Some say great teachers are born, others say they are made. But whatever the truth, new recruits to the teaching profession still need to begin somewhere. It is usually at this time of year that bright-eyed, enthusiastic student teachers boldly go where many fear to tread - the classroom. Dozens of local trainees are now heading towards ESF schools. Armed only with the confidence of youth and memories of their recent schooldays, they are despatched by tutors into the wonderful, mysterious world of organised learning. These first sessions are called 'observations' but clever teachers can spot an extra pair of helpful hands quicker than the fleeting image of a flash card. Sooner than they expect, they can be faced with a reading group or be helping with a maths class. My own induction into the joys of educating raw, untrained minds largely consisted of avoiding missiles hurled by recalcitrant members of what was quaintly termed the 'special class' in an area more renowned for producing reprobates than graduates. Though it was not the most encouraging start, there was definitely something strangely inspiring about the passion and intensity that went beyond scoring a direct hit on the light. In less extreme cases, appearances can still be deceptive. Experienced teachers have well-ordered classrooms with admirable discipline. Like many experts, they make it look deceptively easy. The opposite is true. Co-ordinating the needs of pupils within the context of a lively, modern school demands application, intelligence, patience and not a little fortitude. A secondary colleague reports her embarrassment during her own observation when she agreed to temporarily supervise a Year Nine tutor group. During the short time of the teacher's absence, one of the girls made a request that sounded polite enough and reasonably clear to her untutored ears. The trouble was that it was uttered in a broad British accent. Slightly flummoxed and eager to please, she rummaged around in her handbag for an item related to personal sanitation normally used only by females. It was only after attempting to pass it surreptitiously that the girl commented, 'Nah, I said have you got any Tippex?' The first few weeks of a school year can be difficult for everyone. New relationships need to be formed and routines set. The stresses can be irksome and some teachers may privately wish they had never been born or even trained. Yet their professionalism should sustain them. As this year's trainees arrive, they might reflect on their own first tentative steps as a student and draw strength from the fact that things just have to get better. For many of us this was before Tippex was invented. Paul McGuire is deputy principal of an English Schools Foundation primary school. E-mail us if you have a Staff Room tale to tell.