Three days in the classroom gave comedian Rhod Gilbert a new-found respect for teachers.
|Rhod Gilbert (comedian) spends time with children! It is clear, he is listening!|
Spending three days in a primary school for my television programme Rhod Gilbert’s Work Experience was among the most inspiring things I have ever done.
What’s key to teaching is the element that I loved the most: imparting knowledge and information to the children, watching them learn and, you hope, becoming a force for good in their lives. It was incredibly inspiring, moving and the most wonderful privilege.
I got a taste of it for just a few days – after a very short period, kids were coming up to me and saying the most moving things, the most inspiration things, about the impact I’d had on them. And that was me just dicking about and having fun with them, giving them time, listening. I can only imagine what it’s like to teach them for years. It must be mind-blowing.
In my time at the school, I learned that it is impossible to over-estimate the value teachers have in our society. It’s priceless. But, amazingly, teachers are fairly poorly respected. These people are shaping the next generation, they are having a massive influence on what society will be like in five, 10, 15 years’ time. It’s as much down to them as it is to parents.
Yet many teachers I know are tire, stressed, downtrodden, poorly rewarded, overworked, over-examined and league-tabled to within an inch of their lives, and we as a society, as parents, as politicians, have a duty to do something about it.
So I have come up with a radical solution. All teachers should have government-funded personal masseuses, drivers and personal assistants to massage their shoulders on the way to school, rub their feet and grant them sexual favours. All so that, when they do into the classroom, they are excited, motivated and fresh as a daisy. The rest of us should be doing this…or, at least, the rest of us in society who are paid pointlessly large sums of money for doing sod all.
The teachers at the school where I was placed were committed down to their very last drop of energy and passion. They were phenomenal and the school was awesome. Despite the piles of paperwork, bureaucracy and nonsense that seem to do little more than destroy teachers, they were still incredibly enthusiastic and undaunted – a testament to how passionate they are about their jobs.
But my time in school wasn’t as simple as me walking in to the staffroom and falling in love with the profession. The first day I spent just taking the mick because of all the happy-clappy, modern, funky teaching methods.
The main reason for my reaction was that it was so different form when I was at school in the 1970s. Then, a jam sandwich was considered two of your five a day and schools were made up of teachers in classrooms, blackboards and rows of kids slumped over desks, learning by rote.
In Monnow Primary, near Newport, South Wales, where I was based for the programme, it’s all independent “zones”, including the “multimedia zone” and the “thinking zone”. For example, they didn’t do maths in the classroom, they did it in a forest. It was like something from The Mighty Boosh.
But then, over the three days, I saw how the school’s methods engaged the kids and how they loved it, and how much fun they had while they were learning. I became convinced that teaching has really improved in terms of learning through play.
I dicked around a lot when I was in school. I wasn’t bad, but I just wasn’t interested. It wasn’t my teachers, it was just me. If we’d had the teaching methods I saw in this school, I would certainly have been more engaged.
I was only at Monnow for three days, but I’m going to go back there and help out, because I felt like I had an impact. It was sensational. The best thing I’ve ever done.
Rhod Gilbert’s Work Experience: Teacher is on BBC iPlayer.
Times Educational Supplement Friday 11 May 2012