Educational #HighsAndLows of 2013 by @TeacherToolkit

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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...
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Over a year ago, I posted my highlights from 2012 and hopes for 2013. Here, I provide for the reader with an overview of my own educational highs and lows over the past 12 months.

Highs of 2013:

With over 145 online articles on my own website; and with countless tweets and photographs shared to over 40,000 followers, it has proven extremely difficult to encapsulate the entire highlights (ups and downs) of the year, into a single blogpost; but here goes.

Photo Credit: visualpanic via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: visualpanic via Compfight cc

January – February:

Way back yonder, in January 2013, I shared two key posts. One from my 100 TeacherToolkit Thunks series. A very popular post, written by Headteacher @StephenDrew72. This article posts a letter: Dear Parent, what I’d really like to say is… and what Stephen describes, is that nobody is perfect; not even the child and that all parents should accept some home-truths from teachers. It is a valuable read for all parties.

And the second, I posted my intentions online, about my plans to use Twitter to find work. The hashtag #Find_TTkit_A_Job trended for several days on my timeline and received 8,000 reads in just two days. During the start of the year, I then go on to describe TeachMeets: An underground revolution! and how it all started with contact from Ewan McIntosh.

One year ago, I was first stepped into the water at TMEssex and have since provided this TeachMeet overview for new startups, following successful #TMLondon’s and #SLTeachMeet’s across the UK. I have since attended or organised 11 TeachMeets, on average, once a month throughout 2013. I have since taken a back seat until I manage to secure my next step in my career. (I have very exciting plans for TMLondon … and SLTeachMeet has 3 events already booked for the Spring on 2014.)

Two months later in March, I go on to expose @OsirisEdu selling their services to support individual teachers organising their own TeachMeets in return for financial gain. I then go on to claim that teachers should Ignore the #DfE: Teachers are doing it for themselves!

In mid-January, I enjoyed discussing professional development for teachers: How can we take it to the next level? and highlighted how 3 key aspects of CPD could enhance teaching and learning. These were: The Teacher Effectiveness Programme (TEEP); #TeachMeets and the unknown evolution of Teaching Schools. I also went on to discuss in my first #BlogSync, The Universal Panacea and how ‘time given’ at a mere cost of £5.25p, could be used to release a teacher for CPD purposes, every Wednesday afternoon over one academic year.

Photo Credit: James Jordan via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: James Jordan via Compfight cc

March – April:

In March, Ofsted finally recognised The 5 Minute Lesson Plan in an Ofsted report and throughout the Easter period, I go on to describe How has blogging enhanced my CPD? and ‘#RapidProgress in my classroom and how do I know?’ Both very reflective pieces on my own practice in and out of the classroom.

May – June:

In May 2013, I expose a troll and as an outcome of their tweet, showcase my invitation to be received at the House of Commons on behalf of @BELMASOffice. I then go on to share my bittersweet relationship with The @TESResources having been nominated for TES Resources Contributor of the Year 2013 and within 3 months expose the ‘#Vamoose: I’m off’ fiasco and decide to no longer share my resources. This post causes a fury online, after a collective 8,000 reads in less than one week. The TES could not ignore the teacher-frustrations posted on social networks.

During the summer term, I am given the time to concentrate more on my own teaching, as well as my own leadership of teaching and learning and start to see a shift in standards. I also elaborate on What is #Stickability? which is very well received and has since become the sole-focus of my own lesson planning.

Photo Credit: skoeber via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: skoeber via Compfight cc

June – July:

During the early summer season, I decide to share my very own Good in Ten CPD programme that aims to equip teachers to move forward; or to rethink! I am then asked to share my thoughts on The Guardian Teacher Network (in my 12th article) posing: How to move your teaching on from ‘requires improvement? where I state very clearly; that teachers must listen, engage and act on the advice they are given in order to develop. This receives the highest number of comments and clearly rocked the boat!

As a result of reflecting on teaching and learning. I curate The 5 Minute Marking Plan with @LeadingLearner as an overview for re-assessing how we as teachers, plan to mark. The outcome: The 5 Minute Marking Plan has now received over 13,000 views since publication in July and if has been great to see other teachers using the plans to lead their own CPD in school.

