The teacher-genetic-code 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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Some time ago, I had an annual appraisal review meeting with my headteacher.

Of course, I won’t blog the full details here, but I will share the following …


I am going to keep this blog very short and simple (*note to self), as what I say here will probably not apply to you or your own school. So, why read on? Well, as educators, values and vision will play a vital role in forming and defining our own pedagogy. If you strip away all the external distractions, such as lesson planning, accountability, marking and all the other components that we encounter in teaching, you are left with pedagogy. The ‘what, why and how’ we do what we do in the classroom. Your vision and values.


During my appraisal discussion, my headteacher lowered the brow of his forehead and looked directly into my eyes:

“What are your  values? What is your  vision?”


On reflection, I was caught off-guard and my response was just a stutter! It was a classic case of I need (*more thinking time) help. My point here, is that a question like this should be an integral part for every teachers-genetic-code. Try it! Ask a colleague when they are least likely to expect it, and the image below will be the expression you are most likely to see staring right back at you!

“Er, what?”

Photo Credit: lintmachine via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: lintmachine via Compfight cc

Should teachers think more and more about their own educational values?


So, what are they?


Firstly, ‘values’ are what belong to you. These will evolve according to your own educational experiences as a child; the demographics of where you live(d); the psychographics of you (and your family) as a person; your experiences as an adult and so forth … The circumstances that shape you as a trainee-teacher will also define your own values working within a school. The experiences you have within each department, job and school. This will naturally modify as you grow with experience.

Now, before I elaborate on my values and vision, I want to add a little more context here. Six or seven years ago when I first started out in senior leadership, I wanted to become a headteacher. Then, after a redundancy blip, in many ways I didn’t want this vision anymore. My values had taken a battering. Fast-forward 2-3 years and I think my values are back on track and this vision is alive again. I still want to be a headteacher. But, there is a but. I am not ready (yet) and the words from Headteacher @StephenDrew72 echo in my mind from an @SLTeachMeet event in December 2012.

“You have to really want it!”


The above short video is worth watching …

What has made me reflect my own values and vision recently, is Stephen’s presentation as a new headteacher and a) the question my own headteacher asked me in my own appraisal; b) my current job-search and c) as a new parent, the work-life balance this challenge brings to us all as teachers. In the past I have elaborated on some of them here:

QuoteLife will always shift and as teachers and leaders, we must too. Along our professional journey, we will be ‘dealt a set of cards’ that we must learn to use to our advantage. Situations and experiences in our personal lives will naturally influence our decisions and values. We are born with a genetic-code and as teachers, we have the capacity to shape it further into our very own teacher-genetic-code. Therefore, the key question about my own values and fleeting thoughts about headship should be, not about if I want to be a headteacher, but if will I be ready when the opportunity comes along?


After a discussion with Headteacher Stephen Tierney (@LeadingLearner), I discussed the contents of this blog (although it was not in a blog format) with him 3 or 4 months ago. As you would expect with all great headteachers, Stephen was able to tease out clarity from my very own experiences, using explicit questioning and reciprocal feedback. What Stephen highlighted to me, was the key difference between vision and values. Vision can only be applicable to you in your own school, or when you are looking to join a school, you must be able to articulate the vision you will bring. Of course, this will vary according to the changing needs of your staff and students within the school. And of course, the school priorities.


As Stephen Drew said in his video.

“You have to know what you want your school to look like. Have a vision ready to communicate to all staff. parents and students.”

My genetic-code:

Here I have provided you with my own vision and values statement. One of my very first attempts, found in my 100 Thunks series was posted back in September 2012: ‘Could you sum up your educational philosophy in 140 characters?‘ I said, “I put students’ success at the heart of the community and I consider praise the highest form of discipline.” Having developed my own leadership reflection over the past 6 months as part of my 6-part 360 self-review, I have come to the following conclusions about my own values as a teacher working within a school. Therefore, I have made the following very school-specific and have refrained from a broad genetic-code statement:

Photo Credit: hawkexpress via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: hawkexpress via Compfight cc

My values are three-fold.

First and foremost, to have structures in place to ensure all students are safeguarded, so that teachers can teach as freely as possible, within a flexible timetable and dynamic curriculum to enrich students to contribute fully to school life. I seek opportunities to bring real life into classrooms, inspiring students and colleagues to take the curriculum beyond four walls and encourage students to contribute to the life and work of the school, and from the earliest stages, to exercise their responsibilities as members of the community.

Secondly, to make learning challenging and as relevant as possible for all students, including the most disaffected. Leading by example to develop and support teaching and learning in every lesson. To strive towards a ‘can-do’ approach for school improvement, believing that most school systems can improve.

And finally, to equip all students to leave school with a successful portfolio of qualifications, equipping students with character, so that they can be determined and successful in their adult lives and wider society.

I give you my genetic-code.

What’s yours?


A cartoon by Mr. Wright (@pw2tweets)

Tweet @SLTeachMeet Headship

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