First encounters

29th January 1999 at 00:00
Shirley Evans finds her form as an artist-in-residence

I've been lucky so far in this PGCE lark. Unlike other trainees who were dropped in the deep end of secondary school from the start, I have enjoyed the comparatively dreamy task of being artist-in-residence in a primary school. This has allowed me to continue being "Shirley", and Shirley has free rein to indulger her artistic eccentricities and run wild with creativity in the classroom. Nice start really.

There have still been some bizarre moments, though. Quiet Katie said the other day: "Miss, Scott fancies you. Are you going to go out with him?" I wondered just how young I am perceived as being. Pupil guesses at my age ranged from 15 to 37. Strange old thing is the teacher role.

This half-way house of being an artist in a primary school has left me in a middle ground - half of me is a nice-approachable-hold-your-hand artist, and the other half is a rule-setting, positive-discipline teacher. I have become fascinated by those teachers who have silent classes, and continue my quest for the secret of the interesting-and-quiet-inducing-teacher skill.

Perhaps the solution to the puzzle of how one finds the time to create seven inspiring and engaging lessons in one day will arrive soon in the post - when my fees for the course go through.

I could certainly do with it now, because I am frantic all evening and weekend just trying to plan one measly class. Maybe the correct teacher mode can be installed with the press of a couple of buttons. It would explain a few unsolved mysteries. Perhaps some of the other teacher trainees have already received their "how to be a teacher" pack, because they don't seem to going through the same sort of stress as me.

Speaking of stress, we recently had a wonderfully enlightening lecture on the subject; apparently I should prepare for a possible future of insomnia, depression, low esteem and maybe even heart problems. Mmm. I get it, you're trying to tempt me into the profession, yeah?

Maybe the visiting lecturer was trying to scare off the uncommitted, the student who thought the course and job would be a soft option. If so, it didn't seem to work as we all had a laugh at the prospect in the union bar afterwards (a rare Tuesday afternoon treat).

Later, in bed, I began to see what the visiting lecturer meant. That frantic heartbeat. That waking up in the middle of the night with variations for the forthcoming lesson. That inability to leave my computer all evening. That red-faced manic character I become on a Friday.

Is it all worth it? Nothing can beat the experience I had on my last afternoon as artist-in-residence. The dizzy heights of euphoria were reached when the notorious bad boy of the class came to talk to me in the lunch hour. No, he was not disturbing me by fiddling with that nearby piano. No, he was not inducing stress. What he did do was make an aspiring teacher's day and reward a month of hard work.

How did he achieve that? Looking at our photo-sculpture and walking around it, he began talking about why he thought it had been successful, about the merits of each child's perspex photo-box, about what he had learnt. His face was full of interest, excitement and amazement.

When I asked him why he had never contributed in such a way to our lessons he replied: "Miss, I gotta reputation, ya know," grinned, winked and ran off with a wave.

* Shirley Evans is studying for a PGCE in art and design at the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff

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