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First encounters

Bridget Jell prepares to deal with the unexpected

At last, after four long years (six if I include A-levels) I am a qualified primary teacher. I have run the race, completed the course and even cleared the numeracy hurdle. And as a mature, 40-something graduate, I'm pleased with my achievement and looking forward to my own class.

But so far I have not managed to secure a full-time post, so have opted for supply teaching. At the end of June I paid my pound;20 to Devon County Council and delivered postcards to local schools.

Despite having no class of my own to look forward to, I did feel that (after a well-deserved period of indolence) I ought to get organised. You see, planning is my middle name, and winging it on the day does not come naturally.

So I spent July cataloguing my resources. But by August the novelty of data inputting was wearing off. One of the main problems was that I kept getting side-tracked. I'd spend mornings reading all about ammonites and cliff erosion, or cutting out and decorating a tepee.

As I put the finishing touches to my database, I was sure this resources-at-my-fingertips would work beautifully for all those 24-hour-notice jobs. But, just as I began t feel smugly satisfied, an uneasy thought hit me. In the real world I would be more likely to receive an early morning call that would mean dashing out of the house clutching briefcase, crisps and, with any luck, wearing matching shoes.

So I decided I'd need a proper diary. Colour-coding, acronyms, folders and files would be my security blankets. With six briefcases for Years 1-6, I'd be ready for anything. Then I thought, who am I fooling?

Because in real life, of course, I'll arrive and the class will have been changed and the teacher will have left work and I'll have to deal with the million and one things supply teachers have to deal with - children swapping names, seats, sweatshirts, shoes. My best-laid lesson plans may well never emerge from my carefully labelled briefcase. Supply is all about dealing with the unexpected.

I suppose I'm just going to have to learn to wing it on the day.

Bridget Jell is an NQT in south Devonl Are you a PGCE or BEd student, an NQT or new classroom assistant? Want to earn pound;100? Send no more than 450 words to First Encounters co Jill Craven, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX. e-mail:

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