When football is more than a game

5th May 1995 at 01:00
Out-of-class activities are not always as simple as you think, warns Trevor Patterson. Finding the ideal teaching job after qualification in the ideal school that suits you can be as likely as finding Lord Lucan riding Shergar in the Grand National. The present job climate dictates that the onus is on the newly qualified teacher to sell themselves as much as possible to get a teaching post.

As well as looking for an efficient and effective teacher, schools are increasingly what you can offer outside the classroom. Many schools run activities after school. The obvious ones include sports such as football, rugby, netball and gymnastics, but there are also clubs such as computers, drama and nature studies.

Now if a job is at stake, it is tempting to try to portray yourself as a mixture of Daley Thompson, Kenneth Branagh and Allan Titchmarsh. If you do have a particular skill to offer, of course, stress this during the interview. But be wary of generating false expectations, because not all these activities are as simple as they sound and you may not realise what you are letting yourself in for when it comes to the actual job.

Being a football enthusiast I thought I would be all right taking on the school soccer team. I soon found out I was unprepared for what it entailed. Many lunchtimes were swallowed up arranging fixtures on the phone and trying to find lost kit and a lot of effort has to be put in after school taking children to and from matches.

Although primary school football might not set your pulse racing, for the children it is of great importance. For some it is the only thing they may be good at. Some children who are not academically gifted gain great self-esteem and a belief in themselves if they can say they have represented the school. And though some teachers have pontificated about the pros and cons of competition, I have found children derive a lot of pleasure whatever their abilities. Even if your team has been walloped 5-0 there is still a great enthusiasm. There will always be the boy who proclaims: "Sir, I was the one who came nearest to scoring."

Being involved in school sports also gives you the opportunity to meet parents. Most enjoy seeing their children play and are keen to help in any way. Their support and enthusiasm can be infectious and create a good atmosphere.

Sometimes, however, they can be a little too keen. I once had a parent who liked to give the children a sweet at half-time during the team talk. One by one the children would leave me and go off to get their sweet. It became such a custom that in the end when the whistle blew they would run not to me but to the pied piper with the Jelly Babies.

Some parents can also be over zealous in wanting to dictate organisation and team selection and question referees with the sort of vitriol normally reserved for premiership matches. But then some of them take the under-10s match in the local park more seriously.

I shall never forget watching one school rugby match when an irate mother took exception to some strong tackling on her child. She ran on to the pitch and dragged him off shouting at the dismayed opposition: "Get yer 'ands off him, you dirty bugger."

My school is fortunate in having a minibus to help in travelling to other schools. Having good discipline in the classroom is an essential prerequisite of good teaching. But having discipline in a school minibus is more important still. My local authority sets out rigid guidelines before anyone is allowed to transport children. If you find you have to take children on journeys, it is important that you seek advice and are aware of any legal requirements. The safety of children is paramount and should not be taken lightly.

There is a world of difference between driving your own car and transporting children in a minibus from A to B. A gaggle of garrulous 11-year-olds travelling home from a football match in the rush hour can be an accident waiting to happen. It is essential for children to realise they must be sensible. If any child does misbehave it is important not to ignore it and pretend it's only high spirits: it needs to be reported to a senior staff member and dealt with immediately.

Going on long journeys can be particularly tedious for children so it's a good idea to engage them in an activity to fill the time and so reduce any misbehaviour. One colleague at my school gave them a sports quiz book and they became so engrossed in the quiz they were almost reluctant to leave the bus and play their game of rugby.

Taking on activities after school is rewarding and worthwhile. It can also, however, be a big responsibility and needs careful thought and preparation. But with the right organisation it need not turn into a headache.

Trevor Patterson is a teacher at Churwell Primary School, Leeds.

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