First encounters

18th May 2001 at 01:00
Judith O'Toole leaves 'em laughing

There is nothing like realising you are exactly where you want to be in life. I'm at the tail-end of a primary PGCE course - somewhere I always knew I would like to be. And it is even better than I thought.

I moved to Canada as a child but always longed to move back to Britain. I did so in 1998, when I finished a degree in European history. Within a few months, I decided to do my teacher training and start my career properly.

But my degree from Canada was not equivalent to a British one and I had to spend a semester adding modules to it. Then, I had to pay the university more than pound;8,000 for my training because I was about six months short of my residency requirements - meaning neither a pound;6,000 training salary nor student loans. And yes, I did say I was born here.

Anyway, I argud for a while with the Department for Education and Employment, then decided simply to do it.

And I love it - contrary to all the horror stories I had heard about PGCE courses and the associated "lucky-if-you-get-out-alive" comments.

Yes, it is hard work, but anything worthwhile often is. But I've discovered the rewards come in ways other than money. This week, I had the chance to leave my current placement early on Wednesday and spend half an hour back at my first placement school. One of the children (Year 5) who had barely been able to read in October now reads a "chapter book with hardly any pictures". That is worth more than any pay cheque. And if your job can make you laugh as many times a day as teaching does, you are very lucky.

Judith O'Toole is a primary PGCE student at Sheffield Hallam University

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