In Flow with The Rapping Science Teacher: How to Use Music & Social Media to Help Produce Great Young Minds, with Founder of JGM Science Tutors, Matt Green: Podcast Transcript

Ludo Millar
Hello, and welcome to the Qualified Tutor Podcast, the podcast that brings you the latest in the world of tutoring EdTech and education and hopefully inspires in us a big change that each and every one of us is capable of.

Qualified Tutor is an industry-leading tutor training organisation and an online tutoring community for 1000s of tutors around the world. This podcast is the voice of this community, where we aim to hear from tutors, teachers, entrepreneurs, coaches, business experts, students, tutor printers, and more from the world of tutoring about what inspires them every day, how they can help tutors like you and what they’ve learned about tutoring along the way.

The question is, what will you learn today?

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Ludo Millar 2:14
Hello and welcome, dear listeners, to the 134th episode of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. My name is Ludo Millar, the host of this podcast. Welcome back to regular listeners. Welcome to any of you for whom this is your first time listening to the Qualified Tutor Podcast. It’s great to have you here. And of course, a huge welcome to our guest today, Matt Green. Matt, welcome to the podcast.

Matt Green 3:30
Thanks for having me, Ludo.

Ludo Millar 3:32
It’s a real pleasure to have you here. And as I was mentioning to you just before, myself and my team here at Qualified Tutor have been following you Matt for a very long time, sharing your videos, you know, diving into the kind of content that you publish on TikTok and on YouTube and that kind of thing. And for those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about yet listening in, we will explore that over the next 25 minutes or so. But for those of you who do know Matt Green, you’ll know The Rapping Science Teacher as well. So I don’t think we’ve ever had a TikTok star on this podcast. It’s something I’ve been meaning to bring on for a long time. So thank you for being a first, Matt.

Matt Green 4:13
I don’t know if I’ve referred to myself as a TikTok star yet but it’s nice.

Ludo Millar 4:19
Absolutely. So for those of you who don’t know, maybe you do know Matt, but you don’t know too much about his background. Matt graduated with an MSc in Neuroscience from Imperial in London, and then went on to teach Chemistry for about 10 years and moved onto the role of Head of Chemistry in several schools as well which was a great step up and then from there, Matt founded JGM Science [Tutors], which is an excellent tutoring organisation made up of qualified teachers offering KS3, GCSE, A-level Science tuition, that kind of thing. And for our international listeners, that’s students from the ages of around 10 to 18. And then, not long after JGM Science Tutors was founded, the lockdown hit. And Matt decided to turn to social media and to TikTok and YouTube to disseminate his brilliant little tidbits and short videos on Chemistry, Biology, Physics, that kind of thing. Just giving students and parents are really good, quick way of acquiring that knowledge. And that is The Rapping Science Teacher.

I feel like that first video was just such an explosion on the internet, Matt.

Matt Green 5:30
It was, it was.

Ludo Millar 5:31
I remember watching that very first video. And nowadays, you have, what is it? I think it’s 260,000 followers on TikTok and over 3.5 million likes. So that is just enormous.

Matt Green 5:47
Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, it took off. It took off. More than I expected to, I think, but I’m gonna be sticking with it for a long while.

Ludo Millar 5:55
Yeah, absolutely. Now, you help students every single day. You help teachers every single day as well, I’m sure many, many teachers probably a little bit underhand and secretly watch your videos as well. It’s not just students and parents. But regular listeners of this podcast will know that we like to take our guests back to the very beginning at the start of these episodes, and right back to their school days. Now Matt, as a few other guests, I gather actually locating school reports was perhaps too tricky a task, but you do have a story from the school days I gather, is that right?

Matt Green 6:33
Yeah, I tried looking for some reports. And I wish I could find some because I do remember having them at some point, but the only thing that springs to mind that was quite funny was when I had a detention, I was given a detention from a PE teacher. And I remember it being unjust at the time. I suppose we think everything’s unjust as a child, but I think this one was and I think I just walked out the school, walked home and got in a bit of trouble for this. And then my mom who backed me, she wrote a letter explaining it in elegant detail – she was an English teacher herself and she’s a very strong writer – about why I wouldn’t be attending this detention. And I wish I could show you because whenever I show my friends or anyone, they weep, it’s just too much and essentially the school teacher just had to read it and write off the detention. I don’t think I ended going in the end, but it’s one of those things that you have to read. And I’m sorry, I couldn’t bring it today.

