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Saving grace

Throughout my first year of training on a graduate teacher programme, I had never really encountered any problems. The school I had been placed in was tough, but I enjoyed the challenge. I passed the course with relative ease and couldn't wait to get started the next year with my own groups and a full timetable.

The next academic year arrived, and at first everything went well. However, just before Christmas I felt that things were beginning to go wrong. Groups that I had previously managed easily were beginning to spiral out of control. With the worst groups, the thought: "Would anyone miss me if I weren't here?" was constantly running through my mind. I knew things were bad when, after one particularly difficult lesson, a pupil approached me on the way out of the classroom and said: "Don't worry, Miss. Everyone has their bad days."

I tried altering my style of teaching, the content of my lessons, even my manner with the pupils. But nothing seemed to work. I would walk away from most lessons feeling like I had failed, trying to adopt an air of indifference, but sometimes close to tears. At the end of every day I would arrive home and wonder what I had actually achieved and why I was putting myself through it all. I lost confidence in myself and my teaching, and, worst of all, I couldn't pinpoint where I was going wrong.

At one point things were so bad that I wondered whether teaching was the right career for me. Surely things were supposed to be easier once you had finished your initial training?

My saving grace was that I worked in an extremely talented and supportive faculty. They told me to not try changing the personality or style of teaching that had got me through my training year, and that I would be sure to get through a difficult patch by believing in my abilities and "being myself".

I gritted my teeth and stuck out the next month and, true enough, it was just as they had predicted. The rest of my new teacher year was as hassle-free as the previous one. Now, in my first year as a "truly" qualified teacher, I'm glad I did not give up at the first hurdle and continued down the ever-changing and challenging career path that is teaching.

Laura-Jane Devanny is an English teacher at Mereway Community College in Northampton.

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