Tales from new teachers

10th April 2015 at 01:00
a perfect storm

The problem

There's one on every teacher training course and in every staffroom: Little Miss Perfect (LMP), or her male counterpart Mr Know-It-All. No matter how much research you've undertaken, how much experience you've got or how hard you have strived in the face of adversity, they've done it better or had it worse.

Marked a pile of assessments over the weekend? They marked a mountain - and cross-referenced it against the work of the rest of their classes, while stirring a pot of home-made ragout to feed 20 guests, comforting a crying baby and cutting out individual medals to give to their adoring pupils.

This well-dressed octopus is your nemesis.

The options

I have one LMP on my course, and have spoken to many people who have trained alongside similar personalities and been driven to the brink of madness by the end of nine months.

For example, when I congratulated a coursemate on making it in to work at 7.30am on a Monday morning, as she had promised herself on Friday evening, LMP piped up. "That's nothing," she said. "I'm in at 7.15am at the latest every day; it's the only way I can get through all the books I have to mark."

This was on a group Facebook thread, so I could have called on the wrath of the others to back me up if I had chosen to erupt, Vesuvius-style, at her blatant attempt at martyrdom and one-upmanship. But I tried another tack instead.

The result

I simply replied: "Well, aren't you just Little Miss Perfect?" I'm not advocating bickering or adopting a gang mentality on a training course (if ever), but, after restraining myself through countless smile-and-nod moments over the first two terms, I had to do something cathartic in the name of self-preservation.

To my amazement, my response incited some humility in LMP. She admitted that she only arrived at school so early because she found she was constantly behind on her marking and felt overwhelmed by it all. It turns out that she is human like the rest of us, and perhaps her LMP attributes are a defence mechanism to conceal her feelings of insecurity. I learned that much from the exchange.

As an added bonus, LMP learned to bite her tongue when it came to boasting and seemed much more aware of the abrasive effect that these comments had. I learned that treading softly is better than all-out anger, and she learned that humility is the way to gain support in times of need.

The writer is training to be a teacher in the East Midlands

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