Anyone who thinks teaching is easy should definitely watch Tough Young Teachers, BBC Three’s new fly-on-the-wall series.
The six-part show follows six young trainee teachers at the start of their careers in secondary schools. They are all part of Teach First, the fast-track programme that after six weeks of intensive training sends high achieving young graduates to teach in schools in disadvantaged areas. The teachers are filmed over the course of a year as they get to grips with their new roles. We see their highs and the lows, their elation at teaching a great lesson and their disappointment when tricky teenagers refuse to knuckle down and work.
All six are smart, motivated and determined to make a difference to their pupils’ lives. The brightest of the bright, they could easily have chosen far less demanding jobs but have jumped at the chance to teach youngsters at three challenging London schools. One of the group, psychology graduate Claudenia Williams, says she’s desperate to “get it right” – because “it’s not like losing a bit of money or a job or losing a contract or letting someone go. It’s about someone’s life at the end of the day so it’s not something that I can get wrong.”
She’s absolutely right of course. Teaching is such an important job – and so tough to do well. I’ve tried it myself so I know what I’m talking about. I taught A level English and HND media production for a while at a further education college in Oxfordshire – and believe me, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I’ve blogged about it before but coming up with engaging lessons, preparing students for exams, keeping control of classes and staying on top of marking, lesson plans and the endless paperwork that teaching demands these days is easier said than done. One girl in my class fell asleep every lesson (I think it was because she worked in a bar at night, not because I was THAT boring), a boy whizzed his skateboard along the classroom floor and others regularly chatted and texted pals when I wasn’t looking. Worst of all, one young couple whispered sweet nothings to each other when I was being assessed by a senior teacher.
Yes, I was utterly useless – unlike the Teach First graduates, who have clearly got what it takes.