First encounters

27th October 2000 at 01:00
Something is not right. It is a Friday afternoon and my Year 10 group, who tell me I "read funny", are nowhere to be seen. Neither are my 25-strong Year 8 group, of whom I still know only 15 names. Not once have I seen a pupil's face today. Something is not right.

The problem? Britain's troublesome weather has washed away my chances of learning those remaining Year 8 names or doing battle with Year 10 over Dickens (the reason I'm currently reading "funny"). On the second day of flooding in Kent, I have been stranded at home, school being an hour's journey across country which is now submerged.

But have I taken the time to enjoy this unexpected breather? How can I? It's the first time I have had to abandon my classes for a whole day and callously leave students to suffer their English lessons with another teacher.

I can't help but feel guilty - what damage have I done to those poor cover teachers? Just reflect on the potential horror of the situation - the Year 10s, who have sussed that I've only been teaching for five weeks, and love to letme know it; the Year 9s, who constantly call out: "It's not fair, why do we have to do reading again". Then there are the Year 7s and 8s, who may be pint-size and sweet-looking, but always manage to rip down my newly Blu-tacked Ofsted-friendly posters and make more noise than the 9s and 10s put together.

What will these whirlwinds of enthusiasm do without their new teacher there to channel that pent-up energy and manage their behaviour? Sadly, I reckon I know the answer. They probably asked the poor, unsuspecting cover teacher hopefully: "Is Miss Sullivan away today?" and on hearing the answer they have been eagerly anticipating since the start of term, gave out a loud cheer that most of Tunbridge Wells could hear. It's nice to be wanted, isn't it?

Lucy Sullivan is an NQT at St Gregory's Catholic school in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.l 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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