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Teach me to teach

by coquillage83 

Posted: 27 May 2006
Word Count: 3966
Summary: It is an original book about my experiences of teaching, and it will also help others in the world to understand the harsh reality of teaching. A girl, Kate in the process of a school placement. She is terrified and I describe her terror and dread in great detail. Then the readers are introduced to the situation at her school, and the bullying she receives from her teacher. As the book progresses, Kate will continue to face difficulties in her course in the same way as I did.

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Teach Me How to Teach

Chapter 1

Kate hit the snooze button. She could not face getting up. She heard the faint sound of her boyfriend, Danny, snoring next to her in the bed. She closed her eyes and tried to drift off, but could not block out the loud beating sound in her heart. The alarm was going to go off any minute. She could not relax. She had to get up, she knew she had to. She threw off the covers and sunk her head into her hands. The beating of her heart became louder, and her hands were beginning to shake uncontrollably.
Kate stared at herself in the mirror. Her normal rosy cheeks were incredibly pale, and her long silky dark hair did not look so silky today, it was in a tangled mess. Her tall and slender body hunched over in exhaustion and dread. Kate was generally a happy person. Well, she used to be. In her days of studying history at university, she was out every night of the week. It might have been just a drink at the local pub, or a crazy party that went on until five in the morning, but you could guarantee Kate would be there dancing, chatting and laughing the night away. Kate had a free spirit and always believed there was something amazing that was going to happen to her in her life. She did not know what, but she secretly hoped she might become a famous singer. She imagined singing to herself in the super market, and suddenly being discovered by someone who had also worked with Michael Jackson. She also adored children, and for the time being she wanted to be a primary teacher, so she was doing a PGCE (a year of study after another degree). She loved her classes. She had made so many friends and going into university was always fun. Then came the time for the class to go on their first school placement. Kate found herself stuck in an unfriendly school with a monster teacher. Monster is a bit of an understatement. The teacher was horrendous, and this horrendous teacher was supposedly guiding Kate through her early days of teaching.
Mondays were the worst – it meant you had to wait five whole days until the next weekend. She had only been there properly for three days, and she had five weeks left to go. Five weeks! It was like a prison sentence. The days dragged on and on. They felt like ten times as long in the weekday than at the weekend.
In the shower Kate did not know if she was shaking so much from the cold or from fear. She was going to be prosecuted. She tried to shut out the image of the class teacher, Queela, yelling at her again. She had this distinct image of her blond hair flying all over the place, and her eyes bulging so wide they started to fall out their sockets. Then her head would spin around and explode and pop all over the place. Kate laughed to herself and climbed out the shower. She hurriedly dressed up in her clothes, and put on her nice warm knitted jumper her mother had given her. The warmth made her feel protected in the cold and stale school.
Sitting down on her own for breakfast felt very lonely. She poured herself some cereal, then pushed away the bowl. She felt sick to her stomach and the cereal felt dry and hard in her mouth. She could not even swallow. She threw it away and sat down shivering again, wishing that she could swap lives with someone else. Taking deep breaths she holstered herself up, dreading what the day would bring.
Kate opened the front door, feeling slightly irritated that it was not snowing. If there were thick snow, there would be no way she could attempt to drive into school. Taking a deep, shaky breath, she opened the door. Then she heard a squeal.
“Kathleen! Oh, hello Kathleen, darling. How are you? Wow, look at you all dressed up so smartly ready to go to you’re little school.”
Oh shit, thought Kate. It was that bitch from next door, Mrs Mull. She had those two bratty children and she was always asking Kate to help them with their homework. Last time she had gone round, they showed her a year six sats paper with so many hard science questions, Kate did not know where to begin. She had very apologetically said, “I’m sorry, but me helping really will not help your son. He needs to find these things, research. I mean, if I was to just tell him, that would not be very helpful.” Then she had run out of the house as fast as she could.
Mrs Mull woddled over to Kate. She opened her large mouth and Kate looked at her watch in impatience. She could not be late. Not again.
“I was wondering, my dear Kathleen, would you have a chance to help my poor Micky with his homework. I’m only asking because I know you’re such an expert.”
Kate began to warm to this idea. It was quite a nice idea, being an expert. And she was sure that the younger son’s work could not be so difficult.
“Sure, Mrs Mull, I’ll, urm, pop in later when I’m home.”
“Oh thank you, dear, I knew we could count on you.” She began to wiggle in excitement, and Kate began to regret agreeing to this. She was just about to remember that she had a prior engagement she could not possibly miss, when Mrs Mull was squealing at some other neighbours who had just bought a new Mercedes.

