It can only get better

24th October 1997 at 01:00
Fay Maguire gives a personal view ofa demanding first year

The main thing about the first year in teaching is that it goes incredibly quickly. There's hardly time to grab a coffee before its the end of the summer term.

My experiences as a new teacher are not necessarily universal, but I have certainly learned an immense amount. Mixed in with the satisfaction of getting over the material has been experiencing the vandalism of my desk, verbal abuse, ripping of displays, stealing of equipment, pages torn from books and the Christmas glitterfest, which put me in the cleaner's bad books for weeks. I learned to lock my door and take the names of anyone borrowing anything.

When I started the head told me to go in hard and relax when the children accepted my rules. Doing this ensured I gained a reputation for being strict, but at least life was reasonably quiet in the classroom.

It was only by June that I felt comfortable enough to let the children see another side of me. Even then you have to be careful not to relax too much; any sign of too much familiarity, in my esperience, is greeted with contempt, not gratitude. They want you to be their boss, not their friend.

Survival of the fittest seems to be the motto of the classroom. When children are not ripping bits off each other they are looking for ways of undermining the teacher. This can be wearying and you have to develop a hardness which prevents you from caring too much.

One minute you're their favourite because you've given out a house point, the next you're despicable because they don't like that day's homework. But none of their spleen lasts very long!

Other staff members treat you like a real teacher, which makes a change after teaching practice. I realised how little I learned as a student and that teacher training is an artificial set up of limited value in its current form.

Marking takes up a huge amount of time and I devise many tasks now that can be marked in class. What with planning, meetings, in-service training, parents' evenings, reports, break duties and extra curricular involvement, life at home can begin to feel the strain.

School can become obsessive and it is easy to let it take over your life. I keep telling myself a tired teacher is an inefficient teacher, but it doesn't work . . .

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