At the end of last year, in celebration of completing the gruelling PGCE, some fellow teachers and I decided to ignore a few P Standards and go to a comedy club before parting ways.
“Where are you from?”, the northern comedian barked at me as I tried to avoid eye contact.
“Essex”, I eventually replied. Instant laughs.
“What do you do, southerner?” This was a common name I received working up in the North. “I’m a secondary teacher.”
“Bit young to be a teacher aren’t you?” Due to being an August baby I’m proudly one of the very few teachers who began their career just 21-years-old. I have been mistaken for a rogue 6th-form student one too many times for my liking.
“What do you teach then?” He held the microphone in front of my face with a smirk.
“Performing arts.” He pulled a face and the audience laughed – as I had expected them to.
Constantly, the performing arts department will face criticism for “not being academic” or “not contributing towards the curriculum”. We are a bit like Marmite – you either love us, or you hate us.
Thankfully, my new headteacher loves Marmite.
“Performing arts! So you’re basically teaching kids how to fill in a resume for McDonald’s then!” He then did a small skit (drama, I might add...) demonstrating one of my supposed lessons to rapturous laughs from the audience.
Now, if there’s one thing you should never do it’s criticise an Essex girl. Criticising an Essex girl who is nearly £40k in debt after four years and exhausted from training to become the very teacher you are mocking was definitely a mistake.
“You do realise comedy is a performing art, right? At some point you will have had a teacher like me who gave you the guts to step foot in this industry.”
Although not intended for comic effect, a table of drama teachers who had previously been hiding in the shadows began applauding. Between our two tables, we soon silenced the comic who realised he was fighting a losing battle.
The wonderful thing about performing arts is that we will always unite and defend our subject in the face of adversity – just ask Michael Gove. I have no doubt that over the coming year I will face yet more controversy as our fickle government continues to play with secondary education, but I am exceptionally proud to belong to an outstanding school that makes full use of its performing arts specialism, allowing me to feel fully supported and respected as I begin my career – a trait every NQT desires.
Unfortunately, as I write, there are also those concerns that no amount of post-training pep-talks can calm – the nerves of beginning at a new school with new staff and students, making mistakes, official examinations, new department structure, getting lost, angry parents and much, much more.
My list of concerns is as long as my arm, although I will never let this show on our face.
So perhaps spare a thought for the nervous NQT who is eagerly awaiting to befriend people in the staffroom (even in spite of the unwelcome sight of padlocked teabags, labelled milk and an unofficial seating plan!).
It’s daunting taking your first steps on the career ladder – and it must be a very lonely climb if you feel as though nobody is there to guide and support you.
Our NQT diarist this year is a teacher of drama and dance at a school in Essex.