My classroom in the country

6th February 1998 at 00:00
I don't know if I should tell you this, given that a couple of my fellow columnists ended 1997 by taking satirical swipes at promotion wannabes. What the hell, you'll find out soon enough. I've been promoted. I have one of the jobs I've always wanted - assistant principal teacher of physics in a smallish school in beautiful countryside. I should be in heaven, but I'm not - yet.

The interview went well, which was a relatively new experience for me.

Perhaps it was my recently purchased suit, mercifully several orders of magnitude more comfortable than the pinstripe sandpaper that served me from graduation until my mid-thirties.

Maybe the drive over put me in the right mood. The ever-faithful Skoda was suffering from a neglected exhaust so the Herald, which should have been enjoying a winter vacation in a farm building, was put into service.

With "Lust for Life" on the stereo complementing rather than drowning out all the other noises the Triumph was making and the scenery passing by at a modest yet involving 50 miles per hour, I felt upbeat, if not relaxed.

I was told I'd been successful the same afternoon. Being at a large school with a split site, I was able to enjoy being congratulated by colleagues for at least a couple of weeks. People were so nice to me that I was tempted to emulate Coronation Street's Curly Watts who was about to leave his hometown on a voyage of discovery but returned after an hour because his Weather-field chums had been so generous to him prior to his departure.

Fans of the soap, which I never watch (though I often happen to be in the room when it is on), will, however, recall the frosty reception Curly was met with on pulling this stunt. I went.

In every respect I was lucky. I was leaving one school with good kids and a great staff to go to another with the same reputation. Indeed, I knew, admired and liked many of the teachers at my new workplace, having taught beside a fair number at one time or another.

Additionally, a highly respected friend from Lanark was promoted to APT chem- istry on the same day as I got the physics job, so I was in the fortunate position of going with a pal.

Despite everything being in my favour, I was absolutely flattened after my first day. I bad totally failed to estimate properly the effects of walking through corridors where the faces, all unfamiliar, knew where to go better than I did. I had to learn new systems for recording attendance, ordering equipment and submitting photocopying.

Pupils with whom, two weeks later, I like to think I have a good relationship tried it on with the new teacher on their first meeting.

They would see a teacher unsure of his environment, unable to find a pencil or new jotter when one was requested.

I had not realised just how much being at ease in one's surroundings and having an established reputation counted for. Class-work-wise, I had to board a moving train running.

If there are any supply teachers reading this, they may well be saying: "So what?" I imagine many of them have to put up with this on a weekly, if not daily basis. Supply teachers, I salute you. I have some inkling now of what it is like for you.

May you too find welcoming, permanent homes. Soon.

Gregor Steele

Gregor Steele can see sheep from his new class- room window.

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