I had just started my very first term of full-time teaching on a school-led teacher training programme. In hindsight, I really had no clue what I was doing. Then, just two weeks in, the phone call came that the senior management team had been dreading: we were to be inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate.
The week seemed to go OK and, as I went into my last lesson on the Friday, I thought I had escaped a lesson observation. I was feeling pretty happy. But as I began the lesson, the pupils suddenly sat bolt upright and one pointed surreptitiously to the door.
In came the inspector.
What's worse is that the inspector in question was one I had been avoiding all week. She taught me biology when I was at school and we didn't exactly get along.
Being a new teacher, I panicked. I was sweating, nervous, stumbling over my words, running around the classroom like a headless chicken. Thankfully it was a shared lesson with a colleague, so I only had 25 minutes of pain to endure.
As soon as my stint was over, I dashed to the door and fled down the corridor.
But within a few steps I realised that I had left my jacket on the desk - I needed to retrieve it because I was about to leave for the weekend. So I reluctantly re-entered the room, as stealthily as possible, just in time to witness the following: the inspector stood up, got her skirt caught in the chair she was sitting on and fell flat on her face. The papers and books she was carrying flew everywhere. Then the chair, which was attached to her skirt, fell on top of her, pinning her to the ground.
The kids were in shock and didn't say a word. I was pretty shocked myself and incredibly embarrassed for her. I helped the inspector to her feet, checked she was OK, then made a beeline for the door even faster than before.
I heard footsteps behind me and then a shout. Horrified, I turned to find the inspector chasing me down the corridor, calling me back so she could provide feedback on my lesson. The reason for her fall, it turned out, was that she had hurriedly risen to catch me when I first made a run for it.
We sat down in the smallest, most cramped room possible, with our knees almost touching. Both of our faces were a deep shade of crimson. She thanked me for helping her up and saving her from more embarrassment - and then she said that she liked my lesson.
It pays, it turns out, to help an inspector in need. Because my lesson was clearly awful.
The writer is a teacher in an independent school in the North of England Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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