Jamie’s Dream School

I don’t want to go into a rant or major discussion on the behaviour of the kids in Dream School, TV shows are edited in a way to create interest, discussion and passion and this show is no different. There’s always a back story to anyones behaviour and we haven’t been privy to that information from the show.

What the program really does show is that someone with an aptitude for teaching, especially someone with hands on practical knowledge of its application and a passion for their subject, really does make a huge difference. I’ve sat and watched many of the lessons from the YouTube channel associated with the show and many are engaging, interesting and enjoyable.

Some teachers are just that, career teachers, who’ve come from an academic background, through university, into teaching. They have, in many cases, little knowledge of the real world of applied science / maths etc. which is what often makes a subject interesting. I’m not decrying teachers here, many of whom work very hard to make interesting engaging lessons for their students, but as anyone who’s passed through the education system knows, there are teachers in the system that should not be teaching.

They probably know that themselves and their students almost definitely do, but the management of schools is such that it seems hard to improve or remove them. In the real world of work, our performance is assessed constantly. If you work for a good organisation those that work well and hard get rewarded, those that don’t ultimately get removed from the workplace. The world of school should become more like this, teachers should receive regular feedback from their students / peers and managers and be given the opportunity to improve. Fail to do that and you should be removed from the system, for the student’s sake.

I’m sure some schools are like this, but my own experience as a student and now as a parent, tells me that many are not.

Thinking back to my school years there are few teachers that really stand out. I was a pretty good student until I reached A levels, at which point the overly academic approach of a boys grammar school, coupled with the almost complete inability of the teachers to communicate the subject’s practical application, left me cold and disinterested. I, for the most part, wasted two years of school when maybe a more practical college course would have benefited me more.

The teachers did try and I swapped from pure maths to applied maths, which was an attempt to bring some relevance to the subject, but, as anyone who’s been there knows, the curriculum of applied maths bears little relationship to the real application of maths in the real world of work. I find that many of the curriculum areas I was disinterested in at school are fascinating to me as an adult. I’m always learning new things and as an engineer I just have to know how things work, to me the world of science, engineering and manufacturing are a playground with never ending possibilities.

This brings me on to a wider subject, that of finding your element. Sir Ken Robinson has been talking about this for a number of years and has given some great presentations at the TED conference in 2006 and in 2010. He makes a very good case that many people go through life hating what they do. Other’s on the other hand love what they do so much they can’t imagine doing anything else. They’d probably do what they love for free, if they could, such is their passion. This is exactly how I feel about engineering of all types, it’s a fascinating, engaging subject and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’m sure I could have had a better paying career, or one that was less stressful, but I don’t think I’d have enjoyed it, or be happy.

Sir Ken also makes a strong case that schools kill creativity and that creativity is incredibly important, not just to the limited arena of the arts, but also to every aspect of working life. It’s creative people who come up with the ideas that really move things forward. That old adage that ‘If you always do, what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got’. Watch his engaging and funny presentations here: –

I can also highly recommend his book ‘The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything‘ as a great read.

This is relevant to the Jamie’s dream school discussion because the lessons in which the students seem most engaged are those where there’s a creativity element or a real practical demonstration of the subject’s application to the real world, or even both.

Watch Robert Winston’s thoroughly engaging biology lessons, or Alvin Hall’s real-world application of maths and Jamie’s great cooking lessons and you’ll get the point. Look these up on the associated YouTube channel though, the television program is definitely edited for  impact and does not accurately portray some of the excellent lesson content.

Which brings me on to the students behaviour.

There’s no doubt the TV program is edited to make it interesting and raise blood pressure / stimulate discussion. By contrast, the YouTube channel showing the full lessons has been edited to remove much of the disruptive behaviour, so it’s obvious the truth about the students behaviour lies somewhere inbetween.

In the end though it doesn’t matter. Even if any of the students throw away the amazing opportunity they’ve been given (and we don’t know if they do) they have plenty of opportunity later in life, if they want to.

It’s never too late to learn.

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