Worth biting the bullet

8th April 2005 at 01:00
After two years on the unqualified teachers scale in two mainstream inner-London schools I knew I wanted to specialise in special needs. I have always worked in these departments, and in the second mainstream school it was the severe learning difficulties pupils that got my attention.

Once I'd qualified I decided to complete my NQT year at a special needs school. Friends and colleagues thought I was looking for an easy ride: smaller classes, more support. I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I wanted to do it anyway.

I approached the change as professionally as I could: I did my research, spoke to colleagues in and outside the field, searched websites for resources. I figured that I'd been around the block having spent many years teaching in Jamaica and three years working in mainstream London schools. I felt prepared for anything.

How could I be so wrong? I got my SLD post and at the start of the first week I marched into school ready to take on the challenge. I was ecstatic when I met my students. At the end of the week I questioned my sanity - what had I done? I was weary, distressed and down-trodden. My ears ached with the screaming of one child who found it difficult to adjust to the loss of his favourite teacher and to accept me as his replacement. I was chased around the playground by another. I didn't expect this. The hours were long and at times I wondered if I'd bitten off more than I could chew.

I've been here almost a year. Time has passed. I've grown, my pupils have adjusted to change. The staff are great, especially my class team. I'm glad I bit the bullet and made the swap.

Odette Small is a teacher at Michael Tippett school in the London borough of Lambeth

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