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New term, new start

HELLO all you new starts out there, and welcome to the wacky world of teaching. I remember being in your position myself way back in 1983 in the days when I had hair. Armed with the experiences of one bad, one fair and one good teaching practice, I was ready to start a full-time permanent post.

I had applied to the former Strathclyde Region, citing the West Highlands as my preferred area. They offered me a school in my home town in Lanarkshire. I could see it from my old bedroom window. Soon after starting, I began to tell lies.

"Are you enjoying your job?" people would ask.

"Oh aye," I would say, often believing it myself. "There are

one or two kids who keep you going, mind, but they are in the minority."

In truth, I had a couple of classes that were absolute hell, three that had a significant number of infuriating characters, and a third-year and a "Crash O" that I genuinely did enjoy teaching.

Meanwhile, the majority of my university friends were pursuing PhDs. I went to see two of them on my first day off - a September holiday that seemed to take six months to arrive. As I left Edinburgh University's Kings Buildings science complex I could have howled like a dog. Awoooooooow! The buggers weren't even getting paid signficantly less than I was when grants were added to dosh earned from demonstrating in labs.

Fortunately, it wasn't all bad. I was in a good school. Moreover, it was an expanding school that had taken on another three probationers at the same time that I started. When self-worth seemed as if viewed through the wrong end of a telescope, a night at a pakora bar in Glasgow with my similarly afflicted pals usually helped sort things out, as did chats with more experienced colleagues.

A big change came after my first summer holiday. To some degree, I was established. The two worst classes were gone and their replacements were not quite so bad. Thoughts of chucking it all to "get into computers" became less frequent and I began to be able to tell the truth to everyone.

"How's the job?"

"A hell of a lot better than last year."

So, new starts, talk, tell it how it is, and if all else fails, savour incidents you shouldn't really enjoy. Sad to say, but one of the happiest moments of my probation was seeing the cockiest boy in the class catch his nadgers on the edge of my desk. Hang on in there - the first decade's the worst.

Gregor Steele used to try to forget it all with the help of a Triumph Spitfire and a Meatloaf tape.

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