In July, I enjoyed a CPD excursion to Edinburgh, to lead #SLTeachMeet at @BELMASConf 2013 with @MrLockyer. I’m already looking forward to 2014 in Stratford Upon Avon. Not many have heard of BELMAS. The British Educational Leadership Management and Adminstration Society (BELMAS) is an independent voice, supporting quality education through effective leadership and management. You can read more details here about their 2013 annual conference. It was a great experience. Their first years membership is FREE and is particularly useful for those interested in evidence-based research and pedagogy.

Finally, in July with just 2 weeks to go until the end of term, I discovered the incredible story of @JackAndraka and published and shared his journey with all my staff and students in my Inspiring End of Term #Assembly. As a result of tweeting him, I arrange with Jack Andraka to visit my school and talk with our students in a range of classes. A full blogpost will be published soon.


The holidays start, but I am left at school making the final edits to my book – less than 4 weeks to print and publication! I managed to wrap this up within the first week and I am finally given the time to read my favourite educational blogs, at a time when The Education Foundation Think Tank put in a request, for little-old-me and my very own thoughts. As the ‘Rise of the Teacher-Blogger’ spirals out of control, it is increasingly harder to read absolutely everything. You can see my Favourite Educational Blog shortlist and what I feed off. You will have to read here and wait until they publish their findings.

Towards the end of the summer, I finish my first-ever book: 100 Ideas: and My book journey in detail and then go on to share what has proven to be my most popular blog of 2013 this year. Thwart the Grim-Reaper: #Ofsted reworks with over 20,000 reads in just the last 3 months!

Photo Credit: blmiers2 via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: blmiers2 via Compfight cc


In September 2013, my blogging gets a little out of control, with over 2-3 blogposts published every week – totally unsustainable once the school-season kicks in – with my second most popular read of the year: Where I’ve failed as a teacher.

The Vamoose fiasco continues on, between myself and a small team of resource-uploaders, which is earmarked with a landmark meeting at TES headquarters. Finally, after 2 months of negotiations and meetings with lawyers, a follow-up response by Lord Jim Knight was posted in November 2013: @TESResources response to: #Vamoose

In late September, after a sensational INSET day with @PivotalPaul, I elaborate on the #Pygmalion teacher, expectancy-effect and how low expectations in the classroom, can result in low outcomes for your students. This proves a very worthy piece of reflection for us all, and also highlights the lovely story of Eliza Doolittle. Does she exist in your own classroom?


A mixed month of highs and lows (see below).

The start to the month is topped off with The impact of #SLTchat across the UK filmed and published by The Department for Education and gives @SLTchat a stronger voice across the teaching community. The DfE then host their very own #SLTchat session in November 2013 – which proves to be the most read archive of all @SLTchat’s history. This has led to further plans to have targeted sessions with school leaders and the government in the near future on topics that matter!

I begin to share our live-journey at school, detailing Why I’m placing #LearningWalks in Room 101 and discuss marking; feedback; re-drafting and book scrutiny in greater detail here: #Peepshows and #Rubbernecks. This resonates with the reader, and our book-look format and intentions expose the implications of teachers who are not marking students’ books.

Personally, my book reaches no. 28 on Amazon’s Top-100 best-sellers list. I’m delighted and have since been offered three further book contracts. Thank you to everyone who has parted with your cash! Where will I find the time for the next three books?!


As a result of a very tough month, I am unable to attend @SLTcamp and publish this emotive video: #GoalPostShifters which emphasises what teachers should hold onto the most; their beliefs. I also reach the dizzying heights of 40 years of age and celebrate with this photo! I also enjoy seeing this photo – the largest ever 5 Minute Lesson Plan CPD training.

I finally move into the world of providing CPD personally for others, starting off with my very own webinars. You can see a preview here. I look forward to extending the content on offer to include, leadership; CPD and teaching and learning in 2014. Despite the countless requests to speak at schools, I am yet to say ‘yes’ to anyone. 2014 could be the year …

After a great year of blogging online, I receive 3 finalist nominations for EduBlog Awards 2013. The categories are: “Best Individual Tweeter; Best Teacher Blog; and Most Influential Post of the Year 2013.” My own teacher and blog nominations are here. Thank you to those that nominated me.

