I heard a joke by a comedian once: "Are you interested in being a teacher? Then go to www.lastresort.com." I laughed. I had to - I felt it was me. After having a succession of jobs, I drifted into teaching English to foreign students on the South coast. I loved it.
"You should be a `proper' teacher," suggested my friends. "It's easy for men, schools are crying out for male teachers, especially in primaries." I was 30 and I needed to earn real money for once. I got some experience in a local primary school. The headteacher (nice lady) said: "Oooh, you'll do well, being a man. You'll be a headteacher in five years." This was beginning to look like the right choice.
I joined a school on a graduate teaching programme (GTP). Nervously I started my first day, and realised that, apart from the head, I was the only man. When I walked in, teaching assistants pointed and whispered; I was clearly a novelty. Lunchtime is always a tricky one: who do you eat with? What do you do? I grabbed my sandwiches, stood nervously outside the staffroom and listened to the loud chatter. Then I took a deep breath and stepped inside. The boisterous conversations soon turned quiet. More whispering and pointing ensued. Following lunches were spent on my own in the classroom. I was beginning to feel a bit lonely.
One year later, I passed my GTP. Now to get a job. I was told I had to play "the man card". I wasn't sure what that was or how to play it. First interview, I didn't get the job, second interview didn't get it, sixth interview I landed the post. My man card didn't seem to be working.
I am now on my newly qualified teacher year and I feel I'm doing a good job and getting through to the children.
My biggest challenge so far came one afternoon when I was taking care of two Year 6 classes: nearly 60 kids squashed in my room. Two hours later I'd done it. It had been a struggle, but I'd done it. I was very proud of myself. My year partner came back from her course and was amazed to find them all working quietly.
"Fantastic, well done," she said, adding, "you do realise it's because you're a man". "No it's not," I smiled, "it's because I'm good at my job." Or words to that effect. So I stand up for male teachers, and I look forward to being headteacher next year. Maybe not
Rob Scatchard is a new teacher at Dewhurst St Mary CE Primary School in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire.