Film & TV

Five Lessons Learned From Tough Young Teachers

Recent BBC3 documentary Tough Young Teachers follows the journeys of six first time teachers recruited by the educational charity Teach First. The charity recruits leaders to teach in challenging schools across the UK, the programme focusses on teachers based in London. With Teach First being the third top graduate employer and with over 2 million viewers tuning in to the documentary each week, what five lessons have we learnt from the show?


Lesson Number One: Teachers must be ready for anything

After arriving late on her first day of teaching, forgetting to bring the books for the class and unable to hold the children’s attention; the odds were against new English teacher Meryl. The children certainly didn’t react well to Meryl’s strict yet quirky teaching technique. With her school beginning to question her abilities, Meryl began cracking down on any bad behaviour. In an afternoon detention session with one of her year ten pupils, Meryl sought to teach her pupil a lesson. She played his least favourite artist, Justin Bieber, on loop until he completed the task which she had set him. I guess the lesson here is that the children must also be ready for anything.

Lesson Number Two: Sometimes teachers have feelings

If the show has taught us nothing else, it has helped the inner-child in us all realise that teachers are humans. They have social lives, occasionally a sense of humour and sometimes they even cry. As was the case for Business teacher Oliver in episode 2, who struggled to deal with negative feedback. But, never fear! We have learnt from the show that the best way to overcome emotion after a hard day in the classroom is to march to the toilet and write a song. Yes, you heard correct. After a difficult BTEC lesson, Oliver vented his frustration in a Beyonce diva-esque fashion and went all lyrical on us. An interesting approach.

Lesson Number Three: Teaching isn’t always in the classroom, a spot of shooting anyone?

Much like rookie Maths teacher Nicholas discovered, you can inspire children outside of the classroom. In episode three, Nicholas took young Zach to the countryside for some shooting. Now, arming a teen with a gun and asking him to shoot animals does not exactly sound like the most sensible of ideas, however Nicholas used the day out to nurture and raise Zach’s aspirations. As the pair chatted about family life we witnessed Nicholas stepping, in his rather muddy wellies, into the role of father figure. Who would have thought pheasant shooting could be so emotional to watch?

Lesson Number Four: Being in the Nativity play will never be cool

In episode two we followed first time Religious Education teacher, Charles, seeking out a pupil to act as Joseph in the annual nativity school play. After his head of school set him this challenge, he painfully approached students with a less than enthusiastic description of what the role involves. He was far from surprised when all of the students he asked declined his offer. I guess it reaffirms the view that being in the school nativity play is still considered uncool.

Lesson Number Five: If you can do, teach!

If there is one lesson learnt from Tough Young Teachers that has been most valuable, it is that the myth ‘If you can’t do, teach’ is far from the truth. As we follow second year Geography teacher Chloe and first time science teacher Claudinia, we realise that teaching is a challenge for the brave. Getting the balance between being creative, approachable and assertive is hard work. But if there is one thing that cannot be denied, it is that these young teachers are extremely tough.

Are you up to the challenge? If so take a look at Teach First’s Leadership Development Programme (

Georgina Charles

[Picture courtesy of Teach First]

What did you think of Tough Young Teachers. Let us know via Facebook and Twitter, or leave a comment below.

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2 Comments on this post.
  • Richard
    4 April 2014 at 18:18
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    Spot the male ethnic minority.

  • Kean
    12 May 2014 at 21:29
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    It’s so true. Anyone can mindlessly lstien to a lesson but when you get the questions, that is where the learning takes place.A lot of the text of the Babylonian Talmud is in the context of asking questions and then providing answers just terse enough that the reader can then probe further. It’s best, of course, when done with a partner or group for that reason. Each person can bring up other questions and the learning continues.

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