Let's Pitch It (part 1) - The Walk Back Home

As an ex ICT teacher I am quite ashamed to admit that this is my first attempt at writing a blog. Actually, that’s not quite true. This is the first time I have written a blog linked to my profession. I’ve written a number of short stories about myself, my family and our experiences on Gogglebox. They were done mainly to stretch my creative and literacy muscles.

However, now that I class myself as an “entrepreneur”, I felt it was high time I did a spot of self-promotion and a blog felt like a perfect place to start.

After a LinkedIn masterclass with the fantastic Sam Rathling a few months back, I set myself a number of online goals. One of them was to write an article for my LinkedIn profile. So this blog post will be used to kill two birds with one stone.

The masterclass was in March and we are now slowly approaching August. The reason it’s taken me so long to put fingers to keys and get typing is twofold.

The first reason is time. Now, I know this may come across as an excuse. However, I wanted to ensure I dedicated enough time to the first blog/article I published so that it was a well thought out insightful piece of literature as opposed to the ramblings of a middle aged man in the thralls of a mad career change. Five paragraphs in and I’m a tad worried I’ve already ticked that box. Now it is the summer holidays and things are a bit calmer, I am dedicating a good amount of time to this article.

The second reason is because I thought long and hard about the topic of my first article. I was initially going to tell the world a bit about my journey as a teacher, my reasons for leaving and the unique and fortunate position I find myself in due to my public profile by being “that guy of the telly”. I am keen to write a blog of this nature but I feel these stories focus on my past and I am much more excited to write about the here and now.

I have therefore decided to write something that feels a bit more tangible for me to write about and something I am also immensely proud of, and that would be the journey of my “Let’s Pitch It” workshop.

The concept of my “Let’s Pitch It” workshop came about, as most of my ideas do, whilst I was walking back home after a meal. It was my annual Siddiqui sibling dinner, which we tend to do a few weeks before Christmas. By “we”, I mean my brother’s Umar and Raza and my two sister Aaisha and Saadhia. I was two weeks away from leaving my teaching job of eight years with the view to do a spot of supply.

As I strolled back home carefully navigating the icy patches on the steep hill back to my house (made steeper by the one too many ciders in my system) my mind began to wander.

I had been given this fantastic hook by chancing my way on to the television phenomenon Gogglebox. For those of you who either don’t know or understand the popularity of the show, it is Channel Four’s most watched original show, it is on at a peak television time (9pm on a Friday) and is soon to start its twelfth series. Like it or loathe it, it’s doing quite well.

When I told my colleagues I was leaving my job, the first thing they asked me was “when will we see you in the Jungle”? They were of course referring to “I’m a celebrity get me out of here”. I laughed it off. Truthfully I didn’t go on Gogglebox to become famous or to pursue a career in television. I believe my brother, dad and I would all agree that the small, brief exposure we get, and the amazingly kind feedback from the general public is more than enough media exposure for us. Gogglebox suits our lives perfectly and if it meant we could no longer do that if we ventured in to new media avenues, then quite frankly we wouldn’t be interested.

My main passion, still to this day is teaching. It isn’t the admin, politics and madness associated with being a head of department, it is teaching. The actual physical act of standing in front of a group of students, regardless of age or ability and being able to motivate, inspire and educate them.

As I juggled these words in my head, “teaching”, “Gogglebox”, “Hook” an idea began to form in my head. It was the closest thing I’ve ever had to a eureka moment and it felt like the unravelling of a piece of thread on a jumper. The more I thought about it, the more I added to my idea.

I’d spent the last five years on a television show, which as well as giving me a much larger than average public and social media profile, gave me a unique insight in to the world of television. I thought back to countless conversations I had had with students during my lesson, asking questions about the filming process. I just dismissed it as a means for kid’s to distract me from teaching them binary, however there was a clear, genuine interest from students about the process.

This idea blossomed as I began to visualise a scheme of work in my head, how I could educate students in to the real goings on when a show is made. What the producer does, the camera and sound technicians and the role of the runner. However, I knew my experiences and views wouldn’t be enough to do the subject matter justice. The real strength of the workshops I visualised would come from the amazing support from Tania Alexander, an executive producer and the creator of Gogglebox. Tania was instrumental in supporting the content that I deliver in my workshops. She has forgotten more information about the television industry then I could ever hope to learn. Deciphering her knowledge and passion in to “pupil speak” would be the back bone of my workshops.

While the hill got steeper and more of the thread unravelled I personally believed that educating students about the goings on in the television industry would not be enough to deliver as a scheme of work. I then thought back to the systems development lifecycle from ICT and computer science. There was nothing to say I couldn’t educate students in to the importance of researching, planning, testing and evaluating a television concept. The same could also be said about a SWOT analysis. It didn’t have to just be a business that outlines it’s strengths weaknesses opportunities and threats. I could inform students about key theory from a host of subjects, but by linking them to the television business and putting a real world slant on the topics, I could engage students in a completely new way. This included functional maths, effective presentation and orating skills, the importance of democracy and voting. The scheme of work I was building on that long cold walk was going to be as cross curricular as possible.

The final piece to the puzzle was to maximise what the schools and their disadvantaged students get out of my workshop. A cross curricular scheme of work linked firmly with the real goings on of the television industry delivered not only by a fully qualified and experienced teacher but someone who the students have seen on television. This, in my mind sounded like a fantastic programme but not necessarily a fantastic opportunity for the disadvantaged students. I wanted to add something that would make the students invest in the workshops. I wanted to add something to the workshops that would get the kids excited and engaged, to me, the best thing to add would be an element of competition. If the students were competing with their peers and with other schools that would certainly give students more ownership and pride in their ideas and pitches.

As I was nearing the end of my walk home, I was wracking my brains for what the prize could be. Certificates, trophies, gift vouchers are all great, however I wanted to see what the biggest prize I could get would be.

The answer went back to the biggest strength my experiences have to offer. The support from actual people in the television industry. I had visited studio lambert before and loved the hustle and bustle of the offices. You could sense the creativity in the rooms, finely balanced with the professionalism of television staff in the fast paced London backdrop. If I could organise a trip for the winning team to not only sample the real life creativity of London television offices, but also the technical aspects, then that would be a once in a lifetime prize. To give students a real taste of the television industry in England’s capital city, to me, felt very inspiring.

If you could have seen me on that journey home, as the smile crept on my face grew bigger and bigger as each new idea sprung to mind, you would have thought I’d gone mad. However it was the realisation that I had come up with an idea that could be an extremely unique and inspiring experience for students who really deserve it.

I got home, excited and ready to share this amazing idea with my wife, but instead I got a speech about the time, having a soy sauce stain on my best shirt and smelling like a pub. Needless to say she liked the idea in due course, but I pitched it to her in a cleaner shirt the following day.