First encounters

2nd February 2001 at 00:00
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi learns a new language

This is something I have to set down while I can still use the language of ordinary people - before I am sucked into the pedagogical patter that renders me incapable of uttering the word "assessment" without a preliminary "summative" or "formative"; unable to speak to a child without insisting he or she writes down a learning intention first.

Yes, I am a primary PGCE student, facing the second term of a one-year course. Most of my friends, bless 'em, have been encouraging about my decision to go back to school after 25 years in journalism. "How admirable, how unselfish, you'll be doing something really useful," they say.

Only one or two uncharitable souls have said I'm stupid, giving up life as a pampered, overpaid hack for that of an exploited, underpaid school marm. At times I remember an old comrade who used to say, when the mood around the editing table was particularly jaded: "Come on chaps, the money's good, it's indoor work and there's no heavy lifting."

That memory may rankle when, in exchange for a mserly wage, I stand in a windswept playground or struggle with plastic boxes loaded with books, files, worksheets and resources. Which brings me back to language. Resources, in the world of common folk, are usually natural materials. Now I understand they are packets of Blu-tack, photocopied pictures of Henry VIII's wives and blown-up lines of poetry selected to demonstrate the phoneme "ea".

I have startled friends with talk of "levelling" children and been obliged to reassure them that it has nothing to do with steamrollers. I have bemused them by holding forth about the need to know homographs from homophones. Some assumed I was referring to Section 28.

No doubt it won't be long before teacher terminology seems natural. But I do wonder what use it will be in the real world. How will I communicate with real children and their families if I am steeped in a strange language of which they are ignorant? Standard English already poses a big enough challenge to many.

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi is a PGCE student at London University's Institute of Education


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