Tomorrow's citizens are pupils today

3rd March 2006 at 00:00
After what seems like five minutes in the job, this week saw me send off the first wave of applications for positions next year. It was a bit of shock, to say the least.

What should have been the painless part of the exercise, printing out the form, nearly ended in me reducing the printer to a pile of inky plastic shards. What demonic force sent these things to test us? If anyone knows why when you ask a printer to purgedelete cancel a job, it just carries on regardless, spewing out paper like a stubborn teenager of the technological world, I would be delighted to know.

The form was finally dispatched but it confirmed the dreaded truth that the job hunting process is now dauntingly real. The local authority has organised a professional development day on interview techniques and application procedures. Putting yourself under the microscope can be unnerving but it got me thinking about the acquisition of skills.

Just over a year ago, the thought of standing up in front of 30 or so baying pupils was a source of terror; now it is almost second nature. It just happens.

I remember reading a teaching book and being confounded by the plethora of issues I hadn't even considered, such as best places to stand in the classroom, effective use of voice tone and identifying disruption tactics.

These issues are like barnacles on the underside of the learning curve that you don't notice until you stumble across them.

It is comforting to realise the progression. I almost feel like a teacher! Thinking back to this time last year, taking on the induction year had seemed impossible.

Still, what I wasn't ready for was supervising the Valentine disco. Flocks of dolled-up lassies in skimpy attire (making Artic Monkeys apt music to be played) kept scanning the room in giggling huddles for their next slow dance partner. This occasionally meant physically hooking one of the many boys who seemed to spend the evening running laps around the room with illuminated neon plastic rods. It was yet another facet to pupils having a well rounded school experience.

Which leads me on to this month's buzzword: citizenship.

It is almost amusing, the amount of educational jargon that comes up in induction year. CPD events can start to look like shady pyramid schemes, development officers start looking like sales reps and occasionally suckers like me are drawn into everything they are saying.

Initiatives and policy fodder are abundant, but most teachers would probably agree on those that do make sense and should be taken on board.

Citizenship is one of those. Apart from being a national priority, it is a notion that can be incorporated into different subject areas.

The school has made a start to promote citizenship in an accessible way. A noticeboard asks questions in pupil-friendly language, such as "Are you involved in the school committee?", to trigger reactions and self-evaluation from pupils.

We now have a committee, with staff from various subjects, as well as parent and pupil representation, to help draw up a development plan to audit the status of citizenship awareness and promote it. It acknowledges that not all learning is restricted to the classroom and that young people need to understand the mechanisms of society and feel part of the system before they can feel responsibility for it.

One point which came up in the initial meeting was the potential to cover more citizenship issues in personal and social education, such as current affairs and global awareness.

Politics is an alien concept to most pupils I talk to and I don't think it should be the responsibility of modern studies classes alone. If we are pushing literacy and numeracy across the curriculum, then perhaps we should do more with issues such as this.

My S4 class was recently studying Jan Needle's A Game of Soldiers, a play set in the Falklands. I was stunned none of them had previously heard of the Iron Lady, let alone the Falklands conflict. Out of interest, I asked some basic political knowledge questions and was saddened by the level of disinterest.

If we don't teach young people that they are citizens of a wider community, how can we expect them to care when they leave school? Perhaps communication and care taken now might stop future politicians from making desperate bids to reach the disinterested mass by taking part in sensationalist tactics of popular television programmes. Well, one can only hope.

Nicola Clark is a probationer English teacher at Lockerbie AcademyIf you have any comments, email

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