Wednesday, 7 July 2010


I usually work as a supply teacher in primary Schools in Hull and the East Riding. I love it. Every day is full of variety and new experiences though I'd like the regular salary of a classroom teacher. I've always said there's no way I'd teach at senior school because teenagers are horrid. Most of my experience of them over the last 20 years has been based on experiences on buses and round town on a Saturday when herds of teenagers bask in the sun trying not to let their emo skin lose its milky pallor. Now I'm not saying I want to face a class of thirty of the little darlings but over the last week I've discovered something amazing; teenagers are people too.

I've been working in a secondary school for almost a week providing one-to-one tuition for 13 and 14 year olds who aren't making fast enough progress and the three boys I'm working with are a delight. Witty, enthusiastic and well-mannered, they make my job easy. I've made sure they're writing about things that interest them and interspersed our sessions with games and exercises on the computer (Hurrah for BBC Bitesize and Skillswise!) but they've worked incredibly hard for me even when they've been taken out of lessons that they love. On Monday I wasn't really in the mood to be my normal, over-enthusiastic self (bad news and bad sleep having taken its toll) but their cheeriness and willingness to get stuck in took me with them.

Now don't go thinking this is some high-achieving school in the leafy suburbs. This is a tough school, in a tough area of a tough city. These children live in an area of social deprivation and see poverty all around them. The people they know are likely to distrust education and have low aspirations but these boys have been meeting every challenge I set them.

I still find groups of teenagers intimidating and I'll be interested to see if I find the girls as easy to work with (I change to new students on Friday) but I've decided to remember that they're not just youths, they're individuals with likes and dislikes, enthusiasms, foibles and quirks. If someone from a group speaks to me on the street I will smile and answer.

And if they're being a nightmare on the bus I will tut and bury my head in my book, I'm not stupid!

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