Although my first full day as a teacher is now a long way into my past, I still remember it as if it were yesterday.
I’m sure my fellow writers and readers would agree, that your first day in charge of a classroom is one fraught with nerves, power struggles and watershed moments – when you’re truly given the opportunity to test your mettle.
For me, it was a particularly nerve-wracking time, having recently completed my PGCE, I had yet to truly feel like a teacher.
I’d made the decision to become a Secondary teacher after spending a year working in Broadcasting in London. The job had been a a dream for some time, but the endless hours and relentless boot licking was not something that I had prepared for.
My Cambridge education had given me the confidence to attack any new challenge I could find, so when a friend talked about teaching I jumped at the opportunity to try something that would truly put my skills to the test.
My friend laughed at the idea of me controlling a classroom, imagining my, now well defined, high-end ‘London’ office chic entering into the immature land of the teenager.
My PGCE had taken just 9 months to complete.
9 months that had zoomed by in a flash. I’d enjoyed being a student again and I felt like I’d dealt with my practice classes with aplomb. But the real challenge was yet to come.
It’s a completely different kettle of fish when you’re entering into a class in a school that you’re going to be spending the next 2, maybe 3 years in.
You’ve interviewed around the country, you’ve bought a house and moved hundreds of miles – just for this one job. What happens if the first day is a disaster? What if you make some terrible gaff that destroys your reputation on day one with kids you’re going to have to see for the rest of their secondary education?
As I walked down the corridors of my school; the smell of bleach, the faint whiff of deodorant and new books put me right back into the bag of nerves that I’d inhabited on my very first day as a secondary school student.
What if I walked into the class room and my students had reorganised the desks?
What if there was a ringleader willing to risk a visit to the Principal’s Office for the sake of ruining my day? What if they started the dreaded ‘whistling’ prank?
In the end, the only nuisance I had to deal with upon my entrance to the classroom was the usual chitter-chatter and occasional squeal of excitement as old friends swapped stories of their Summer holidays.
I had forgotten the essential case of insular thought that runs throughout teenaged minds – they’d not even expected a brand new teacher to be entering the school.
Half of them barely noticed as I entered the room, animatedly continuing their conversations, the others fell silent as I gazed around with, what I hoped was, an authoritative air of cool.
“Are we quite done?” I had no idea at the time, but this would essentially become my catchphrase for the rest of my teaching career. Something that both staff and students would come to expect of me, a way of silencing all needless chatter.
The classroom fell instantly silent as my new students assessed their new teacher.