Summer of talking: interviewing teaching professionals

Written by Akile Ahmet. Posted in News

During the Summer I interviewed a sociology teacher and an officer at the National Union of Teachers about our research findings and their views on young people and aspirations. This blog is focussed on what they had to say about our work and their own experiences in the field of teaching and education. Molly Rose is a sociology teacher at a school in Derbyshire. She did Sociology A-Level at school and loved it and felt it was a natural choice to study it at university. She has been teaching for 13 years at the same school. The officer at the NUT has chosen to remain anonymous. Based on the fact that the CelebYouth project looked at celebrity and celebrity culture we thought it would be interesting to find out what people in the teaching profession thought about celebs:

Molly Rose’s views on celebrities was “I don’t have any strong views you know it the tabloids. It is often portrayed as a really negative thing I think that is wrong. I think the students are not brain washed by it or sucked into it. I think a lot of them are intelligent and they can pick and choose what they are influenced by. So say when I’m teaching I will have little anecdotes and examples of particular celebrities that I would assume that they would be familiar with and they are not always familiar with the mainstream ones so they will know random people that I don’t. Some of them take the stories with a pinch of salt”.

The NUT officer had a different perspective based on the fact that she has children of her own:

“I mean personally I’ve got children aged 7 and 10 and I dislike the fact that they are interested in the pop celebrities and see those as the people that they see in the media and don’t know people like Bill Gates for example and people that I think have done much more worthy things than just singing or whatever”.
The barriers faced by young people have been a central focus of my interviews and it is important to highlight what barriers each of our key informants identified:

When I asked Molly Rose what barriers she thought young people faced:
Some of them don’t have the highest aspirations, I think poverty is a huge barrier and a lack of opportunities – the economy and the lack of jobs, university fees are massive barriers. I think if you come from a community where your family hasn’t gone to university, and if all of a sudden it is really expensive it just doesn’t enter your decision making process in the way that it did mine because of my family. I think barriers are different for each person.

The NUT officer said the following:

“There are issues in terms of admissions to schools, so the school that you manage to go to is very important. Obviously issues around the whole Prevent agenda and the kind of stereotypes that are being created very much by the media which can probably create barriers for young people whether it is within their own peer groups or within schools, or the wider community and how we see young people. I mean gender, there are still huge barriers for women, and right back to school and the subjects that they take.
I think there are many barriers and I think that young people are much more aware of them. depends who is talking to them. So if they happen to be in a school that values those equality issues and they are making a big point of trying to give everyone the fairest opportunities well.

The CelebYouth project has been critical of the concept ‘aspiration’, and Molly Rose was particularly interested in the use of celebrity to talk about aspiration:

“I was interested in the young people that were thinking of celebrities in terms of hard work, striving, that kind of thing I found that really interesting so they were more positive about people who worked hard to get where they were and did good things with their money. They were quite scathing of people who had got rich by X Factor”.

What was striking in our interviews was that often some of our key informants reproduced some of the stereotypical thinking about celebrity and young people:

The NUT officer said the following: “Oh you know it leads to peer pressures and things like that..I mean that’s where celebrity comes in for girls particularly pressures on what you should like, pressures on how you should behave and it doesn’t just apply for girls it’s also for boys. There are also issues for young people who don’t necessarily fit the stereotypes you know those that might be LGBT so trying to manage being a teenager and managing other issues that are difficult for them.

The findings actually do surprise me.. ….Because again my perception has come from the media that young people see any easy win yeah become a footballer and make loads of money I don’t have to work hard for that and that’s the perception the media are giving of young people, so it’s interesting that when you actually talk to them they don’t they do actually value hard work and coming from nothing and making something of yourself so I am actually surprised at the findings, so it is really powerful and a real advocate for young people. The fact that they’ve got a bit more depth than the media would like us to think”.

It has been a great summer talking lots of different professionals involved with young people, education and careers. Our research is reaching out to different user groups. We will be holding events soon to discuss our findings further, so please check in on the website and twitter for further new information!.

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  • School of Sport and Education, Brunel University
    Kingston Lane, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB8 3PH


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