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From the perspective of a student.

James Lacaille is a student at St Paul’s School in London and has offered to share his thoughts with us below.

If I think back to some of the best teachers I’ve had at school so far, I remember most the person who taught me as opposed to what they taught me. In this piece, I’m going to run through what I think are the 10 most important traits that these teachers share.

James Lacaille

1. They bring the subject to life

Good teachers know how to keep restless students engaged. Whether it’s a politics teacher talking about Brexit or a maths teacher relating probability to predicting football match outcomes, the best teachers relate the material they teach to everyday situations and current events. This keeps students engaged, listening and ready to learn.

2. They understand their students

We’ve all had teachers who go on and on, as if they are talking to themselves, seemingly unaware that there are other people in the room. Soon enough, students loose focus and forget there is a teacher in the room. This creates a situation where both student and teacher are unengaged, which is good for neither party.

3. They listen to their students

The best teachers I’ve had all take the time to seek feedback from students regarding what they find helpful and what could be improved. All students are different, and good teachers take the time to understand how best to teach each new class they have.

4. They have endless energy

Good teachers are upbeat, positive and full of energy. These qualities are all contagious and transfer onto the students they teach. Students feel ready to tackle any question they are faced with! This is one of main determinants of whether I look forward to a lesson or not.

5. They have a sense of humour

While teachers don’t have to be comedians, having a sense of humour is one of the most important traits a good teacher can have. Humour diffuses stressful situations and makes learning more enjoyable. Thinking back to my own teachers, the ones I learn the most from are also the funniest (even if their jokes aren’t always the best!).

6. They take advantage of technological innovation

Good teachers know how to use technology in the classroom. Even something as simple as writing class notes electronically and then uploading them after class can have a huge impact on how much students learn. It also means that if students miss a class or two they can easily review what was covered and don’t fall behind when they’re ill or out of school for other reasons.

7. They are always learning

Whether they’re finding out what works in the classroom from current students or conducting new research into their subject area, good teachers are constantly learning. This boundless hunger for knowledge not only helps them master their craft but also shows students that learning does not stop once they leave the classroom.

8. They go beyond the syllabus

While teachers should definitely cover the syllabus, the best teachers go beyond what is mandated by the school. By taking concepts one or two steps further, teachers show students the importance of what they are learning in the context of the wider world. For example, a maths teacher at my school recently explained linear equations by showing us how they can be used to make helpful predictions like the one below:

If a Christmas Fair spends £300 in initial start up costs and earns £200 per month in sales, the linear equation y = 200x — 300 can be used to predict profits from month to month.

9. They are emotionally supportive

Good teachers know that their students are facing multiple challenges as they grow up and mature. They take the time to understand each one of their students and offer to listen to their problems even if they are not directly related to the subject they teach.

10. They’re patient

Teaching is one of the few jobs where one doesn’t get constant, immediate feedback. Trying out a new teaching method or technique? You’ll only know if it worked after months of tracking students’ performance and ultimately how they perform in public exams at the end of the year.

What do you think are some other traits of good teachers? Let us know!

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An extra-curricular is an activity that goes beyond the realm of your classes at school. Extra-curriculars allow you to broaden your horizons, build connections and gain industry experience that’s invaluable for your CV or personal statement. Through these activities, you’ll also develop transferable skills such as problem-solving, confidence and effective communication.

So what counts as an extra-curricular, and what doesn’t? If you find that you’re having to try to justify something as being an extra-curricular then it probably isn’t! However, you can turn almost any interest into an extracurricular by documenting your progress and interacting with people in that community. The best extra-curriculars will demonstrate a talent or contribute to others, so today we’re going to discuss the ways you can discover these opportunities. But first, a top tip: the earlier you start looking, the better your options will be!

1. Explore your interests

What subjects are you most excited to learn, or enjoyed doing the most? Brainstorm what makes you excited to learn inside & outside of the classroom and think about the topics that you’d like to discover more about. Remember that universities and employers don’t mind what kind of activity you’re doing, but instead want to see you doing something that you’re truly passionate about!