Photo Credit: Bert Kaufmann via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Bert Kaufmann via Compfight cc


With the intention of shifting on our very own Good-to-Oustanding teaching and learning group, I posted a very useful set of Outstanding #ReflectionQs. This proves a worthy set of questions for reading and reflection, at any time of the year, for every teacher.

Only 2 weeks ago, I was asked to share my school journey on Inspirational Leadership of Teaching and Learning for @PiXLClub #PiXL13 at their national conference. The room was packed and led to many sitting on the floor! Overall, it was a very enjoyable experience and has led to further opportunities for other teacher-bloggers to meet at Enfield Oasis Academy in the Spring term to share their own journeys. Details to follow …

As an accumulation of all our work on teaching and learning, I shared – only last week – two key pedagogical posts on #BookLooks and Mantras: The Ugly Truth and Progress Over Time Teaching. For me, these two articles sum up where we (the school) are now and where we need to go as a profession.

Only this weekend, I have since decided to share that I want to be a #SmartAss which features and showcases a simple methodology for meaningful marking. This idea can be found in more detail, here.

The progress over time article also touches on a very deep and meaningful appraisal conversation I had with my principal on educational values. This has prompted me to rethink my own vision and values and will spark off a new article in 2014 as I look to establish myself in a new job-role with a clear vision for my very own headship/school. These values are constantly revisited and evaluated, as I attend job-interviews north of the border. Information (on the interviews itself) of which, I am yet to share … will prove very revealing about the system elsewhere.

—– —– —– —– —–

Lows of 2013:

Rather than integrate the lows of 2013 into the above, I have separated the key moments of the year below. A few of these key moments are captured in the blogposts links below.

Photo Credit: Mike Chen aka Full Time Taekwondo Dad via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Mike Chen aka Full Time Taekwondo Dad via Compfight cc

January – May:

During the early part of the year, I also announced my intentions online, that I was job-hunting in Scotland. I expressed my views here about the application process and what I’d really like to say about the flawed GTCS application process for all teachers. As a result, @MrLockyer and I created @MyEdHunt to allow teachers to advertise themselves, as well as for schools to advertise their own vacancies for free. Probably a high, rather than a low!

In May 2013, Qualified Teacher Status was discussed and there was a collective call for a Royal Teaching College to raise the status of the teaching profession. This appears to have been a total flop.

Towards the end of May, I received my second request to have my very own article featured in a national broadsheet tabloid. The content was based on my very own passion, teacher-recruitment. The article was shunned last-minute and is displayed in fuller detail, here: ‘Teacher recruitment musings’.

Job hunting in Scotland...  Photo Credit: Dru! via Compfight cc
Job hunting in Scotland…
Photo Credit: Dru! via Compfight cc


Unbeknownst to me, I posted this tweet about my job-hunting frustrations and the cumbersome GTCS application process. What was slightly amusing, and one that I was not fully aware of, was that my tweet was misinterpreted on that very day, to the same venue to which I was travelling; where the Director of the GTCS was speaking! You can read about the trials and tribulations of this process here: #Find_TTkit_A_Job *updated*.

I go on to disclose a few home-truths about The true costs of teaching and #CPD training, exposing some of my own weaknesses with Mathematics, but also highlighting the colossal costs some CPD providers charge schools of which I am privy to as school CPD leader. This makes me very frustrated indeed. We all know, one-size-does-not-fit-all and charging £5000 for that privilege, is a scam!

I am also left with a juxtaposition on #TeachMeets. Should they include keynote speakers and presentations? and if they should warrant keynotes to attract more teachers to attend them; yet pay the presenters for their services and go against the ethos of free CPD. The results of this survey are here and I am left in a dilemma, having been asked many, many times to open various #TeachMeet events across the South-East. What should/could be free? And what needs to be paid for? (i.e. catering; prizes)


Towards half-term, my son @FreddieWM became unwell. I become embroiled with Tennis Elbow and Cellulitis, which led to an extremely ‘on-the-money’ blogpost, The #GuiltyTeacher. Guilty as charged!  My wife is also unexpectedly ill and we then face a period of hardship throughout all of October and most of November. I do not share the fuller details online in tweets or in any blogs – but thank the closest of my online followers for your support via DMs.

