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First encounters

David Brook discovers the irony of being a PGCE student

You are given a lot of information when you begin a PGCE course. But you are not told that life as a student teacher is full of contradiction and irony.

With students, society expects its taxes to be wasted on cheap beer, clothes from the Army and Navy store and loud music that no one likes. Yet, as a teacher you stand at the forefront of all things respectable; we are repeatedly told it is our job to shape the citizens of the future.

This contradiction can be difficult to live with. It is a weekday night and the student in you tells you to get to the nearest club for cheap booze. But the teacher warns of a hangover in the morning, and anyway there are Year 7 assessments to mark. What do you do? On most occasions, for financial as well as moral reasons, the teacher side wins.

Today, the irony of PGCE smacked me in the face. Period one, and suffering from letting the student in me win for the first time the night before, I conduced a Year 8 assessment. I explained to my quite able group what they were to do and what I expected from them. The words "formal assessment" left them panic-stricken but I was pleased with the way the lesson went. I set homework and dismissed the class, then went to talk to my mentor.

I was then hit by the first irony of the day. While I was assessing the class, I was being assessed on my assessment. Confusing, isn't it?

Afternoon, and a weekly return to university. The session involves the return of assignments set before the placement began. Again, what irony. Just four hours before, I had been in front of a class saying what I wanted in an assessment, now I was being told what was good and bad about my work. This was humbling. I demanded a good use of English from my Year 8, only to look at my work to find I had brutally misused five commas and made four spelling mistakes. Like my Year 8, I blamed my computer.

David Brook is a secondary PGCE student at Birmingham University

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