Speaking out for our cause was worth the stage fright

2nd May 2008 at 01:00
Carrie-Anne Taylor took part in her first strike rally and overcame nerves to speak to thousands
Carrie-Anne Taylor took part in her first strike rally and overcame nerves to speak to thousands

Far from a lie-in on the day of the strike, I was up at 6.45am to finish work on my speech. I would later deliver it to more than 2,000 other teachers and representatives of education. The pressure of talking to a room full of adults, rather than one full of lively 16-year-olds, filled me with dread.

My next activity in the morning was to watch Christine Blower, acting general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, speaking on BBC breakfast news. I was even more determined to speak after seeing her talk with such conviction about our cause.

We have very strong NUT representation at my school. We all met at Holborn tube station, then went for breakfast.

Our mood was mixed - some were jubilant as this was the first time we had taken industrial action, but we were all sad that it had got to this point. We had not taken strike action as an easy resort, but to make the Government take notice.

We made our way to listen to the musician Billy Bragg, who raised the mood of the crowd, despite the rainy weather.

About 4,000 people gathered before the march. We grouped beneath our school banner. I gave a brief interview to the London Tonight programme about pay and conditions in a rather angry tone.

The march got under way at 11.20am. We set off to resounding shouts of "What do we want? Fair pay. When do we want it? Now!" The air was filled with whistles as we made our way out of Lincoln's Inn Fields towards the Strand to reach our final destination at Parliament Square.

As we passed Downing Street, the air turned rather frosty and there was booing from the marchers. We felt supported when we heard the car horns from other service workers, ambulances and the fire brigade.

I began to shake when we reached the Methodist Central Hall. Inside, we were informed that final police counts said that 6,500 people turned out on the march. The hall erupted to thunderous applause.

I hope my speech was representative of the many hardworking teachers who love their job but can no longer afford to do it.

We listened, applauded and cheered one another.

Finally, at 2.30pm, the meeting was over and I could reconvene with my colleagues. I sat and had a well-earned lime and soda - honestly. I had to return home to plan my lessons.

The writer is an English and media studies teacher in north London.

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