It Is Not The Critic Who Counts

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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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How should we support our colleagues?

Out of the doldrums, every teacher can now stand tall. We now have a voice; the rise of the teacher blogger and tweeter – social media to be exact – has given all teachers a forum to share. We have a collective opportunity to challenge watchdogs, policymakers and of course, each other.

But, when did playground antics become acceptable for educated professionals? We don’t do it with colleagues in our schools. If we do, we conduct conversations face to face and work through our differences, yet with challenge – amongst peers online – critique offered poorly can do no good for the author.

“It is not the educator outside the classroom who counts: not the consultant who points out how the strong individual stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the teacher who is actually in the classroom, whose face is marred by chalk-dust, sweat and grime, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again. Because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends themselves for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if they fail, at least fails while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid educators who knew neither classroom nor workload.” (Adapated from Theodore Roosevelt 1858 – 1919) 

Collective Force:

Since 2008, I have been blogging as Teacher Toolkit. I am one of thousands and thousands of examples of teachers, working full-time in the classroom, demonstrating ‘how teachers can use social media to boost their CPD‘ in a professional and courteous manner, particularly online with individuals we do not know. I’ve mentioned before how teachers can fall foul of the Teachers’ Standards for their online behaviour. I have ‘captured’ some recent abuse which I am not yet willing to share here.

It is my belief, that we are all empowered to share our knowledge of teaching and learning; what works and what we do not think works well (in the classroom). After all, we are all a by-product of the education sector we were all (once) a child within. And we all have our opinion. Various methods, fads and ideologies. Progressive or traditional; no one method being perfect than the other.

Worse still, colleagues you once respected and held in high-esteem, have a moment of madness and say/write/do something that raises all eyebrows! They say: it takes a lifetime to build a reputation in your career – or build trust in a friendship or a relationship with a loved one – but just one second to through it all away!

shutterstock_252809467 isolated mongoloid hand holding stone for throw on white

  Image: Shutterstock

The Benefits:

We are all (mostly) benefiting from our online persona, whether this is developing new connections, discovering new ideas or simply having our teaching philosophies questioned and critiqued for the better. As the rise of social media gives us all more opportunities to reach further, more and more teachers are impacting on colleagues further beyond their own school gates. Evidence suggest educators can now be rewarded financially for their work, I included.

But what is unclear for many, is where copyright law and (school) working contracts may breach resources published online for profit. Who owns the copyright?

Until this new epoch becomes more common-practice, clarified in teacher contracts, buy-now platforms and self-publishing sites give teachers an opportunity to brand themselves for various reasons. To share ideas or magpie ideas; to raise the profile of themselves, their schools and/or their work, or to capitalise on their hard work through speaking at events, writing books or selling resources in their own time. The TES have already paid out £220,000 to teachers since September 2015; yet no one is forced to click the ‘buy now’ button.


Today, on Wednesday 24 February 5.30pm to 7.30pm I will be offering advice on making the most of Twitter and Facebook for your professional development.

Teachers on Twitter are scarier than those on Facebook. They are wonderful and well-meaning professionals who have taught me so much, but many of these teachers practise symbolic violence. Some do it by shamelessly self-promoting, some pick fights with smaller fish and some deploy intellectual snobbery. I’ve witnessed hard-working teachers torn to shreds because they’ve dared to challenge a celebrity teacher on Twitter. Onlookers pick at the carcass by retweeting their support. I’m all for debate , we all have our own ideologies, but let’s do this in person. (The Secret Teacher)

Let’s not berate one another or cast stones to tarnish one another. Let’s ignore the guff and focus on the bigger picture. Let’s develop each other and move away from our silos.


It’s up to you what decisions and stance you wish to take. For me, being attacked online for ideas and resources just comes with the territory; something I’m happy to take. But the abuse received has been a learning curve.

The 5 Minute Plan has gone viral – have no doubts about it – and I will be the first to admit that the concept is now over-egged. The published series are only 50% of the ideas that have been proposed to me by other educators; inspired by blogs and social media. And if I had published them all, even in a new book, then I truly would be trivialising education in all aspects: something I am very conscious of.

It is my belief that my resources – and yours – continue to support colleagues far and wide, whether self-hosted on my blog for free or monetised. Because it is our choice to curate and partake.

It is also our choice to throw stones in glass houses.

shutterstock_172108040 Background the broken windowpane view from room on blue sky with clouds.

Image: Shutterstock

It Is Not The Critic:

Shouldn’t teachers support teachers to think; if half the guff we produce and share online is a byproduct of a broken education system of league tables, accountability and workload?

That classroom teachers can cut corners in a climate of accountability or for fear of keeping their jobs? I know too well. I lost my job due to redundancy and needed to reinvent myself to support my new family. This was the birth of Teacher Toolkit at a time when I was pushed out of the classroom.

Thankfully, I got back into school, doing what I love best 5 days a week. Five years later, Teacher Toolkit is recognised in the community worldwide, and has now evolved into a small business. But it won’t take me away from the classroom. It won’t alter my values.

Power to the Thinking Teacher:

I will stick true to my values. I teach full-time in schools to improve the lives of the children I work with. I teach to empower the staff I work with and help unlock their full potential in the classroom. I teach, because I thrive on teaching kids and creating resources for my classroom; and with the epoch of social media and blogging, I have a forum to share these ideas with the world – whether freely or for a quick bob or two – we all have a choice.

I know they make a difference to teachers young and old, progressive or traditionalist.

It is not the educator (or the consultant) outside the classroom who counts. The credit belongs to the teacher who is actually in the classroom, whose face is marred by chalk-dust, sweat and grime.

It’s down to you my dear reader, for you to decide how you interpret this new epoch. How do you want to challenge the collective? Because, you know what, the impact of your work will speak for itself.

I am all for critique, freedom of speech, sharing freely or for reward, but for goodness sake, let’s be grown up about it.


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3 thoughts on “It Is Not The Critic Who Counts

  1. Keep up the good work in all your areas of your work. The 5min plan continues to me go to sheet to plan a lesson. It suits my and my student’s needs perfectly which is all that matters.

  2. I’m sad to see this experience. I benefitted hugely from following a wide range of colleague on Twitter and from tweeting my thoughts, occasionally wrong or not very deep. I have been off all social media for a while for not dissimilar reasons to those outlined in the article. It seems to me that the etiquette should be to follow lots of people: those with great ideas, those with views opposing my own prejudice, those who are amusingly wrong. However, when you really disagree with someone you should either read the tweet, roll your eyes and call them something rude but not reply online: just move on. Alternatively, unfriendl them for a month or two.

  3. Don’t let the Alan ‘Bastards get you down. As someone who does not use the online platform to network per se nor feel I have the time or expertise to share beyond uploading for free to TES, I cannot relate. What I can say is you are a leader and pioneer and on behalf of teachers and school leaders everywhere, We salute you sir.

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