I loved this TV programme. Jamie completely gets these kids. He knows just how they were turned off by their school experiences, how they have low self-esteem, and how they lack self-discipline. You could see that he really related to them, that it made him think deeply about his own school experiences.
I was relieved that, unlike Monday’s Panorama, he didn’t go over the top and cherry pick very rare examples of classroom violence and claim it was the normal everyday experience for British students. In fact, he just bluntly stated the facts, and then expressed a wish to do something for kids, as he wished someone had done for him.
These kids were fantastic people. They didn’t need, or appreciate, anyone lecturing them with what their problems were (as David Starkey discovered). Quite the opposite – they could recite their problems to each other, and were totally self-aware. What we heard were endless stories of lack of respect, lack of discipline for them leading to lack of self-discipline, and a terrible lack of aspiration, hope, and engagement.
They were given amazing people to learn from, but none of them were teachers. What you saw were fairly unruly kids being engaged but not self-disciplined. It clearly showed how these celebrity teachers lacked the understanding of classroom management, planning, and psychology, but that they did their best with genuine enthusiasm, respect (in most cases), and fantastic resources.
Of course, the average teacher has more than one hour of lessons per week. They have one twentieth of the time to reflect on each lesson, adjust their plans for the next, and recoup their energy. They have more paperwork, more assessment, massively prescribed curriculums that ensure they rarely get to follow the students’ own interests, and far fewer resources to work with.
This programme clearly shows what heroes teachers are, day in, day out. Resilient professionals, caring and engaging, raising aspirations. When David Starkey got angry and disappointed he lashed out at students, blamed others, and expected someone else to fix it. As a real teacher you just can’t do that. You have to take it all, work tirelessly to raise standards, with every child, every day.
Jamie’s Dream School has inspired me to keep challenging and engaging my students, to keep reminding them how much potential they have, and to be disciplined with them so that they can learn to discipline themselves. It’s given me a stark reminder that belittling students achieves nothing, and that they will only respond well to people who believe in them.
I look forward to the rest of the series. Well done Jamie.
PS A mini quote from me, on this subject, was published in The Guardian on Tuesday 8th March.