Why I Need to Work Smarter 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...
Read more about @TeacherToolkit

Have you ever had a ‘work’ epiphany?

This is a blog inspired by Vicki Davies (@CoolCatTeacher) and her article, Why I Hired a Brand Manager. Davies starts off with a scenario all-too familiar to me in my full-time teaching life and my online persona, @TeacherToolkit.

“Teaching all day is exhausting. Could you imagine coming home and having hundreds of emails to handle? Well, that is what happened to me. My friends always ask me how I do it all! Teachers around the world have been kind to me. I want to be generous and helpful to them. But with such demands on my time, I have to get smart.”

And having read this at 3am last night, plus a conversation with the @DigitalSisters at The Digital Education Show UK about starting to make my blog work for me, I suddenly realised something that I had always known; I must focus on what is important and ignore what wastes my time.

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Image: Shutterstock

This weekend, I am likely to surpass 100,000 Twitter followers. My blog has almost reached 3,000,000 classrooms in nearly 200 countries across the world and my resources stored on various websites and other social media platforms I use, exceed over 5 million views! It’s incredible to think that me, a humble classroom teacher, can share and be heard so far and wide.

In Davies’ blog, she outlines several points which has inspired me to write Why I Need to Work Smarter!

How Do You Build Influence?

Effort: To grow an online profile takes effort. A tweet-a-day; a blog a week at least. Consistent content that shares useful and practical information and resources for others. As Davies says;

“I follow [teachers]. I learn from [educators]. I came to this [point] by sharing great stuff. I have to write more great stuff. I have to record inspiring shows. I have to keep giving wildly impactful speeches. I also need to read and cultivate friendships. Epic takes effort.”

And she reminds me what could potentially happen to me; that I may get so busy being ‘influencing’ others, getting busy with new stuff, that I forget the old stuff and the ideas and work that got me to the point where I am today. I stop blogging; stop sharing; stop replying to others and worst of all, stop sharing great resources. So much so, I become irrelevant to others.

“Working smarter will allow me to be more creative; share and receive feedback.”

“Mind clutter kills creativity,” says Davies.

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Image: Shutterstock


When I’m not teaching, I’m writing, reading and blogging. I see my friends less because my new job as a deputy headteacher is demanding. My four year old son determines my time at home and this is where I am needed. Blogging is my side job and I have sown what I am now reaping. I share; I receive. I am asked to present at national conferences; write books and offer advice wide and far. This is a blessing, but there is a sacrifice to be made.

As Davies says;

“I speak to pay the bills. I also speak because I love it! … and that two kinds of active income: Stay and Away. There is money I can earn while staying at home. (STAY) There’s money I make by traveling and speaking away from my family. (AWAY)”

And this is the crux of Davies’ argument;

If you are going to be a full-time educator, you must make the most STAY income possible. I love traveling and meeting people, so AWAY is  great. But the demand for AWAY is more than I can do if I’m going to STAY in the classroom.

I get to attend and speak at conferences; teachmeets and CPD events. I attend mostly for free. The upside is that I get to meet lots and lots of fabulous people; more than I’ve ever know professionally in all of my career. However, I reluctantly accept anything outside of London; if I do, this takes me away from the classroom and most of all, away from my family.

“Working smarter will allow me to stay at home and in the classroom.”

I must choose wisely and accept rarely.

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Image: Shutterstock


Through sharing, I find myself in the spotlight online. As teachers, we are naturally defined to collaborate and share with each other by default. The is never more present online in blogs, social media and on resource-sharing platforms. In Robert Cialdini’s book Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion the rule for reciprocation says;

“… that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us by virtue of the reciprocity rule, then, we are obligated to the future repayment of favors, gifts, invitations, and the like.”

By reciprocating, we are helping other people. This is epitomised on social media and in schools across the country. Many of my readers thank me for the resources, blogs and ideas I share, but I would like to remind all of you that my work in the classroom is derived from my colleagues and my students who are my inspiration. Others say I am generous with my ideas and time, whilst others are keen to manipulate this.

“Sadly, selfish people can take advantage of generous people.”

 If I can do it, so can you. This is why I continue to share, blog and tweet so often. By doing so, it feeds my creativity and reflection.

“Working smarter will allow me to filter and focus on helping the right teachers.”

I must consider the impact on my workload, versus the demands from others placed on me, to have my energy and expertise.

The Cash Cow:

Collaboration, feedback and development are key to teacher-development. But, there are companies who are keen to cash-in on my online influence. Davies’ says;

“There is a difference between companies and people. I will be generous to people. I will be generous to my friends. But, companies have budgets and should pay for consulting. No more free milk.

