Thank God it's Friday

25th December 1998 at 00:00
Monday My first day - virgin part-time educational researcher instead of experienced primary teacher. Panic creeps in. My usual props are missing. I fear a telephone interview that begins: "May I interview you about recruiting science teachers" will be less attention-grabbing than: "Good morning, my name is Mr Long and I will be your teacher for the next year."

I gather my interview schedule and telephone list, and inhale deeply. This is not something I did in school. The whiff of wet socks and trainers mixed with the astringent smell of hair gel did not encourage inhaling.

Anti-climax: the first contact on my list is engaged. I walk around, feeling lost without the need to teach, mark and assess.

Still engaged. I fiddle with my researcher's pencil case. Doodle a series of concentric circles. Try again, still engaged. The operator puts me through to the telephone engineers - who turn out to be a disembodied computer voice.

I am told to wait. . . wait. . . wait. A wasted morning. Nothing to show except a dawning insight into the world of the researcher. School was never like this.

Tuesday I attempt to use BT's "ring back" feature. "Not available on this number," repeats the android engineer. I recall the research professor's assertion that all interviews must be completed and analysed by Christmas. Like headteachers, they obviously have not done the job for decades.

Wednesday Success, a human voice. "No, I am not the course leader for secondary science teachers. You want my colleague, Dr X. Let me give you her number. " A voice-mail message tells me she is out for the day.

Thursday I start at the crack of dawn, having been assured that university lecturers, like primary teachers, are at their desks well before their students arrive.

Within an hour I make contact with three universities and interview two course leaders. Rejoicing soon turns to dismay when I find they hold directly opposing views.

This will be less easy to interpret than I have been led to believe. Is my new boss doing what primary teachers do all the time? Encouraging at the risk of being economical with the truth.

Friday My living room is covered in interview schedules, coffee mugs, dismembered pens, A4 paper and biscuit crumbs.

At school I had an army of more or less willing helpers to clear away at the end of the week. "Able to work co-operatively following instructions (English national curriculum, level 3)."

The phone rings as I try to clear up. It's the professor, reminding me it's my round at the pub and I had better get down there sharpish. Perhaps things aren't that different to teaching after all.

Eric Long is the pseudonym of a recently-resigned primary school teacher in north-east England

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