New face

6th June 2003 at 01:00
Name - Liz Cooper

Age - 25

Current post Newly qualified, teaching geography and humanities at Hartcliffe school in Bristol

After leaving sixth-form college I took a couple of years out and worked in a shop while I thought about what to do. I saved money and bought a motorbike before deciding to go to university. I completed a degree in geography and environmental management at the University of the West of England, followed by a PGCE.

Teaching was something I thought I'd like to do, so during my degree I volunteered at a local school which made me realise it's quite challenging.

But it didn't put me off. You get the feeling that you want to try to help the children in some way.

My NQT year is going really well. This is a challenging school in a challenging area, but I feel I've settled in well. There's a nice staff community. It is also a good teacher training school, and there's lots of support for NQTs. There are six of us, and we help each other. The NQTs have all been given tutor groups, which is a great way to get to know the kids.

The main challenge has to be pupils' behaviour. You can know your subject well, but at the end of the day you've got to have them under control so that you can put your subject across.

That's the main thing you have to try to prepare yourself for. You've got to be able to go into a classroom and be confident and consistent. You've got to have your same standards set over and over again. You have to know what you want, and stick to it.

The schools I was sent to for my teaching practice were also quite challenging so I knew what was expected of me. But it's so different when you're teaching rather than just being part of somebody else's class.

The high points this year have to be when you realise you're getting through to the children, or when you realise that you are valued by them.

You hear little comments in the corridor. Around here, the children like to say "you're safe" - that's a real compliment at our school.

Low points are those days when nothing seems to go right - and it is usually because of behaviour problems. It can really make or break your day.

Sometimes when you have a bad day you really start questioning yourself: is this for me? But you get back into it. And even though the students might not be that great to you in the classroom, they do value you. I think that makes it worthwhile.

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