Podcasts: Yay or nay?

Back in the embryonic stage of my teaching career, we had our summer school to get us prepared for the first few weeks of being trainee teachers. One day was solely dedicated to subject knowledge and working through out the day with the History consultants from the MAT’s HQ.

It was a really useful day, including where we spoke about our subject knowledge and how we could develop it over the summer holidays in prep to go into our schools.

The typical examples came out: read some books, read magazines, watch some documentaries. All ones I could get on board with.

There was also a suggestion of listening to podcasts. Podcasts. Hmmmm.

Now, if I am not in a professional environment or having a conversation with someone, then you’ll be surprised not to see my big headphones wrapped around my neck or over my ears blocking out the world around me. But would I go to a podcast? Hell no.

If I have my headphones in, then I am obviously listening to some old school R&B, rap, grime, garage or the cheesiest pop classics you can think of. Music, great. Someone talking at me, not so much.

This aversion to podcasts extends to my dislike of talk radio, too. I have this weird aversion to listening to someone talk on the radio – I switch off quite quickly and don’t take anything in (this used to prove difficult when I used to work in politics and had to listen to the radio quite a bit to keep up with the news). I’m sorry, Radio 4 just isn’t for me.

Yet, COVID-19 changed things around for me. Like most things in life, COVID-19 changed up our lives, but during lockdown, I have really (and I mean, really) got stuck into some great podcasts. And, hands up, I am an evangelical convert.

Having the time to sit and really listen to a podcast during lockdown has really benefited me – however, I still have the problem of it not sinking in, unless I am writing ideas down at the same time or listen to it a second time.

Some highlights have been:

Virtually Teachers – This roundtable format where 5 teachers from different contexts all come together and talk about various aspects of teaching, with a focus on history teaching has been so fascinating that it has peppered my frequent socially distanced walks. The irony of being on a walk on a Sunday evening and listening to the podcast about teacher workload and wellbeing is not lost on me!

Versus History – Now, this podcast is one I have listened to prior to lockdown, as they provide some great, accessible snapshots of subject knowledge. However, I am still struggling to figure out how I can incorporate the podcast about the History of Garage music; however much I loved it and reminisced to the garage music that sound tracked my young teens. I have even suggested this podcast to my Year 10 students to listen to, especially the extensive podcasts about Germany.

It’s a Continent – I came across this podcast a few weeks before the media storm around the #BlackLivesMatter protests that swept America and other Western countries, and the reactions calling for more Black History in our national curriculum. This podcast is fascinating, accessible and enjoyable with its easy listening and engaging approach to talking about an aspect of history which is so often overlooked. A must listen if you want to develop your knowledge about African History, that goes beyond slavery.

The TES Podcast – I was introduced to the world of the TES Podcast by my NQT mentor, who suggested that I listen to Jamie Thom’s interview with Jo Facer about her new book, Simplicity Rules. It really got me engrossed to listen to other podcasts, which included ones on how to better use Teaching Assistants in the classroom, decolonising the curriculum and one on curriculum planning by Jennifer Webb. The range and variety on the TES podcast means there is plenty for everyone in the teaching community to access and all in short, accessible ways.

Two years ago, if you had asked me about listening to podcasts to supplement my development and practice, I would have probably brushed it off and said ‘I am too busy for them’, but now I see them as a complimentary part of how I am developing as a teacher and find them quite relaxing to listen to now.

I’d encourage anyone to explore and find what podcasts work best for you, be adventurous and open minded. Just like with blogs, there is a growing behemoth of educational podcasts out there for teachers at all stages of their careers.

Yet, I won’t be joining the Radio 4 crowd any time soon. *shrugs*

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