Kate pulled in a Kingswood Junior School, and panic began to well in her heart. The school looked cold and unwelcoming. However many layers and jumpers she had plastered on, it did not stop the shivers crawling down her spine.
Pushing open the splintered wooden doors, Kate waited to be let in.

Walking down the corridor was painful. It was the same patterned floor, the same display boards, the same dirty white walls with bits of tissue and old abandoned socks. Kate felt like she was walking to her doom, for everyday this corridor meant she had to face an entire day in this hellhole. She saw the light on in the classroom. Damn! That meant that Queela had arrived before her.
Opening the door, Kate plastered a fake smile on her face, and announced, “hello,” as she walked through the door.
Queela did not look up from her marking. Suddenly, she slammed the last book closed and stood up, launching a massive basket in her arms.
“Hiya,” she said, in a friendly tone. “Could you do me this favour and take these to Miss Elliot’s room? Thanks.”
Kate was pleased to have to leave the room, but that soon changed with the reality that she will have to go and face the deputy, Mrs Elliot, who made it clear she did not like Kate and had no time for such unimportant people. Luckily, the room was empty, so she plonked them down in the desk and strolled out. She walked very slowly down another long corridor, back to the room of doom.
She hovered around, watching Queela writing out verbs on the interactive white board. Queela turned round and gave her a little shake.
“You know, as a teacher, you’ll NEVER have time to stand around like that. When I was a student, I always made sure I was doing something useful. I might go over my lesson plans to say the least.”
Kate sighed to herself inside her head. She had gone through the lesson plans a lot over the weekend. She did not need to do it again. She knew the magnet experiment they were going to do like the back of her hand. But she still shuffled through her bag, and pulled out her folder.
As she sat down on a tiny chair to read over her plans, Queela took long strides over to where Kate was seated. She picked up her folder, and leafed through it. Her expression turned to a look of disapproval. She shook her head again, and almost threw the folders back at Kate.
“We’ll go over your files after school.” Queela gave Kate and cold stare. “You will be staying after school anyway.” She looked at Kate as though she was giving her a threat, and was about to open her mouth and tell Kate how all teachers need to stay in school, and that when she was a student she stayed to at least five, when the bell sounded off in Kate’s ears. Thank goodness! She leapt up from her seat, stopping Queela from carrying on, and put on her coat.
“I’ll get the children today,” Kate shouted back. If she did not, she would only be told about how important it is to go out and get the children and get used to the routine.
The children came in noisily after the excitement of the weekend. They all had stories to tell Kate about some adventure that had happened, and there were so many “things to show” that a nice little pile was forming on Queela’s desk. Kate desperately tried to calm them down, and ordered silence, but the children would not have any of it. They were slow at sitting down, and chatter and giggles filled the entire room. She panicked, knowing that Queela would be in any minute, shaking her stupid fake blond head in disproval.
Bang bang bang. Kate clapped her hands, and the children copied. The noise level died down a little. Bang bang bang. The children all realised what was happening, and sat down. Silence spread across the room. Kate sat down very tall, smiled her greatest smile, and announced, “Good morning year 3.”
“Good morning Miss Little,” chorused the children. Half way through the register, Queela came back picking at a chocolate donut. All the children’s eyes popped open in desire. Queela clearly enjoyed the attention. She popped the last mouthful into her mouth, brushed off her hands and laughed. The children began whispering in the new excitement, and the register began to falter. The children were much more interested in Queela. Kate struggled to finish, and Queela tapped her over the shoulder.
“Do you want to go for your break? The children are not calming down so I will take over.” Kate readily accepted.
In the staff room, Kate set out her notes. She could write up tomorrow’s plan, perhaps. Or maybe she could have a look at her SEN child’s work for that long horrible essay she was dreading. She sat staring at her folder, and her eyes feel upon a packet of bourbon biscuits. She absolutely loved bourbon biscuits. Her stomach grouched from digesting her recently finished breakfast, but one little biscuit would not hurt. Kate felt so miserable in this place she did not care if she got fat.
It tasted so good. She picked off the outside biscuit, scraped out the cream in the middle, and ate the rest. Wow! Delicious! She turned back to her wretched planning. Now, what could she do tomorrow? If she planned her own Literacy lesson, she knew it would be wrong. Terrified, she looked at Queela’s weekly timetable. Planning Literacy and Numeracy was both easy and scary. It was easy because all she had to do was copy out the weekly plan, but she was terrified to get it wrong. Queela was always stressing the importance of those subjects, and Kate wanted to follow it exactly. She had to follow exactly what was written, because she knew if she did not she would have to put up with Queela’s disapproval, again.
Kate studied the plan. It did not make any sense. What did she mean demonstrate the hanger impression? Kate began to panic. She would have to ask Queela. She felt like throwing the plan away in disgust. Perhaps just one more biscuit. One more could not hurt. She picked up the bourbon and felt the chocolate crumbles in her mouth. And then she saw the Cadbury chocolate bars. She felt so scared and empty, she stuffed the chocolate in her mouth and swallowed so hard she felt like she was going to choke. Then she sat back and forced herself to understand the plan.
When she heard the bell ring for assembly, she made her way back to the classroom. Queela was sitting at her desk. She tiptoed up, holding the plan. Bravely, she took a deep breath. “Queela, I don’t understand this bit,” she held up the plan and pointed to the activity.
Queela put her hands in her head. She stood up and hunched her shoulders. Looking very exasperated, she said, “Kate, this is worrying me. I have enough of my own work to do and I can’t really do yours as well. I’m going to have to speak to your tutor at lunchtime because this is really worrying me.”
Queela carried on talking about how when she was a student she did everything herself. Kate, however, could no longer hear the words. They mingled into one, and she began to have that same sensation. Queela’s eyes were spinning. Her mouth was flapping open everywhere. Her head began to spin out of control, and her arms whizzed round her body. Suddenly, Kate realised she was very quiet.
“So do you think you can do that for me?”
Kate nodded, wondering what she was agreeing to.

