First encounters

3rd November 2000 at 00:00
Elaine Elliman joins the underpaid

Why, at the age of 31, am I about to start a PGCE course and become a primary teacher? Why, when I have two children of my own, should I choose to look after 30 more?

Why would I want to enter the profession at a time when the news bombards us with reports of how disgruntled teachers are? How they are overworked and underpaid? How they are being attacked in their classrooms by pupils and parents? How teaching has become buried in paperwork?

It certainly isn't the pound;6,000 I'll get for the training. It has nothing to do with raising my standing within the community.

It's not thanks to the pep talk given by the tutor at my interview, where she explained how tough the course was, but how there were "counsellors on campus should we need them". Very encouraging. Not.

It's not because I love children; give me a puppy any day. So why then? Well, like so many other women with children who teach, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Since my eldest started school 18 months ago I have been in his shool almost as much as some of the teachers. I am a parent governor, chair of the parent-teachers' association and have listened to the children read, sew and cook, so I thought I might as well get paid for being there. But most of all it's because I believe in education.

After love and health, education is the most important thing for children. I see children as individuals who deserve respect and the best adults can offer. I get great satisfaction from knowing that in some small way I have had (I hope) a positive influence.

But it's a bit irritating that all those people I told after finishing my geography degree that teaching was the last thing I would do, now say:

"About time too. We always thought you'd make a good teacher."

Elaine Elliman is a primary PGCE student at the University of Hertfordshirel 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, Friday magazine, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX. E-mail:

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