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Happy, but there's never a spare moment

Claire Reidie - 49-year-old ex-classroom assistant. Science PGCE at Surrey university.

Claire Reidie worked as a classroom assistant before beginning her teacher training. Prior to that she was an air hostess with British Airways.

"That was fun. I did it for six years. Then a few years ago my brother urged me to do a degree," she recalls.

She followed his advice and completed an Open University science degree, which involved "a bit of everything".

"Quite a lot of physics, oceanography, mixed with geology and a whole unit of chemistry. And then I thought 'Hey, I could be a teacher now'."

Before committing herself, Claire accepted an offer at the local comprehensive to become a special needs classroom assistant which she "loved".

Initially, she tried teacher training via the Graduate Teacher Programme route, but when her school's application was turned down she applied to Surrey's Kingston PGCE course. "In the end, I decided to do the PGCE because I saw it as an academic qualification. I felt that I would be learning more," she says.

Having had three children of her own she is sure of the approach she wants to take in the classroom. "I get on well with children. I believe in mutual respect, and you can't demand that: you have to earn it."

Her classroom experience means that she has a good idea of what to expect from the job, but she points out that taking responsibility for a whole class is going to be different from the assistant's role. "When it's one to one, or even one to 10 they can be lovely," she says.

In her first lessons at Salesian School in Chertsey teachers told her that she was in "CA (classroom assistant) mode". But she soon learned to keep the whole class in focus.

"That was hard at first," she says. "But everyone was telling me that I needed to develop a harder edge."

Before Christmas, she was on a 30 per cent timetable, but this term that doubles. "I'm at a really nice supportive school and there hasn't been one class that I haven't enjoyed," she says.

"But, at the moment, it feels like being thrown in at the deep end. I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to teach a 60 per cent timetable, and I dread to think what the GTP must be like.

"There's never a spare moment, I'm constantly updating my subject knowledge. I'm enjoying the biology, but the chemistry worries me because it's not my specialism. However, that's largely self-inflicted because I'm only happy in a lesson if I know what I'm talking about."

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