10 Things I Wish I Knew About Teaching, 10 Years Ago

Reading time: 4
shutterstock Confident handsome. Handsome young man in white shirt looking at camera and keeping arms crossed while standing against grey background wish


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

What advice would you give your younger self, if you looked back over the past 10 years? What would you say about teaching? 

This is a retrospective blog about the things I wish I knew about teaching, 10 years ago. What would you say? These are my top-10 in no specific order …

1. Support

I wish someone had looked out for me during 2004/5. Teaching is hard full-stop! Following a bereavement, its blooming hard. It’s hard to get motivated. It’s hard to give two-hoots about anything; your results; the kids; your colleagues. I was depressed and I didn’t even know it. If someone has suffered a bereavement in your school, don’t think about looking out for them and saying ‘hello’ on their first day back at work; look out for them after a couple of months later when it is needed most …

2. New opportunities

I wish I had the courage to have recognised new opportunities 10 years ago. Following the bereavement of my father, I took it upon myself to consider relocating from London and moving up north to be closer to my family. I secured 2-3 interviews – from memory – in and around the Yorkshire and Lancashire area. What I realise now, is that you should never apply for a job when you are not mentally in tip-top shape. I have always secured a new job when I am physically and mentally on top form.

3. Your local authority – Haringey

I wish that we that we could all find a mechanism for eradicating all forms of abuse in children. Oh the joys of working in Haringey. A London Borough I love and a place that I would call home. Throughout 2000-2010, this borough was subject to national press in several child and education features; notably Victoria Climbie, the sad story of Baby P; both stories that changed the face of education in the UK; and of course the former children’s services boss Sharon Shoesmith. I guess what I’m trying to say here, is that you can learn many lessons from working in your local education authority is and the surrounding vicinities. It is important that we all remember the lessons learnt.

4. ICT

I wish we could ensure all schools were equipped with robust and reliable ICT solutions. I have been a slave to ICT whims and fads over the years; tools which have never really driven teaching and learning in my classroom, only supported. I don’t think this is good enough. This is why I am reluctant to purchase any ICT software in schools I work. It soon becomes obsolete and expensive. Other than a visualiser and software solutions, I have never managed to secure a solid use of ICT in my classroom. I love ICT, but I’m sceptical.

5. Social Media

I wish I had Twitter when I was an NQT in 1997. A world without Twitter? Can you imagine …

I was using Facebook and Blogpress prior to 2005. Twitter did not yet exist in the modern world and @TeacherToolkit was non-existent! Other than local authority work, there was little or no other mechanism to share ideas beyond my locality. Quite frightening really!

6. Senior Leadership

I wish there were a compulsory/structured CPD programme for all middle leaders to commit to as part of their professional development. This would empower the key team within schools to move forward into senior leadership; better informed. I’ve never really had any formal coaching and mentoring in school leadership. Who has? Other than Tomorrows Heads – which I did not secure – what leadership CPD opportunities are provided to middle leaders? It cannot be left to self-motivation.

7. Observation Judgements

This is simple. I wish there were no lesson gradings 10 years ago. Can you imagine where we would all be now?

8. Workload

I wish we had research schools established when I completed my masters degree 10 years ago. A better evidence base for teachers is needed with documentation published in one place for ease of use. We need to develop research schools and publish examples of what is working in schools and support work to create a central repository for teaching and learning resources.

9. Wellbeing

I wish we could fast-forward 10 years and bring back wellbeing and workload solutions to the here-and-now in 2015. This is still undervalued and viewed as a woolly subject. We may be able to move things forward much more quickly, with sound evidence and support.

10. Advice to Self

If my 2005 version of myself could sit and talk with my 2015 version of me, my wish would be this:  Enjoy your teaching. You will always meet deadlines. You will always work hard. Trust in yourself and know that teaching is hard. And no matter what you do, something can always be tweaked, improved, completed and changed. That’s just the nature of the job. Accept it and enjoy the moment. Your work will never be done!

At the time of writing, 10 years ago I would have found myself at the peak of middle leadership in 2005. Due to a new build project, I had just built a design technology department for the 3rd time; I had lost my father the year before, one month after being short-listed for The Guardian Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School in London 2004. I came second to the illustrious @PhilBeadle who wrote this about me for my first book;

On 26 Aug 2013, Phil Beadle wrote: “A decade ago Ross and I were both up for London Teacher of the Year. We drew, and settled it down an East end boozer over a game of darts in which I fluked a lucky double top. We were struck that night by the degree of intellectual similarity between us: a preference for going in the side door rather than simply doing things we were told to do by people who were bored of what they did for a living. In the ten years since that evening Ross has become a new media phenomenon; and this book is redolent of his happy relationship with emerging and emerged technologies. While it is conventionally published, it includes a deal of unconventional thought, and that thought is expressed in a way that takes in every possible media for conveying ideas and information: there are hashtags, weblinks, ideas for taking things forwards, links to videos he has made. In short, it is Ross’s greatest hits.

Where a talented teacher might come up with a couple of groundbreaking ideas over a career. Ross Morrison McGill has ten before breakfast: some are more conventional and massively influential (the five minute lesson plan, and pose, pause, pounce, bounce) some wilder and more in keeping with the guy I met at the oche: (hopscotch calculators and paper plates for AfL strategies). All-in-all though this is a book of ideas: the manifold ideas of an experienced and talented campaigner, who keeps himself up-to-the-minute with new technologies, who still plays in the classroom every day, and who knows the value of quirk. I wish he was my teacher!”

2 thoughts on “10 Things I Wish I Knew About Teaching, 10 Years Ago

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.