Book of the week: Bagpuss, Darth and me

5th March 2004 at 00:00

I'm a Teacher Get Me Out of Here
By Francis Gilbert
Short Books pound;9.99

Francis Gilbert is a natural storyteller. His tale of his PGCE and his first three years in a struggling inner-London secondary is always compelling. What's more, it's true. I read it in one jaw-dropping gulp. With brutal honesty he reveals the awful reality of starting his career in a dysfunctional school in the early 1990s. The school, its identity shielded by a particularly small fig leaf, is bottom of the league tables when he gets there.

But before that, he struggles to get accepted on a PGCE course, and once at Cambridge he paints the first of many vivid vignettes. Professor Holmes is his other-worldly tutor given to espousing modern methods while expecting nothing but silent acquiesence from students exposed to his remorseless lecturing style.

We move on to the heart of the story -nbsp;Gilbert's three-year initiation in his first job -and meet the main cast. There's the "tough bruiser" of an archetypal deputy head who "knew how to deal with kids... a big man with a definitive air of Michael Caine in Get Carter about him". We read of him pacing the classroom like Darth Vader in a suit as he effortlessly restores calm for the author. To be his friend in the staffroom helps to keep order.

Tim Brighouse is commissioner for London schools

Read more in this week's TES Friday magazine

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