Mission: encourage and enlighten the minds of the disengaged youth in an underprivileged school in South London.
Resources: a love of the subject and only 6 weeks training…oh and blind optimism.
How hard can it be? Well judging by the number of phone call’s home in Thursday’s first episode…extremely.
Aside from the fact I’ve learnt that apparently we should be using the word “moist” as an insult now – according to the pupils of Archbishop Lanfranc School in Croydon- this show basically confirms what we already know. Schools are being filled with young, inexperienced teachers that have a sickening over-enthusiasm for their subject, but have limited training in applying that to a classroom situation full of 30 pupils who would rather be watching CBB or playing their PS4. These 6 top graduate teachers have been thrown in at the deep end, rather than a full teaching degree they only have 6 weeks training as part of the ‘teach first’ scheme run by an education charity – cue the onslaught of nervous breakdowns.
Generally from our own experience we can put teachers into boxes:
The “death-stare” ones.
The “chirpy/ has no clue what they’re going on about” ones.
The “wet sock” ones.
The “genuinely decent (firm- not strict, friendly – not a beg, and humour that masks the smart)” ones.
Take for example, Mr. Wallendahl’s Theology class aka. A “dull” one. Ellen Jones for the Independent takes a cheap shot in her review of the show by implying that Wallendahl’s privileged Oxford education meant he was alien to those that did not have the same ‘calm home lives’ and opportunities, which is what caused the issues in his lesson. Firstly, not all those at Oxford have ‘calm home lives’ or are disengaged with reality. Regardless, it does not have bearing on an inability to connect with others – that comes down to simple human understanding. Mr. Wallendahl accepted in this episode that “ultimately we all have backgrounds and we can’t change them,” and despite this he still managed to engage some of the class in his lesson. The issue lay in his unwillingness to persevere with the more challenging students; at the first sight of misbehaviour he went the tough love route and washed his hands off them because they were disengaged. Why is this? There could be a multitude of factors for why pupils mess about but in this case it didn’t look as if home life was the cause. Instead the teaching style was…well lacking in style – it was just downright boring, a dull monotonous tone, with no real enthusiasm. Contrast this to Claudenia, a 23-year-old science teacher, who literally started with an impressive bang in her year 7 class – but the young are easily amused and it takes a little more than exploding balloons to win over the year 9s.
This show has raised a lot of questions about what I perceive good teaching to actually be. It isn’t just about the love of a subject to will you through; it’s also the experience to control a class and to also encourage those that don’t see it as beneficial or interesting, to take it seriously, which leads me to my next point – the students. Whether we like to admit it or not, a lot of pupils are disengaged, especially in comprehensive state schools where no money has been spent on your education or hours of training for 11+ exams – the government says you have to be here, so here you will be. This programme might actually do some good in showing the ugly truths in our education system and how best to deal with them, such as the fact these pupils are out right telling their teachers, No I didn’t put any effort into this work and there’s nothing you can say to make me care. I feel that there needs to be an education in the importance of education. The pupils in this episode didn’t seem to recognise the worth of learning and what it can offer. Is this because they don’t have a clear role model? Have they no examples of where hard work has reaped rewards? Is it just about getting the grades or do they see what lies beyond this? Towards the end of the show I kept thinking about what will happen to those that leave the ‘school life bubble’ at the end of year 11 and face the real world? For those with no qualifications harsh reality will dawn on them very quickly, whereas those that paid attention that little bit more will have a world of prospects waiting for them because of it. I am interested to see how well these pupils and teachers interact in the upcoming episodes and whether or not a harmonious balance is struck, grades are achieved and young minds inspired.
PHOTOS// express, teachfirst