Monthly Archives: September 2010

Jurassic Lark

A lecturer was recounting a story from her past teaching experience, “I once asked a boy if I would be able to see him dream?” “Yes miss” the boy replied “you’d be able to see smoke coming from my ears!” Smoke billowed from all 120 of us trainee teachers this weekend, as we experienced the natural wonder of Dorset.

Once our lungs had stopped trying to repel the foreign clean air, we embraced the great outdoors, traipsing across fields, marching up mountainsides and touring Castles. We even helped with the annual beach cleanup, a local resident informing us that so far they’d recovered a colostomy bag, false teeth, some crutches and a headless gnome.

It was an educational trip, but also a chance for us to properly socialise. With 14 of us pressed into one dormitory, it was impossible not to. Naturally all the men were together, leading to drunken debauchery, vomiting, misplaced urination and even occasional streaking. The smells emanating from the room would have killed the most resilient of coalmine canaries. Ladies and Gentleman, I present the next generation of teachers.

One group exercise was to create a work of art from the natural environment, which would then be displayed on a neighbouring field. We worked diligently, creating a large abstract from tree bark, berries, grass, flowers and leaves. Unfortunately one of the teachers, Mike, the Outdoor Bounds enthusiast, drove his car right through our artwork. Some cruelly said this improved it.

Mike was a reminder of the sorts of teachers I used to loathe. He was patronising with a permanent self-satisfied grin on his face. I made a note that even if stuck up a mountain with him, I would gladly take my own chances, than listen to his interminable anecdotes. During one of his windswept navigation exercises I remembered the Geography teacher who once wrote on my School Report “Timothy could not find his arse with both hands”.

I very nearly entered Dorset folklore with an ill-timed question during a perilous mountain climb. “Would you definitely die if you were to suddenly fall?” I asked no-one in particular, before suddenly performing a spectacular arse over tit manoeuvre with all the dexterity of a newly born gazelle. My ‘climbing partner’ was too preoccupied to notice my collapse. He’d ratcheted it up to smug-factor 5 and was telling a girl about his ‘Help for Heroes’ wristband, work for charity and love of jazz.

Back in the world of academia I’ve discovered my first School placement is with a Year 1 group ‘in an area of high social and economic disadvantage’. There are six of us from the course at the School next week, each with a different year group. I think I’ve received a large slice of luck. While the others were talking of wearing stab proof vests the worst I should expect is the occasional ankle bite.


Enter sadman

My long daily commute is a little etched on my features. I run on around 30% of energy every day and am beginning to resemble someone who’s permanently received bad news. So, it was eventually flattering to have a leaflet stuffed into my hand with the word ‘SLAG’ written on it (it stands for ‘Sexy Ladies and Gentlemen’ apparently).

It was a flyer for the Freshers’ Ball and one such self-appointed ‘Slag’ was frothing at the mouth in anticipation. He reminded me of the character from the film ‘Dazed and Confused’ who utters the line ‘that’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age’. He was a PE teacher and must have qualified around 150 years ago, when the only criteria were that you had to be ‘over 13 years old’ and ‘not subject to any body infirmity’.

The course has shifted up a gear and the scale of our task as future teachers was given some perspective. We watched a factual video with some surprising statistics. For example, 5% of the population in China with the highest IQ’s is greater than the total population of the UK. They have more gifted and talented students than we have students. Oh, also that the United Kingdom had the strongest education system…in 1900.

Last week was more fun. We watched an enthusiastic Lecturer fight back tears as she read the last paragraph of ‘The Railway Children’ and practiced group voice exercises. It was odd standing along 100 other students repeatedly saying ‘Boo Bah’ ‘Zing’ and ‘Bibble Babble’. The guy next to me definitely needed help with his elocution. I could have sworn he told me a member of our course was ‘sinister’, when in fact he was a ‘solicitor’. Although these words are not mutually exclusive.

We’re heading off to Dorset this weekend for some group bonding exercises. This does mean I’ll miss the Freshers’ Ball, so to compensate I’ll hire a tux and slow dance with myself. I only hope I’m not sharing a room with the guy on the course who’s a former lobotomist. If he gets drunk I’ll definitely have to sleep with one eye open.

How are you feeling today?

An RSPCA van pulled up. I knew that I looked rough because of the long early morning commute, but I couldn’t already resemble a rabid dog could I? Thankfully the officer was just looking for directions to somewhere on the campus, this being day one of my PGCE course, I was unable to help.

I was a little early so wandered the University’s corridors, reacquainting myself with student life. Dotted around the walls were the usual posters, a form to join the Student Council, pictures of naïvely excited students looking forward to the workplace and adverts for gonorrhoea.

My stomach was playing ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’, not just because of nerves but also the poor choice of a hot curry the night before. My whole demeanour had not been helped by the journey into University. I’d been surrounded on the bus by Secondary School kids, who furthered my reasons for choosing a Primary PGCE.

One of the kids was excitedly telling his mates how he was dating his teacher’s daughter. Stuff like this never happened to me while I was at School and judging by the reaction he received, it wasn’t happening for him either. As part of the course we’re encouraged to read children’s literature, I did feel self-conscious reading a copy of ‘Has Anybody Seen My Umbrella?’ The kids around me spent much of the journey guessing what kind of accident I might be recovering from.

I bumped into the course leader as I headed towards my first lecture. Speaking of bumps, I noticed she was no longer pregnant, so asked if she had a boy or girl. “You’re thinking of Caroline” she snapped “she’s still on maternity leave”. “Oh, because you look in a kind of bloated post-pregnancy shape” I may as well have then said, judging by her stern reaction. Way to go me.

The first week is always the toughest. Thankfully I’ve made some friends and successfully avoided others whose loud, opinionated stance makes them the equivalent of box office poison. Despite the assurances from the course leaders, something wicked this way comes in the form of an unnerving amount of course work.

It was nice at the end of the week to sit with a few fellow students over a beer. One pint, four straws, student style. One guy was reminiscing about his earlier School experience. “I was once asked to remove a splinter from a boy’s penis!” he told us to shared amusement. None of us expected what came next “so along with another teaching assistant I removed it”. This was definitely above the call of duty as far as I was concerned. We never did find out how it happened, but I couldn’t resist asking if he was trying to “get wood”.