I recognised the stunned looks. They were the same looks that met my decision to go to Belfast to do a psychology degree. But my choice of career and where I chose to follow it have always been a little eccentric. The looks of disbelief came following my announcement that I was going to teach on the Isle of Man.
Why? The reasons I repeatedly give are that the education system is better, classes are smaller and the DfEE gives away laptops to all teachers. But really it is the teaching environment that I always wanted to work in. During my PGCE year in Leicester, I faced large classes and felt that maybe I wasn't getting the time with each child I wanted. Now with a class of 23, I have almost unparalleled time to get to know the children.
There are other trade-offs. With smaller schools, all staff need to take a curriculum role. Although we were advised to avoid this during our NQT year, I couldn't resist the chance to stretch myself. But I must admit that in such a small community it is difficult to get away from school. I live in the same street as oe of my class and cannot go shopping without seeing someone from school.
I now have to get to know a new style of teaching. Manx history and geography means I am trying to get to grips with names I cannot even pronounce, let alone spell. And the inclusion of Manx and French on the timetable means I have to organise my timetable like a military campaign.
I have learned a great deal from my peers and from the children. I have found resources that I never knew I had and I have developed more in the half term I have been here than in my PGCE.
I have enjoyed this small-time teaching more than any other. I am part of a real community, doing a job I love, working with a class I wouldn't swap for any other. Perhaps the most important lesson I have learned is that it sometimes pays to be a little eccentric.
Richard Taylor teaches at Andreas school, Ramsey, Isle of Man 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: email@example.com