Tales from new teachers

Busman's holiday

The problem

I am a bit of a thrill-seeker. I don't like to turn down any opportunity or potential adventure that comes my way.

This is how, as a student, I got involved with the Duke of Edinburgh's Award despite displaying no signs of physical fitness. And this is how, as a teacher, I ended up attempting the Three Peaks Challenge (climbing the three highest peaks in Britain within 24 hours), despite still displaying no signs of physical fitness.

Sell me anything as a jolly jape and I'll give it a go, which was precisely how the deputy headteacher persuaded me to apply for a minibus driving licence.

The options

Initially I was thrilled to be asked. I had started organising a few small-scale outings - a book festival here, a cinema trip there - but I was always reliant on somebody else to transport us there and back.

That somebody was usually my head of department. She hadn't had a good relationship with minibuses since she nearly took a door off one while reversing in a car park, so getting the licence would take the pressure off her and give me a bit more freedom when it came to future excursions.

I was advised to speak to a couple of colleagues who had been through the test before. Very slowly, the enormity of the task I had so casually agreed to take on started to dawn on me. I discovered that I was going to have to retake my entire driving test, theory and all; this was not good news. How many bad habits had I picked up since passing my first test? And how on earth was I going to handle the mental torment of taking the thing again?

A colleague had seen many other members of staff go through this process. What, I asked, would happen if I failed the test the first time? "Don't fail," was the reply. "Oh, and by the way, we're not paying for all the recommended training hours. You'll be fine with fewer, won't you?"

The result

To make the experience less stressful, I chose to get it all over and done with in an intensive week of lessons that finished with a test. And I decided to do it in the summer holidays, rather than in term-time, to avoid having my colleagues checking up on me (and so that I could panic in peace).

The lessons went well. My instructor was a little intimidating and clearly more used to teaching men to drive HGVs, but he was a big softie at heart. He wouldn't let me dwell on my mistakes, which were fairly frequent owing to a serious case of left-right confusion. Fortunately, unlike my attempt at the Three Peaks (for which I put in very little training), all the hard work paid off and I passed first time.

Now there are murmurs of Three Peaks Take 2 next June and, given my success with the driving test, I'm wondering whether I should try again. I think we all know where I'll be next summer.

The writer is a newly qualified teacher in north-west London

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