First encounters

27th April 2001 at 01:00
Cliona O'Connor knows all the excuses - she's used them herself.

Pheep! "Get down off that climbing frame before I have to peel you off the floor, Jodie Smith."

Oh, the joys of teaching PE to a very enthusiastic (or is it hyperactive?) bunch of Year 7s. Call me naive, but I have found myself believing a mass of lies and excuses that not even the magician David Copperfield could conjure up. I mean, who's to say whether Sophie is or is not moving house, or if Tanya's kit is riding round on the back of a bus?

But I have grown wise in my old age (been here seven months now), and I did refuse to believe one Year 8 student whose note read that she was not "peeling" very well that morning and so could not do PE. And to think that I believed only snakes and bugs underwent ecdysis and other skin-peeling frenzies. You live and learn. But these are nothing compared to the excuses I get in the science laboratory. Teaching PE as well as science is a strange combination, I am told. From netball to Newton andvolts to vaults, I have learned a lot.

Although more experienced teachers may disagree, I enjoy correcting and marking tests. You begin correcting at the start of the evening feeling confident about your pupils' ability to tackle whatever you have thrown at them. By the end of the night you have grimaced, laughed and almost cried at the interesting facts set down before you. I sometimes wonder: "Did I really teach them that?" My most recent memorable answer to a PE test was that "kipping" (a valuable term in trampolining) was "when you went for a sleep". I have also been informed that "the hand is responsible for removal of oxygen from the body". Although there are times when one step forward seems to result in two steps back, I reckon I am starting to get to grips with the teenage mind I once knew so well. After all, it's not so long since the roles were reversed and I was claiming that the cat ate my gym suit.

Cliona O'Connor is a science and PE NQT at Manning comprehensive, Nottingham

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