Life is a breeze in the spring sunshine

28th April 2006 at 01:00
Spring is in the air! It's funny how one day you can be trudging to school through the murk and chilly air and leave in equal darkness.

A certain amount of gloom accompanies this lack of vitamin D.

So it makes a welcome change to be prancing to school with the bleating newborn lambs and the spiritually uplifting sunshine. The odd blizzard now past, things look set to get a little warmer.

At this stage in the probationary year, there is a parallel change. With just two observations to go, the finishing line of full registration is in sight.

This is the spring of our new career and the pupils are perking up too.

Seniors are looking forward to their final exams and the exciting prospects of university, work or travel, while the first-years have blossomed into confident individuals in the school network.

I have the most delightful first-year register class. For them and myself it's been our first year at the academy, so in that respect we've learnt a lot together. It struck me that these might be the first set of children I teach all the way to sixth year - and given the speed at which this year has flown by so far, I should think it won't seem long till they're sitting their Highers and filling out UCAS forms.

We were warned by almost everyone that last term would be the toughest; a test of professional and personal endurance and that has certainly been true.

The English folios completed and the bulk of reports and parents' evenings done, the end of March saw the culmination of a busy term with an interview for the post and an observation by the regional head of probationers on the same day.

During the interview I thought about whether the famous saying "It's better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt"

would be suitable in the situation. I've never been so aware of a door behind me or felt such an unbridled urge to use it. I haven't been that nervous in a very long time.

As it happens the interview wasn't as bad as I'd imagined. As with many unpleasant rites of passage, it was the anticipation that created the most anxiety.

We also had a visitor to the English department. Author and director Bernard MacLaverty visited pupils in S4-S6, including an S5 class studying his work for the exam. He asked the class if any of them wanted to write or did any writing at present; the response was a deathly silence, as if it was some kind of dark art. Knowing the work of some of the pupils, I wondered and hoped that they were internally sparking some interest or confirmation of their own interest. Feedback after the visit was extremely positive and the class continued their study with increased vigour.

There is no substitute for meeting the mind behind the text. It offers so much vital context for their coursework and exam essays. The business studies department had a successful enterprise day for S2, in which they invited business professionals to help the pupils. For the upper school, they are organising a further trip to meet the people who work day-to-day in the field that they are studying in theory. It is invaluable practical experience that can only enrich their understanding of the subject.

These are the experiences that pupils take away with them. During my last student placement I persuaded a professional war photographer to come into a fast-track Standard grade class to speak about the Carol Ann Duffy poem "War Photographer". Examining photos from war-torn areas taken during actual conflicts quite literally brought the subject of the poem to life.

In addition, I hope, it added another memory for them to keep from school.

I will certainly remember the awe and the "thank yous" from the pupils - one reason why I applied for the job.

Nicola Clark is a probationer English teacher at Lockerbie AcademyIf you have any comments, email

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