Ludo Millar 7:26
I wonder who learned the lesson there that day? Your mum? You? The teacher? I’m not quite sure who.

Matt Green 7:32
Everyone but my mum.

Ludo Millar 7:34
That’s excellent. I wonder if you ever received one of those as a teacher yourself, Matt? Did you?

Matt Green 7:40
I didn’t. I didn’t. I probably should have to get my comeuppance. But no. Most students showed up for my detentions.

Ludo Millar 7:46
So there was a bit of a rebellious attitude maybe as a school kid, I wonder. I mean, you’ve obviously since gone on to become an educator, both a teacher and a tutor. And I’m sure over the years, you’ve thought a lot about why you have chosen to go down that path. Or perhaps you haven’t thought about it at all and this will be your first time ever, but we love asking guests about their why. And we’d love to know Matt, what do you think your why is as a tutor?

Matt Green 8:15
So for me, in the education space, getting into education and teaching, it was always about trying to help young people understand things in a way that would be sort of helpful, and in a way that boosts their confidence and taking them from not knowing something, to feeling confident on it and getting it, feeling like a sense of satisfaction from that, and improving themselves. So that was my role in the classroom, from then tutoring myself one-on-one. And then obviously growing to have people that I employ, and an agency, the idea is still the same. Students are out there that find the subject of science tricky. And for me, science is such an important subject, because it’s all about working things out and about the world around us. Things can’t progress forwards in society if we don’t have strong scientists. And I consider myself having a small role in helping the youth get them, grasp the subject very often when they don’t.

And the rapping thing was born out of that. And it still fits into the same ideals of, you know, there are millions of students out there that might like science a little bit or might hate it. But the idea is, “Oh gosh, respiration. I don’t get what that is. It’s a word. It’s got something to do with breathing, I don’t understand”. And it’s for me to take that subject, break it down as simply as I can. So they can go, “Oh, I get that now that. I get that. I understand all the explanations you just gave and it happens to be in a song. And I can just memorise those lyrics”. So when I’m writing songs – sorry, my camera keeps thrusting me to darkness. I don’t know why – when I write the songs, it’s always about a student being able to listen and really, really understand it. I felt I spent far longer on the songs than I ever did on my own lessons, which is why- well, I’d like to say they make sense in such a short space of time.

Ludo Millar 10:06
… which is why you’ve left the classroom. [LAUGHS]

Matt Green 10:09
Yeah, that’s it. That’s it. My final year in the classroom was absolutely bonkers. Because it was, I was still one-to-one teaching myself. I think the company had 35 staff. I think we had 120 lessons a week. And I was doing the rapping. So it was one-to-one to myself running the company, the rapping, and then I’ve got a family of three, well, wife and three kids. So I’m busy. So when it came to the final year, I’ve got to quit the classroom. And now I just simply focus on two things: running the company JGM Science Tutors and the rapping and that has my hands very full. 300 lessons a week now. And the content, fun, making videos once a week. So they’re both a full-time jobs in themselves.

Ludo Millar 10:58
So you’ve got three full time jobs? 

Matt Green 11:00
Yeah. [LAUGHS] Family, JGM and the rapping.

Ludo Millar 11:03
I won’t ask you to pick which one is your priority … but Matt, can you tell us a little bit more- I mean, you mentioned there that the rapping came out of that and wanting to be able to help students with real points of obstacle points, we kind of call them sometimes, you know, those moments where a student just can’t get to that next stage of learning. And as you say, in science, that’s huge and everything can’t progress without understanding the previous stage. But can you tell us a bit more about why the rapping and why the short-form video format?

