across the room. I felt instantly I was being mocked. In actual fact she was reading something funny on the internet. This I think is the reason that people pass a point at which they stop learning.
It's ok to be 6 and not be able to do Maths but not 36.
It's a bit like faith. Over the years I've had several conversations with adults who were not baptised as infants but who would like to be, but in the end they nearly always back out because they see Christenings as a thing that you do to Children. Actually on this one I'm pretty sympathetic to radical atheists and Baptists who think that actually it would probably be better if children weren't baptised so that they could make a decision as adults, but that's another blog.
The other thing you face if you do something like this as an adult is that you get reminded of last time. I'm learning skills I last attempted when I was at school and all the memories come flooding back. This was one of the great things about theology for me. I never studied theology at school, we had no RE teacher so as an adult it was a completely clean sheet for me.
No like Maths. I'm remembering stuff from Junior school. Like putting stuff in columns for subtracting and taking one off the next column if you need to take 8 away from 2 for example and it brings back all the old memories.
Some of them are OK. Some of them are just ghastly.
I once had a teacher who was very old fashioned. She lumped all the 'stupid kids' onto one table. Including me. Told us we weren't clever enough to be at school and then didn't teach us. She took our books off us and let us do what ever we wanted. The rest of the class she taught, which means, of course, that there is a whole year of my education missing. I don't know how she decided which were the 6 or so kids who got to go on that table. I might suggest that she may well have been wrong. Still in her defence she was very near retirement and this was over 25 years ago. She's probably departed this life now. I'm not sure if that's a loss to the human race, because I'm not sure she was completely human.
But all these things are in the past and I had put them well and truly behind me. Now of course as I revisit primary school mathematics I am reminded.
I wont let it stop me though.
Oh no...I'll teach myself long division.
Or get Karuna to do it....