Kapow! – Exposing Trolls

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shutterstock_55858717 Comic book style KAPOW


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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How often are you subject to abuse – or disagreement – on social media?

Most of the readers who visit my blog, come here specifically to find ideas and resources about school leadership and teaching and learning. This blog however, is more about social media and the bridge between reality (in real life) and the blogging world.


First written in April 2015 and updated in April 2016, this is a short and simple blog to explain the reasoning behind my Kapow tweets. Those of you who follow me on Twitter, (133,000 circa. April 2016) may be wondering why on earth I tweet the following image and Twitter message, so I thought I would offer a short explanation.

A Good Time To Troll?

The school holidays offer an opportunity to reflect, as well as take time out from teaching and rest. Many of us – including me – choose to blog and share our resources, views and connect with other professionals. Others (yes, professional teachers) choose to do something quite different …

The reasoning for Kapow stems back to when I started to receive troll attacks in 2012 from various bloggers and tweeters. The abuse reached its peak around the time when I first published my book in September 2013 and after a spat with the TES. Both events resulted in me starting to share my own resources on my own blog, as well as selling the occasional resource in March 2014, rather than share my work elsewhere for others to profit.

The long story short, some people did not understand how a teacher could profit from their own hard work, produced in their own time out of school.

Here is an example from October 2015;

troll twitter

Sharing Worldwide:

When I started to share my blogger journey, people started to listen and ask for my advice. Although I am very happy to do this, I was yet to share the full range of tweets and blog posts with anyone that I have collected over the past 2-3 years from many trolls up and down the country (and I have collected them all). But in November 2015, I decided to do this and published: Blogging Advice Your Headteacher Shouldn’t See.

I managed to keep some decorum, anonymising the Twitter ID of each troll. But despite my compassion, it never ceases to amaze me the people who can be so vitriolic; that these folk are teachers, teaching our kids!

shutterstock_149698517 Men�¯�¿�½ confrontation. Two angry young business people standing face to face and holding their hands at the table while isolated on grey

Read the blog? Image: Shutterstock


I guess any person on social media – including me – is susceptible to criticism in one form or another. I appreciate that self-promotion may irk some, but believe it or not, I always started out as a blogger to reflect and share. I never though I would write a book. I never thought I would be able to sell my own resources. I never thought I would drive such a huge audience to my blog. And the danger of having such a large audience is that one tweet (with a link to products or books) or a blog such as this, cannot please everyone and I know this very clearly.

It has been amazing to see some education trolls come out from behind their keyboards, into the limelight and are now enjoying social media acclaim and financial reward. It’s been a fascinating journey to watch from my perspective.

I also know that in one click, we can all tarnish our reputation. But, that’s the difference between transparency and anonymity; credibility and resilience come at a cost. Trolls rarely face those they abuse online and lack both traits.

Even if you do not believe it, online has now become a new-found form of self-expression. I happen to be pretty good at using ICT to help others and I will always remind those that read my blogs and tweets, that I once started out with just one follower and just one blog reader too!

My intentions were to blog for myself and nobody else, and this social media advice will always be my top tip to others … It is only now that I am really starting to see the other benefits of having a large online presence and readership. After all, trolls can lead to good things and can open doors …


So, why the Kapow tweets?

Kapow is an aide-mémoire to myself and to those online that know me personally, that each time I post a Kapow tweet, it is a visual reminder to all that:

  • a) the trolls will never quell our passion for sharing what we enjoy sharing,
  • b) and a ‘two-finger salute‘ from me, that @TeacherToolkit has just accumulated another 1,000 followers on Twitter.

shutterstock_197901137 A cartoon man receives a strong punch in the face.

Image: Shutterstock


And that’s it. Simple. One troll versus thousands and thousands of positive voices.


I have blogged about trolling before, so I won’t dwell on the issue much more. In my experience, there are three types of social media dispositions:

  1. Group A: Those who are genuinely tweeting to share ideas, who engage in discussion, seek feedback and critique.
  2. Group B: A minority not willing to engage in healthy discussion. Most often, lacking impartiality.
  3. Group C: Trolls, who are a tiny minority. In all cases, report them and screenshot the information; the account will disappear in a matter of days. A definition of a troll is here.

Every Hour, Every Day:

Teacher trolls tend to come out during the school holidays, during a time when they have little to do and no friends to see; or professional rules to adhere too. In terms of education, trolls are more-often-than-not, anonymous accounts who seek to trouble tweeters in group A, who conceivably belong to group B. The difference is, is that they often – but not exclusively – tweet from an anonymous point of view to be provocative.

Regarding anonymity, I’d highly recommend it to new tweeters who wish to share their views on education and possibly the ‘views of work in their own school’. Anonymity is a good thing and in my opinion, ensures that we all keep our heads out of the sand and address what really goes on in our schools. There is a very interesting article here, putting it all into context:

At its most basic level, trolling is what everyone is doing online every hour of every day, and what many others had done long before the internet era.”

You can read 20 Something Betters at the bottom of this blogpost, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.



7 thoughts on “Kapow! – Exposing Trolls

  1. Dear Ross, just a brief message of support. Horrified to hear about the trolling. Fools! I look forward to every email (haven’t made it onto twitter, yet!) as a source of inspiration, psychological comfort and professional reinforcement. I haven’t got round to saying thank you up to now, so, THANK YOU!!! Huge respect to someone who can look after the needs of his own school and his own students and still have time and energy to help me with mine.

    1. Dear Andy. That is very kind. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. Lovely to know that when I blog alone at home, it is useful to so many others. Good to know I’m also not alone in thought. Best wishes. Ross p.s. And get on Twitter!

  2. Dear Ross

    I have huge respect for the sheer volume of resources and sharing that you generate. Why feel the need to justify for charging for your knowledge and resources ? I for one would expect nothing less and am amazed at the relentless generosity of your input to Twitter and other social media outlets when you also have a heavily loaded full time job. You are evidently very adept at managing your time and congratulate you on your great success in all that you undertake. I, too never cease to be amazed by the vitriol and trolls I have encountered on social media ( some personally, but much on other people who are trying to do good). Carry on ignoring them and take comfort as you should in your Kapow tweets! Brilliant !

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