Companies aren’t the enemy. Profit isn’t the enemy. There are tens of thousands of fantastic, ethical companies out there. They wouldn’t dream of taking advantage of people’s generosity. But many do.”

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Image: Shutterstock

I will consider writing and blogging for others; uploading resources elsewhere; offering product reviews and advice to new start-up companies, but I cannot keep on doing this freely or without thought. It is either for love, or for money. I will work with companies I trust. Companies I already have a good working relationship with.

“But gone are the days where I’m going to help every single company who emails me.”

If you find social media is taking over your life as a teacher, or like me as an influencer online, there may not be enough of you/me to go around. I need to work smarter. Davies’ says ‘stop!’

“You are worth more than free. You don’t have time for the emails. Some of you are being used. It isn’t fair to you or your family. Being nice is dumb when it takes you away from your calling.”

“Working smarter will allow me to focus on my values and relationships with others; to decide who deserves my time.”

With over 500+ interactions on Twitter and Facebook for @TeacherToolkit, as well as 200+ emails per day, it is a daily task to keep up. People have recommended virtual PAs to me and I have considered this to help balance my workload. Lengthy emails are just deleted. I want quick-concise content that gets straight to the point. Most of my replies are one-liners because they have to be …

Sharing is Caring:

I like helping and inspiring others tweeters and bloggers. As my audience has grown from 1 reader to over 150,000 per month, the range of responses and requests range from motivating to just, plain weird. We can all have an influence. As I have said before, “if teachers can organise themselves, they can move policy.” I truly believe we can do this and with clear and careful planning, we can shape ivory towers …

Policy Poster If Teachers Can Mobilise Themselves They Can Move Policy

If I can write this blog, then so can you. If 150,000 people choose to visit this website each month, don’t you think this is a wonderful achievement for a mere teacher? Why not you too? When I meet teachers who tweet and blog, I get excited. Together, we have ideas that will make us all better teachers; help students in classrooms far and wide and most of all, share and care for each other. You just never know who is feeling isolated, even if they are not working in a far-off remote part of the country; if the teacher is feeling victimised and bullied, they need support.

“Working smarter will allow me to share with the right people.”

We all need support. We need a network of peers to connect with and share content. As teachers, we thrive on feedback.


In teaching, money is a dirty word. New schools and academy-chains opening up and designed for-profit; teachers selling resources; teacher earnings (or lack of it) and increased pension and national insurance contributions are on the up! As a colleague said to me this week, “nobody comes into teaching for the money.” But Davies says this and I agree;

“I just refuse to believe that I have to leave the classroom to support my family. I believe that there’s a new way for teachers to make money. An ethical way that helps our profession and our families. I believe I can develop and model a way to consult/speak/write AND TEACH.”

I won’t be in the classroom forever. But, I do know that my passion for blogging, tweeting, writing books and speaking at conferences is all a direct outcome of my day-to-day work in classrooms. I know I am respected for what I do because I still work full-time in school. As Davies, I am slowly dreaming a model for teachers to work in classrooms as well as earn a living from online social media.

I have given lots away for free. I will continue to do so. I am in demand more than ever, but I cannot sustain it. I have to focus on what benefits me and my family as well as those who are benefiting from my work. And I do not forget, that I would not be in the position I am, if it were not for you – yes, you – reading this blog. I read every email. Every tweet. Every message. Thank you for your feedback.

“Working smarter will allow me to earn money online.”

As Davies ends, “I’m not changing, I’m just working better.” This will be my ticket to success and it could be yours too …

shutterstock_221185663 Work Smart Not Hard words on ticket to success in career, job or life

Image: Shutterstock

You can read Vicki Davies’ blog here and follow her at @CoolCatTeacher.


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6 thoughts on “Why I Need to Work Smarter by @TeacherToolkit

  1. As an isolated teacher/new blogger/parent to a 2 year old a lot of what you said rings very true. Thanks

  2. Hi Ross, I’m going out on a limb here but I really want to share this. The other day I heard of a man called Mike Seddon, he’s 51, and a few days ago was told he has incurable inoperable cancer and has a couple of weeks to live. For the last years he’s ran a business on his own terms: “My view is that if someone has to confuse you to win your business then it’s likely they don’t know what they are doing!” A friend of his suggested he do one last webinar, not to sell anything or to talk about social media, but to reflect on what is important now given he has a unique perspective of knowing he’s going, and that it’s soon. It’s a powerful talk on finding ways to live while we are alive. 45 minutes. Here’s the link if you’d like to see: http://dovgordon.net/lastwebinar

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