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My name is Peter Wilde and I was the Physics master on That’ll Teach ‘Em Boys v Girls.
As a middle-aged, product of a 1960’s
Mancunian secondary modern school I wasn’t really in my element in a 1950’s
East Anglian Grammar. I work at the moment in the Blue Coat Grammar school in
Liverpool where I have been head of Physics for about five years. I picked up a
magazine in the senior common room one day and saw a picture of Matron with an
invitation to apply for the new series of That’ll Teach ‘Em. So the most
obvious question is why would such a teacher want to give up a month of his
summer holiday to teach some more?
• I had watched most of the first series and some of the second and I was really curious to see what it would be like looking at the whole thing ‘from the inside’.
• I love teaching (an embarrassing admission that one!).
• Some of my more senior colleagues kept telling me how much more pleasant the job was ‘in the old days’ and this was the only way I would find out for myself.
• I didn’t really think about it too much at first and by the time I’d been auditioned and offered the ‘part’ I was flattered to be considered.
• I thought it might be a laugh. It SO was!
Almost the whole experience was great fun. Most of the people involved were up for it in a big way. The ‘Staff’ were small but perfectly formed (and that was just the Headmaster) and gelled very well over the month we were there. We all had our strengths and ‘areas for development’ (as we say in the profession) but worked as a great team and mostly looked out for each other. There was a good balance of old lags and fresh meat both in the ‘cast’ and the production people. The series producer Ludo, reminded me of Ace Rimmer – ‘What a guy!’ - he even plays a mean game of table tennis.
The children were well chosen and, as you would expect when hand picked from such a large number of applicants, each of them had something interesting about them. I suppose there were some whose particular qualities didn’t come out too much but others gave us surprises and so it was rarely boring (except prep!). Of course teachers NEVER have favourites but if I did there would be some of the pupils who I would love to meet again and chat to over a pint or three.
My birthday. I had my birthday on a day when I
was duty master and so my working day lasted from early punishment to bedtime
story. Also I was away from home for a long time and only got to see my wife
(who was working and couldn’t visit) and friends once. I got cross too when
one or two of the children were nice as pie when they weren’t on camera and
played up when they were. There was one in particular who I gave a lot of time
to help but who insisted on fronting me up when there were cameras there, most
I glad I did it. Of course I’m writing this before it has been shown and there hasn’t been any fallout from being on television. I expect that I’ll not feature as much as my larger-than-life colleagues though so I doubt that there will be much. I did get an insight into how T.V. is made though and it does alter your perception when watching at home. The past is a different country, they do things differently there. It’s a reasonable place to visit but I certainly wouldn’t want to live there. Teaching must have been easier then but I don’t believe it was better.
The methods of teaching now are far superior but, at best, only manage to compensate for other disadvantages of modern life. Discipline is important and I think its lack is the main reason why today’s students fail to achieve their potential but I wouldn’t have liked maintaining the distance that was expected between staff and pupils then. Good discipline is based on respect. We can’t now expect unquestioning and immediate respect from our students but we must have it if we are to guide them to success and so it’s our responsibility to earn it.