Someone who visited our group of Secondary English PGCE students early on asked whether we'd been keeping up our reflective journals. We all nodded. Of course we had. Silly question. Then afterwards in the refectory someone said: "We were all lying, weren't we?"
Everyone laughed and puffed out their cheeks as if to say "well, what idiot's got time to keep a journal?" I then realised I might be the only one scribbling away hysterically at midnight recording every major agony and minor triumph. I suspect, though, that I wasn't the only one at all and that the situation just proved it isn't only teenagers who hate being caught working hard. Now, though, near the end of my first placement at Heathside School in Weybridge, Surrey, my attitude has gone through various stages from "I must keep up my journal, whatever else happens" right through to "What idiot's got time to keep a journal?" A draft of my 4,000 word assignment on "Teaching Strategies I Have Used (And Misused) And Why" must be handed in by the middle of December, and a list of all the other written work I should be producing is pinned up by my desk on a scroll.
The South West London Teacher Education Consortium, to which my university (see right) belongs, produces a thick folder packed with exciting bedtime reading for every student. Included in the folder are Activity Sheets, each one based on a different subject - Special Educational Needs, 6th forms, literacy, etc - for me to research in both my placement schools. They are called Activity Sheets for a good reason, because they involve running along corridors after staff that can help me with the tasks. Can I observe your lesson? Will you let me interview you? Can I copy your scheme of work? If I give you pound;500, will you do these damn sheets for me?
Then, of course, I have to write everything up in great detail, trying to use edu-speak to show how, even though I might not be able to actually teach yet, I can certainly write about it all with flair.
I fit all this in between writing evaluations of my own lessons, observations of other people's lessons, monthly plans, weekly plans, minute-by-minute lesson plans (to which I forget to refer), more observations, notes on the Special Educational Needs support I'm doing, notes on my mentor meetings, yet more observations, photocopying lists, to-do lists, and the occasional shopping list in case I ever get the time to buy some sleeping tablets and calming teas.
All this stuff used to get typed up in neat double-spacing on crisp white sheets of A4. Since mid-October, when I began teaching for real, my evaluations and observations are scrawled on the back of lesson plans or in a coffee-stained notebook. I make sure I date my work and underline the title in the hope that my tutor will accept it all. I may, though, take a tip from some of the students in my classes and conveniently forget to put my name on any of it, scrappy, intermittent reflective journal included.