Keen on the screen

17th March 2006 at 00:00
They're evangelists for the new television channel for teachers. And many of the new Teachers' TV associates are students and NQTs. Fiona Flynn talked to some

If you spoke to someone at the Teachers' TV stand at the Education Show in Birmingham last week, it's likely that you spoke to one of the channel's 2,500 associates - they are the evangelisers, teachers who have signed up to spread the word about the channel to colleagues.

Associates get to watch previews of new shows, are involved with commissioning and give straight-talking feedback to producers. You might expect your average Teachers' TV associate to be an experienced teacher, but more and more recruits are in their first year. And student teachers are joining up.

Take Julie Ferguson. She's 35, a mother of four, a governor at a local school in Liverpool, and a student teacher. Julie is busier than most but, for her, the channel has been a real boon.

"I saw an ad on the (DfES) Standards site," says Julie, "Seeing as I've got cable, I started watching it occasionally. And it was really interesting!"

For Julie, watching something is a practical way of learning. "Take child protection," she says. "You can read about it, but I learned so much more from a Ted Wragg programme What if, where he gave a scenario about this (possibly) abused child. It was great to see how different people, teachers, nurses, social workers and so on handled a difficult situation like this. I don't think we're prepared for that in college."

Special needs is Julie's specialism and she says she appreciates the fly-on-the-wall approach the channel takes in real schools.

"When you're at college you go to your lectures and you read the books, but the most useful and interesting bit of teacher training is spending time in schools. Well, for me, TTV is the next best thing, and they have a huge range of schools so it's like visiting loads of them."

Another big attraction for these teachers is having every programme available, at any time, online. Jamil Martin, a 27-year-old NQT in Middlesex, came across Teachers' TV by chance when he was flicking through Sky channels. While he enjoys the news, documentaries and teaching tips on the channel, there are some things that are easier to watch online.

"It's easier to search on the website when you're looking for something in particular," he says. Such as science programmes. When Jamil faced teaching his first science topic, he made a point of watching programmes on primary science, and he freely admits that it boosted his confidence: "The stuff I watched helped me tackle teaching science for the first time - and they're only 15 minutes long, which is great."

Emily Larkin, a 23-year-old maths NQT in Norfolk, doesn't bother with television - she watches everything online. "I get access to the same programmes and I don't have to wait for them to come on," she says. And she's not afraid to click on fast forward if something isn't useful or relevant to her.

"I look out for the NQT stuff, but mostly I'm interested in maths. If I've got a particular topic coming up, I search for it. Obviously, they're using the best practical ideas, otherwise they wouldn't be filming it."

She checks the website every couple of weeks to see what's new, and uses it for finding resources. "I found one book on maths and human rights there, and my head of department went out and bought it on the strength of my recommendation," she says.

Emily is happy to promote the channel, since she's convinced that it has made a difference to her teaching. "You get to see how resources are used, and they tell you what's good and what's bad. That really helps," she admits. "They've done all the hard work for me."

Back up in Liverpool, four kids and a tired husband mean Teachers' TV is banned in Julie's house, so she retreats to the family computer. And instead of hanging around in college, she watches bits and pieces when she has space between her lectures.

"I head over to the library and log on to a computer, don the headphones and watch a video."

While Jamil uses the channel for science preparation, and Emily is mostly interested in maths, Julie's favourite is John Bayley, the behaviour consultant who visits new teachers in class and helps them.

"I think if you get your behaviour management right, then everything else falls into place," Julie says. "I only watch what I want to watch. I look online for what's useful to me. After all, I've spent all my money on books, and I love learning about my new career."

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