Thank God It's Friday

26th September 1997 at 01:00
Monday: It's my first day as a science teacher, but there are no pupils. I finished my PGCE at the beginning of the summer and suddenly here I am on an in-service training day for my job at St Mary's RC High School in Blackpool. I check out Room 056, the classroom where I will take registration with my Year 8 tutor group. It turns out to be where the lab technicians live. David, the head of science, assures me the mistake will be sorted out by Wednesday when the pupils arrive. The day looms large.

I seem to have acquired folders full of timetables and rules. I feel grateful that I've been at St Mary's on placement; the other newly-qualified teachers have to puzzle out the baffling school layout as well as everything else.

Tuesday: It's my five-year-old daughter's first day back at school and she's excited. My three-year-old is grumpy - she's got another week before pre-school opens again and she's sulking because she doesn't have a school uniform to wear.

More meetings, more information. I meet my daughter from school - she tells me she can write "cat" in joined-up writing.

Wednesday: I dreamed last night I'd turned up at the wrong school. A diversion around Blackpool takes a long time and I squeak in just before the briefing.

Collect my new form from the quad. I look at the row and think ahead to when the jumbled blur of faces will be individual personalities.

My first lesson as a teacher disappears quickly. It feels good to have started. All day I give out books and instructions and explain my name to disbelieving pupils. "What's that Miss, is that a Mrs or a Miss?" "It's Ms." "How do you pronounce that?" Thursday: Meet my GCSE group - a bright, sparky bunch. My heart goes out to the new boy who is a refugee from Montserrat.

On a tour of the science area I show Year 7 the lab technicians' room - I've timed our visit with their lunch - so 30 nervous 11-year-olds file into Room 056 and watch Joanne eat a jacket potato. I'm aware that I am the children's first experience of laboratory science - I want to catch their imaginations and make them feel science is wow!

Friday: Wake up knackered. My three-year-old decides that 6am is absolutely the latest any human being should sleep.

I get off to a disastrous start with a Year 9 class, mixing up where I'm meant to be and leaving them outside a lab for nearly 10 minutes. But somehow they soon have their hands up, bursting to answer questions - a sweet feeling.

Driving back, my head is buzzing trying to figure out ways of helping those who have already stood out as faster, slower or noisier. My daughter tells me she is to be given a commendation for her excellent work this week. It is going to be a good year.

Karen Barker is a single parent living in Lytham St Anne's, Lancashire.

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