“Hello, Kate. How are you?” the year five teacher, Janis Elliot, sang to her. Kate loved it at lunchtime; the other teachers were so friendly. It made such a difference to be greeted in such a calm, and approachable manner. Kate felt a sudden urge to hold on to Janis for dear life, begging her to save her from this school. Janis was in her forties and was a newly qualified teacher. She had two children at home which she left with her husband for the pure joy of teaching other people’s children. Kate wished she could be in her classroom in a more welcoming atmosphere. Any teacher but Queela!
Then the year six teacher, Kathy Jones walked in. “Hello Kate. It’s a lovely day today, isn’t it?” She gave Kate a big smile, and Kate felt her spirits lifting. She enjoyed sitting there, amongst the rest of the staff, feeling like a human and enjoying life. It was shortly lived though. Down the corridor, she could hear Queela’s voice on the phone to her tutor, complaining about her.
Kate suddenly felt sick to her stomach. The pasta her mother had made for her stirred around inside her. She put down the pot, placed the lid on and left the room. She ran down the passageways, scurrying back to the classroom. When she was inside, alone, she could no longer hear the voice complaining about her down the phone. She was safe, and out of reach, but very, very lonely. She picked up her mobile, intending to call Danny. He did not answer. Kate listened to the monotonous ringing, and then smiled at the sound of his chirpy voice down the answering machine. She tried again, and again. When there was still no answer, her eyes welled up with tears. She took deep, shaky breaths. She could not let anyone come in and see her crying. Instead, she picked up her folder and began to read through her afternoon’s lesson. It was numeracy, and she was to show the class how to count to the nearest multiple of ten.
Footsteps were coming towards the room. Kate jumped up as if she had been bitten by a poisonous snake, and rushed out the door onto the playground. Phew! That was close. She did not want to spend a single second with Queela that she did not have to. Outside, Kate shivered without a coat. There had not been time for a coat. She wrapped her arms around herself, struggling to keep warm. Luckily, then bell went and Kate could lead her class back inside to the warm classroom. Queela was sitting at her desk, ready to take the register. Kate felt a twinge of regret, it was her job to take the register, but Queela obviously thought she was incapable.
Standing in front of the class, Kate became alive. She started her warm up, asking the children some times tables questions. Then she began to explain the new topic. It was all going so well, she thought. The children were all listening, engaging and participating. Then one boy, Allen, decided to cause problems.
“This is boring. I don’t understand anything,” he mumbled to Kate. Kate took a deep breath, and calmly asked him what he did not understand, but he just shrugged his shoulders half-heartedly. Kate decided she should go through it again, and ask a few more questions to test the children’s understanding. When that was done, she told the children what page to start working at, and sat down watching them.
Queela tugged at Kate’s arm. “Can I have a word with you?” she said harshly. Kate closed her eyes as she followed her out, wondering what she had done now.
Queela looked at her, and folded her arms in disgust. “Do you really think the children know what they are doing?” she asked Kate. Kate was bewildered, and had no answer. Queela stared, waiting.
“Urm, no, perhaps not,” Kate squirmed.
“No, they don’t. You didn’t explain to them what they have to do. If you look at them, you’ll see they are all completely stuck. I think I am going to have to take over.”
Kate was alarmed at this. “No, no, it’s OK. I will go back and explain it a bit better.”
Kate went back in, panic reaching her throat. “Can everybody please stop what they ate doing and listen for a moment. Right, everybody look at the first question…” then Kate realised in horror that she did not have a copy. She looked around the classroom, and found one. She picked it up, and opened it to the right page. “Right, um, now, can you all please look at…um…the first question again…”
Queela’s voice went over Kate’s. She stood up, with her own copy of the book. “Right, everyone silent. I AM TALKING.”
Kate sat down, feeling like she had been punched in the stomach. What had happened? It had gone so well. Why would Queela not let her correct her mistake? Why was this happening?
Kate sat immobilised for the rest of the lesson. She felt worthless, a failure. She could not do a thing right, that was for sure. She sat with the lower ability table, trying to focus, but her mind was wondering with fear.
After the lesson, Queela asked Kate to come over. She pulled out a tiny chair for her to sit on, whilst she sat on her large, moving chair, peering down at Kate as if she was a queen. “How do you think that lesson went?” Queela folded her arms, and sat back, ready to dig in.
Kate shifted her eyes. “Not too well.”
“And why do you think that is?”
“I did not explain the activity very well and the children got confused.”
“Exactly. Now, I had to step in for you. I can’t keep doing this. Scarily enough, you will be having your own class soon, and I know you would not want to ruin their education. At the moment, I am here to stop you from ruining my class’ education, but no one is going to be there to help you next year.”
Kate stared down at her hands, ashamed. She wished she could just get up and go home.
“At this school we expect certain standards, and to be honest you’re just not fulfilling them. You need to make sure everything is right before the lesson. You weren’t prepared. You probably spent about five minutes planning that, and it isn’t really good enough.” Kate wanted to tell her that was not true, she had spent longer. She had read it through lots of times, and she had thought it was all right. She opened her mouth, but no words came out. She suddenly became very worried that she might start crying, so she grilled her mouth shut with her teeth. Meanwhile, Queela was still talking, but Kate just sat there, wanting to run away.
When Queela finished talking, Kate stood up. She wanted to run away from here, to any place that Queela would not be. “You’ll need to stay here and work for a while. I’m afraid that’s what teachers do,” Queela told Kate, in a threatening way. Unwillingly, Kate took out her folders, and began to write up the terrible evaluation sheet about the wretched lesson.