2. Harness your contacts

You teachers are likely to know you, your interests and the entry points of their industry well! My Computer Science teacher helped me set up a day in industry and my Maths teacher offered me a teaching assistant position during my free periods. Ask questions such as “what have previous students done?” and “do you have any industry connections?” and don’t forget to speak to other teachers in your department, your career advisors and your classmates too.

3. Explore your school’s community

There’s often a wide variety of opportunities to be found in your own school, from lunchtime debate clubs to the student council to inter-schools competitions. Don’t find something you like? Have the initiative to kick-start it yourself and gain a great example of leadership and hopefully some fun in the progress!

4. Get on LinkedIn!

I cannot stress how useful this tool is enough! If you’re aged 16 or over, create yourself an account and document your work and its progress. You can even politely reach out to students doing the degree you’re aspiring to do and ask for their advice. Do remember that it’s a public platform so you shouldn’t name your desired university choice and remember to be mindful of displaying location data.

5. Follow all those newsletters

In addition to your student paper, sign-up for the newsletters of companies, university departments and societies which interest you, as these often contain first-look insights into some great knowledge and opportunities!

5. Take a MOOC

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are free courses that provide a flexible way to learn new skills. You’ll be able to find courses on almost anything and the MOOC List website ( is an amazing way to get started. A lot of these courses are created by top universities or leading companies so they’ll be widely credited on an application! Personally, I recommend the “Solving Problems with Technology” trilogy by the University of Leeds on FutureLearn, which recently helped me in a successful internship interview.

6. Attend talks

Just like MOOCs, there’s a vast and plentiful array of student-tailored talks to attend. You can discover these by looking at events on LinkedIn, Meetup and Bright Network but also pay attention to city-wide learning festivals such as the York Festival of Ideas and Edinburgh Fringe. Due to the pandemic, a lot of these location-specific events are now virtual so there’s even more opportunity to get involved!

7. Secure work experience

There’s more to finding work experience than just exploring job sites on the Internet! If you’re able to, go and explore urban areas and offer businesses your CV and expertise in-person. Not only does this add a personal touch that an email can’t, but it also demonstrates your confidence and will likely spark-up interesting conversations. If you’ve got an individual’s contact from a talk, MOOC or LinkedIn, definitely use this to your advantage by asking them about their work before applying. If you make a great impression they may even offer to be your reference!

8. Get yourself on summer schools

Summer schools are the perfect opportunity to make new friends (networking!), voice your opinions and develop a whole bank of interpersonal skills. A lot of universities offer these for free, which comes with the perk of being able to discover whether the location, culture and course are right for you.

9. Compete in competitions

Competitions are a brilliant way to challenge your skill set and put your knowledge to the test! You may have done the UKMT, an Olympiad or Bebras at school but there’s a mass of amazing competitions available, from engineering with Lego to creating posters exploring hidden maths. There's a lot of blogs online covering competitions that could be for you, so make sure you use your search engine to your advantage!

10. Volunteer your time

Volunteering is one of the best extracurriculars to give back to your community and is an exciting way to expose yourself to new perspectives! I’d recommend looking on your local council’s website and exploring NCS as an option. If you’re not already signed up to voluntarily tutor with EasyA, which has zero required time commitment and comes with a bunch of perks, get on that too! Just fill out this super quick form to get started!

Wow! It’s been one hectic morning at EasyA, with our team waking up to new users signing up by the second. EasyA is Apple’s App of the Day! Stay tuned to hear more about how Apple chose our app out of the 2 million apps on the Store. In the meantime, you can read Apple’s shout-out below:

Maths and homework. Words that, individually, probably fill the heart with dread and despair. Together they wield a power too great and terrible to imagine. If only it were possible to magically summon a maths genius from Oxford or Cambridge…

EasyA is an app designed to give school-age students access to brilliant tutors via instant messaging.

Pupils can send an image of the taxing problem and, with the aid of a virtual whiteboard, certified tutors will break down hard-to-grasp fields such as geometry and trigonometry during one-on-one sessions.

