A man's world? Yeah, right

16th November 2007 at 00:00
It will be easy for you." That's what I was told when I was doing voluntary work experience in primary schools this year. Easy, because I'm a man. "You'll walk into a job. They're crying out for men in primary schools."

This man is on the brink of crying now. I'm more than two months into my intense masters-level PGCE course in the inner city, which is being delivered through the school-centred initial teacher training system (SCITT), meaning it's run by a consortium of schools rather than a university.

It's a great option for someone like me, a 31-year-old career changer. The course is small, with only 36 people, but they all have diverse backgrounds and experience, making for a rich cohort of fellow students. I am specialising in early years, which has even fewer men and was another reason people told me how easy it would be to get a job.

I completely disagree. If anything, entering a profession dominated by women is daunting (and I speak as someone who tried nursing for a year). But I love the fact I am a man capable of communicating with young children, and educating and entertaining them; who's at home working with 30 little souls so like his own.

Our course director is wonderful: experienced, comforting and motherly. And we are all her children back in the classroom, feeling nervous, forming little friendship groups, sharing a sense of complete awe at how much teachers have to learn just to begin the day, let alone to be good at their job.

It's not as if being a man helps with that or any of the 20,000-word assignments (at masters level, may I remind you) I am starting, the numerous A4 lever arch files I have to compile, the mountains of paperwork, government strategy documents, articles and - I pause to laugh - ideas of our own. Oh yeah, and we haven't even been in a classroom yet, which means daily tasks to complete, weekly assessments to pass, observations to endure, grading and approval from a large tier of mentors.

And learning to teach the children. I'm a bit worried I've left that to last. But then I'm a man. We can't multi-task at the best of times.

Matthew Friday is a student teacher in south London.

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