Fighting your fears

2nd May 2008 at 01:00
If you met me two years ago, I don't think you would recognise the person I've become
If you met me two years ago, I don't think you would recognise the person I've become. I remember when I told my family and friends that I had applied to be a teacher. I had been thinking about it a lot while I was in my last year at university and signed up to apply.

"You? So you'll be teaching in a primary school?"

"No. Secondary school. English."

"But you're scared of teenagers."

I have a passion for my subject, but what they said was true. Two years ago, you couldn't have paid me a million pounds to walk to my local shop, which from 3.30pm to 10.30pm heaved with terrifying tearaway teenagers ready to jeer, stare and beg you to buy them cigarettes or alcohol or both.

Despite my fears, I was accepted into teacher training. I was so elated about getting in. My training year was gruelling, and I cried myself to sleep on more than one occasion about that problem class, fretting about the workload and wondering if I had entered a profession that threatened to consume my mind, body and soul.

I remember looking at the experienced teachers and wondering how they did it. However, during my teacher training, the pupils themselves made a huge impact on me. I didn't have my favourites - I looked forward to seeing all the pupils. Could this be real?

On my first day as a newly qualified teacher, I was placed in my old school. It was the scariest day of my life. Somehow I managed, and somewhere along the way a huge thing dawned on me: they are just kids. Bad words and bad behaviour are part of the package - they're just kids growing up.

This job allows me the privilege of knowing and teaching fabulous children from all walks of life, and I think it's fantastic that I can not only hear about their successes, but encourage them, too.

This weekend I went to my local takeaway restaurant. Three of my Year 8 pupils were there waiting for food. My mouth ran dry. "Hello, Miss Kirk."

I broke into a huge smile. Facing my fears was the best thing I ever did.

Alice Kirk teaches English at Gryffe High School in Houston, Renfrewshire

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