First encounters

11th September 1998 at 01:00
First it was a ballerina, a missionary, then an actress. But never - never - a teacher. It was never on my list of possibilities. So I became a librarian some-strange-how, and now here I am at the end of a short career contemplating teaching! Leaving behind a safe job with a regular salary to become a student again.

Someone asked me: "Why leave a nice, quiet little job in a library to go into teaching?" This is the point where most librarians go red and count to 10. Contrary to myth, librarians don't sit reading books all day in total SILENCE! glancing up once a chapter to stamp a whispering student's book.

For a start, there are more PCs than books these days and breaches of the SILENCE are the least of the daily sins we catalogue in the incident book. Ever heard of the Mile High Club? Well, there's a Library Club too. a fairly exclusive clientele - so far.

So why am I leaving if it's so much fun? Librarianship is about books and know-ledge - and I love both. It's a privilege to sit on three floors of books every day, to have it all at your fingertips, the answer to every question. I'll miss them, I really will, those silent, eloquent spines.

Ah, but there's the rub. Hang me for a heretic, but books might just as well be tins of baked beans. They're commodities. They generate invoices and committee meetings - and the text disappears in a sea of red tape.

But children - surely children can never be commodities. Surely all the committees in the world can never reduce a child to a tin of baked beans. So that's my explanation really - I want to care about what I do.

I know - any career becomes routine, especially when it's stressful and demanding, but I can try it, can't I? Prove the pessimists right - or wrong?

I've had a long time to decide. I had some hoops to jump through first. You have to be pretty daft to take GCSE maths 20 years after failing to master the two-times table.

And while I was chin-deep in simultaneous equations I scanned The TES for horror stories and tales of self-fulfilment - and "First Encounters" was my first port of call. This was party to justify my crazy scheme, partly to help me keep my bearings, and partly a search for the 101 reasons why I should never become a teacher.

I found them right there in black and white - but I also kept my bearings, which is something of a miracle, not only in a mathematical sense but in a motivational one, too.

But there must have been some driving force. Maybe it was teaching beckoning from beyond like a greener pasture with a definite pinkish tinge. But then, I experienced it, didn't I?

There was that other ritual hoop of school experience. I had a feeling this would sort me out. It wasn't too late. I wasn't that far from land and the library was still vis-ible on the horizon. Turning back would be a blow, but it was better to know now.

But I enjoyed it. There I was, reading Tom Sawyer mid-afternoon instead of cataloguing it, making a stand, be it ever so small, for the good things of life - for books and literature and the necessity of sharing them.

So I'm back at school, well out of sight of land - and library. Of course, there's still time - plenty of nasty little fences to send me flying, and hoops to hurtle through.

Karen McKoy is a PGCE student at The University College of St Martin, Lancaster.

What's it like being the oldest new kid in class? Is your chosen career off to a flying start or are you scraping through each lesson on a wing and a prayer? If you're a student teacher and have the time and inclination to turn your experiences into a First Encounters column of about 650 words, 'The TES' would like to hear from you. We will, of course, pay for any contributions we use. Contact: Jill Craven, Friday Magazine, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Fax: 0171 782 3200

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