Photo Credit: *~Dawn~* via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: *~Dawn~* via Compfight cc

The Guilty Teacher post describes how serious illness can often lead to a period of guilt and narcissism for any classroom teacher. The online-teacher networks echoed this message and it was clear, schools and their headteachers must be compassionate and adaptable in an ever-increasingly stressful career. With over 10,000 readers, it has been one of my top-10 blogposts of 2013 and led to the production of The #5MinWellBeingPlan which provides stressful teachers with an overview on their very own well-being.


I share my school’s Flexible approach to #Threshold. Albeit a very versatile approach, the execution of such a process, only highlights the future complications of Pay Related Performance in September 2014. I can recall only last week, having discussions about staff performance based on a very abstract process. This will be further complicated, with every single school using their own approach, with no nationally agreed pay scale/performance.


And finally, a word to all my colleagues; the tweeters; trolls and bloggers out there. ‘Tis the season to be jolly. Blogs – even mine – can all be placed out of context without face to face communication. My blog and tweets are just my own opinion. They can also be taken out of context and this should always be remembered.

Photo Credit: mkhmarketing via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: mkhmarketing via Compfight cc

I have been a victim of blog attacks and troll-tweets myself. Over time, I have learnt to deal with these and at times I’d like to think, I’ve responded professionally and appropriately. This happened again, as recently as one month ago, from a band of collective merry-Tweeters looking to impose their opinion and, I have even witnessed this twice-more, just this very week, with another teacher who blogs and tweets to develop and share best practice.

Of course, it’s great to receive critique and validation of your own work; including opinions that irk individuals or other groups of thinkers. But, this misses the point. Blogging has given me a voice. An opportunity to reflect on my own, as well as the teaching profession in general. Exchanging ideas with you reading this right now, gives me the feedback I need to improve practice; thinking and thought in my very own classroom. I am grateful to be able to do this openly.

It shouldn’t matter what I teach; where I teach and or why and how I teach. We are all learning …

I would not be the same teacher I am today, if I had not adapted my own practice to suit the needs of my school and my students.

Good manners:

It is almost impossible to express an opinion or an apology in 140 characters. Twitter is something I now consider, as a public text message to the world! If someone is new to Twitter or blogging, be patient with them and encourage them to have a voice, regardless of your own opinion. This is healthy for the online profession. I started out with just one personal Twitter follower back in 2008. @TeacherToolkit started in August 2010 and I am very proud to say, that my tweets are 99% professional at all times. What I mean by this, is that my tweets are purely about teaching and nothing else.

Keep it pure and clean and with just one follower, a mighty community may grow.

With one snowflake, a mighty snowman may grow...  Photo Credit: ChaoticMind75 via Compfight cc
With one snowflake, a mighty snowman may grow…
Photo Credit: ChaoticMind75 via Compfight cc

When I re-branded this blog, again, I started out with just one reader. We all know, that social media provides a platform for social-change and the evidence of this is clear. The TES changing their own Terms and Conditions as a result of Vamoose, as well as the DfE taking part in @SLTchat, highlights that the big-guns ‘out there’, are listening to us and we can move the masses. Such a grassroots-up movement has also fallen foul to the objectionable minority online but has survived time and time again …

No man is an island. If you need to criticise anything, do it politely and professionally. Just keep this in mind and be nice to each other in 2014. We can change education for the better, together.

Best wishes for 2014

Thank you for reading my own views on teaching during 2013; and reading this far! Why not share your very own educational #HighsAndLows in a blogpost?

I wish you a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.


Ross (aka @TeacherToolkit)


11 thoughts on “Educational #HighsAndLows of 2013 by @TeacherToolkit

  1. Thanks for your blog, I enjoy all your ideas. Most of all it is the fact that you are are a professional sharing with others,
    well done keep blogging and tweeting.

  2. I have enjoyed your blogs, more so because you make one reflect more. How many times have we been told to take time out and reflect on our practice? When you are in the thick of it – you can become a fire fighter rather than a strategic planner, assuring best quality learning to all! I have read and reflected a lot more and the learning has definitely been better, not just for me but my students. Happy Christmas and New Year.

  3. Inspirational stuff, I started following this academic year and always find it a good read with lots of ideas to take into my teaching! Keep up the good work!

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