First encounters

15th December 2000 at 00:00
I've been at the chalkface for a term now. These are some of the things I wish someone had told me about:

* Photocopiers. Your degree is irrelevant. It would be more useful to have a degree in photocopying. Each machine is unique, with a character all of its own. They do not like change and will take a long time to accept you. They are highly skilled at detecting when you are pressed for time, and like to make your day more challenging. This, of course, is when you get to the front of the queue. When you do, there will be no paper left. Overcoming this hurdle, you then photocopy two sheets fewer than you need.

* Dress code. You will need plenty of changes of underwear. This is not in case you have a very bad day but because you will not have time to do your washing until half term.

* Emergency supplies. Along with a spare pair of tights (generally speaking, this applies only to female teachers) every briefcase must contain a packet of chocolate biscuits - the only known antidote to Year 10. You will find you need to eat the whole packet in one go.

* Cleaners. Take a long look at your room before you leave, then again in the morning. These people have magical powers.

* Induction programmementor meetings. Occasionally someoneyou don't know will acknowledge you in a corridor. Be alert, as this may be a mentor meeting, and will need to be documented.

* Inset days. A trap for the unwary, especially if they mention Ofsted. Existing staff will be so stressed they will not speak to strangers, just in case.

* Senior management team. Remember that old TV show V, about aliens that looked like people then took their faces off?

* Pastoral care. Year 9 like to specialise in this. Be prepared for questions such as: "How do you have a baby without having sex?" Don't be too hard on yourself if you miss the link to the lesson on pollution you were teaching at the time.

* PGCE training. Remember what they said about thinking the PGCE year was hard, and the next year is harder, and laugh. Make the most of this, as it doesn't happen often.

* Lab technicians. Listen when they speak to you, as it is a rare honour. The same goes for anyone who teaches physics.

* Form duties. Suppress the urge to welcome the addition of characters to your form. However, you will get to meet lots of members of staff when they come to complain.

* Smiling. It really worries people.

Dr Kristina Humphries is a chemistry NQT at King Edward VI high school, Stafford

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