Quite a few months ago I was kindly asked to do an interview for the folks over at Wikiexpert. I had fun doing it, and I am delighted they thought the answers were just as interesting as I thought they were, and went ahead and published it. Don’t think I’m ready for the Jonathon Ross show, just yet, however. For a bit of context, this was written before COVID. I was online before it became essential.
Here is the interview, in full:
Richard Glascodine is an Online Math and Music Tutor. [and now Computer Science]. With PGCE’s, (a British Postgraduate teaching qualification), one in Maths and one in Music. He has taught Mathematics and Music in secondary schools for over 12 years. He was also the Head of KS3 Mathematics and Head of Functional Mathematics and helped many Teachers with developing their careers and he has been a Mentor to many Trainee Teachers and newly qualified Teachers. He is a firm believer in online tutoring and he dedicates a lot of his time to his online students. Let’s get started:
WikiExpert: What is the most challenging part of tutoring maths online? And how do you overcome this?
Richard Glascodine: With online tuition being at the cutting edge of technology, the biggest challenge is ensuring that there are no technical glitches along the way, at both ends of the tutoring link. Fortunately, there are plenty of solutions available and through my many years of tutoring, I have tried and tested many backup solutions and safeguards to ensure that lessons move forward without a hitch. You really need a plan A, B, C D and E in this game!
WikiExpert: It’s quite common for kids to struggle with maths, how do you help these kids with succeeding at it?
Richard Glascodine: Maths is a funny subject to learn really. Mathematics, on one hand, is difficult due to its exacting, precise nature, but, on the other, it is this very precision that counter-intuitively makes it one of the easiest subjects to learn. Maths is incredibly hierarchical and the most sensible approach is to only move on to the next ‘level’ once you fully understand the previous. You need strong foundations on which to build. Usually, when a student is struggling to make progress, there are holes in these foundations and the skill lies in figuring out where these holes are, and what you are going to do about it. Obviously, which bricks need replacing will be different for everyone – and it’s my job to figure out exactly which ones they are.
WikiExpert: What is your favorite part of tutoring maths online? And what do you like about maths the most?
Richard Glascodine: Oh, it’s hard to choose just one thing! I mean, we have all the wonders of the internet at our instant disposal – do we need to graph an expression, cool – I will just knock it up in GeoGebra (a great, free, online graphing calculator). Want to see how matrix transformations are used in 3D graphics? Brill, we can just quickly browse to an online editor and see them in action. It’s this instant ability to just go anywhere we need to, or indeed want to, that is unparalleled in my opinion. I also love the fact that my tutoring knows no borders and that I am really lucky to have this global perspective with my tutoring. In the morning I can be teaching in Australia, the afternoon, teaching in Moscow. I simply love the fact that I get to meet lots of interesting people and rack up my virtual air miles flying from one place to the next. In terms of my favorite bit of maths – anything that is applied really.
WikiExpert: What advice would you give to a parent who has a child or hates and is struggling to cope with maths?
Richard Glascodine: It’s hard to give exact advice without knowing the student and the context, but there are a couple of things that you can do and ways to think about maths that can help. First, start with the basics and try and find those missing or loose bricks mentioned above. When found – put a better brick in! This maybe through help off someone else, or through self-reflection – but usually attitudes in maths tend towards the positive when students start getting the majority of the answers right, rather than the other way round! Usually, students start thinking maths is OK when they start being able to do it.
WikiExpert: Do you do any fun maths activities in your online tutoring sessions? If so, what are they?
Richard Glascodine: Yeah, plenty – although what is fun to others, is the worst thing in the world to someone else! One lesson we could be searching for the world’s largest hexagon on google earth, and then the next looking into how we can use Minecraft to get our heads around volume for example. The beauty of online tuition is that you can truly tailor to your client’s interests, so if they are a budding stock trader, for example, you can take a look at the financial charts and do some back of the envelope calculations to work out how much they would have made. Which is usually a hell of a lot more than they imagined.
WikiExpert: How do you help your students with overcoming exam stress?
Richard Glascodine: Empathy is key here. Exams are a stressful time, and usually, the student is not only concerned about their maths but all the others too, so I am always conscious that, although maths is my priority, they may have a million and one other things running through their minds as well. One of the biggest things I emphasize is that sitting an exam is exactly like a performance. You need to practice the performance so you know exactly what to expect when you sit down and start the exam. This is directly analogous to being a musician, as not only do you have to practice the piece so you can play it through without any errors, but you also have to practice doing the actual performance. And this needs to happen often. That way, you are practicing the game.
