By Andy McHugh

Teacher radio has burst onto the edu-scene and it looks like it’s here to stay. But why is it so popular? Andy McHugh gives his thoughts…

It’s early on Saturday morning and I’m making breakfast in the kitchen. I used to stick some music on, or listen to a comedy podcast, while the kids watch their cartoons in the living room. Radio isn’t really my thing – too many adverts and presenters trying to be cool. Now though, I find myself tuning into teacher radio shows. At this point, I know that I’ve lost some of you.

Teachers? Presenting a radio show? About teaching? ON A SATURDAY MORNING???

I do wonder what prompted the recent emergence of teacher radio. Was there simply a niche that wasn’t being filled, or were teachers crying out for more ways to listen to and interact with their favourite “edu-celebrities” (for want of a better word). Either way, I don’t think it matters.

It seems I’m not alone. Since its inception in January 2021, Teacher Talk Radio has made its way into the daily lives of thousands of teachers. In fact, at this point in time, Teacher Talk Radio alone has had over 20,000 live listeners and upwards of 150,000 downloads. I sense this is only just the beginning.

The radio format is a tried and tested one. Edu-podcasts are incredibly popular, but they lack the one thing that radio is able to provide: live interaction. Guests can call in or tweet to share their experiences, ask and answer questions, or just to air their opinions. The radio-style feels less formal and it’s much easier on the ear, more like overhearing a conversation rather than listening to a polished speech. It’s hard to maintain focus on anything complex first thing on a Saturday morning while I’m making pancakes. I’m a huge fan of podcasts and I absolutely love watching videos on YouTube, but teacher-radio really has added something else, something new. To misquote a famous song: radio killed the video star.

Teachers have consumed edu-media for a long time, via blogs and more recently, podcasts. In the last year though, the live-audio format has enjoyed huge success. Clubhouse, the self-styled “Social Audio App”, has allowed people to get together virtually for an interactive audio experience. While I do enjoy peeking into the different “rooms” to hear what is going on, it can feel a little like an exclusive club. They all seem to know each other and I’m just the outsider looking in. Teacher radio feels just the opposite. When I tune in, I feel like I’m in the staffroom, listening to a friend, a mentor, or just that entertaining teacher who captivates everyone’s attention with their funny anecdotes and flair for storytelling.

Most of the presenters themselves are practising classroom teachers and this lends a level of authority that other media often lacks. It’s good to know that when you’re being offered advice, or when someone is telling you what “it” is really like, that they are, in fact, just like you. And not only that, they’re in the trenches with you. They too have lessons to plan for tomorrow and their kids’ school uniform to iron. They’re also trying to figure out how to fit in marking mock papers, applying for that promotion and how on earth they’re going to get to their child’s footy practice by 5pm. They. Are. You.

Listening to teacher radio might not be something you’re interested in, but give it a go anyway. I bet you’ll feel part of it. You might even end up getting involved. Either way, I’ll still be listening.

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