First encounters

20th October 2000 at 01:00
Gabrielle Rowles finds awards can be disarming

I was on a school camping trip to Wales with Year 8 when I heard I had won the South of England Teaching Award for NQTs. It seemed a little unreal, as I stood splattered with the evidence of my intimate encounter with a cow pat during an impromptu game of football.

I couldn't believe it - but then my mobile phone rang in the loo. I adjourned to a more convenient site, only to hear my friend shriek: "I've just seen you on TV."

The full significance hit me when I got back to school. This award has filled me with pride and elation and somewhere inside, nestled among the insecurities and self-doubt, I think I might be doing something right. I have also experienced the rare joy of suddenly receiving praise and acclaim from pupils. Most teachers would agree that positive feedback is not a regular feature of our job. It can be easy to assume the children are immune to your greatest efforts to enlighten them.

I'm lucky, though, as the award has given the children an opportunity to show some appreciation,which my colleagues equally deserve. It's unfamiliar territory to offer national awards to teachers and I am sensitive to the assertion that teachers cannot be compared because our contribution is impossible to quantify.

But it has been wonderful to see teaching applauded and attention drawn to the commitment it requires. I feel like a representative of all newly-qualified teachers in gaining this accolade and I hope that many more will experience the renewed respect and appreciation that the publicity elicits from pupils. But beware the backlash, which has predictably begun as I make those inevitable slip-ups: "Miss, I thought you were an outstanding teacher." You can't win them all.

Gabrielle Rowles is a history teacher in her second year at Ringmer community college, East Sussex. She was made head of her department earlier this yearl 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, The TES, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX. E-mail:

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