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2005-04-24 - 12:31 p.m.

I'm about to launch into an 8-week placement in the lovely area of Hillfields, Coventry.

Hillfields is a sort of reclaimed slum area just outside the centre of Coventry. Quite a lot of it is still slum - high-rise, low-quality council flats, many of which are due to be knocked down, and countless newsagents and Halal meat kebab shops line the streets. Other bits of it show evidence of the council's concern: a bit of reclaimed land has become a small farm, there are little gardens here and there, and beneath the road bridge that acts as a sort of gate to the area, large murals have been painted and metal seats shaped like flowers have been placed.

In the middle of all this is my new place of work for the term, a Catholic primary school that has evidently been set out with much thought about the sort of children it is likely to accomodate. There is a lovely, homely atmosphere and the classroom arrangements are not very school-like at all: two year groups share about three spaces which are large, bright, airy and colourful. Two of these spaces are 'classrooms': they contain octagonal tables with books, pencils etc in a sort of hole in the middle, and a carpet area, consisting of two sides of a corner of the room with carpeted steps up the walls on which the children sit. The other space is a sort of library-resources-quiet work space-role play-display area.

Despite this relative informality, there is also a 'nurture room' designed for children who find a classroom amosphere difficult. It looks just like someone's sitting room: a round pine table, a bookshelf with ornaments and flowers, a large TV and comfortable chairs. Supposedly, children can make believe they are working from home when they are taught in here.

The staff are all lovely, in particular my supervising teacher who greeted me with "Oh, hello, Angel!" I soon learnt that everyone in her classroom is "Angel", whether they are children, staff or parents. It doesn't make it any easier for me to learn all their names! This teacher informed me that I had been sent by God, because I speak French (as does a boy in the class) own African Snails (they're doing a project on the rainforest) and play the cello. But then, it's a very Catholic school, and they all seem prone to exaggeration: one of the girls (aged 9) told me on my second day that my smile is like the sun and lights up the world so no-one can help smiling too, and wrote me a little letter telling me that my presence in the school "filled her with joy".

I hope she doesn't become disillusioned when I actually start teaching.

My class so far seem fine behaviour-wise, but I was in the staff room when a boy who had tried to climb over the extremely tall and pointy playground fence was brought in and put in the room next door, where he started kicking the walls and door. It's obviously going to be harder than it looks.


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