First encounters

22nd September 2000 at 01:00
Sally Boyle gets ready to live the dream

I've done it. Two placements and a numeracy test under my belt. Can I breathe out now? The year's secondary English PGCE course cost me a house, a boyfriend, plenty of sleep and much of my sanity. I now find myself gesticulating when describing things to friends and offering routine "excellent, well done, good" responses.

I was one of the first on my course to get a job, and now work in a sixth-form college. The post is one I've dreamed of for years. I loved college and I love the prospect of inspiring, enthusing, motivating and enabling my students to achieve their full potential. As the PGCE course ended, I began to panic. I had a job in a high-achieving, Ofsted-blessed centre of excellence but I would no longer have the parental warmth of the university or the guiding hand of mentors to protect me. I had to become the person I had convinced the interviewing panel I was.

Accepting the advice of various "proper" teachers, I have begged, borrowed and stolen as many resources as I can. A stuffed filing cabinet squats expectantly in mybedroom. I must become familiar with the new A-level specifications, English language modules, key skills and a whole different working environment.

I had never heard of most of the set texts, and had to read them all over the summer so I could decide on a course of study.

Had I taken on more than I could handle? The fear in my eyes must have been as obvious as the sweat patches on my only suit. I am beginning to feel the warmth and nurturing guidance that can only be given by caring colleagues.

The term NQT has spread like juicy gossip, and everyone is offering help. The woman at the reception desk greets me every day by name, the resource centre staff have let me on to the Internet at locking-up time, and I have been issued the fastest parking permit in the history of the college.

I have a lot of hard work to do, a lot of mistakes to make, and I'm not breathing easy yet. But there is light at the end of the corridor. And this is still one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Sally Boyle is an NQT at King Edward VI sixth form college, West Midlands


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