Students can connect with Oxbridge-educated tutors instantly, while tutors reward student progression with achievement badges of their own.

Parents attest EasyA has helped when homework difficulty surpassed their own ability, while also assisting kids who lack the confidence to ask questions during class. Finally, 2y+x doesn’t have to = head-against-the-wall frustration.

Pay-as-you-go pricing keeps the cost low, so students can learn without worrying about overpaying for hourly sessions.

Want to try EasyA for yourself? Download the app now!

Have any questions? Get in touch.

Making mistakes leads to a growth mindset, which in turn promotes resilience. If you can stretch your brain and improve cognitive ability, you are more likely to succeed in life. In recent years, we parents have been accused of ‘helicopter parenting’, feeling the need to watch over our child’s every move. This label was recently replaced by ‘snowplough parenting’, meaning we are clearing the path in front of our child to ensure they don’t come across any unforeseen obstacles along the way. If this is the case, we really are doing them a disservice. Think back to the last time you yourself really embedded knowledge, as a result of making a mistake. Had you simply been ‘told’ not to do “X”, you would not have come away with the same understanding and, what you did learn, would have been much more superficial. We need to give our children those same opportunities to learn for themselves.

Maths is one subject in which we are led to believe that there are only right or wrong answers. Whilst technically accurate, it is also about problem solving. Take for instance the visual learner who looks at the following equation – ½ + ½ - most will be desperately trying to remember the formula they were taught, asking themselves ‘do I add the top numbers or the bottom numbers?’ and forgetting the image of a divided cake or pizza. Once they are given the time and space to think more logically, half a cake plus half a cake makes a whole cake, they can then apply the same visual logic to other, similar problems. All those thought processes, perseverance and logical thinking, are making neural connections in the brain, helping to maximise problem-solving skills and resilience. MATH – Mistakes allow thinking to happen.

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new

By making errors, we all come to understand that it’s not only okay to make mistakes but, that we can learn so much more from our mistakes, which will help us when solving future problems. By learning to problem solve, our children can take ownership of their work and will also benefit more when they get the answer right. They won’t simply be trying to please their tutor, instead their tutor becomes the person who supports their learning and enables them to take ownership of that knowledge. Being in control of one’s own learning, leads to self-efficacy, the ability to motivate ourselves and feel confident in our own abilities.

The greatest mathematicians often used their mistakes as a way of defining the most effective methods for potential solutions. Very few people get things right first time, including the best mathematical brains. So, the sooner we teach our children, that not only is it okay to make mistakes, but quite often it is beneficial, the more resilient they will be when faced with challenges of all descriptions. Surely, we want them to see a problem as a challenge that can be worked through, rather than something that will floor them and make them feel like a failure when they can’t work it out.

One of Einstein’s most notable quotes sums it up, ‘anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.’

About The Parent Collaborative

The Parent Collaborative is a Parenting Consultancy that delivers courses, workshops and one-to-one sessions to parents, schools and businesses. Their goal is to support families as they navigate the sometimes choppy waters of parenthood.

The Parent Collaborative was founded by 2 mothers, Early Years teachers (with a combined total of 40 years experience of teaching and senior management), friends and long-time work partners who saw that there was a lack of support for families going through a tough time with their children. In addition to 1-to-1 sessions and group presentations, The Parent Collaborative also organises talks with leading practitioners in the Mental Health arena; assists teachers and parents in schools; and works with the local community to help children and parents maximise each family’s unique dynamic.

Find out more here.

Today, we sit down with Dr Chris Jagger, as he draws on his teaching experiences both at Cambridge University and Deloitte, to share some of his thoughts on how students can learn maths most effectively.

Many students find maths challenging. However, it doesn't have to be that way. At EasyA, we believe all students have the ability to excel in the subject. What matters most, is the way maths is taught.

