First encounters

29th October 1999 at 01:00
New teacher Nicholas Lind on how to survive that first class

I was recently invited back to my old university to give a presentation to the new PGCE students. The subject was to be "surviving your teaching practice" and my speech was supposed to educate, encourage and entertain.

I wasn't sure why they chose me. Maybe they saw me as some Yoda-like figure from the Star Wars movies, able to train up a new breed of Jedi master teachers (or advanced skills teachers to give them their more common name). Or maybe it was just that everyone else had turned them down, as Ben, my housemate and fellow NQT, suggested.

Still, I accepted the offer and started to work out what pearls of wisdom I was going to pass on. I decided to start by asking my pupils what advice they'd give to a student teacher about to enter the classroom.

"Don't," was the most popular choice, followed by, "Don't give them homework," and, "Don't sing as badly as Mr Lind."

I turned instead to my staffroom colleagues for some sense. I should have stuck with the kids. By asking for suggestions I simply gave yet more ammunition for nicknames and mickey-taking. Now, as well as the rolled-up trouser legs and dodgy handshakes I get for having gone to the same school as my head of department, and the name "Son of Glenn" for wearing the identical wax jacket as another history teacher, I am now "teacher's pet" for being asked back.

The night before the presentation I still had very little to say - a new experience for me. Then my mum rang. As well as the usual family gossip she asked me whether I was eating well. Now, as you can see from my photo, I am no stranger to food, but my mother always worries and said she would send a parcel of goodies.

That was it. Inspiration. Why not prepare a box with everything your modern PGCE student needs? So I got together as many items as I could find to prepare the secret weapon which I now present: "The Student Teacher Survival Kit". Each box should include the following items.

A mug. This has two benefits: it stops you committing the sin of using someone's mug in the staffroom (you may want to add a camp stool to ensure that you don't sit on anyone's special chair either) - and, no one can see what is inside. Thus, while your colleagues assume you are having a quiet cup of PG Tips with your chocolate digestive, you can have a tequila, vodka and Red Bull in anticipation of your dreaded Year 9s.

A multipack of Mars bars. Bribery, yes, but still the most effective teaching strategy yet devised.

A ruler. This is slightly tenuous, but you should always aim to draw a line between your life as a teacher and your life in the real world. None of your non-teaching friends is interested in your funny Year 7 stories. And they all believe that you stop work at 3.20.

A picture of Roy Keane. Very tenuous this one: Keane -keenness - enthusiasm. No matter how much you enjoy your subject there will be some topics which are dull (for physics teachers this covers almost everything). But as the naughtiest boy in my Year 10 class demanded: "Why should we be enthusiastic if the teacher ain't?" A copy of the TES. You could read it cover to cover - or you could simply study the appointments section.

A loo roll. You are guaranteed to need this 20 minutes before your first lesson.

Colouring pencils. Ideal for those lessons when last night's drinking stopped you planning any work (not relevant to geography teachers who base entire schemes of work on colouring in). A video will do just as well.

And, finally, a bottle of wine. In case of emergencies; uncork and drink contents.

Nicholas Lind teaches history at Ashton Park School, Bristol. He finished his PGCE at Bristol University last year. l What would you put in a Student Teacher Survival Kit? Ideas for a new column to Jill Craven at the 'Soundbites' address below

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today