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One lesson cost me my career

I read with great interest "Calling the odds" (TES, November 10) especially the section which began: "The only example of a poor teacher . . . was an unfortunate probationer struggling to control classes without visible signs of mentoring or support in the classroom . . ."

During the 199495 academic year I was a student teacher doing the postgraduate certificate of education secondary course in mathematics. I was working my way through the courses under the impression I was making satisfactory progress.

During the spring term I was advised that the university tutor for my subject was coming to see the students at our school placement. I naturally assumed this was part of the continuous assessment counting toward the PGCE award. It transpired, however, that it was for the sole purpose of observing me, no one else. I was only made aware of this after the tutor visit.

He eventually came to see my lesson (just one) and said it was totally unsatisfactory and he was not going to recommend that I should pass the PGCE. I asked if I may be allowed to continue to show that I could make a substantial improvement. The school refused to do this even though I had an extra term to go. They would not even let me demonstrate that I could make progress now that I was made aware of the problem. I mentioned your article because I had conflicting opinions on how to deal with classroom management.

The head of department felt I should develop my own style of management. The deputy head of department was unfortunately absent for half the term. The subject mentor observed my lessons at the beginning and then left me to manage on my own. I was eventually forced to stay at home for a whole term, waiting to hear what my fate would be. The eventual outcome was that they could not award me the PGCE. They did not even allow me another chance to improve my practical teaching. I had to appeal without success against their decision.

I feel it is unreasonable to judge one's capabilities solely on one observation. I was only allowed two-thirds of the course to show my capabilities while I have heard of other students being given extensions to their courses. I consider it very unfair. This course meant a great to me and I feel I have not been given the full chance. At the beginning we were all told it takes five years to make a teacher; I was given only two terms.

CHRIS LAMSTAES

34 Tiverton Drive

London SE9

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