Now I have failed, I can help others to succeed

25th April 2014 at 01:00

"You've got about 30 minutes to make your moving toy," announced the tutor. "Off you go."

I pretended to be fine but inside I was beginning to panic. As part of my primary teacher training, I was in a classroom that was set up as a design and technology lab. The enthusiastic tutor had described our task in detail, but she may as well have been speaking a foreign language - I didn't have the first clue where to start.

My anxiety increased as I realised that my classmates were all beginning to construct their toys, whereas I had made no progress.

I roamed the room, eyeing my peers' creations with a mixture of awe and envy. My confidence levels began to plummet. I felt clumsy, incompetent, a joke.

I started to mess about, twisting bits of wire into funny shapes, rolling wheels across the table, trying to make my friends laugh - anything to alleviate the pain of knowing that I was a failure.

After what seemed like the longest half hour of my life, the tutor told us that our time was up. I had nothing to show. My heart pounded as she moved about the room, exclaiming over some of the students' marvellous working models. I stood very still, sick with anxiety, avoiding eye contact with the tutor and willing the ordeal to be over.

At long last we left the classroom. I was relieved to have escaped public humiliation, but I felt stupid and small.

As an academically successful child, I had never felt the sting of public failure. But that day I experienced first-hand what it feels like to be a child with special educational needs in a mainstream school, and I have never forgotten that feeling of being totally out of my depth. How I felt that day is how some children feel every day. I got a glimpse of what it is like to be one of them and that has helped me every day of my career.

So, my best lesson is not one I taught, but one I was part of, and I believe that every teacher should learn a lesson like this before they are let loose in a classroom.

Suzanne Hudson is a supply teacher in Yorkshire

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