Matt Green 11:40
So in a simplistic answer, the whole social media scape is about short-form content. Now, years ago, in TV shows and then eventually YouTube. But with the age of Instagram and TikToks, as well as YouTube shorts, it’s about extremely short-form video content. And it’s got to capture the attention, it has to capture attention or they scroll on and if you’re a student, I view myself as 13, 14, 15 years old in this day and age, but I was on TikTok watching nonsense, watching people fall over, or comedy on this, that, the other. If there could be something educational in there, that would be useful to me at that time. You know, that would help me and that’s the idea for these kids. They might be enjoying themselves on TikTok scrolling, not necessarily really doing anything helpful for them, but they’re enjoying themselves. They’re trying to get out of school, whatever it is, and they see something, and they can learn from it and be entertained at the same time. And as well, be sparked into that subject, that subject they previously thought was boring. And  that’s the whole point. It’s very short, attention-grabbing stuff that can help teach them something, remember it and get them engaged in the subjects.

For me, you know, if someone was doing this 20 years ago, in our school, it would’ve been history info. If there was a TikTok equivalent, and there was a rapping history teacher, and he could capture my attention, I would understand it and remember it, then, you know, I’d have gone from hating history and thinking this is the most boring thing ever, to maybe loving the subject. And that’s the idea here.

Ludo Millar 13:13
Yeah. And it’s achieved massive success. So you know, the way you were thinking about the ideas you had, have proven kind of correct to some degree, haven’t they? Because it has caught on massively, and I remember thinking in the old days of QT that, you know, that we wanted to do a little bit of short-form stuff, you know, Tutor a Topic in Twenty Seconds or something. I think that was one of the ideas we came up with and what you’re saying there is exactly that, is capturing the attention and catching students where they are, which is probably scrolling on something.

But you must have a background in music, or at least in some sort of, you know, lyrical talent sense because to write that kind of stuff is obviously not easy. And you’ve spoken before about the connection between music and learning. And we’ve had guests on this podcast before who’ve spoken about that. Can you tell us a little bit more about that connection between music and learning and why you chose music as a route to go down for that vehicle for learning?

Matt Green 14:20
So, many years ago, you know, I’ve always loved that. And years ago, I used to write rhymes and write raps, I think in 16, 17, 18, and then when I went to uni, I stopped them. Like with anything, I probably wouldn’t release it or do anything, I just wrote it to record it in my bedroom. And I must have got proficient at that about it. I mean, I had flow, I could write things. I could write things fairly quickly. And then two years ago, when I thought how can I do something on social media that helps these kids, helps grips their attention and teach them something because I was already doing Instagram squares, fact-of-the-day or a simplistic explainer that was getting some traction, students were liking those, but I thought I can do better. And I thought, could I bring out the old rap gloves and sort of match these two things together.

And the logic behind it being, as you said, you might have had some some guests in the past, I’ve said, we remember lyrics, we remember the lyrics if we like the song. We don’t go out of our way, we don’t sit there and go, “Right. I’ve decided that I love this song. I must now spend 20 minutes memorising the lyrics”. You like the song, you listen to it on repeat. And the next thing you know, you’re in the club and every lyric’s coming out your mouth [LAUGHS]. And that’s totally the same with this, when I write these, I spend an inordinate amount of time because the logic is they have to have some rhythm, they have to catch on with what these students already know. So there is no effort to liking them and no effort to wanting to learn them, you know, by all means, not every student is going to love what I do, because it’s impossible to change that. But some students that like Dave, like Stormzy, that like Central Cee, love those beats.

If I can rap in some sort of way that’s similar to them, with a flow, with a rhythm that they like, then it’s automatic. You don’t have to go, “Gosh, I hate science. But let me laboriously sit and force myself to listen to this.” If that’s the case, it’s not going to work. It’s going to be like, “Oh, I like Central Cee’s new track, Doja. What’s this? This guy? Is this guy rapping about science? And it’s the heart. And that makes sense”. That’s the logic by which it’s supposed to work. It’s just you already like that song. You’re not listening to someone embarrassingly rap over it. Maybe someone thinks I’m embarrassing out there. But hey, what can I do? But the rest listen to him and think “That guy’s got flow. That’s heavy-hitting, I like that. And actually, with what I’m seeing on the screen, I actually understand that”.

