Thank God it's Friday

4th October 1996 at 01:00
Monday: The first day of my PGCE in secondary physics with science.

The principal tells us teaching is held in high esteem, there will be jobs at the end of the course and it's not brains that make a teacher but drive and enthusiasm.

We are warned of the hard work ahead but, having sat down for more than two minutes, I feel I've had the morning off.

At lunchtime I phone home to see how my two-year-old got on at playgroup. Like me, it was her first morning. She's happy. I would be too, if only my grant cheque had arrived.

Time to meet the other scientists. But they don't look like scientists. What an interesting disparate, well-qualified bunch. I'm one of the oldest but they're not all 21-year-old fresh graduates. What a relief.

We get our timetable, lists of assignments and books to read plus more promises of lots of hard work to come. Will there be time to sleep?

Greet my two happy daughters at five o'clock. We toddle home for play, bathtime and bedtime. Then I start the reading, chuffed at my self-discipline and organisation.

Tuesday: Woken at half five by my youngest who's wet her bed. I try not to read too much into this but can't get her back to sleep. I still run out of time and depart at eight, leaving naked children and bath full of soggy sheets in my mother's capable hands.

Ninety down the motorway. First chance to meet the other physicists as a group - all nine, including one other woman. A potted history of British education and the national curriculum is followed by building bridges of straws and paper.

A free afternoon. I take the reading list to the library before copies of all the essential books disappear. Then I go into the solicitors to sign my divorce papers. Enjoy the two hours with the girls before their bedtime. Fix lock to bathroom window, cook tea and start reading the handouts.

Wednesday: A mixed bunch of scientists for lesson planning. We work together to come up with the ingredients of a good lesson plan. We're encouraged to look forward to the day when we won't be assessing our own performances as much as thinking about what the pupils have learnt. More handouts.

At lunchtime a friend offers to lend me a computer for the year. Everything is going right. My grant cheque has arrived: Pounds 1,704.32 to last until January 6. I wonder if it will?

Thursday: A biology lesson for physicists. We consider whether mushrooms are more animal than plant. There is enough of a lunch break to walk across the campus to a student's house. They have crisps and a choc ice. I stick to my sandwich box.

In the afternoon a 15-minute individual tutorial. My tutor says I've made a good start and that my teaching practice for the term will be two minutes' walk from home. Brilliant. Too tired to wash-up or prepare lunch boxes. I know I'll regret it in the morning. Monday's clean washing is still sitting on my bedroom floor waiting to be put away.

Friday: Have I only been on the course a week? My whole life is PGCE. We are introduced to the art of form tutoring followed by four hours of chemistry - it's been 12 years since my last lesson. Inspiring stuff about acids and alkalis, chopping up red cabbage and testing household chemicals. We decide to avoid certain toothpastes and most indigestion remedies on the strength of our results.

Half an hour wind down in the gym before joining the Friday rush home. One week down, 35 to go.

Karen Barker is a single parent with two daughters aged two and four. She is a physics graduate of Manchester University currently attending the University College of St Martin at Lancaster.

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