Meet Dr Chris Jagger, EasyA Academic Advisory Board

Chris has an extensive background in education, having served as the Head of Learning at Deloitte and a lecturer and research fellow in Mathematics at Clare College, Cambridge University. At Cambridge, Chris supervised and directed studies and served on the Governing Body at Clare College. His particular field of research lies in Combinatorics and Graph Theory. Chris has a PhD in Mathematics from Cambridge University.

Given your experiences both at Cambridge University and Deloitte, what do you think is the most important aspect of teaching?

Enthusiasm. When I first lectured at Cambridge I had no experience or training, but a great love of the subject, and a strong desire to communicate that to others and to deliver better lectures than I had received. Everybody switches off when you say “Sorry this is a rather dry topic today”, so I always tell people I train that if they don’t feel much enthusiasm for the topic, their main preparation is to persuade themselves that it is the most exciting thing they have ever come across!

What inspired you to join EasyA?

Too many people turn up at a lesson not understanding the previous one, which then makes it ten times harder to understand the current lesson, and this snowballs throughout the course, resulting in them spending far longer getting to grips with the work than if they’d learnt it at the time. The ability to tap into on-demand tutoring anywhere, anytime, is just what people need to help resolve any current problems so they can go into their next lesson fully prepared. In addition, for years schools have struggled to get mathematicians teaching maths, so it is vitally important to have extra options open to students.

Many students can find maths challenging. What advice do you have for them?

Maths is all around us, and it is important not to let it pass you by. If you embrace it, enjoy it, and regard it as important, it becomes much easier to work at it when you are finding it challenging, and then it becomes less of a struggle. In today’s world, so much research in Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, Medicine, Archaeology, Geography, Economics, and so on, relies on Maths (and in fact you will find many with maths degrees researching these areas), so it really is vital. EasyA's tutors love their subject, making their support genuine and inspiring.

What’s the best way to learn difficult topics?

Ask questions. When I was a researcher the most common question from the brilliant mathematicians around me was “I don’t understand”, and the reason they were so good was because they always asked when they didn’t understand. EasyA is ideal for this, as you ask questions anonymously so don’t feel stupid, and can go at your own pace to understand the responses. Getting fresh explanations from an EasyA Tutor may just give you the different perspective that brings a breakthrough in your understanding of difficult concepts. It also helps to analyse what the problem is (what bit is it you don’t understand?) and draw a picture.

What makes EasyA different from other tutoring services?

EasyA is cutting-edge – the ability to access tutoring instantly using appealing technology – and provides support from enthusiastic young tutors who can remember when they were getting to grips with the same ideas themselves, making this a great way to access support. Its unlimited nature means students aren't under pressure to understand within a time frame - the help is genuinely available until you understand the answer to your question. No booking ahead, no waiting - instant explanation at the point you need it in your studies.

If you have questions for Chris, please let us know here and we'll do our best to feature these in our next interview.

Stay tuned for part two of our sit down with Chris, coming soon. To find out more about EasyA's teaching pedagogy, read about our teaching methods. To sign up to EasyA's unlimited, on-demand tutoring, register here.

Want to try EasyA for yourself? Download the app now!

Dr Patricia Era Bath (1942 - 2019) was a trailblazing African American inventor, humanitarian and ophthalmologist born and raised in Harlem, New York. She was encouraged from an early age to explore different cultures and so asserted throughout her career that her parents were ‘the fuel and engine of my empowerment. My love of humanity and passion for helping others inspired me to become a physician.’ After graduating from high school in only two years and earning awards for scientific research as early as age sixteen, Bath pursued a medical degree and accepted an internship at Harlem Hospital in 1968 before pursuing a fellowship in ophthalmology at Columbia University. It was through her studies here that she discovered and documented that African Americans were twice as likely to suffer from blindness than white patients and eight times more likely to develop glaucoma due to a staggering disparity in access to health care.

