Tough Young Teachers: BBC3’s new reality show about Teach First

The first episode in the new education ‘reality’ show Tough Young Teachers airs tonight at 9pm on BBC3. While I usually avoid any form of reality TV, I am almost contractually obliged to watch this six part series because of the ‘Pedagogies of Teacher Education for Urban Schools’ project. And I’m also interested in seeing how one of our local schools in west London is represented – as a site for two of the featured Teach First trainees.

Teach First is the English equivalent of Teach for America and was founded in 2002  by Brett Wigdortz, a former McKinsey employee, with the support of Andrew Adonis, a New Labour education minister, and others. Wigdortz is also a co-founder and chief strategy adviser to Teach for All, an umbrella organisation of over 30 Teach for America like projects around the world. At the moment, Meg Maguire, Ken Zeichner, Tom Are Trippestad, Yang Xiaowei, Yunqiu Liu and I are writing up our research into the rhetoric of Teach for All across the US, UK, Norwegian and Chinese Teach for All websites.

Teach First is very good at several things and mainstream teacher education programmes might learn a good deal by studying it carefully. One of the things it does well is to persuade highly-qualified graduates to teach, even if only for a while. It is one of the most rhetorically adept organisations out there – with particular expertise in the Aristotelian concepts of ethos and pathos. Teach First is very good in establishing a strong, moral basis to underpin its appeal to prospective participants and it is also very good at playing on the emotions and, particularly, the altruism of idealistic young people. It can make its participants want to teach more than anything else in the world and make them believe that they have the capacity to change the world, beginning with the children in front of them.

Aw, bless …. tough young teacher at the chalkface

Aw, bless …. tough young teacher at the chalkface

I’ll return to Tough Young Teachers in future posts. In the meantime, some clips and further information are available on the programme web page.

Picture credits: BBC3