First encounters

25th May 2001 at 01:00
Keith Martin didn't expect to become a father on work placement

I've finished my final placement on my BEd course (I stress the word final) and feel it's time to share some of my finer moments in teaching.

Being a male in a female-dominated environment brings some interesting comments. Five weeks on a nursery placement and the children are asking what that "daddy" is doing there. Cries of "Me's got a man teacher" can be heard all around. I also acquired the name Bob, despite it sounding nothing like my in-school alter ego, Mr Martin. In fact, when I first heard Mr Martin, I ignored itI who, me? That's my dad.

On the other end of the scale, there are those times when the ever-knowing children are fully aware of your student teacher status. But it still comes as a surprise to be asked if you're from the local secondary school doing work experience. I'm 21, for goodness sake.

And nothing quite prepares you for a placement. Why doesn't college tell you how to cope when an experiment goes wrong? When the papier-mache doesn't dry? When it's wet interval? Those last three words should - and will - fill you with dread. "A wet interval" is a whole other experience in itself: 33 restless children, all desperate to be released for 15 minutes of freedom. Never mind them. We teachers need a rest too. We come back into a classroom full of the lingering smell of crisps and additive-laden sweets. It makes you wonder why you do it.

But right now, I'd not choose anything else. For every down there's an up and, as I was once told, "you've got to experience bad days to appreciate the good". No day in teaching is the same - and every day provides a new learning experience. I often surprise myself with my ability to be serious when faced with a normally amusing scenario.

But I know I've made the right choice, and if my teaching career has as many highlights as each and every one of my placements, then I'm sure I'll enjoy a long career in education.

If not, do I hear Blue Peter calling?

Keith Martin is a fourth-year BEd student at Moray House Institute of Education, Edinburgh


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