Time to stick your neck out

1st May 1998 at 01:00
PGCE student Gemma Warren fights the urge to assume the ostrich position

Let me talk to you about the ostrich position. I've been using it quite a lot recently, and basically it involves finding an enormous box of sand, positioning yourself above it, and then sticking your head down as far as it will go.

Or you could just stay in bed every Friday when The TES comes out, and pretend that you don't have to get a job. I'm facing the nightmare reality that there are only four weeks left at my teaching practice school, and sooner or later I have to make it on my own.

And if this wasn't traumatic enough, a year later than all your friends, you have to get your head round the fact that it's finished - you're no longer a student.

I'm not getting much sympathy for this seeing as since September I've been having screaming rows with any of my friends who dare call me a student.

"Student? I've got more work than you'll ever have! Don't you realise how much pressure I'm under? The future depends on me!" (Desperately hold up an unread GCSE syllabus and 10 empty jars of extra-caffeine coffee.) Now I'm counting down the seconds until I have to hand back my students' union card. "I'll never be able to get a student stand-by at the theatre again," I moan dramatically.

No one has the guts so far to point out that I've never actually bought a student stand-by because I spend so much time complaining about how much work I've got.

I resent the suggestion that now is the time to finally put my degree to some practical purpose.

I am deliberately ignoring the pile of application forms on my desk and spend every afternoon reading back issues of Smash Hits.

I mean, look at these things. Explain your philosophy of teaching. In 2cms. Show that you are committed to Equal Opportunities - 3cms. Why did you choose to become a teacher? Because it was listed under the "Suitable Careers For A Libran" section of my astrological coffee mug, that's why.

And I was too thin to be an opera singer. I finally applied for a job that only needed a letter, and miraculously got an interview.

It's OK, I tell my friends, it's sorted. They'll see that I've been writing for The TES and obviously they'll want me.

"Ah, Ms Warren, I see that you've been writing for The Times Educational Supplement." Oh yes, Mr Headmaster. I am extremely committed to keeping abreast of the latest educational issues and furthering my professional development in this fascinating, dynamic and ever-changing field of ours.

"Reading your articles, Ms Warren, you seem to have an irreverent attitude towards national examinations and continually question the value of any set text that doesn't have an accompanying film starring Leonardo DiCaprio."

Oh no, Mr Headmaster, I am a great supporter of national testing, at every level, or every week if you so desired, and regularly read all those lovely yellow books sent to me by the SATs people, whoever they are. Whatever they are.

I am very interested in the merits of labelling every one of my pupils from the embryo onwards, and severely frown on individual growth and intellectual independence.

Being a successful product of the GCSE system myself, I feel it is my duty to uphold the sterling values it represents. If you do, of course. Otherwise I take all that back.

"But Ms Warren, reading your articles, you seem to have a disastrous record in classroom management."

But Mr Headmaster, I am an English student. I make it up. I'm paid to be imaginative. It's just another example of my earnest desire to foster the qualities of creativity, freedom of expression and personal response.

I think you'll find if you read once more that I have a continual fascination with various types of punishment, and constantly fantasise about their use.

"Well it all seems very real to me." Silence.

"And what's all this about a Mr C? Is it true that you spend every in-service training day and staff meeting ogling him and constantly thinking up bizarre reasons to spend time with him?

"That would hardly be the kind of behaviour we'd encouarge in our newly qualified teachers."

Mr Headmaster, it's all fabrication, I promise. Have you seen that photo of me they use? It's grotesque! I couldn't get a bloke even if I tried . . .

Mr Headmaster? I really do think I could persuade you I would be an ideal candidate for this job . . . have you read my proposal about getting students to mark their own work?

No? What about the one about a virtual reality Leonardo DiCaprio in every classroom? You'll find that on page 16 of my letter. It's all about IT.

That school is getting back to me. Pass me the bucket of sand.

Gemma Warren is a PGCE student at London University's Institute of Education

She is also a regular contributor to the 'First Encounters' column which appears fortnightly in The TES Friday magazine

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