Carol Hedges turns to her notes on application letters.
I was going to type it, until a teacher friend put me wise: "I've known heads of departments bin applications that didn't come with a handwritten letter, " she informed me. Being a natural sceptic, I didn't believe her. After all, this is the 20th century - the age of the wordprocessor.
Further research among the teaching fraternity revealed an even split between those who swore by the handwritten letter of application and went on at great length about English teachers and the importance of handwriting, and those who were ambivalent.
Confused? I was. So I went back to my notes from the lecture given by a very helpful local headteacher on How To Apply For That Teaching Post, and sure enough, there it was at the bottom of the page, after Using Positive Verbs and A Flavour of You As A Person: Letter of Application - handwrite. (Actually, what it said was: Ltr of App. hndrt!!!). Hmm . . .
Now, levelling with you, I belong to the "if God had wanted me to handwrite, he wouldn't have allowed me a computer" brigade, but that, it seems, was neither here nor there.
OK, I thought, damn it, if it's handwriting they want, then handwriting's what they'll get. Armed with a new red Parker pen, black ink (apparently another essential) and my daughter's "lines" securely paper clipped under my piece of A4 posh paper, I duly sat down to stun my prospective employer with my handwritten letter of application.
It took ages. I couldn't believe it. The morning wore on, lunch passed, tea appeared over the far horizon and still I sat crouched at my desk, wrist cramped, fingers locked into a 45 per cent angle, like the travesty of a 14th-century monkish scribe. Suddenly, phrases that I'd gaily bandied around the classroom about drafting and re-drafting took on a whole new meaning.
And it wasn't only the handwriting that was giving me grief. How do you express a coherently viable philosophy of teaching after only seven weeks in the classroom ? (Actually, I adhere to the Hedges' Triple K method - keep them quiet, keep them working and keep your head down). Other problems began to emerge as the day wore on: were there words that I could usefully substitute for "commitment"? What was my pedagogic approach to the subject? Could I remember the meaning of "pedagogic"?
Five hours and many crumpled pieces of paper later, I finally emerged from my isolated cell bearing aloft something that looked legible, presentable and didn't have all the vowels running together. Triumphantly, I clipped it to my CV and sent it off.
Alas, gentle reader, I did not even make the short list. I console myself with the thought that it's all good experience. There will be plenty of other jobs to apply for as the months go by. Meanwhile, I'm working on my handwriting.
Carol Hedges is a PGCE student at the University of Hertfordshire