DVDs, Drama and Doodles: Things That Aren't Teaching

By Bennett, Tom | Times Educational Supplement, March 18, 2016 | Go to article overview

DVDs, Drama and Doodles: Things That Aren't Teaching


Bennett, Tom, Times Educational Supplement


Schools aren't marketplaces and kids aren't customers, but value for money is still something we can take seriously in classrooms and schools. I'm not talking about the simple cost/ benefit analyses of the spreadsheet but bang for your buck. I was reminded of this last week when I heard a parent from another school complain that their child had been given a DVD for the entire afternoon that day. Was it part of a syllabus? No. Was it part of some broader study? Was it tangentially educational? Was it a "treat" for some other greater labour? All no. It was just there. "Why should I fret about making sure my son attends every day, on time," she said, "if a teacher treats lesson time as something so disposable."

And she was absolutely right. Burning up an hour and change with the latest Hunger Games film makes me want to kill a few tributes myself. Outside of a media course, the only place for a full movie is a film club or similar. Otherwise you're just lighting cigars with fivers made out of children's opportunities. Every second counts in a school; many children won't get a second chance to sound out letters, learn about Vikings, run their tongue around algorithms and formulae and rhyme. For too many kids, school is the big window into another dimension, a cannon that can fire them from here to infinity. So why stuff that cannon with confetti?

There are lot of things that can happen in a classroom, and the teacher can set it up, and the children can do it, but it isn't teaching or learning. It's cargo cult teaching. From the safety glass porthole of the corridor it looks like a lesson, but it isn't. DVDs are only one of the most obvious examples. In my career I've done plenty of them, I've seen many more of them, and it took me years to see through the candy floss and the tinsel. …

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