The Toughest Audience in the World: Comment

By Quinlan, Carrie | Times Educational Supplement, July 27, 2012 | Go to article overview

The Toughest Audience in the World: Comment


Quinlan, Carrie, Times Educational Supplement


Comedian Carrie Quinlan found plenty of food for thought when she turned to teaching.

It's a tricky skill, dealing with individuals who don't yet truly know who they are, who are trying out personas on a world they don't always understand, who are learning that they aren't the centre of the universe and that other people have feelings and needs too. A devilishly tricky skill.

Which is why I'm leaving the entertainment industry. Turning my back on the business we call show, and embracing the business we call early years education foundation/key stage 1. It's less catchy and harder to rhyme in a song, but in numerous ways more important, more rewarding, harder work and, dare I whisper it, more fun.

The first major issue was getting experience observing and helping in a school for two or three weeks. A delicate business, as it happens, when one realises that what one is doing, essentially, is presenting oneself to schools as a total stranger without a Criminal Records Bureau check who'd like to watch some small children for a few weeks, please. There is no way of doing this without appearing creepy, I have found.

I have also found that when you do get work experience, making a joke about the fact that you don't have a CRB check does not go down well in the staffroom. Know your audience, as a wise comic once said.

Thankfully, my search for work experience was aided by the fact that over the past couple of years my writing has become less jovial and more furious. As good luck would have it, that nice Mr Gove decided a couple of years ago to overturn the previous government's plan to extend free school meals to all primary school pupils living below the poverty line. Cue angry Guardian column from me, followed by burgeoning friendships with other dangerous Communists who believe that feeding poor children is A Good Thing. And so, thanks to the good offices of one of the mightiest school dinner champions in all the land, I secured several weeks' work experience in a rather super London primary.

I suspect that my final interview for a PGCE place next week will be a breeze compared with the grilling I received on my first day of observation from the young spokesman for Reception. It's certainly not going to finish with the words, "because you look like a teenager . …

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