First encounters

23rd October 1998 at 01:00
My entry into teaching has begun with a bang; I have enrolled, picked up my Student Union and library cards, logged on, and instigated an impressive collection of different files.

I've stopped watching soaps, I've given up the gym, my house is covered in sheets of A4 paper and I'm having nightmares about arriving at school without any display boards or lesson plans.

I phone teacher friends and family and discuss all sorts of interesting topics - learning outcomes, discipline, types of school, assessments and the kid who makes your class that bit more challenging. Yes, it's true, I've become a teaching bore.

In the past few weeks I've experienced the equivalentof a computer memory upgrade and feel like I've entered a manic, new world where my brain absorbs information at a much increased speed. And am I depressed? Hell, no. I've come to the conclusion that I take some sort of masochistic pleasure in hard work and the dry humour of cool Year 6s. Don't get me wrong, though, I haven't completely lost it. Friday afternoons are still little Meccas in my new life, represented in the form of a bottle of red wine.

Having said that, my confidence in the ability of my teacher-ish clothes to control whole classes has proved rather misguided. This was quickly revealed by an ambitious photography session with 20 Year 6 pupils (though I admit I was asking for trouble by squashing us all into a darkroom for an hour).

Let's just say that my new conservative way of dressing didn't manage to prevent a toxic chemical from being spilled. Neither has the omission of my nose ring gone unnoticed, and I'm asked incredulously every day why I don't just wear it. I act cool and pretend I've lost it, rather than admit I'm leaving it out because I'm concerned about future teaching references.

In fact, I've come to the sad conclusion that I'm living every breath with a crazed consciousness of The Reference (and I've only just begun the journey). Have I arrived at school early enough? Are my displays impressive enough for a future art teacher? Do I do a good enough impression of someone who will (hopefully) be a teacher this time next year? Do I contribute to seminars? Is my file gorgeous, informative, interesting and individual? I admit it here and now - I've become a woman possessed.

My lack of soap opera viewing has led me to come up with a bizarre "comfort thought". During the many times that I doubt my teaching ability, I fantasise that Jimmy Corkhill of Brookside has not only managed (the last time I saw the soap) to do a PGCE without a degree (with, of course, the added bonus of a drug conviction) but has also gained a full-time teaching job on his very own doorstep.

Well, it's the stuff dreams are made of. It's my comfort in difficult times. It proves I've a chance. It's proof I've made the right choices. If Jimmy Corkhill can convince PGCE course staff and the interview panel of a school that he has enough subject knowledge and CV-friendly information to be blessed with a job, then damn sure I can. In fact, if all else fails and I don't find that perfect teaching job in Cardiff, then it'll be time to pack those bags and move to a friendly but rather sinister close in Liverpool. I mean, they evidently don't have the same high standards as here in WalesI Shirley Evans is studying for a PGCE in art and design at the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff

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