Because, you know, it’s possible to write things in such a way that they’re catchy. And it sounds good. But actually, if you looked at what’s going on the screen, you’d be like, I can memorise this. And I actually like how it sounds. But I don’t actually know what’s going on. So it’s about getting them all together. And the latest one that’s gone viral about the heart, I think it makes sense. It’s one hell of a beat from Central Cee who’s a marketing genius with the way he marketed that track and it’s got a killer beat. Got the heart, which very often is very, very, very difficult to understand. Most students come out class and don’t have a clue what’s going on. And I tried to as cleverly explain it as I could. The left side does this. Right side does this. This is called this. Every keyword hits on a rhyming word. And that seems to have resonated. And, you know, it got to 2 million quite quick. And I thought it’s going to stop at 3 but it seemed to have got another 300,000 views in the last 24 hours. Seriously, it just keeps you moving.

Ludo Millar 17:44
And that’s because it comes from the heart, excuse the pun. I think that was the first thing that struck me. I don’t study science anymore and I’m annoyed that I don’t, because if I did, then I probably wouldn’t go into my Chemistry and Physics classes. I’d probably just be getting it all from The Rapping Science Teacher, but you know, the passion that you can see just in your eyes, and just in your face when you’re doing those, and the kind of enjoyment that you clearly are taking from that is almost as infectious as the learning, you know, the actual definitions of words and the processes, that kind of thing. And I think, you know, I’m not here to second guess why your success has happened, but I feel like that’s a huge part of it. Do you still tutor students yourself?

Matt Green 18:37
I still have a few students that use it myself. So I think up till two years ago, I taught for like 24 students a week myself, when I started going part-time at work. But then I made a decision a year ago to completely quit myself. Because it just wasn’t possible to manage, as I said, the full-time teaching, the one-to-one tutoring, the company and the rapping. So I quit the school totally. But to honour the the existing clients that I had, when I made that decision that were still with me, I’m seeing them off until they finish. So I think I dropped from 24 students a week two years ago. So last academic year, I think I saw 12, and then this year, I think I’ve got six, so I’ll see them till they’ve got their GCSEs. But yeah, they’re effectively students I see now because whenever I make an agreement, I will always honour it to the end. They booked with me so they’ll stay with me. But yeah, I don’t take anyone else myself.

Ludo Millar 19:35
Yeah. It’s really interesting having those conversations with tutoring company leaders about whether they still do sessions themselves and some do and some don’t. And there’s obviously pros and cons to both options. But I asked that because I wanted to know about, you know, I’ve seen before and we were told by teachers at school, you know, sing your notes, record yourself singing your notes and then listen back to those when you go to sleep at night, that kind of thing. Do you tell your students, and do you tell your tutors at JGM Science Tutors to tell their students, to include singing and rapping in revision, that kind of thing? Do you feel it helps that kind of memory?

Matt Green 20:12
So I feel it helps. But I’ve got some really key principles of how I run JGM. The number one thing for how we do things is the scrutiny and the hiring process, the recruiting process of who we take in. We make sure we only take in the very best. But then to respect that, we don’t monitor or insist on anything for tutors, as tutors join us. They’ve got our systems and our 24-hour support should they need it. But we don’t insist on any methods, we give them the whiteboard links, we introduce and get everything set up as prepared as best as possible. But the methods that they use, I want to leave them to it. Because in my eyes, if I’m working for an agency myself, I don’t really want to have, “Oh, you’re with us. But you need to do this in this way. And that in this way. And that in this way”, it compromises my creativity and my enjoyment of it.

So with tutors working with JGM, you’re with us because you’re great. I know you’re great. And I know you’re great at lessons, because of the way that you want to do it. If I was doing a lesson, I might want to put a rap in that. If someone above me says, “Oh no, that’s not the way we do it”. Well, that is going to put my students at a detriment, if that makes sense. Another teacher might hate that rapping thing and it might be bad for their students. But for me, it’s best for me. You know, if I could pick any 10 tutors at random, I might do something that’d be great for my students because I’m passionate, I like delivering it that way. If I think, “Oh, this is great, you have to do it that way”. They might hate that and therefore it will come out they won’t want to do it.

