Making Informed Decisions

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shutterstock_215457235 IV solution in a child's patients hand hospital


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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If you are a parent and a teacher, which is harder to manage: the emotions, or the sapping of your energy levels?

I consider myself to be an experienced teacher, but when it comes to parenting, I’m a pure novice and have much to learn.

Parenting is harder than teaching, because it’s personal. Even deeper emotions are involved …

Making Decisions:

I’m no psychologist or medical expert, so I am well out of my depth and like most in life, we rely on the advice of other professionals. We assume others are best placed and well-informed. Thankfully, I consider myself to be a relatively wise old-man and can make informed decisions most of the time. Generally, making rational choices with little or no emotion affecting the decision.

Similar to parenting, in teaching, classrooms are full of negotiations, emotion and military-like behaviour management. Teachers are passionate, yet often stressed and are required to make constant decisions, working with young adults who are hormonal, distracted and under constant social pressure.

On being a parent, behaviours and emotions are all very similar, but the boundaries are very different to that of a teacher. Most of all, it’s personal.

Difficult Decisions:

For the past 5 years since birth, our son has had a minor deformation which is hidden to sight. It has played on my consciousness as a parent from the very first day he was born 12 weeks premature.

This week, we visited University College London Hospital (UCL) to have a decision to operate (or not) reviewed by an expert. The last time we did this, was when Freddie was just 72 days old.

Freddie McGill hospital @FreddieWM June 2016 UCL hospital

Don’t worry … in Italian families we say, if a baby does this: “they are blessed.”. (72 days old)

Informed Decisions:

After a brief and very indistinct period in the waiting room, the doctor called us into a private office. The anxiety was very different to the first 3 months of our son’s life and as an individual, I also was in a better place to be able to make an informed decision.

After an initial conversation and look over medical notes, the doctor examined my son. He was very brave.

The diagnosis offered was three-fold.

Firstly, any re-collection of an operation will be stored in a child’s memory after the age of 3. Therefore, my decision to delay any procedure until my son was older and stronger, and to a point where he may forget about any traumatic event is unfounded.


Thankfully, the decision to operate is not essential or urgent and any procedure – at this stage of his life – is merely cosmetic rather than for comfort. Either way, making any decision as a parent is always going to be a tough call.

Should I make choice now, or wait until he is at an age where he can make the decision for himself?

Any decision to operate would be based on an informed and optional choice. It would not be made on the basis of the past. Nor on any of our earlier experiences of trauma as premature parents, commuting 85 miles away from home for over 3 months. Simply, the decision to operate is in our hands. It would be a personal and moral decision to do what is right for us as a family. To make an important decision as a parent, not as a teacher. 

What is eating away at me is, what is the right thing to do? To repair or to remove the deformation in question. To remove is the easier option and can be achieved with one hours surgery as a day patient. To repair would be a little more complicated, with a 70% success rate that would require a longer operation and an overnight stay in hospital. Perhaps a further operation if complications arose …

There are no heightened emotions, no long-distances to commute or exhaustion and job-loss to contend with. Thankfully we are in a position to have a brilliant NHS service offer us a choice, and as parents we have the right to make it.

Good Decisions:

To cap off a day full of medical memories, we decided to visit one of the hospitals that first looked after our son in 2011.

Not much has changed inside Starlight Neonatal Unit (at Barnet Hospital) and many of the staff have moved on to other jobs. Thankfully, there were some nurses still there (and on-duty) who remembered our son and our story. I guess this is very similar to being a teacher, re-living some of the days when you last taught a particular student and they come back into school (sometimes with their own children) to say hello and thank you.

Despite it being 5 years ago to the month, we met some of the consultants who initially helped us as new (premature) parents, those brilliant individuals who gave us the medical and personal advice during a very difficult time. We left the nurses with a photo of our son (aged 5) in his school uniform and managed to take a lovely photo (below) of some of the amazing nurses who actually worked with our son.

These are the NHS staff who actually saved his life! They are the professionals who make decisions and the people who help us to make decisions as parents too.

Now, wouldn’t that be something if we could have the same in teaching? Just like it used to be …

Freddie McGill hospital @FreddieWM June 2016

Freddie – standing beside his picture on the wall – with some of the nurses who saved his life – June 2015

TT – a premature dad.

@TeacherToolkit logo new book Vitruvian man TT

*this blog is dedicated to the wonderful NHS staff at William Harvey (Ashford) and Barnet Hospitals.

5 thoughts on “Making Informed Decisions

  1. Parenting is much harder. Your post touched a raw nerve with me as we have just finished 3 and a half years of cancer treatment with my now 7 yr old son.

    As primary teachers the kids are with us for 6 hours a day, 2 hours of which are playtimes or assembly. We hand the kids back at 3:30 to their parents. As a parent of a child needing medical attention everything is hightened and the emotions are raw and real 24/7.

    I always ask my NQTs to imagine their hardest child and imagine being their parent, putting them to bed, making them dinner, being with them 24/7 since birth until now. As primary teachers we have a difficult class for a year and then hand them over to someone else. Parents can’t do that.

    Good luck with your decision.

  2. Thank you TT. A touching and thought provoking article. Teachers are power people. We are in control (most of time!) and any situation where we are not, especially a situation involving our children, is hugely traumatic. We have to trust the power of others, their knowledge and expertise, and rely on them instead of people looking to us and relying on us.

    My further thoughts from this can be found on The Wilderness College blog here on WordPress.

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