Academically, I've always been a high achiever at the arts and humanities end of the curriculum, and hopeless at maths and science. I enjoyed maths and science till I went to senior school. I dropped all three science subjects when it was time to choose my O levels, but I had to do maths. I was in the O level class with a teacher who was undoubtedly a very nice woman, and probably a fine mathematician, but not a good teacher. If I asked for help with something I didn't understand, she would explain it exactly the same way as she'd explained it the first time, only louder. The volume wasn't the problem, so this didn't help.
Once when she was off sick, the CSE teacher took our class. He was great! If I didn't get something, he explained it as many different ways as it took for me to grasp the concept! I asked if I could move to the CSE class. No, they said, you're a high achiever, you're capable of O level. Not with this teacher, I muttered, and anyway, grade 1 CSE is supposedly equivalent to an O level so what's the difference? That didn't get me anywhere.
I developed a fear of maths, and a conviction that I couldn't do much beyond basic arithmetic. So I failed maths O level. Several times. The last time I sat the exam, I used the time to catch up on my letter-writing. I told myself I didn't care: I knew enough to work out my change, read a timetable, divide a restaurant bill. That was all I needed.
Fast forward 29 years and you find me beginning to feel slightly interested in science. I had a look at OU introductory science courses, but they all say you need basic maths. Eek. Gulp. The OU also offers a basic maths course. I had a look, in some trepidation, and found that the student reviews were helpful. 'Did you feel stupid in maths classes at school?' Yup. 'This course doesn't make you feel like that.' Really? 'The tutor was so helpful.' Hmmm. 'The course makes maths relevant to everyday life.' Ooh!
So I think I'm going to sign up. It's scary, though.
My father was always afraid to learn to swim. (Stay with me, this is relevant.) He didn't like to go in water if it was more than knee deep. I have an abiding memory of childhood holidays where he would sit in the sea up to his chest, put on my swimming mask and crane his face forward into the water to look at the fish. After he retired, he decided to face his fear, and signed up for a course at the local swimming pool. He was in there with a load of kids, holding on to a polystyrene float and kicking his legs behind him. The day he swam a width unaided, he rang to tell me of his achievement. I was, and am, hugely proud of him.
My brain tells me I should be equally proud of myself for facing my fear of maths. But I don't feel proud, I feel silly and nervous and frightened of failure. Which is daft! What's the worst thing that can happen? Nobody will tell me off, or dock my salary, or stop being my friend, or sack me from my job.
And still, and still.
People, eh? What Are We Like?!