King of the Road: 10 Years Later

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In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account through which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday...
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What drives you?

It’s ten years ago this month that I first lost my job in teaching. Academisation and restructuring pushed me to a position of ‘voluntary redundancy’ with the teaching union claiming it as ‘a victory’; that ‘no jobs were lost’.

There are a couple of standout moments in my teaching career that are imprinted on my memory.

‘No jobs have been lost’

The first is the comment above, from a well-known teaching union representative from North London who stood up in front of the teaching staff to report that he was ‘pleased that they were no staff casualties’ in the restructure. Perhaps he had not factored in the leadership team itself?

I got back into the classroom eventually.

The ‘failing school’ myth

The second was an ‘incoming’ executive headteacher who stood up in front of parents and staff and said:

“This is a failing school“, and that their “version of ‘Outstanding’ was different to everybody else’s.” It was their third comment (or strike) along these lines that made me walk out of the room and drive home.

I had already resigned and had little to do with them other than a ‘conversation about teaching evaluations’. I believe they are working in a similar position, now working for a multi-academy trust in Manchester; committed to the cause of ‘turning around failing schools.’

There were multiple factors already in motion, but I believe I could have continued to work in both these schools for  much longer than 3 years each. I also know I am not alone since having the autonomy to speak up. Gagging orders are on the rise in education across England…

What drives you?

We know all teachers are driven by their moral purpose, and any decision to work in a school generally aligns with the values and visions of that institution and that person. Most teachers are recruited from their local community, and in my experience, are more likely to be committed to the long haul.

When external events or influences get in the way, this leads to teacher attrition and increased mental health.

Nobody wins. It’s a choice we seem to be happy across the English education system.

League table this, league table that. ‘We are Outstanding’ and ‘You are Requires improvement’; the government won’t have you on the teacher reference group because Ofsted have judged your school to be working ineffectively.

We all want high standards for education system, but some of the metrics we use to gauge quality is just nonsense. The above examples do not motivate me. They are example byproducts of what drives me.

Educators, people like you and I…

I’m not motivated by any ‘Outstanding’ badge, or that someone is a headteacher of a turnaround school.

Educators, people like you and I, are motivated by making a difference to young people and the colleagues we choose to work alongside. At no point does this mean belittling or bullying, or ‘turning your nose up’ at someone because you work in an ‘Inadequate’ school or work in an area of poverty.

Sadly, there are people like this in the world.

It’s 10 years since I lost my job in the example I provided at the top of this post.

It’s also 10 years (this weekend) since my son Freddie was born premature at 1lb 9ozs.

It was probably the most difficult point in my career and life.

It’s four years on from the second example I provided above; I now travel on the road to schools around the world.

Follow your passion

I have written about my son in great detail since his recovery from premature birth. How he inspires me, how he motivates me to work in general, and also how these experiences drive me to work within the eduction sector. My motivation is to make teaching an inclusive space (e.g summer born admissions, pupil premium) for all children and all teachers (e.g. whatever rating Ofsted inspection has judged your school).

I hope that from my experiences and renewed motivation, you too benefit from this website or from some the teacher training sessions I lead physically and virtually. Success is what you make it, and I know it won’t last forever.

King of the road…

The words of Nicholas_Klein (sometimes misattributed to Gandhi) feel apt after a decade of writing on this site.

When I first said that teachers could change the way they source job applications, people ignored me.

When I first said that teachers could ‘sell resources‘ or continue to ‘teach outside the classroom‘, people laughed.

When I first said that teachers were neither traditional or progressive, some started to fight me.

In the words of Klein: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

In my world, I now see that I have won.

We must do better to eradicate the forces that drive teachers away from the classroom. This starts with in-house fighting, the power-driven and the ill-informed.

If you want the real reason why this website exists, here it is in this blog post.

Look at us now Freddie. Ten years later, we are the ‘king of the road’…

Happy birthday son.

Freddie Aged 10

If you would like to read an academic version of these fateful moments in my life as a teacher and influencer, you can access my attempts at an autoethnography and a literature review on ResearchGate.

2 thoughts on “King of the Road: 10 Years Later

  1. Dear Ross
    The post King of the road moved me so much that I need to write a reply to you at once. I was VP for teaching and learning for 4 yeArs across two Harris Academies and the same restructuring happened and I was forced into VR. Since then I have applied for about 11 leadership posts, usually get the first round of the interview process but am told that many employers see the word redundancy as a potential capability issue and the agreed referee as part of the settlement with a pinch of salt. In my case this is not true and my executive head vouches for this as the order to cut the VPs came from higher up in Harris and he had no choice. I have become so demoralised, knowing t how to turn T and L around, am research driven but feel many heads see me as a threat potentially. Out of desperatere I have signed up to do supply and think whether I need to do a mole approach , work myself back up from the bottom until someone sees my potential. You are so successful and well known across the teaching profession. I would love to have advice from you how you got yourself out of this hole, I would love to spread my experience beyond one school setting but just don’t know right now how to get into this, would love your guidance but completely understand if this mail gets unnoticed as you are a big organisation with a huge remits.
    Kind regards and happy birthday to Freddie.

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