First encounters

5th January 2001 at 00:00
Jean Robertson enjoys her new job while she still can

After four weeks within the safe confines of London University's Institute of Education, learning about how to be a teacher, I finally found myself in a real school, with real children and real teachers. I was, supposedly, one of those "real" teachers myself, and had to assume that teacherly role when all I had was a head stuffed full of theory.

My mind buzzed with the questions that had badgered me for months, all coming down to that single big one: "Will I actually make a good teacher?" To be referred to as a teacher was pretty daunting when I'd never even taught a lesson, but I was reassured that the kids would never know. Not long into the day and I began to get used to the whole malarkey. After all, as a drama teacher, I should be able to pretend, shouldn't I? But my facade was shattered by a smart Year 9 who said over the noise of the classroom:

"Basically, you're a student aren't you, Miss?" Did I really look that naive and out of place?

Even if I did show my newness in school, I drove my family mad practising my "non-confrontational atitude towards discipline" at home. "Should that towel be on the floor?" I asked my sister, eyebrows raised.

Inspiration and reassurance came from an English teacher who, relieved to discover that, contrary to popular myth, he didn't drop dead a year after retiring, returned to teaching aged 66 (just to be on the safe side, I suppose). He loves his job, as do most of the staff at this school. Their complaints are more about the bureaucracy and paperwork than anything else.

So I headed into half-term ready to produce some of those "fresh and original" ideas that beginning teachers are supposed to be full of, and to squeeze in just a tad more theory.

A couple of days later, a student said: "Did you know all teachers die young of stress, Miss?" "I can imagine," was my dry answer. But secretly, I felt excited about getting down to it. My fresh-faced enthusiasm probably amused the real teachers, but I decided to enjoy it while I could. After all, in two years' time I'll be a wrinkly old bag in therapy, won't I?

Jean Robertson is a PGCE student at the Institute of Education, London University

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