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First encounters

Classroom observation makes Julie Lumley go week at the knees.

It's 8.35am. I'm calm and very organised. My three main activities are set up; I've just got to write some key-word cards for them. Shall I have a cup of tea now, or do the key-word cards and then get one? I've got 40 minutes until the bell goes argh! Too late, she's here. Okay, start panicking now!

I'm with a Year 1 class on my school experience placement. Why am I panicking? My college-based tutor has arrived to observe me. I'm sure I'm not alone in finding these observations nerve-racking. I think I'm quite a good trainee teacher really. Organised, calm, enthusiastic. But as soon as I am to be observed, I turn into an incoherent, gibbering jelly with legs.

I find it difficult to overcome this gibbering jellyness, so it's a problem. My tutor tries to put me at ease, but I've heard horror stories of tutors arriving and immediately adopting a sour face while observing the poor student.

Throughout the session (only half an hour, but it feels like the best part of a decade) my mouth becomes dry and I can feel myself turning an attractive tomato colour.

If I'm really honest, I don't remember too much about the session (it's about shape; did I mention rectangles?) and I'm relieved when morning break arrives. My tutor tells me I was fine, but it's a false representation of what I'm really like in the classroom. I'm not myself (remember the gibbering jelly with legs?), and therefore I don't perform to the best of my ability.

Wouldn't it be better to allow the class teacher to conduct these observations? He or she would have a far better idea of how well a student is doing - and it wouldn't be anywhere near as daunting for the student. He or she would be used to working with the teacher, so "observation" nerves could be almost kept at bay.

Well, it's just a thought. Anyway, it's all over now - until the next time. In the meantime, I must get myself some of that green make-up that tones down red cheeks.

Julie Lumley is a second-year BEd student at Goldsmiths College, University of London

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