So it’s about everyone’s got their own unique ways of doing things and they do it in that way. And then the passion comes out and lessons work well. And that’s how I’ve run things for five years. And the review stay at 5*s and our bookings only go up. So that’s what I choose to see is my evidence of that strategy working. So I keep it that way. And what’s the word another thing, our turnover is very low. So tutors who usually join us, they tend not to leave. And for me, I think it’s part of it. I’ve worked for many schools, and I’ve worked for agencies before, and usually the thing, apart from marking, which is horrific, it’s sort of admin and overarching things that you have to do that are fairly pointless. So I tried to limit that.

Ludo Millar 22:34
Yeah, well, that’s the sort of Holy Grail of running an agency, isn’t it, is reducing that churn rate, and being able to keep your tutors loyal to your agency and your work, that kind of thing? Yeah, I mean, I wanted to as well to speak a little bit about- and you’ve spoken earlier about, obviously, the specialism in science that you have in your agency, but one thing I’ve seen you talk about before, and which maybe isn’t something that comes out through the rapping, but it’s something that comes out through the posts you do and the voice that you have, but one of your missions, it seems, is to create more scientific minds in this country. And I wonder if you could maybe give an insight into how you feel we might be able to do that as tutors? Because given that, you know, our listeners today mainly consist of tutors and private educators, how do you think we can create more great scientific minds?

Matt Green 23:40
It’s going to be about a culture change of science not being viewed as a nerdy or boring subject, and the way it’s taught. There are certain things in the curriculum that are quite boring. And it’s all about changing them. People can see what tech brings, if you look at phones, you look at all sorts of things around us that couldn’t exist without the science that underpins it. I think more of that should be brought into class, into schools, into culture, so people don’t see it as a really nerdy, boring subject, and they want to learn more about it, and the possible jobs that it brings, but most people sort of see it as, “Oh, science, engineering or biotech. And that’s not for me”. And for me, you know, my passion in science lies in the possibilities it has, you know, I love sci-fi films. I love the idea of new tech making humanity better, you know, cures for diseases, things that make our lifestyle easier. And these things can only exist when science can come up with these things.

If science was just suddenly put down and Maths and English were favoured on top, we might get people that can read and write better. But you know, everything is pretty much going to plateau and get better very, very slowly. Whereas if we’ve got great minds, scientific minds, you know, we might not all have to work in 100 years and you know, people might not die of cancer. And that’s a real possibility. But if science continue to plod along, it takes longer. We will get to there one day, but it’ll just take longer. 

Ludo Millar 25:16
Yeah, I mean, I’m sure you could have a little battle there with Maths and English tutors [LAUGHS].

Matt Green 25:21
I’m English and Maths’ biggest supporter. You know, even when parents call me, I’ll always say I’ve always said the truth, I say Maths and English, they come first. And they do come first. Because there is absolutely no point in being a science master, which would be pretty difficult if your English and Maths were terrible. But there’d be no point in excelling in science, just verbally, if you knew it very well. You know, when you’ve got to come and explain this to someone, your new scientific finding, and you can’t communicate that idea. That’s useless. If you’re trying to evaluate whether things work well, by looking at the numbers, if you don’t get the numbers, again, that’s going to be pretty useless. And if you’ve got to come out of school and function in society and do well, you need to read, write, speak and know numbers perfectly. So to me, science is always third. But i’s definitely third [LAUGHS].

Ludo Millar 26:12
Definitely. There’s a wonderful tutor in our community called Andrea Gadsbey who did a talk at a recent festival. It was about literacy across the curriculum, all tutors being tutors of English, which is one part and the other part really is that, you know, Maths is, you know, the language of Physics, at least, if not also Biology and Chemistry, you know, and understanding probability for Biology, that kind of thing. So, yeah, I mean, those two are certainly hugely important, but I am not going to say and disagree that science is third, especially as there are large sections of our community for whom STEM is their specialism, so I don’t want to alienate our listenership.

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Ludo Millar 26:59
Now, a brief word from last week’s guest, Arthur Moore, whose episode you can catch after this.

