How Are Teachers Portrayed in Media?


Paul B takes a look back at teachers and their portrayal on the screen, big and small alike. He also covers a little-known oddity known as Teachers TV…

Back at the dawn of the millennium, when the digital boom caused TV channels to multiply quicker than Carol Vorderman, if you scrolled deep enough into the Freeview listings you’d find a real oddity nestled somewhere between QVC and UK Gold.

Funded by the even shorter-lived Department for Children, Schools and Families, Teachers TV brought the classroom into your living room (oh, the hell!). In fairness, though this was even more of a busman’s holiday than Educating Essex or any of those other places the cameras have visited, it was a well-intentioned attempt at sharing best practice and helping teachers to teach, a crusade that Twinkl continues today. All the same, cinema verité footage is too close for comfort to recorded observations. If we really must watch anyone teach, these are some examples of popcorn viewing that doesn’t stick in the throat…

Dangerous Minds

Simpson-Bruckheimer productions had already created a spike in recruitment for the air force (Top Gun) and welding (Flashdance), could they repeat the trick for teaching? Hell yeah! Based on LouAnne Johnson’s autobiographical My Posse Don’t Do Homework, the late ’90s intake of NQTs all fancied themselves as Michelle Pfeiffer living in a Gangsta’s Paradise!

Carry On Teacher

A British institution, the Carry On… series has severely dated but this 1959 instalment hopefully serves to make your own existence seem a little less farcical. As well as less saucy. Lord knows what a remake in the age of #MeToo and Tinder would look like!

Bad Teacher

If Pfeiffer’s LouAnne appeals to the ego, then Cameron Diaz’s Elizabeth appeals to the id. A blithe cynic, she only carries on teaching to pay for breast implants. In tandem with the similarly-named Jack Whitehall sitcom Bad Education, is it any wonder the general public don’t hold our profession in the highest esteem?!

Summer Heights High

Chris Lilley’s Australian high school mockumentary could always be relied upon to strike levels of unreal absurdity but there’s a kernel of truth in every character and situation, including maniacal drama teacher Mr G. The show’s creator actually taught drama classes to harvest material. And Mr G’s Movement Piece on Anorexia is a highbrow rival to that hackneyed David Brent dance.


Comedy drama is a genre that probably best describes the daily life of most of us, and this Channel 4 offering that marginally pre-dated Teachers TV raised a lot of laughs by showing the staffroom to be as unruly as the classroom (sample quote: “I never want to see ‘for being a mong’ in the detention book again”, it’s easy to see why the DCSF might have deemed Teachers TV necessary). Playing an NQT who has to keep both students and emotions in check was no doubt ideal preparation for Andrew Lincoln’s later role in zombie-apocalypse drama The Walking Dead.

Clearly, Teachers TV missed a trick in not applying Hollywood production values and exploring the full gamut of what it means to be a teacher. Our lives and lessons are undoubtedly worthy of projection onto the big screen, so long as we get to edit them first of course! Which just begs the question, who’s gonna play you in the movie of your life?

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