Tired and tetchy? It's time for your assessment
So this is how a real teacher feels: shattered, irritable, fed up with marking, suffering from child-overload. Just a minute. What's this in my pigeonhole? Oh, the notification from my NQT induction mentor of my next lesson observation - suddenly I feel sick. No, very sick. When's the observation? Fab. It's four days away - plenty of time to prepare.
"It's like this, kids," I try to explain. "Mummy needs to do some important stuff this afternoon and I really can't walk the dog, bake shortbread, help you with reflection and light homework." Before I can finish, both small fry chorus bitterly: "It's for skool, isn't it?" You remember the QTS standards, don't you? We could recite them in our sleep by July. We had to achieve them before we were awarded qualified teacher status - yes, that's right, at our college they were subdivided (all 68 of them) into 24 cluster headings.
Planning and teaching was one of them; classroom management was another. No, there wasn't one for time management. No, there wasn't one for how to stop Year 10 pupils smoking behind the sports hall. Induction makes all working within it quake.
The induction tutor allocated for each school has received copious advice from the local education authority, the Department for Education and Employment and the teaching unions.
The inductee has received about the same amount, but from a different perspective: our versions mention such horrors as "appeals", and "what to do if your headteacher fails you". The induction process could be described as a safety valve for the LEA, acting on behalf of the DfEE. The teacher training institutions have a vested interest in passing students through the system - so does the DfEE.
But, at the same time, the DfEE wants the world to recognise that the profession is accountable, keen on progress and happy to be appraised - hence induction, whereby the school can benchmark progress against the QTS standards and then against the induction standards.
Induction requires teaching assesments by at least two different people. Anyone who thinks of them as gentle should refer to the paperwork and try to see how they fit neatly against QTS standards. They don't. They extend your experience and skills and demand far, far more.
So, Thursday dawns. I'm ready. So is the observer. So is Year 10. "Right, let's recap on Tuesday's lesson, Year 10. What can you tell me about China?" I tap-dance my way through mandarins, concubines and the Forbidden City until the last member of Year 10 swaggers out of my classroom and the review begins in earnest.
Does the observer think that I have hit the QTS standards? Yes. "The head will observe you sometime in the next fortnight - any particular requests?" Bite lip, brain seizes. Then it slips out: "What about 9Sh? ..." The pupils in 9Sh are not naughty, no - more like apprentice forensic scientists who scan every movement and word for an error or, at the very least, an ambiguity: "But I thought you saidI" "Didn't we do that last week?" "Who was it, Miss, who invented the spinning jenny?" A few days later, the head is in position. The class is quiet (1-0 to me then) and I'm off on living conditions in Victorian Leeds. Try to communicate calm and relaxed feeling to 9Sh. Success. Lots of good answers.
Is this my doing, or are they playing to the gallery? The end of the lesson brings me to the formal assessment with the head and my induction tutor.
This is the crunch. The big question: have I officially made it through the first term's assessment? And does this mean I still have a job?
A tasteful pink form appears in my pigeonhole, painstakingly prepared by the induction tutor with her detailed statements on the lesson observations.
At last, the formal assessment meeting with the head and the induction tutor. Discussion ranges far and wide - a blur. Lots of constructive comments from both sides, and we all sign and date the pink form.
That's it then: I have successfully completed my first term's induction. Time for a gin (with no tonic).
Heather Scott teaches at Priesthorpe School, Leeds