100 Ideas: My book journey by @TeacherToolkit

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My 'book' journey by @TeacherToolkit


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
Read more about @TeacherToolkit

100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Outstanding Lessons brings together over 20 years’ experience of classroom teaching and aims to equip all secondary teachers with a toolkit of approaches that can easily be deep-rooted to the back of your brain; clumsily glued to the back of your teacher-planner, or fixed proudly to your classroom wall!

Where to buy?

First of all, you can buy my book on Bloomsbury Publishing. There will be an ePublication version released for digital devices on 26th October 2013. My own holding webpage for the book is here.

100 Ideas for Outstanding Lessons
Click to buy – 100 Ideas

About the book:

Conflicting government diktat and changeable Ofsted frameworks means that navigating the path to an outstanding lesson can be challenging. However, the integrity of an outstanding lesson will always be the same. From the moment you walk into any classroom, you can (with experience) almost immediately see, hear and feel an outstanding lesson taking place. This book attempts to bottle that formula so that you can recreate it time and time again.

The journey:

The idea for the 100 Ideas book was first posed to me by the Commissioning Editor at Bloomsbury Publishing in late March 2013.

The reasoning was to relaunch and re-brand the old series of 100 Ideas currently in circulation. Below is the original email from Bloomsbury, to which my book journey commenced.

Original email sent on 27.3.13
Original email sent on 27.3.13

To say I was ‘up for it’ would be an understatement! I’m not going to pretend. Writing this book has been fantastic and exciting, but very hard work! At times, I have worked myself into a cold-sweat; man-flu; frustration; inspiration and exhaustion. 35,000 words or thereabouts in 11 weeks; plus a good 6 weeks of editing and re-editing (even as I am writing this) was a tough challenge. One I under-estimated, but was keen to tackle in hindsight. On reflection, the quantity of vocabulary is the equivalent to three final degree dissertations in three months!

Blimey! Not only have I been able to achieve this (just) on top of a full-time senior leadership job, but with a 2-year-old running around at home until 8pm every evening. I have had to give up almost every evening at home, working until 11pm most nights, and turning up at work on a Saturday from 8am until 5pm to find a quiet place to reflect and be inspired. If my headteacher said that they had not noticed a change in me, I’d be lying!


So, I first set about creating the chapter titles for the 100 Ideas series. At first, a good 30 or so topics flew off the top of my head. These were mostly based on my 20 years teaching experience of what works for me in the classroom, and what I have observed as good practice over the past 13 years as a school leader.

After the first set of ideas, I had to start to really think about the content and topic choices. I decided to think about what we do as teachers and decided to break the book into sections. For example, behaviour; starters; planning and so on. This seemed to work and helped me to focus on the book in sub-sections which provided me with small landmarks and goals to achieve. Then, after 50 titles, I started to realise that despite some catchy chapter titles, I needed to create some context, so that I had a reference point for my own memory in the future. This would help me from getting lost and repeating content which I often did. You can see part of my ‘overview document’ below which helped achieve clarity.

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Full of excitement, I finally sat down to writing my first chapter for the book on the 5th May 2013. This was my first draft attempt at writing for Chapter/Idea 5, ‘Routines’. Below is an image containing a screenshot of all the images saved on my computer. (Don’t worry, I had several backups!)

Chronological completion of 100 Ideas book titles (approx. 60 on view)
Chronological completion of 100 Ideas book titles (approx. 60 on view)

Contributors and references:

I soon realised that coming up with 100 great ideas was a real challenge. I also tried my best to put myself into the reader’s perspective and soon considered a fresh approach. I looked to my Twitter teacher-networks and called upon a few teachers to contribute their own chapter-idea. This would ensure the book remained fresh, engaging and varied. I was so pleased that all my colleagues agreed. The following teachers have contributed 9 chapter ideas:

Guest contributor-authors:

There are 4 more teachers I’d like to thank. These are for references to their personal blogs that I have made in my book, that strengthens each chapter idea, based on the content they have written in their blogs. These people and chapters are:

Book references:

Oxford Dictionary contribution:

As these teachers had all collaborated with me on a book chapter – just like we all do with the work we do in our schools, or through online co-blogposts, the idea sparked within me to introduce a new verb to the Oxford English Dictionary. (I apologise to all the english teachers out there.) I also have no idea if the word will be accepted, so we will just have to wait and see.

