First encounters

7th May 1999 at 01:00
Alison Richards on getting up the energy to start job hunting Last weekend I went home, hoping to "get away from it all" and leave the teaching practice behind me, if only for a day. No chance. "So, which jobs have you applied for then?" It seems that Dad has been scouring the paper far more avidly than I have. "I'm surprised you didn't apply for this one." (A hint of disappointment.) I half-heartedly start to say I haven't seen anything really suitable yet. "You can't just apply for one you know!" It is not so much that I don't want a job. I do, I really do. It's more a case of, where do I start? I think I have been kidding myself that the ideal job will jump out at me one Friday soon - it's always "soon" - and I will miraculously become inspired to write the perfect letter of application.

The truth is that I seem to be permanently exhausted. Finding a job is something hazily on my mind that I know will have to be done sometime. But I have an ever-expanding list of "to be sorted out" items.

I'm working in a split-site school, so at the top of the list is working out what time the staff minibus runs between sites. I'm sure I would feel more on top of things if I didn't have to stand in the car park looking for a lift after watching the minibus drive out of the gate. At least my tutor was not there to see me once burst through the door, out of breath, snow-covered, lugging three bags, to greet my Year 7s.

If I was more organised I am sure I would not have to carry so much stuff everywhere. I am so paranoid about forgetting something vital that sometimes I look as if I am going away for a week rather than a day at school. I am tempted to buy a pull-along shopping trolley, but I have to consider my credibility in the classroom.

Living in Sheffield doesn't help either. I moved here to be near to hills, even to walk up them with a rucksack. But somehow this does not feel so exhilarating as I am walking to work.

If I could just get on top of this job, then I could think about looking for another. Some fellow course members are so well organised that they have their lessons planned a week in advance, have them evaluated almost before they've taught them, written the assignment for next week and applied for five jobs in an area where they know they want to live. This organisation seems to have passed me by.

I try to convince myself that at least I have a life. But I do wonder - especially when I am woken up by an idea for a lesson plan or when I can't seem to look at anything anymore without considering its value as a "resource".

I even have other people collecting for the resource mountain I am building in my bedroom. My mother sends news clippings about the weather, Dad lends me his model buses (for lessons on transport) and - what a bonus for a trainee geography teacher! - I have a sister travelling in New Zealand. She too has her "resource list". Life? Who am I trying to kid.

I like Sheffield, but could move anywhere for a job - although this doesn't help. Each week I glance in the atlas, locating potential jobs. At the moment they are not moving out of that "potential" bracket before the deadline has passed. Something to work on there, then. I can add it to my list of targets to discuss with my mentor.

Right, I feel focused. Positive thinking. This week there will be that job for me. I shall have all my lessons prepared so that I can spend the weekend perfecting my application.

But I have the games method course both days this weekend. I'll have to forego Friday night in the pub. That means I'll be home for the weekly parental phone call: "Have you seen The TES today?" OK, next week then.

It might be a bit warmer by then. I only have one interview outfit, which I used the last time I was applying for jobs, in a heatwave. I wonder if it would affect my chances if I turned blue in the interview? Perhaps I should wait a while longer.

Alison Richards is a PGCE student in Sheffield

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