Thank God It's Friday

1st March 1996 at 00:00
MONDAY: I am counting the hours to half-term while contemplating yet another strategy to make my Year 8 class understand that I am the one in charge. The glint in their eyes, which ignited the moment they realised they had a student teacher for the rest of the term, has failed to dim over the last five weeks.

Little do they know, as I enter the classroom, that I have a new, steely determination. I've checked my notes from lecture 37 last term, and am ready to put theory into practice. As usual, I issue a warning of the horrible punishment which will greet their misbehaviour. Then, for the first time, threat becomes reality and I quickly issue three detentions. I brace myself for protests and feel slightly let down as each miscreant accepts their lot with quiet fortitude and even a knowing smile. I ponder who's gained the upper hand.

TUESDAY: I revel in the enthusiasm of my Year 7 class of 11 year olds and wonder for the umpteenth time where it all goes by the time they're Year 10, aged 14. Silence greets the questions on which I have laboured deep into the previous night, and they shift nervously in their seats, anxious to avoid the ultimate humiliation of having to offer an opinion.

I make a mental note to forgive Year 8 their exuberance.

WEDNESDAY: Today my teaching practice is being observed again. I tart up the lesson plan and remember to add at least three Key Elements to the box marked "aim of the lesson". I am worried that Year 9 may take the opportunity to demonstrate their ability at running rings around me but they're full of surprises and this time are on their best behaviour.

This must have something to do with my growing confidence, my new-found abilities and the excellence of my lesson plan. Of course the presence of a stranger in a suit taking copious notes may have had some effect.

THURSDAY: So far, I have managed to conceal from Year 9 that I know as little as they do about the different religions of the world. Teaching RE is one of many new experiences during teaching practice but, as a would-be history teacher, I wonder how long it will be before they rumble me.

The class are supposed to be researching marriage in different religions but I seem to spend most of the lesson counselling the boys who are going to have to play the bridegrooms in role play. I make another mental note: don't even attempt this with Year 10.

Meanwhile, Duncan is resolutely refusing to "marry" Louise. I foolishly ask him to explain why and am reminded that teenagers have fewer qualms than adults about saying what they think. Louise is giving me thunderous black looks but at least she's not in tears.

FRIDAY: The countdown to a holiday - however brief - is getting louder in my head. My fellow students and I find time to discuss how we plan to recover during half term. I take this as a Good Sign. We talk about something other than marking, lesson plans and the horrors of Years 8, 9 and 10 - even if it is only sleep.

I realise I have reached another milestone. At the beginning of term, I was offered some advice from an old professional: "Stop saying 'please', it makes you sound as if you don't really expect them to do as you ask". I was reluctant to adopt such an authoritarian tone and resolved to stick to my pleases. But now, a mere six weeks later, please is a rare word in my vocabulary. Does this mean I'm beginning to assume the mantle of a real teacher?

Sara Evans is a PGCE student, specialising in history, at York University

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