I'm teaching lessons with an ease that comes from having taught them loads of times before

11th May 2001 at 01:00
I'm teaching lessons with an ease that comes from having taught them loads of times before. I can teach and think about sex at the same time. Doesn't say very much for my concentration

After I got my first job, I swore that I would never look in The TES jobs section again. The whole process was far too traumatic. It took me five attempts to get my present job. I had rather naively presumed that it would be an easy process, seeing as people were talking about a recruitment crisis three years ago. I had a first-class degree, lots of experience, a happy and productive teaching practice placement, I was sure nothing could go wrong. But things did.

There were a hell of a lot of good English teachers out there - and they seemed to turn up at every job I went for. I began to dread going for interviews and meeting the internal candidate, who always got the job because she'd been working in the school for God knows how long and the interview was just a means of getting her in properly. I didn't have enough experience, although the advert had said that NQTs were welcome. I didn't have a second subject. I don't interview very well, I was too nervous, too eager, too reticent. One place even said I was too enthusiastic about teaching.

By the time I was offered a job, I had begun seriously to look outside the profession, although I had always known I wanted to be a teacher. I was prepared to kiss the feet of my current head of English when he offered me my job, and I swore I would repay his trust in me with at least 25 years' service. The fact that one of my colleagues said that she'd liked me immediately because I had nice shoes emphasises how random the interview process was. I was always relieved that when it came to buying my TES I could throw away the jobs section without a second glance.

But things have changed over the past three years, and I have matured as a person and changed as a teacher. I'm finding myself inexorably drawn to that jobs section because I think it's time for me to move on. It's difficult to say that you want to leave a school where you're happy. Other teachers look at you in amazement. Why would you leave a place where you're secure, where you know ad like the kids, and they like you? Why would you leave a place where you have friends, and you can talk about the report cycle and your menstrual cycle in the same conversation? Think of all the nightmare schools you see on the TVnews, in the papers, you hear about from friends. Leaving a school where you're happy is like giving up a place in a lifeboat on the Titanic. OK, Kate Winslet did exactly that, but look what happened to Leo. I rest my case.

But what about leaving a school where you're frightened you're becoming complacent? I'm teaching lessons with an ease that comes from having taught them loads of times before. I can teach a lesson and think about sex at the same time. This doesn't say very much for my concentration. I'm not preparing as much as I used to, I'm not planning as much, mostly because I know the kids will cut me a little slack. I remember when I first started teaching Hard Times, I would religiously look up any word I wasn't 100 per cent sure of before the lesson. I wanted to ask kids questions and know what I was talking about, and not look like a prat. Now I don't even read the chapter before I go in. I had a telling moment when I was showing a scene from Macbeth on video and hadn't rewound it to the right place. The kids chatted while I found the place, but I remember thinking that in my first year I would never have let the momentum of a lesson go like that.

Things are becoming easier. But I'm not entirely ready for easy just yet, there's still a bizarre call to me in the word "challenging". I'm developing my own interests, and I know I want to develop the special needs role that I have at the moment. I wouldn't mind another responsibility to be honest, and not only for the money. So I'm prepared to get my feet wet again. I think I'll be a vastly different person at interviews than I was, and if they don't like me, I won't take it so personally. Perhaps, as a teacher, I've been conditioned to see change as a bad thing, but now I'm ready to give it a go. I'll go down to Marks and Sparks for a new suit, and then who knows what might happen?

Gemma Warren teaches at the Latymer school, Edmonton, north LondonEmail:gemmaw@callnetuk.com

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