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Bouquet of the week

Question: How does a new teacher set a good example? Answer: She starts term with her leg in plaster and doesn't miss a day's work. She even manages to do break duty.

Meet Pauline Clarke, assistant head of humanities at George Mitchell comprehensive in Leyton, east London, who arrived in September on crutches after she broke her ankle on holiday in Greece. Back home, she rang headteacher Colin Ravden with the news.

"She was still very keen," he explains, "and insisted that she wanted to establish herself in the new job. I thought she was pushing her luck to start full-time but her line was 'I'll try'."

He offered to switch her Year 7 form room to the ground floor but Pauline opted to stay in the humanities area - on the top floor of a eight-storey block. To miss the crowds of children on the stairs each morning she'd get in "extremely early", armed with a flask of coffee and everything she needed for the day.

She was nominated for Friday magazine's Bouquet of the Week by the head of language support, Madeleine Doherty. "I've seen her just getting on with everything, even break duty, and I find that quite remarkable. She says herself that the children have responded marvellously."

Pauline reckons she's won "the sympathy vote" from staff and pupils and that everyone has been helpful and kind. "They've made a great impression on me." She used to work in a suburban school but at George Mitchell is teaching inner city children, many of whom speak English as a second language. "I was quite surprised at how respectful they were. They've carried my books, opened doors, cleaned the board, did whatever they could to help me. It's been a great introduction to the school."

Pauline, aged 31, says that teaching humanities - history, geography and religious studies - in this kind of school is "vibrant and stimulating". She worked in an office for five years before becoming a teacher and knows what it's like to be bored. "I'm never bored now - I love teaching. It's a very worthwhile thing to do."

Colin Ravden is delighted. "Pauline is a very strong teacher and has had none of the problems you might expect. She is fantastic example of someone giving 100 per cent. The children appreciate that and admire her."

Bouquet of the Week is given in association with Marks Spencer. Names, please, on a postcard - and why - to Sarah Bayliss, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY

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