Compared to this, I thought, as a Belgian school-age student you have little more to fear than a private limited company that is foreign to the zone who is led to the front of your class under camera guidance in order to experience the teaching profession firsthand within the framework of this or that program, of course to the amusement of all involved.
I especially remembered ‘The Class’ in that respect, but I also believe that ‘Mr Vanneste’ promised in the first episode that it would become the kind of program in which you can learn something about the school desk crisis. Because, as Vanneste had also appeared as a former teacher, in the reporting about our education it is today the lament that predominates. Vanneste lit up about this at the school of his own children, but although Dessel is the navel of the world, he soon realized that he had to broaden his view if he wanted to arrive at irrefutable insights. He then also knocked on the door of schools in Turnhout and Kasterlee. After all, if Dessel is the world’s navel, the Kempen will remain the underbelly in which it is housed.
The composite teaching staff featured in this program was invariably presented as “sir” and “ma’am”—a display of TV courtesy that I didn’t even find that unpleasant. If only it weren’t for irony. Those teachers were asked about the platitudes surrounding their profession, which seemed more resistant to the scouring of time than the job itself. ‘If it is such an attractive profession, then why are there so many vacancies?’, one teacher wondered rhetorically, because where there used to be an oversupply among teachers, there now turned out to be real shortage subjects. Mainly French and Mathematics. I did not fall out of the sky, because even as a student with no chance in advance, I already noticed clear bottlenecks in both.
Because all understanding starts with empathy, Vanneste then decided to resume his old position. He offered his services to the Holy Sepulcher in Turnhout, where he once fell into a pedagogical fold as a student, also without a chance in advance. In the vacation days prior to his re-entry into the teaching staff, Vanneste was already expressly requested to subscribe to five different digital platforms. ‘Holiday and weekend work is part of it’, experienced experts pointed out, but explaining that to critics who discount their profession has not been possible for a while now. In practice, however, where the teaching still takes place in the end, Vanneste seemed to be able to regain his cadence as a teacher without much difficulty. It didn’t surprise me at all that he turned out to be the kind of teacher who, sitting on a couch, spoke to his class.
I have been laughed at for the comic side effect of the Kempen accent, but the underlying Tijs Vanneste also in this program seemed to me again as a certain asset on the often clean-shaven screen. When he inquired of his young audience about their sensitivities about the whole woke thing, it sounded less like a desperate attempt to drag social relevance into his program, but more like genuine curiosity. I also got that favorable impression when Vanneste then went to apologize to his former math teacher, whom he had single-handedly moved to despair as a less than studious teenager. That woman paid him retroactively by pulling out her old score book in front of a full class. It turned out that Vanneste had achieved an average of zero out of ten in her class at the time, as he had not handed in any of his tasks on time. And yet made it to TV: verily, no one is lost. What would his French have been like?