#FathersDay: On Being A Dad by @TeacherToolkit

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Ross McGill Hugh McGill


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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What do you remember about your father?


This is a blog about fatherhood for Fathers Day 2015.

Many of you who have read my blog over the past 4 years, will know that my son was born 12 weeks premature, weighing just 1lb 9ozs. Despite only 28 weeks gestation which would normally carry a 75% survival rate, his extreme prematurity coupled with an extreme low-birthweight, meant that his survival rate was more like 50-60%, similar to a premature baby born at 24 weeks gestation. One week earlier, and he probably wouldn’t have been saved …

Fathers Day 2011:

Looking back at the first four weeks of my son’s life in hospital, Fathers Day arrived and my first-ever celebration as a dad. After the typical nervous night’s sleep, not quite sure what to expect in the morning, I arrived to NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) to hear of no major news or further set-backs. He had just survived a meningitis scare the week before!

Our nurse greeted me with a wonderful blue rosette badge and a small card that lay on top of the incubator; the card contained a tiny hand-print and footprint stamp, no bigger than four or five cms in length; this was followed by my first ‘kangaroo’ cuddle after 19 long days without being able to hold him, made this one of the best days of my life.

Here is a photo of me with my son on our first fathers day. Freddie is just 3 weeks old and fighting for his life in a hospital in Ashford, Kent, 85 miles from home … You can just make out his head, covered in a knitted blue cap.

Ross McGill Dad Freddie Hospital NICU


When people ask me how @TeacherToolkit all started, this photo is it! I was here with Freddie for 82 days; 8-12 hours a day sitting by his bedside waiting to be able to take him home. I had just lost my job through a restructure and had decided to opt for voluntary redundancy because I was so unhappy working in the leadership team and as part of Edutrust Academies, now EACT. Teaching was all I had ever known since the age of 18, and I decided – long before I knew Freddie was going to be born (too early) – that I could do with a career-break. Unbeknownst to me, I took 6 months out of teaching from May 2011 (Freddie’s birth) up until I found work at another school in November 2011. I knew opting for redundancy was a risk and over the summer of 2011, with Freddie home on oxygen and due to have two operations at Great Ormond Street, I started blogging about Freddie until he safely arrived home.

Once at home, I continued to update Freddie’s blog, as well as starting out www.TeacherToollkit.me. n.b. @TeacherToolkit on Twitter had started one year before in August 2010.

On Being A Son:

On the 27th July 2004, I was 5 days into a 6-week holiday in Thailand, when I received a phone-call from my sister-in-law. My father had passed away. I was currently on the idyllic island of Koh Chang, 3 hours east of Bangkok and could never have been further away from paradise.

My father died far too young. He was 62 and he spent the last 10 years of his life in and out of hospital for various complications. What took him away so early, wasn’t the heart attack he suffered 10 years earlier; or the broken hip from being increasingly frail; nor the thousands of pills and pokes, or even the second heart operation years later. In fact it was septicaemia, a life-threatening infection he picked up from being ‘in hospital’. This transition from life to death was very quick. It was a matter of 2-3 days from first being admitted to hospital and less than 24 hours from when I first heard he was ‘not going to make it’.

Dealing with my father’s bereavement was difficult, but returning back to the classroom in September 2004 was even harder! It proved to be one of the toughest moments in my career and I found it excruciating to remain motivated to do anything for the entire academic year. I recall July 2004 vividly. Within the space of one month, I had experienced a significant career-high, only to be dropped back down to reality within a matter of 3 weeks. I will always recall the elation and immediate shift from exaltation at the Teaching Awards, to depression within a matter of weeks. If I look back on this period, I unknowingly was suffering from depression and really did nothing about it, apart from lock myself away and get on with completing my masters degree! It was even harder knowing my whole family were 200 miles away …

I have hundreds of photos of myself with my father. These are the most memorable.

On Being A Dad:

Having my own son in my life, I see my father in me. Living life with Freddie stirs up many wonderful memories of my father, Hugh McGill. The trauma of Freddie’s fight for life, and the past 4 years has put life into perspective again. Enduring redundancy, childcare, as well as the highs and lows of living with a premature baby has certainly proved to be a challenging chapter in life and in education. You can read my fatherhood blog here.

Just thought I share these photosof Freddie on my 4th fathers day, and let the photos do the talking.


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