Third Year Teaching Practice at Axminster

Steve Hatton

In my final year at St Luke’s they moved the timing for the third year teaching practice from the Spring Term to the Autumn term, so we had only just returned from the summer break when we were farmed out to the schools.

It had been a bit of a tradition that those students who were proctors would be assigned to schools fairly local to Exeter so that they would be able to commute and still carry out their duties in assisting the new first year students to “settle in”, consequently I was given Axminster with 4 day digs!

It was a pleasant enough drive from Killerton to Axminster on my first day. About 30 miles so a very early start. I arrived at the school in plenty of time, along with Snowy George and Doey Baker.

We found our way to the staff room and made ourselves as inconspicuous as possible in a corner of the room. We sat at a table in one corner as staff started to arrive. Not the best start, but a worthwhile lesson was learnt, we sat at the table of “the old crew”, the four teachers who clearly has been at the school since it was built, one of whom was eager to explain that “his” chair had been shaped to “his” bottom by the passage of time.

During the first day we received our time tables, and started our “duties”. I don’t recall being shown around the school or being introduced to anyone apart from the head of maths – Bob Burcher.

My digs were about a mile or so away from the school in an off-season B&B. Very pleasant. The evenings I would have dinner and do what marking and preparation was necessary then, usually, I would wander down to the pub. The company was amiable and I managed to create a rapport with Kit, the landlord’s son.

The ten weeks went by – not to uneventfully.

About the fourth week, we were returning to Axminster from Killerton on the Monday morning following a weekend of exceptionally heavy rain. Between Honiton and Axminster the river had flooded. The main road for nearly a mile was under water. There were several cars abandoned, presumably they had flooded their engine going through the water too fast. I took it gently and passed through without difficulties.

The week following half term, probably my fifth week at the school, I returned home from school on the Monday evening with a temperature. I didn’t bother with a meal and went straight to bed. Sometime that evening Mrs Harris knocked on the door to see if I was OK. Her husband brought me up a whisky toddy that saw me through the night, but by the following morning I was clearly no better. Mrs Harris persuaded me that I should go home (to Killerton) as I was clearly unfit for school.

When I got back to Killerton I went to bed. Shortly after I got there, Dennis came along and said I would need to be in College as they were unable to look after me at Killerton. Somehow, Pat Goodall got to hear of this conversation and intervened. She told Dennis that there was no reason why I should not stay in my room and he should arrange to have my meals delivered to me! I’m not sure that went down very well with the Thomas’ but that’s what happened. I was in bed for a week. I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite as unwell as I did that week. I hardly moved from my bed. I returned to the school the Following Monday.

During the last week at Axminster it snowed! Not heavily, but perhaps 3 or 4 inches. I drove into school very gently and pulled into the car park. As I got to the top of the car park I started to turn round the building into the parking area. Unfortunately, snow had built up on the left hand side of the windscreen where it had been deposited by the wipers. This blind spot concealed a Morris Van that was just pulling out of the car park. I hit him square on in the middle of his radiator. Fortunately, I was only travelling at a crawl, and I assume he was travelling at a similar speed. The damage was small, but not a great start to my last week.