Chapter 2

Ten years ago…

Kate stared down at her finished project, very excited. She had spent her entire Easter holidays slaving hard at it. The Victorians was such an interesting period. So many old buildings that still existed in London. She had been so enthusiastic about her project her mother had taken her to the Victoria and Albert Museum. She loved the pictures best. Big, glorious looking people in all the garments. The women had extravagant, vibrant dresses full of colour and patterns. Kate fantasised herself standing there, in one of those dressed. She would have a huge skirt, and one of those corsets she saw in a picture book. It was be beautiful, and full of frills and jewellery. She saw herself standing there, long hair flowing around in her dress, holding an umbrella in her hand and climbing into her horse and carriage. In her large hat she would glance up at the bright blue sky, and smile as her personal maid climbed into the carriage in front of her, giggling at the butler who was arguing with her mother.
Kate switched back to the present, and clutched her project in her arms. She had spent ages on the front cover, using glitter and stickers and anything else she could find to make in look amazing. She could not wait to show her history teacher. She just had to be impressed. Kate imagined getting a hundred team points, and everyone in her team being so pleased they would give her some of their sweets. With all this thought in mind, she was practically skipping along the road to school.
She ran into the classroom even before the bell had gone, waiting with anticipation at the teacher’s desk. When the teacher came in, Kate ran over to her.
“Miss, Miss, look at my project. I’ve spent ages on it. And I went to the museum. And I stuck in all these postcards. Did you know…”
The teacher put her hand in front of Kate’s mouth to silence her. “Kate, do you think you’re work is more important than the other children’s?” Kate’s mouth flew open in shock. “I’m sure all the other children have also worked hard. I don’t need to hear about you. You are not special; you are the same as other people. Go and sit down.”
Kate was astounded. She wanted to tell the teacher, she knew she was not more special. She had just wanted the teacher to look at her pictures, and appreciate her efforts. All that work during the holiday had been…for nothing. Kate sat down. The project lay before her eyes. She pushed it away in disgust. She never wanted to see it again. She felt humiliated, and she vowed never to work as hard on a project again.

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Comments by other Members

Gulliver at 14:19 on 03 June 2006  Report this post
I found it difficult to empathise with this character - and I'm a teacher. She comes across as a bit of a whimp. Quite frankly, if teaching does this to her, she ought to quit teaching.

I also find that books which have teaching/teachers as their main emphasis are of little interest to anyone. A murder mystery which involves a teacher is fine. But a book about teaching? In my experience not even teachers want to read books about teaching.

I know teachers like to think that their experience is worth relating. But having worked in the private sector, the office can be just as brutal as the classroom. Teachers have it no worse than anyone else.

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