First encounters

2nd March 2001 at 00:00
Rachel Edmunds finds that her placement makes her want to shout

It is 8am on a dark Monday. The wind is whistling and a bolt of lightning flashes across the sky. My first school placement. Somehow my weeks of lectures, learning to make kites out of carrier bags and rockets out of washing-up bottles, do not seem to have prepared me for this moment.

Yesterday I made a list of the tasks the university expects me to complete during the introductory five days with "my" Year 6 class. I thought if I could get it all on to a sheet of A4, I'd feel confident and organised. Six sheets of A4 and several hours later, I decide on a succinct summary: "Get photocopies of all the school policies, talk to all the subject co-ordinators, then make notes on everything." I spend the rest of the afternoon designing the finer details of the sock puppet I'll be making in next week's design and technology lecture. This calms my nerves, but that sneaky suspicion re-enters my mind: "I am more qualified to be a primary pupil than to teach one."

think about the advice I've received to act like a children's TV presenter. I decide I'll tell the class that although I seem the kind and gentle type, I can turn nasty. This is a lie. I can only hope they are not curious children who like to test statements of this nature.

As I get out of the car, my mum's old "first day" advice comes back to me. "Just be yourself." Deep down, I know that's all I can do. I walk in.

Did I survive? Of course I did! I won't lie about the day being perfect and my worries being needless, but I learned a lot. By the end of the week I'd even shouted. It wasn't a particularly loud shout, but it's a start. So I won't be giving up just yet. It's worth staying on the course, even if only to make the sock puppet.

Rachel Edmunds is a PGCE student at Durham University. 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. Or email:

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