Thank God it's Friday

10th June 2005 at 01:00

As an advisory teacher I'm rarely called upon actually to teach. Unfair perhaps, but true, so when I was asked to do a week's emergency supply in a nursery school I was, not surprisingly, a little nervous.

Today I arrive very early, but not it seems as early as most of the staff, who smile generously and say how lovely for me to have a restful week in school. I try not to read between the lines. Are they possibly enjoying this too much? The day passes in a blur and I leave at the end with a blinding headache and wonder how I ever actually managed when I did this for a living. Will the knack ever come back ?


I am marginally better prepared today: tissues in every possible pocket, warm coat, gloves and scarf. I try to remember the Punjabi for "drink" and "get down please", both of which would have been useful yesterday. The children second guess me; today I need "come out immediately" and "toilet".

Timothy, a child with Down syndrome, sticks to me like Velcro, which I have to admit I enjoy, particularly as there is a distinct lack of cuddles in my usual job. I wonder why other staff smile so knowingly. I later find my coat pockets full of soil and the hem of my jumper smeared with copious quantities of green mucous. Yes, it's all starting to come back to me.


The fear of not being up to it has largely dropped away and enthusiasm is starting to creep in. I take in lots of resources, including Play-Doh with raisins in. The children love it and the staff appreciate the change from their usual plain pink.

As I relax I have the chance to really observe the children for the first time and find myself thinking of all the activities I could do with them and the experiences they would enjoy. Of course I don't get a moment all day to write anything down. I'll have to do it tonight at home - yes, it's definitely starting to come back.


I spend time with a group of children working with a puppet theatre. They improvise with the props for Goldilocks and make their own stories, which are incredibly complex and in four different languages. They all seem to understand perfectly; surprisingly, so do I.


I am now worrying about becoming an adviser again. The staff present me with a card signed by everyone and I realise I've made new friends who I will miss. I buy The TES on the way home and start looking at teaching jobs. I remember now why I started teaching in the first place. The children are fantastic.

Mary James is an early years advisory teacher in the north of England. She writes under a pseudonym. If you have a diary you would like to share (of no more than 520 words), write to TES Friday, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX or email We pay for every article we publish

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