First encounters

14th September 2001 at 01:00
Stephen Uzzell refuses to let a lamppost get him down

As I slump over the wheel, dreamily watching the frosted leaves swirl in through my Escort's smashed windows and wondering what that throbbing in my shoulders can be, I remember my bag of photocopies and lesson plans now spilled across the twisted back seat. "My classes! Who's going to take my lessons?" My first call is not to the police, my insurers or my parents, but to the school secretary. Only then do I faint.

Icy road, lamppost, broken collar bone. It seems like the gods of teacher recruitment just don't want me to complete this course. After a hairy first placement in a challenging comprehensive where Year 10 regularly ran riot through my poetry classes as the supply teacher snored behind his Guardian, I was in more than a few minds whether to continue my PGCE.

But then, with the start of the rather presumptuously titled "consolidation phase", I thought I'd struck novice teacher gold. A peaceful campus, charming staff and pupils, instant class-bonding - and all in the public sector. The first week was "groovy", as my laid-back tutor may have whispered. And then I attempted to fold my car around the only lamppost in a 30-mile radius on the main school road, snapping my neck, in full view of gaping-mouthed teachers, pupils and parents.

I battled on with lessons for a couple of days after getting patched up, but it was no good. Despite a stack of painkillers, even the decent-hearted kids of 8AP proved too much. My last memory was of rounding off a hastily improvised literacy lesson, and falling under a ticker-tape parade of report sheets, head of year contracts and homework diaries, waving my figure-of-eight slung arm in a feeble gesture of surrender. If it wasn't for the timely arrival of Miss Holder, they could have buried me there.

So, a few much-needed days of Ramp;R, time to take stock and catch up on the TES pile by my bed. But, no, what's thisI "Crisis? What crisis?"; "No-cover strike action"; "Morale plummets". Aarghh. NurseI more Valium please.

Stephen Uzzell was a PGCE student at Bath University last year. 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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