Best of times, worst of times

25th May 2001 at 01:00
JO PICKERING assistant director of curriculum, Derby College Wilmorton

'I always wanted to go into teaching, though my family tried to talk me out of it: my father thought it was an awful profession. I studied human biology at university and I intended to teach but so many friends who had done BEd or Cert Ed courses said teaching was really horrible that I went to work for the National Coal Board.

It was 1976 and I was the coal board's first female scientist. Everybody thought I was a secretary: I was actually doing research in preventative medicine.

Once I went in to give a lecture and this chap said: "Can you go and get me a cup of tea, dear?" I said: "After I've delivered the lecture, I'll see if I can arrange that for you." I had never really experienced chauvinism like that before.

The job became boring; I became more deskbound. As soon as my husband could pay the mortgage, I went for a PGCE.

I was 24 when I started m first full-time job teaching. I taught biology at a comprehensive in Derby.

I wanted to stop at home when our children were small, so I spent 10 years doing part-time contracts. I taught all over the place, in higher education, parenting courses at nurseries, supply in schools and at three local colleges.

Once I applied for a one-year post, about two hours a week, at the Derby College of Higher Education, now the University of Derby. I was working part-time and at that time I'd never taught in HE.

The day of the interview I got up early, got the children bundled off, got all dressed up and I went in scared to death. Two people were there; one looked me over and said: "Yeah, you'll do. When can you start?" I said:

"Pardon?" He replied: "Well, if you're good enough for Derby College Wilmorton, you must be good enough for us. We just wanted to be sure you weren't drunk at nine in the morning." I was quite disappointed.

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