Thank God it's Friday

6th March 1998 at 00:00
Monday Today I have no teaching and this is the only morning that holds no fears for me. I spend the day on my word processor trying to convert all my worksheets for Word 6 to Word 97, as the new site I'll be teaching at on Friday only has the updated system. I believe my work is officially described as a portfolio career, but it feels more like a never-working-with-the-same-equipment-two-days-running kind of career.

Tuesday I start the day with a group known to me as the head bangers, since one of them tried to assault me last term. This is a general national vocational qualification group, most of whom would rather be elsewhere - anywhere - and if they have to sit in front of a computer they'll be into the seamier realms of the Internet every time I turn my back. It's like spinning plates - I've no sooner persuaded one group out of Babewatch and back into Excel, than another lot are discovering the uncensored delights of Ginger Spice.

I go directly from them to an adult special needs group and spend an hour holding nervous hands while I show the mature students how moving the mouse on the table moves the little arrow on the screen. "Look, now it's changed shape, move it a bit further, now click! Well, no, not with that button. When I've got the word processor back, we'll see if you can type your name."

Wednesday The afternoon and evening are spent home tutoring for the 11-plus exam that still exists in our neighbourhood. This is luxury teaching: one-to-one in a warm room with a cup of coffee and Mum next door in the kitchen. They're a nice lot of kids, but there's a limit to what you can do in an hour a week and there's always the risk of being in conflict with the school, as one boy told me: "I know there's three right angles in a triangle - Sir said so last week!" Thursday A GCSE group today, doing information technology on the side as a little light relief. They're not quite as involved with the Internet as Tuesday's lot and they're much more discreet about it. One of them covered the screen with his hands when I approached. "You can't look at that, Miss. It's not decent." It's good to know it's possible to embarrass them.

Friday Today it's my Computers for the Petrified class - grown-ups, of course. Teenagers don't know what it feels like to be frightened by a computer - they'll have it sussed in the first five minutes. The students in my group are mostly in their forties and fifties and are very dubious about the whole thing.

We start with how to control the mouse (sometimes known as Solitaire) and if I'm lucky they go away from the first session looking reassured and pleased with themselves. Most of them will be back next week and some will get several word-processing certificates by the end of the course.

Go home exhausted. I've taught five different groups and six individuals in 11 different places, using five different networks and two versions of Word on alternate days. Oh, and eight different printers. Is there a course on Time Management for Portfolio Teachers, and would I be able to find the time to do it?

Joanna Livingston is a teacher living in Belvedere, Kent

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