By Lewis Howell
⏱ Wednesday 9th August 2017

The aura of power that radiates from the reception area of a secondary school in Manchester is something one struggles to convey.  Behind the pine-coated and pen strewn desk in the reception lie the gate-keepers of the school, the people who decide who goes in and who comes out of those hallowed halls of learning.  This is the true nerve centre of the school. Therein resides great, great power.  As I approach the reception of the school, just through the automatic doors, I do my best to cover the tremulous nature of my walk.  The entire day, in anticipation, I have been a wreck of nerves.  A jumbling bag of hope and terror meshed into the form of a tweed-jacketed fresh-faced tutor.  Will I be able to talk coherently to the children?  Does my tweed jacket say smart-casual or grasping for hints of maturity?  Does having a beard make me seem older and wiser or leave me looking like an addled and confused scruff who has seemingly been attacked by a H&M Christmas sale?

The automatic doors part in recognition of my maudlin approach- I can only hope the minds of the children shall open to me as easily.  It seems as though I was just at training, presenting my meticulous lesson-plan to my peers and fellow trainee tutors, certain of its brilliance but then suddenly and all at once I'm standing in front of a real-life school receptionist handing her my DBS certificate with my treacherously trembling hand.  There seems to have been some mistake though, as I now find myself allowed inside the actual school, my fear/hope that I would not be allowed in the school due to an issue with my DBS/the school having no idea who I was/ the shocking truth that all this time I've actually been a ghost, alas, never materialises.

Given some devilishly ambiguous directions, "Go through the corridor, up the steps on your left and into the classroom with pictures of books all over it," I find myself lost.  Standing now in said corridor, my mind offering me nothing but blank canvass as I try to recall the 'directions', I am faced with the first challenge of my budding career as a tutor... where the hell do I go?  Fearlessly, I march on directionless.  As a man (sort of, I'm 22) I am equipped with the ability to pretend to know where I'm going no matter where I am or how lost I might be.

Sure enough the directions were not the sphinx's riddle I had feared them to be; instead they prove to be succinct and accurate, melodrama done with... or was it?  Fate had foiled me again, as when I went to open the classroom door I was shocked to find it was locked!  Just typical I thought, the pupils will come and find me stood here outside of the classroom, locked out like a sap.  They'll spot me for a failure right away, 'can't even open a door let alone tutor us', they'll think correctly to themselves.  My fledgling time as a tutor is all over before it even began.  The only question now is how can I salvage the most of my rapidly sapping dignity, should I hide in a toilet cubicle until the school closes and everyone has left the building or just sprint to the nearest window and hurl myself through it?

It should be noted that my general anxiety and paranoia meant I had arrived at the school about 30 minutes early, which might go some way to explaining the seemingly inexplicable matter of the room I was suppose to be tutoring in being locked.  After pacing the corridor in a decisive yet fretful manner that I thought was more than just a tad suggestive of Captain Piccard at his finest, a kindly man proceeded to unlock the room in question (a rather tardy 18 minutes before the tuition was set to begin).  Finally though, after submitting my application form, coming to interview, going through the training, finally, I was in a classroom about to tutor.  My nerves were calming and I could even see colours again now that I was no longer blind with panic.  I had some nice questions planned to ask the pupils to get to know them, some great ice-breaking activities lined up that an experienced tutor I had spoken to had suggested and a whole bunch of exercises prepared to help them develop their extended writing skills.

At first, I was so intent at recapturing a breathing pattern that was faintly normal I didn't actually look at the classroom I was sat in.  As my wits came back to me however, I looked at the displays some of the classes had put up in the room, the one that really took my eye had the pupils picking their favourite book, play or poem and then explaining in a few short sentences why they had chosen it.  One of the pupils had chosen 'To Kill A Mockingbird' saying that while at first they didn't like it, as they thought it was boring, their teacher had really brought it to life for them.  Through the book the teacher had helped them realise the searing importance of recognising injustice in all its forms and to appreciate how literature can inspire people to fight the wrongs present in our society.  I'm not going to lie, I've always been a bit of a softie, more than a little susceptible to wet and shiny eyes on occasion (I'm looking at you John Lewis).  So as I read this my eyes did well up, just a wee bit.  In that moment I felt the full weight of how lucky I was not only to have had people in my life who always encouraged me to read but to have had teachers who left me with a real sense of the importance of all forms of communication and expression.  Now I found myself in a job where I would actually be able to pass on that privilege, to show others the patience, respect and interest that I was fortunate enough to receive in my education.

The bell signalling the end of the school day and the start of my tuition had rung a few moments before, so now I was but breaths away from my first ever tuition session.  As I sat there watching the door handle slowly turn, I swore to myself that I would never forget how lucky I was to have this job and apart from when I'm standing in the lashing rain waiting for some cursed bus to get me to an assignment, I never do.

Date of publication: 09/08/2017