May I introduce to you to the new word of:

challabing, verb.

Pronunciation: /t∫æ’læbɪŋ/
Etymology: chapter + collaborations
Definition: to collaborate on the creation of a chapter or idea.

The pronunciation is using IPA, the International Phonetic Alphabet and with the help of my editors, we have used the characters from the IPA online.

We have worked out the word-pronunciation to be: /t∫æ’læbɪŋ

  • t∫ is the ‘ch’ sound in chapter
  • æ is the ‘a’ sound in cat
  • l is the ‘l’ sound in lima
  • b is the ‘b’ sound in bus
  • ɪ is the ‘i’ sound in interest
  • ŋ is the ‘ng’ sound at the end of sing

Below you can see images of my new word submission to the OED on 20th August 2013. You can search on Twitter to see what people are discussing about (Challabing) as a new proposal/word. It has also been submitted to Wiktionary.

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Highs and lows:

  • Tweeting whilst writing.
  • Feeding off ideas from Twitter and also accidentally sharing too many book ideas publicly.
  • The TES taking one of my hashtags for their publication which was trending within my PLN.
  • Being constantly inspired.
  • The constant search for ideas.
  • Enjoyable red wines and ‘Jack’ as my right-hand man.
  • Not seeing my family. Being egged on for inspiration and then driving them mad.
  • Man-flu!
  • Exhaustion at work. Not being able to focus on the job.
  • Blurred vision and so on…

Bloomsbury Publishing:

By the 30th May 2013 I had signed and posted off the contract. This was the most exciting trip to the post office in ages!

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Keeping in mind the countless email exchanges, on the 28th June I finally got the chance to visit Bloomsbury HQ to discuss content; book cover design; page layout and strategy. Everything a good design technology teacher should love about the design process.

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Over the course of May and June 2013, the hard work really set in. Writing, editing and proof-reading increasingly grew in demand. It was always interesting work, but content gradually started to crank up a gear! During July 2013, I finally got to see the final book cover. Even being part of a series, I was allowed to have a small say in the design and I am so pleased with the outcome.


Sometime in early August 2013 (Yes, not so long ago!) I finally was offered the chance to see the ‘typeset’ manuscript. I didn’t even know what that was until I opened it the file on my computer. The typeset version was the final draft in a (PDF) book layout, which appeared on my screen for the first time. At last, all the hard work started to come to fruition. It looked magnificent! However, just when I though it was all over, there was even more editing to do!


I could go on, but I am conscious that I have said enough. I am back at Bloomsbury HQ on 28th August once more to discuss the final proposals and then that’s it! As for the next book? Well, I’m going to take a break and wait to read a few reader-reviews before taking on the next challenge.

To conclude, writing this book has been great(!) to write this book and I genuinely hope that teachers across the UK will find at least one idea that changes them and their teaching pedagogy for the better! If you have read this far (thank you!). If you have purchased the book, then thank you! I really hope that a) you have enjoyed reading it and using some of the ideas and b) that my story can be an example to you, that becoming an author is possible through the power of blogging.

Post- announcement:

After a huge amount of pre-orders during the last week of August 2013. Wow! The book has already made it to no. 133 in the Bestsellers Rank Top 100 list! (And no.7 in Education Studies). I know this won’t last forever, but it is worth noting for personal and historical purposes, in case it never happens again…

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11 thoughts on “100 Ideas: My book journey by @TeacherToolkit

  1. Delighted the book has come to fruition. You deserve success after all the hard work – 100 ideas for professionals to reflect on and choose the ones relative to them and their context will be really useful to many. Enjoyed challabing with you. Here’s to more challabing in the future.

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