To boldly go . . . wrong

27th October 1995 at 00:00
Andrew Wright shares the most embarrassing moment of his teaching career.

Teachers suffer from a strain of stage fright, an affliction that affects every one of them from time to time. Pedagogicus anxietus, in its mild form, manifests as a sense of foreboding as the end of the long summer holiday draws near. Old hands are ready for such cyclic flare-ups and understand that the jangling nervousness will pass, but folk new to the profession can find themselves mentally paralysed as anxiety builds. Fear of "losing it" has driven many an excellent practitioner from the classroom; some, tragically, never to return.

In the spirit of tackling fears and off-loading burdens, I want to share with you one of the most embarrassing moments of my teaching career. It resulted from a profound and immediate attack of anxiety as I was walking to the first Year 10 lesson in my teaching practice.

The class were standing outside the science laboratory waiting for me. The lab formed the vertical part of an L-shaped annex to the school's main building, with two technology rooms attached at right angles. As I approached I clutched my clipboard - bristling with lesson plans - protectively to my chest.

I felt the eyes of the students on me and made quickly for the door. I grabbed at the handle and stepped inside, pulling the door closed behind me. Outside I heard some of them mutter and laugh. These were Year 10 students and they knew their school site well.

I looked around, grateful for a moment's respite before l let the students in. My stomach lurched as I saw boxes of paper towels, soap and, propped up against the wall, a stand of brushes. I had walked into a storage cupboard.

Through the glass panels on my right I could see the science lab, all dark wood desks and bright yellow gas taps. So near and yet, so far.

Just as my embarrassment was building and before the flickering images of a too-short teaching career flashed before my eyes, the answer to my predicament came to me. Desperate situations . . .

I opened my clipboard and plucking my red pen from my jacket pocket, pushed down the handle and stepped outside. "Well," I said confidently as I emerged, "I think that's enough paper towels in there!" I made to tick the paper on my open clipboard and, smiling broadly, headed through the right door.

Andrew Wright teaches science at Angley School in Cranbrook

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