The first episode of a new series called The Secret Teacher on Channel 4 told focussed on a self-made millionaire, himself someone who admitted he had wasted his time at school behaving badly, going back into a secondary school ‘undercover’ as a support assistant in search of a couple of well deserving students he could offer (financial) support to so they could fulfil their undoubted potential. He also donated a significant amount of money to the school who decided to use it to employ an English teacher (earlier in the programme he had sat in on a Year 11 English class of 60 students) because the original teacher who had been appointed had not turned up on the first day of term so the school had to manage by combining classes. The programme highlighted for our self-made millionaire the incredibly challenging and unfair funding challenges faced by schools and the almost desperate need to be able to support students by giving them opportunities to succeed in order to fulfil their own ambitions.
Whilst two lucky students were given a helping hand the rest of the students were not quite so fortunate begging the question of favouritism and whether it is right to help just two out of hundreds or better to help none at all but use the financial assistance in another way to benefit the majority. In truth it boiled down to both the chosen students having heart-warming back stories as well as undoubted potential. Our self-made millionaire could also see bits of himself in both of the students making his decision easier.
Leaving aside the morality of favouritism, the more heart-warming part of the story was how genuinely grateful the two students were for the help. The way both of them melted on being told the good news was in complete contrast to their normal personas. It reiterated just how important it is for children to be given opportunities with someone believing in them and providing them with the tools to succeed. Even the toughest of children need to believe there is hope otherwise what’s the point?
Perhaps the success of the programme was in showing that all children should be given the opportunity to follow their dreams whatever it takes. Whether they choose to make the most of their opportunity is then up to them but to deny them in the first place is a failure of the system/s. It sounds so simple and idealistic, and it is on many levels, but as educators we have to remind ourselves sometimes what really matters in the end.