Ready, steady, teach - Insider knowledge

9th January 2009 at 00:00

It was the day of my first observation in my first placement as a PGCE student and I was nervous. That same uncomfortable, stomach-churning feeling you get before a painful root filling.

The lesson plan and resources were printed out and neatly packaged for Emma, my observer. I had spent hours preparing the 50-minute lesson, "An introduction to cash flows," for my Year 11 business students. But why should I be nervous? I'm a mature student, very mature some might say. In my time I have held down high-pressure jobs where I have presented to clients in testing circumstances. Cash flow - piece of cake.

Everything was done, everything except priming my pupils to be enthusiastic and to behave like angels in class. So when I spotted two of them strolling along the corridor that is precisely what I did.

"Be keen, have a go at the question," I implored. "Even if you don't know the answer. Oh, and tell the others to do the same."

The lesson appeared to go brilliantly. I had handouts, a flashy PowerPoint, some peer assessment, cracked the odd joke and finished with a short "pub quiz". The class seemed happy, I felt puffed up, almost proud of myself.

So it was a shock during feedback to be greeted by Emma with a face like thunder. She hadn't smiled once during the lesson, but was that part of the game? It got worse. She launched into me, I was "unprofessional" and she was "very angry". This from someone who only qualified the year before. It was cheating, she said, to warn my pupils beforehand.

I'm a reactive person, it's a weakness, and I reacted badly but didn't swear. For a time I was close to quitting my PGCE and hated the school. Emma and I hardly spoke again. To teach children is one thing, but I felt as though I had been treated like a child myself.

Some months later at my second placement I asked the deputy head what she expected student teachers to do. She quoted the old teaching adage: "Tell them you're going to tell them, tell them and tell them you've told them. You were doing the first part. Top marks for initiative." 'Nuff said.

Gary Sait is a maths teacher at Fir Vale School in Sheffield.

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