First encounters

24th November 2000 at 00:00
Katharine Lee takes a short cut

I did a Bad Thing last week; something I thought I'd never do. Back in the idealistic days of my PGCE all those months ago I wondered at teachers who did this.

I decided to set a good, old-fashioned homework on punctuation. Nothing wrong with that. The Bad Thing is not that I got a book of grammar exercises, found one with 10 examples which needed punctuating, and photocopied it 29 times. What is so bad about that? Such books are designed as photocopiable resources for teachers.

The Bad Thing is that I did not spend a painstakingly long time preparing a sheet with trendy, funny, varied, exciting examples of situations the children might understand. My feeble attempt to jazz this up was to change the colour of the photocopier paper to scarlet. As I handed out the sheets and explained what had to be done, I had a flashback to this time last year when I regularly spent an afternoon cutting, pasting and poring over a worksheet for a lesson I was to teach. At an in-service session that night, I was eminded of the importance of making learning interactive, attractive, lively, fun; the necessity of making even the most mundane topics excitingI I felt I had aged 30 years in six weeks. Why was I not the bouncy, vibrant, inspirational teacher I was going to be? Why was I photocopying grammar exercises?

I realised what had happened. I had a job. Unlike this time last year when I was taking the first steps towards teacherdom, I no longer had at least a fortnight to prepare a lesson.

As I sat at my desk marking the exercises, I realised that the pupils had completed it rather well. There were speech marks, commas, full stops, even apostrophes in the right places. Which left me asking, was it such a Bad Thing after all?

Katharine Lee is an NQT at the Cardinal Vaughan memorial school, Kensington, London 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, Friday magazine, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX. E-mail:

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