It’s one of the undeniable privileges of being a teacher to watch students you’ve taught go on to make successes of themselves. There’s pride of course, and also relief that you didn’t make a complete hash of it and ruin their lives. On Friday last, three ex-students of mine from Media A-Level past came back to school to work with current students on the course – I can’t recommend it highly enough!
I taught Jack Howard and Dean Dobbs when I worked in the East Midlands. During our A Level classes we often watched the latest funny sketch they’d made for their YouTube channel OMFGItsJackandDean – now re-branded Jack and Dean. Their channel now has nearly 400,000 subscribers and their sketches have had over 22 million views. They have over 200,000 Twitter followers between them, which puts even Tom Sherrington‘s follower count into perspective. They’re presenting a weekly show for Radio 1 on the BBC iPlayer, they’ve played a series of live dates including shows at this year’s Reading and Leeds Festivals – in short, they’re doing very well for themselves! Students I teach have actually heard of them. It’s very strange.
Poppy Dodgson was a more recent graduate of my A-Level group, and was in Year 13 the last time Jack and Dean visited. She’d already started to make videos on her poppylikesyou channel, and has since gone on to study Art at university, specialising in installations incorporating video.
We set the day up so that all students taking Media got a session with the YouTubers. For the GCSE students this was a chance to see one possible end point for the GCSE they had chosen, and also to learn some tricks of the trade. Jack carefully explained shot composition using their videos as examples, and took questions from the floor. For the A-Level students, it was a chance to get real examples of how the media works in the online age and how self-publication and dedication has led to a career. Also, for me, it was great to hear my determined insistence on meticulous planning of video shoots with storyboards, shot lists, schedules and risk assessments supported by the YouTubers, who gave the voice of experience to those just starting out!
At lunchtime our guests agreed to a meet-and-greet with students not taking media, either as a result of being in the lower years of school or through some poor decision making around options time…the queue stretched all the way around the block – it was quite strange to see students I’d taught held in what can only be described as adulation!
The afternoon session was perhaps the most useful of all. Following a great discussion of music video (during which Poppy shared her A-level coursework video and expertise), the current students loaded up their work in progress and got feedback and critique from those who had been there, done that, and gone on to the next level.
I’m very luck to have taught students such as these – past and present – but any teacher in any subject can benefit from staying in touch with ex-students. Whilst the magic dust of celebrity definitely helped the message to stick, there was huge benefit for the students to see that the work done in school genuinely leads somewhere, and to hear advice offered by their teachers endorsed by voices of recent graduates. Over the coming weeks we’ll be asking current Year 12 students to visit Year 11 classes to discuss approaches to revision and exam preparation, using the same principle – “we were you not so long ago, and look at us now! Here’s the advice we wish we’d had…”
Thank you so much to Poppy, Dean and Jack for their time and efforts. Here’s to the next YouTube day!