This year we had the pleasure of hosting Geoff Carroll, a high school maths teacher at Sydney Grammar School, as part of our Visiting Teaching Fellow (VTF) program.
Upon his arrival at UNSW, Geoff had said he felt that the program presented a "fantastic opportunity to re-engage with my undergraduate level maths, collaborate with academics on teaching and learning strategies, and build enduring links with one of Australia's leading centres for mathematics research and teaching".
On the afternoon of Friday 23 October, Geoff spoke to a gathering in the staff common room about his observations and insights gained throughout the course of the year.
Geoff told us that learning the course material, with an emphasis on learning to teach it, was really "enjoyable and worthwhile, and a different type of experience" to his time studying maths as an undergraduate student. He revealed that he enjoyed teaching all of the subjects he was assigned over the year, but identified discrete mathematics in particular as a highlight, as it differs quite sharply from the mathematics taught in the high school curriculum.
Geoff also spent time attending some of our courses over the year, which he felt was an "excellent experience", and believes is a great opportunity for VTFs to take advantage of. Seeing how universities work from the "other side of the fence", and a more balanced type of workload in his role here (as opposed to heavy term-time workloads at high school), were other beneficial elements of the VTF position that he pinpointed.
He cited some of the main differences between teaching at high school and university - class sizes are larger university, at school you generally only teach one idea per lesson as opposed to multiple at uni - and the fact that maths becomes very interesting when you reach university.
Although Geoff's been teaching much larger groups of students this year than what he's generally accustomed to - with the attendant drawback of it being harder to connect with them - he said he has loved working with them and has had the pleasure of seeing some of his former Grammar students on campus
Geoff said he was extremely impressed with the support services that the School has, such as the Student Support Scheme, and the offering of generous consultation times to students.
If he had his time again, Geoff said he would be interested in gaining more of an overview of the types of research undertaken by members of the School, in order to take those stories back to his school. He thought that for future VTFs, it would perhaps be worthwhile for them to be more acquainted with the different types of research carried out here.
Going forward, Geoff is convinced his teaching will be better informed by the VTF experience, which has given him a sense of "emphasis and nuance about what is important in maths, and what is not". One of the things he will be considering into the future is providing more of a narrative around mathematics to his students. Finally, he said that he'd had a "fantastic year" and that he was looking forward to "going back to school". Geoff thanked staff for their support and friendship over the year, with a special mention of Peter Brown's valuable guidance.
Head of School Bruce Henry thanked Geoff for his wonderful contributions during his time as a VTF, and wished him all the best of luck for his transition back to the high school classroom. Attendees then mingled over drinks.
Thank you Geoff, it was wonderful hosting you at the School of Mathematics and Statistics, and we are confident that the great connection we forged with you over the past year will be a lasting one!