And you finished exactly on time!

Richard Ellsworth, music teacher from Pinehurst School, guest blogs about the parallels between teaching and BBC broadcasting.

One of the best things about the Assessment for Learning PLD is having your lesson videoed and then watching it back.

You know how it feels to be trying to teach in a calm and purposeful way while your inner voice is going ten to the dozen and responding to the myriad of subtle cues going on in the classroom around you: is Johnny paying attention at the back, am I giving enough information to the gifted and motivated without losing the more challenged, am I pacing things right, is my ratio of teacher-talk v student-talk optimal, how much time do I have left?

It is very satisfying, therefore, to watch back and see that, for the most part, with all that going on in your head, you come across as much more calm and together as you may have felt, and that the students probably did benefit from your calm, professional manner even though it may not always have felt like it at the time.

Your AfL instructor, trained to bring out the best in you, will later offer lots of helpful and encouraging comments, and praise for the way you handled situations, even the tricky ones, and you feel much better for the peer confirmation AfL provides that you are probably doing at least a number of things right!

I was particularly heartened by my AfL instructor’s comment that, “with so much going on you still managed to finish the lesson exactly on time.”

I replied, “That must be because of my broadcasting training. Before being a teacher I used to work in live broadcasting and there is a direct parallel between doing a live programme and running a classroom lesson.”

It was that reply which prompted her to ask me to write this article for the EA website.

Throughout my teaching career I have used the skills used in live broadcasting to deliver my lessons. The basic aim of live radio and television is to keep things going smoothly by presenting the available material in as attractive and efficient way as possible, aware of the need to change things on the go without affecting the flow, mindful always of the needs of those to whom you are communicating, deciding whether to cut something short, allowing something to extend if it is going well, but always aware of the clock and exactly how long you have left so that you reach the end of the programme on time in a carefully crafted way.

It is with that skill set firmly established in my psyche after eight years of live broadcasting with the BBC that I came into teaching. In the BBC I would often take friends/guests into the studios to see the programmes going out. This prompted BBC colleagues to comment that I was making the watching of a BBC programme going out from the control gallery into something of a spectator sport. Which indeed it was!

In the classroom, when you are talking to the class then clearly you have taken on the role of the presenter. However when the class is engaged in an activity you become a cross between a television studio director and floor manager.

The clock has always been my main teaching tool. You can’t do everything for your kids. You can’t make them perfect students. You can’t always overcome their myriad of issues. But what you do have is time. So what you can do is use that time as efficiently and best as you can, adapting as you go, calmly and efficiently but also with a little bit of showmanship, carving out a 60-minute time slot which is both entertaining and informative and, as the cliché goes, ‘making a difference’.

You might like to watch my favourite Youtube clip of all time, that of BBC television newsreader Philip Hayten reading the One O’Clock News while everything that could go wrong behind-the-scenes was doing just that. Imagine the director’s talkback as the little voice in your head as you teach, and imagine yourself as the newsreader keeping incredibly calm so that the programme (lesson) runs smoothly and effectively as a result. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqhEpjOf__A


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