First encounters

7th September 2001 at 01:00
Mike Simpson enjoys the roller-coaster ride that was last year

In the last week of last term I went on our school activities day. This involves, among other things, going to a theme park and letting a couple of hundred kids loose on the rides. The day, with its roller-coaster ride, was a good metaphor for the past year. First comes the long, slow, stomach-churning build-up to the start of the ride, the summer holidays. You have an idea of what happens once you reach the summit, but the only information is the gasped expletives from roller-coaster virgins who get off before you.

Next comes the plunge, your first fortnight of teaching. You feel exhilarated. You puke. You can't think about much except hanging on. After that, a few gentle hills and a couple of fast bends. You get a class of kids you can't get along with. You have the first parents' evening. Mock exams. A slowing down as you mooch around at the Christmas disco. You're getting the hang of this ride. The worst is over. Then a sudden stop. It's Christmas!

It's not over yet. There's another build-up of holidays. It's worse this time because you're knackered from the first ride. Down you go. If you thought the other bit was rough, it was a picnic compared to this. Faster bends, sharper corners, a triple loop (SATs revisions) followed by another triple loop (SATs exams) and a few hills (GCSE coursework marking). The end is in sight and the weather is getting better. Never again.

You feel exhilarated. You will do it again. As you look back, you remember why you enjoy roller-coasters; the good relationships, the staff friendships, the kids who say that your subject has come alive for them, the ones who will work for you but not others, your growing confidence I Experience makes you better at things, but you can't get it without having a go. After one ride, I'm hooked. But that isn't to say I didn't lose my lunch along the way.

Mike Simpson was an NQT last year at Ferry Hill comprehensive in County Durham.Are you a PGCE or BEd student, NQT or new classroom assistant? Want to earn pound;100?Write no more than 450 words to Jill Craven, Friday magazine, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1 BX. Email:

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