Shortly afterwards, when joining the Jules Stein Eye Institute as the first woman, she was offered a small office in the basement but ‘didn’t say it was racist or sexist. I said it was inappropriate and succeeded in getting acceptable office space. I decided I was just going to do my work.’ This work led her to create an innovative, volunteer-based discipline called community ophthalmology under the belief that eyesight is a basic human right regardless of economic status. She utilized volunteers that trained as eye workers to set up senior centers and daycare programs that screened for glaucoma and other severe eye conditions. She even managed to persuade her professors at Columbia to operate on blind patients for free, paving the way for the first major eye operations at Harlem Hospital the same year. Her work helped improve or restore vision to millions of patients worldwide whose problems would otherwise have gone untreated and undiagnosed.

However, Dr Bath is most famously attributed to creating the Laserphaco Probe, a new device which harnessed laser technology to create a less painful, less invasive and more precise technique for cataract surgery. When she first conceived of the device in 1981, her idea was more advanced than the technology available at the time and was met with disbelief and, in some instances, outrage as she shattered the glass ceiling. ‘The narrative of surprise – it has to change. I realize that when I achieve these things it helps what other women and other people of colour, black women, can do. But keep in mind: I never had any doubts’ Bath brought her device all over the world, holding patents in Japan, Canada, Europe and America, writing over 100 research papers and earning numerous awards as a pioneer for optic health. She later founded the non-profit American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness which advances optic health through global initiatives centered on providing grass-root screenings, treatments and education to developing countries. Her drive and dedication was undeniable and, in an interview, Dr Bath described her ‘personal best moment’ when using an implant procedure called keratoprosthesis to restore the sight of a woman in North Africa who had been blind for over 30 years.

Bath claimed many ‘firsts’ in her career including the first African American woman to receive a medical patent and attain many of the highest academic honors in her field. However, she maintained that motherhood was her top priority and also continually advocated for math and science education for girls, determined to remove the obstacles and barriers she encountered in her career and urge young students to believe in the power of their ideas. "Believe in the power of truth," she said. "Do not allow your mind to be imprisoned by majority thinking. Remember that the limits of science are not the limits of imagination."

Cataract Surgery

Cataracts are when the lens in your eye develops cloudy patches which usually get bigger over time and cause blurry or impaired vision and eventually blindness. They are usually age-related and develop in patients over 60 years old. It is hugely debilitating when left untreated as it stops people from performing simple daily activities safely such as driving and cooking. Scientists are still unsure as to what increases your chances of developing cataracts later in life, but studies have shown that factors such as smoking, diabetes, long-term use of steroids, eye injury, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and/or a family history of cataracts can increase the risk significantly.

Cataracts form because the lens, which usually focuses the light that passes into your eye, becomes less flexible, less transparent and thicker. Then age-related or medical conditions cause tissues within the lens to break down and clump together which clouds small areas within the lens. As the condition develops, the clouding becomes more dense and involves a larger area of the lens and so effectively begins to block and scatter the light that passes through resulting in your vision becoming blurred and distorted. At first, stronger lighting and prescription glasses may help someone to deal with cataracts, but many find that they need surgery as the condition worsens. However, research shows that modern cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective surgical procedures performed today.

There are two main types of surgical procedures for cataract removal: phacoemulsification or ‘phaco’ and laser cataract surgery which uses a ‘Laserphaco Probe’.

Phacoemulsification uses a high-frequency ultrasound device to break up the cloudy lens into small pieces which are then carefully removed with a suction. The procedure can be performed with very small incisions and so prompts fast healing and reduces the risk of complications. After all remnants of the cloudy lens have been removed, the surgeon will insert a clear lens inside the eye (an intraocular lens) that is positioned securely behind the iris i.e. in the same location your natural lens occupied. The incision is then closed and covered with a protective shield over the eye to ensure a smooth recovery.

The Laserphaco Probe, invented by Dr Patricia Bath, is a very similar procedure but uses laser technology to break apart the cloudy lens which allows for a much more effective removal. The device utilizes a system of lasers, suction and irrigation to remove the clouded lens and replace it with the intraocular lens (IOL). This provides a non-invasive, permanent and virtually painless solution to cataracts and so is now used in hospitals on a global scale!

Who is your favourite trailblazer? Let us know!

Want to try EasyA? Download the app now!