Arthur Moore 27:04
From being on the Qualified Tutor Podcast, it’s really important to take some time to reflect upon our own schooling and the impact that’s had upon us as educators. I really enjoyed being a guest on the pod, as it allowed me to be on the other side of the microphone or the zoom call from running my own podcast and see how other people run their pods. I’ve certainly got a load of ideas now from Ludo. To any future guests, I’d say, just do it. Don’t worry about living up to the heights of episode #133 … just go and be who you are and talk about your experiences. I bet there’s so much we can learn from the conversation you’ll have.

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Ludo Millar 27:51
Matt, thank you so much for coming on here. We’re just kind of drawing to an end here. And we’ve got one more avenue I want to explore. Matt, you’re speaking as someone who is an inspiration for both that branding exercise for tutors and small tutoring businesses, a science expert as well, someone who’s been there and done that for a long, long time. And whether tutors in our community are catching your videos on TikTok or not, I think the way that you package and release content is incredibly effective, and something that lots of our tutors could, and perhaps should, aspire to. So I’m really glad that you’ve come on to talk about that. But one question I keep thinking and which I’m going to just get in at the end here is about what’s next for you. Because you’re clearly someone with bright ideas and you’re clearly someone who’s built a very solid platform already. So what’s next for Matt Green?

Matt Green 28:54
Well, we’re going to continue with the company. The company is growing at a rate, we’re going to keep that going. But number one is keeping the quality high for students. So that you’re always trying to make lessons better for students, the best we can. And we’re always trying to make the services as best for tutors as we can. I always consider myself as a business that serves two people: parents and families, as well as the tutors that are able to join us and not feel that they’re provided with a job that’s anything but rewarding. So that’s the company side, we are trying to double and triple in the next 12 months. Rapping wise, I’ve got a few things coming up. Two of which I’m not allowed to speak about but you might be seeing me on TV fairly soon. On maybe one show possibly two.

Ludo Millar 29:44
The One Show? Or on one show?

Matt Green 29:47
On one or two shows. Not The One Show, maybe The One Show will call me I don’t know. [LAUGHS]

Ludo Millar 29:52
Sitting on the sofa there [LAUGHS]

Matt Green 29:55
So we’ve got a couple of TV shows that are potentially on cards. And yeah and TikTok and Spotify. That’s another thing, all the songs that I put on TikTok, on YouTube. I’ve had an outrageous demand on DMs and comments, “Can you put them on Spotify?”. So I’m taking my library, and I’m basically licensing and buying beats that I own outright. And then I’m going to be repeating all my songs, on owned music, so it will be mine, it will be on Spotify, and it will be streamed on those platforms because the number one thing students want to be able to do is not just necessarily watch on the TikTok they got there, they just download Matt Green’s Science album, headphones in on the bus on the way to school, and they’re just listening to it. So that is something that’s going to be happening very soon. I’ve got two songs out already, but the rest will be following

Ludo Millar 30:43
That is so, so cool, that you’re able to just constantly be that revision guide for students, is absolutely awesome. Plus, making it obviously something fun and interesting like listening to music. Listeners, your next step is obviously now, as he said, to go to Spotify or YouTube if you don’t have Spotify and have a listen to those songs, download those songs. Because if you have TikTok or if you have a child or a niece or nephew who has TikTok, then @mattgreen.jgm is the TikTok. And for those who don’t dabble in TikTok, don’t really know what it is, don’t even know how to get into it, you can always find Matt on LinkedIn. But Matt, if they want to get, if listeners want to get, in touch with you right after this directly, what’s the best way that they can do that?

Matt Green 31:36
The best way is to just send me an email, if you can’t message me on any of those platforms, where I’m pretty much mattgreen.jgm on all platforms, you can just send me an email directly at matt@jgmtutors.com. And yeah, and I reply fairly quickly.

Ludo Millar 31:52
Awesome. Matt, thank you so, so much for coming on. That was really a great conversation. And great to get to know you a little better. And I’m sure this won’t be the first or the only time that that you speak to our audience. So thank you.

Matt Green 32:10
Great stuff. Thanks for that Ludo.

Ludo Millar 32:14
Okay, cheerio. And we’ll see you next time.

***

Ludo Millar

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