Yes, mother knows best

1st December 2006 at 00:00
He used to laugh at how hard his mother worked. Now he's a trainee teacher, he knows where she's coming from


I was dreading this term because my 22-year-old son had left Durham University to take up a PGCE course at Birmingham and was moving back to life at home after four years away.

Two teachers in one house - what a nightmare that could potentially be.

While he was considering teaching, he spent a week in the science department in the school where I work. When he was asked why he wanted to be a teacher, he said because of the long holidays. "But," a colleague said, "you have to work hard. Look at how hard your mum works." To which my son replied: "No one has to work that hard."

I was told the paperwork I did was unnecessary, I got up for work at a ridiculous hour in the morning, I spent too long planning lessons and I never went out during term time.

Fast forward to two months into his teaching practice. After his first school visit he came back and said: "Teachers in that school use these planning books. Do you?" (I had considered him bright.) He came home one evening and said: "I am absolutely shattered. Today I have taught two full lessons." He walked into my bedroom at 11.20pm another night with scissors and paper for my husband and me to cut out key words and put them in envelopes for him. When he came home the following evening he moaned that after spending hours preparing the activity, the pupils completed it in five minutes.

At 9pm one evening he asked me what he could do, as he needed wood lice for an experiment and it had got too cold and they had disappeared from the garden. My husband got the torch and scrambled under the shed and I looked on the internet for a pint of maggots as an alternative that could be delivered to school in the morning. "Never am I going to leave planning to the last minute again," my son said.

I have got up at 6.30am on several occasions to find a note from my son saying he has already left for school because he needed to get a lesson prepared. He has also cancelled playing five-a-side football on Thursday nights "because he has too much to do".

He recently said he would tidy his room because he had a ridiculous amount of paperwork to sort out and that the amount of he had been given was "stupid".

I am now being told that "It will only be like this while I am training"

and "Once I've got all my resources sorted it will take me no time to plan lessons". But the most common lament is, "It cannot get any harder than this."

Will he survive? Who knows? I am loving it. I have not stopped smiling

Louise Branch is head of ICT at Chase Terrace Technology College in Burntwood, Staffordshire


When I tell colleagues that my mum is a teacher, I always feel sheepish because people tend to think that I am merely following in her footsteps.

This is a little wide of the mark.

My mum only became a teacher when I was 13 and this had little to do with me wanting to teach. If it was to have had any influence, it would have been more likely to put me off teaching than inspire me.

I used to laugh at her for doing so much work, saying hypothetically that if I were a teacher, I would do far less work. I can see now why she enjoys seeing me struggling. Like most trainees, I think the intensity of the work has been a shock to the system. I don't know why, but I never believed the people who told me that teaching was hard work.

The hardest part of training is keeping on top of things. Organisation has never been my strong suit and I have found the balancing act difficult.

What makes it doubly challenging is that I play football semi-professionally for Chasetown FC, a local club.

Football has always been a priority and I would not want a job that compromised it. The challenge is to not let one thing affect the other.

I feel I am getting better at managing my time and hopefully this will continue. My mum may laugh at me but she is always willing to help. Dad's reaction when we start discussing plenaries and schemes of work makes me laugh. "Teacher" talk is pretty much banned when he is around.

What have I learnt? If someone tells you the PGCE is hard, believe them.

When you work all the hours God sends and you are probably still behind with your work, it can be demoralising.

But if something is easy it's not worth doing, right?

John Branch is on his first school placement at St Edmund Campion RC School in Erdington, West Midlands

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