The generation game

27th October 2000 at 01:00
Real graduation came outside university

Paul and Jack Miller recently decided that they both wanted to be teachers, putting them in the unusual position of being contemporaries who also happen to be father and son. Here, an exchange of summer letters shows their vastly differing experiences of entering the profession

Dear Dad, Thanks for your letter. I'm sorry you don't seem overwhelmed by the profession at the moment. I am loving it and can't wait for university to start again in September.

I suppose a part of me always knew I was going to be a teacher. It was just a matter of which variation of the system I would adopt. Various specialties entered my mind before I settled on primary education.

Why primary? Well, I like the idea of giving my pupils the foundations on which they can build an education and a career. What greater satisfaction can there be in a career than giving hundreds of people the use of written communication, the ability to read and the chance to express themselves clearly and effectively?

Also, primary schools always seem a lot more fun than secondary. I have always wanted to do the lessons with clay faces, and PE lessons which involve games never played outside the primary school, like crab football and the legendary beanbag race.

Call me a fool, but I have always wanted to stand on a windswept football pitch in February watching my school's football team charge around with no worries in the world.

I have always been told I have "the look" of a primary teacher. As most are female, at first I did not know how to accept this comment. Then I discovered that there is a rare species called the male primary teacher. I soon realised there were advantages in being a male in a predominantly female occupation - one obvious one being that at university I am one of four males in a group of 70.

I find that one of the most enjoyable parts of the job is the playground banter. I have found myself waking up early on Saturday mornings to watc the latest episode of Pokemon so that I am fully prepared for the barrage of questions at Friday lunchtime, when each child will charge towards me with their cards and figures yelling: "Which one's this Mr Miller?" When S Club 7 and Steps come on TV, I can follow the dance steps and mime the words, thanks to the lunchtime aerobics club with key stage 2. At this point, my flatmates start throwing things at me and switch channels.

However, there were certain difficulties the pupils had to contend with due to my gender, including my name. It seemed so bizarre to the class that I was a male infant teacher that they couldn't stop calling me "Miss" - so much so that I began to answer to it. It became such a regular occurrence that when I was calling out the register, my fellow trainee teacher and I would gamble on how many out of the class would answer "Yes, Miss."

At present, I have only taught a Year 1 class for any length of time, but to say that it has opened my eyes to the parts of education not covered within the university course framework is an understatement. No one taught me how to tie 30 sets of Year 1 shoelaces before lunchtime. And no one taught one of my fellow student teachers what to say about menstruation to a weeping Year 6 girl.

None of this has put me off. Far from it. I enjoy the non-curricular parts of the job - probably more than the teaching - as I get to know the intricacies of each pupil's personality. The first time I really thought I was a teacher and not a student was when I first uttered that classic "teacher line" - "I will only pick people who are sitting properly with their hands up". I then took a step back and thought: "Jack, you're a proper teacher now you've said that."

I didn't regret it one tiny bit. I am not a student any more. I am a teacher and I love it.


Jack Miller is a second year student at John Moores University, Liverpool, studying for a BA honours in primary education with Qualified Teacher Status

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