Rising to the occasion

Taking a PGCE in south London, I was prepared for my placements to be in challenging schools

Taking a PGCE in south London, I was prepared for my placements to be in challenging schools. I was not, however, expecting to discover a deep- seated fear of children on my first day.

Teenagers seemed to tower above me in the corridors and largely ignore my presence in the classroom. Yet I made it through 10 weeks, despite the efforts of my lovely Year 9s to drive me back to the call centre I'd come from.

I was optimistic, I believed my next placement would balance out the experience and show me what happens in one of those mythical good schools, where teaching and learning happen effortlessly everywhere you look. I was to be disappointed. Consulting course mates, who had just finished there, revealed that my second placement school bore that label again. Challenging. What if I didn't want to be challenged? What if I wanted a class of angels, eager to learn and happy to sit still for 50 minutes?

And yet now, using the reflective skills instilled by my course tutors, I can't help but think of the challenges I met as stepping stones towards the end that is now in sight.

In recent weeks my Year 10s, who could regurgitate other people's opinions, but not form any of their own when I met them, had a thoughtful debate on the ethics of cloning. A Year 9, swigging from a drink in class and expecting to be let off lightly, informed me that I'd "gone hard" when it was swiftly confiscated. And the corridors no longer fill me with dread, as they are filled with familiar faces.

So it appears that I've made it through the course not only unscathed, but with a wealth of experience to draw upon in my new job. When I tell people where it is, they are often surprised.

"That's a . challenging school," they point out. Of course it is. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Emma Shallcross is taking a secondary science PGCE at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

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