Fist encounters

11th December 1998 at 00:00
I have realised something in the past week or so. Soon, very soon, I am actually going to have to teach some lessons. The days of sitting at school drinking coffee and eating departmental biscuits in the cause of "settling in"

are over. To this end I am working on developing my teaching persona. I no longer standin the corner of the classroom, arms folded protectively, thinking: "Please don't eat me." I can now walk around with my arms folded thinking: "Please don't eat me," which is a start. But the thought of standing up there and trying to persuade a whole class of Year 9s to do what I have planned is terrifying. I am unable to sleep for worry, which may be just as well because my nights are plagued by strange dreams in which Alan Titchmarsh and my father argue over a pot of paint while strange people stand in the garage trying to work out which way is east.

I've spent quite a bit of time in schools now, with varying degrees of success. I even spent one afternoon on observation, building paper bridges with Year 9 and the army. I tried to foster some enthusiasm among the girls, I really did, but their attention was mainly directed towards finding out how old the soldiers were and whether they had girlfriends. Frantically rolling paper, Sellotaping like a demon, delivering what I hoped was useful information on building bridges (like I know anything about it), I tried to get my little group of girls to believe they could do as well as the boys. They appeared to be listening, and I started relaxing into a false sense of security. I even owned up to being a student teacher, and no one had tried to kill me. Yes, I thought, I am doing really well here. Super-teacher status here we come. And then the bridge collapsed. The bridge I had assured them would work, the bridge I had designed and built while they watched, failed to hold any weight at all. As it buckled under one measly kilo, I watched my credibility crumple with it. The girls looked at me. I smiled, nervously. "That's why I'm an English teacher," I said, as I made good my escape.

But, of course, I'm not just a (trainee) English teacher, although it's hard to believe sometimes. I am starting to get the hang of functioning efficiently and - in some rare cases - cheerfully when I am exhausted. Sod's law has taken over my life. Now I have no spare time.

And I have had to deal with a series of time-consuming domestic crises, starting with the loss of my son's Action Man lunch box. We then had water pouring through the living room ceiling, and finished off with what must be a unique electrical emergency when a slug was electrocuted inside a plug socket. I never thought they'd conduct electricity so well.

Still, at least I could catch up on my sleep while waiting for the electrician, and it gave me time to find the lunchbox.

What it boils down to is that I am learning the difference between "a bit busy", which I now realise is what I used to be, and "very busy indeed", which is what I am now. I am also overloaded with stuff, in the form of endless files, diaries and books. In all the information, I wonder why no one ever gave a piece of vital advice to PGCE students - bring a wheel-barrow to carry everything home. I have started going through my list of things I thought I might be able to do in my spare time, and am crossing out everything I can. Writing a novel, having my wisdom teeth out and getting a life will just have to wait a bit longer.

Charlotte Read finished an MA at Oxford Brookes University last year. She is now a PGCE student at Oxford Universityl Want to earn Pounds 100?Interested in describing your week? We're looking for contributors to First Encounters or Thank God it's Friday. Send no more than 450 words to Jill Craven, Friday magazine, 'The TES', Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Fax: 0171 782 3199. E-mail: friday

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