First encounters

28th September 2001 at 01:00
"Don't worry. It's always like this when we're getting ready for the summer production." So says the teacher-tutor who's supposed to be giving me the wisdom of his many years in the job for the duration of my final placement. I've spoken to my university tutor, who has advised me to "have that chat" with said teacher. I tried on Tuesday. "Yes, yes, we must sit down and talk this week some time..." I haven't seen him sit down all week - until now.

It is dawning on me that I'm being used. I now believe my tutors who told us we were doing the schools a favour on this final placement. But I think my fellow trainees and I are being taken a little too much for granted. "Favour" has become "free supply-teacher for the last term".

The summer production, I'm told, takes about six weeks to prepare. "The whole of the staff are involved, you know," says the proud head of key stage 2.

The week before, I had found myself sitting in a classroom with about 12 children, wondering what on earth I should do with them. "Are you lot singers or dancers?" "Nothing, Sir. We do nothing," says one lad. Panic sets in. Where are all the other teachers? Where are all the other kids? Does anybody know I'm up here alone with these kids and no planned lesson for the session? What am I supposed to do with them? Does anybody care? I know I do.

I quickly arrange some art activities based around the theme for the production. Why, after all, should these children be made to read, write or do sums on this wet Friday afternoon while their peers are becoming budding young luvvies in the hall?

At break time, I manage to get down to the hall. My teacher-tutor has his feet up on the stage, bottom on chair, script in one hand, spotlight remote in the other. "How's it going?" he asks. This, I believe, is the first time he has asked me this question. Ever. "Okay." Doh! Of course it's not Okay. I'm a student teacher. I'm poorly informed. Then it hits me. That's why I'm here.

The writer, who finished his PGCE last year, wants to remain anonymous.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 1BX. Email: jill.craven@tes.co.uk

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