Home' Teacher : October 2009 Contents 60 TEACHER OCTOBER 2009
WITH TEACHERS WHOSE DRIVING PASSION IS SIMPLY TO TE ACH THE CHILDREN WELL.
'How long since you taught in a school?'
I was at a party, talking with a teacher I
knew. It was a fair question.
How long? 'Nearly 10 years,' I said.
During those 10 years, working as a
researcher in the fields of teaching and
school leadership, I've tried to stay grounded
or connected with schools, but occasion-
ally I fear that I'm becoming removed from
what my experience tells me is the reality of
school life. What better way to address this
than to spend time teaching in a real school?
The idea moved to the back of my mind,
until a former colleague who teaches lan-
guages in a secondary school asked if I
would cover her classes for the last week of
second term while she took a holiday over-
seas. 'It will be so easy for you!' she purred.
'Three Year 7 classes, one Year 8 and one
Year 12. And it's end of term, so you'll finish
early on the Friday.'
I had doubts about Years 8 and 12. Year
8 language classes are notorious for disci-
pline problems, and I doubted my ability to
deal with the linguistic demands of Year 12
German. I had, it is true, majored in the lan-
guage in my undergraduate degree, but that
was in the days when the professor could
say proudly to the students, 'If you want to
learn to speak ze German language go to
ze Berlitz School. Here we make it other!'
'Making it other' meant studying German
literature and history, in English transla-
tion when we could. Nowadays students
are taught to be fluent in spoken and writ-
The colleague whom I was to relieve is
a native speaker of German, and infinitely
more competent in this respect than I ever
was or am likely to be, but retreat was out
of the question. I had committed myself. So
there I was on the Sunday afternoon before
my trial com menced, writing lesson plans.
To put it mildly, I was terrified. What on
earth had I been thinking of?
Monday morning first thing found me
in the school staff room trying to find out
the photocopying code for German. The
teachers were friendly and welcoming.
Naively, I'd thought they might want to ask
questions about my resea rch, but clearly,
for them, as, I suspect, for most teachers ,
the education research world was another
First period and here I am out the front in
a portable, the fresh faces of 7B looking up
at me expectantly. Silence. What will she be
like? Suddenly I feel quite calm and strong.
The person I used to be, Mrs Kleinhenz, the
teacher, comes back and takes over, almost
like another presence. I feel a wave of affec-
tion for these young people. Their faces are
so bright, so full of life.
Into the old modes I go. Smile. Establish
some ground rules. What might these be?
Ask the students. Eager answers: 'Don't talk
when the teacher talks.' 'Don't run around
the room.' Hands go up. Pick me! Pick me!
Notice me! Good, so let's get started. Guten
Morgen! Mein Name ist Frau Kleinhenz.
Write it on the whiteboard. Wie heisst du?
Keep them busy, vary the activities: a few
jokes, a game, written work. Maintain the
rhythm until the bell rings and the next
Dear God, where is room 32? It's not in
the portables area. Try the third floor cor-
ridor of the main building. That must be
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