Saved by the bell

23rd October 1998 at 01:00
Mark Styles counts down his first day

The eve of my first day: minus 15 hours and counting. At 8am tomorrow I shall make first contact and my career in teaching will be up and running, or, if the worst comes to the worst, I will.

After the PGCE course, I spent the summer holiday penniless and working like a trouper. As I glance into a mirror I am confronted by two hollow, spiritless pits where my eyes once lived.

With so little time before my baptism of fire, I am willing to try anything to regain some sparkle. At the supermarket I spot a small box marked "Ginseng". I am so desperate it may as well say "eat me".

Tuesday: the first day of a new school year and my mind is buzzing with thoughts about how the day will map out and "How can such a small capsule taste so bad?" If you have never tried ginseng, don't. It tastes the way I imagine mink poo would. But it does have a kick, and you can't help but wake up fast.

I arrive at 8.10am and enter the school doors greeted by cheery smiles on faces I recall from my brief appearances last term.

At 8.25am the registration bell goes, closely followed by any vestiges of composure. Fortunately I am sharing a tutor group with my mentor, Ann, a natural communicator and all-round raconteur. This proves invaluable because today form time lasts an hour and a half.

Period three signals my first English lesson as a professional - 8N appears either unaware or unconcerned about the privilege being afforded them. The lesson chugs along and the combination of faces displaying either a bored or confused expression reassur-ingly reminds me of my training.

Gradually the memory of how to operate in the classroom seeps back into my consciousness. I thank Mr Ginseng for his glorious medicine, which has managed to keep me awake through this long, long morning.

After lunch, midway through lesson five, I'm afraid the class will see that the new bloke is flagging and move in for the kill. I attempt to reduce the set of luggage under my eyes by tilting my head to look over a pair of imaginary glasses, like Uncle Bulgaria. It seems to work.

Eventually the clock ticks round to 3.15pm and the glad sound of the last bell. At that moment I recall countless teachers from my own school days who regularly used to inform us that the bell was for the teacher, not the pupils. Suddenly all becomes clear.

Day One has been accomplished without any real problems or tears. The kids have been pretty good too.

Mark Styles is a newly qualified teacher at a Leicester middle school

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