WikiExpert: I see that you create and publish content. Tell us a little about this and how it helps you to engage with potential students? [Edit: To be fair, I don’t publish that much…]
Richard Glascodine: People, I think, are forever interested in people. If you can share more about what makes you tick, and why you think the way you do – it may encourage people to think that spending an hour learning maths off this guy might not be so painful after all. I also find it quite cathartic to get my thoughts down on paper, and it really is satisfying creating and molding ideas into a coherent whole.
WikiExpert: I see that in addition to maths, you also teach online music tutoring, which is great! Can you tell us a little more about your online music lessons?
Richard Glascodine: Sure! So I offer music tuition in a wide range of disciplines, and at all levels. These range from preparation for the formal music performance, theory, and school exams, through academic uni music essay writing help to full on music composition classes. I am an active composer so I have lots of experience from my professional work to draw on and can help students who want to compose for fun, or need to write as part of their course. It really is fun, and really varied, as one day I could be teaching Jazz Harmony and how to improvise over the 12 bar blues, whereas the next I could be coaching a budding composer how to refine, develop and orchestrate their ideas.
WikiExpert: We know that you are very enthusiastic about online tutoring sessions. However, there might be one person out there who might be skeptical about online sessions. How would you convince them that online sessions are the way to go?
Richard Glascodine: I would simply reel off the advantages and put any fears that they may have to rest. There’s no traveling, you get more flexibility with when you can have a lesson, you have access to the best tutors on the planet, and you can literally have a lesson anywhere you want. Moving house – no problem? Moving country? No problem. You can take your tutor with you.
WikiExpert: Can you give us a few benefits of taking music lessons? Would you encourage people to learn such skills and why?
Richard Glascodine: Oh, I can go on for hours about this one! So here are a few reasons that spring to mind, and this is by no means an exhaustive list, or in any particular order either: 1) Learning to play a musical instrument well takes great, great discipline. You don’t learn to play a musical instrument overnight, so you develop this aura of extreme patience, the idea that things take time to develop if you want to do things the right way. 2) You literally observe yourself getting better and better gradually. This is an empowering insight, as you slowly realize that this, really, is the key to learning anything. Learn it properly, don’t rush, and do it every day. 3) You play some awesome venues, get to see the world, and meet interesting people from all walks of life. 4) It’s really, really fun. Very few things beat the feeling of a well-performed piece or the thrill of a final chord at the Royal Albert Hall for example. 5) It will expand your mind and give you new perspectives on things you didn’t even realize would be or could be different under a new lens.
Now, let’s get to know a little more about Richard:
WikiExpert: What is your favorite musical instrument and why?
Richard Glascodine: This is a tough one, and I have thought long and hard and I simply cannot choose! Each one has its own merits, and when it is has been expertly written for, the sound naturally draws you in and leaves you spellbound. They all will sound nice! Instruments really do need to played together as a group. You can have the spine-tingling thrill of a full brass section opening up full throttle playing perfectly balanced, and well-orchestrated slabs of epicness (yes Bruckner, I am looking at you) and then on the other, you have the sentimental and haunting beauty of muted strings much favored by Grieg. They are all good!
WikiExpert: What is the biggest lesson that you have learned from life?
Richard Glascodine: Time is the most precious asset we have. Our time and attention are the most precious gifts we can give to others. Use it wisely.
WikiExpert: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Richard Glascodine: Spending time with my family. I have an awesome wife and two amazing children – and I try to spend as much time as I can with them.
WikiExpert: Beyond math and music, do you plan on teaching anything else in the future?
Richard Glascodine: Yeah, I have a few feathers in my cap that I am looking forward to sticking in – I have always wanted to be able to speak other languages, so maybe one day in the future I might teach languages, but I think I may end up teaching Maths and Music in different languages rather than teach them in isolation. Although I appreciate this is quite a tall order. [Edit: Although the way things are looking Sept 2020, I may have more time on my hands than I originally realised!]
WikiExpert: What does your ideal day look like?
Richard Glascodine: Honestly, just doing what I am doing now. Being able to be the master of my own destiny means that every day is an ideal day. It sounds cliche, but it’s true. I no longer live just for the weekends.