10 May A 2nd Year of Blogging: The doors that opened.
It’s the 2nd anniversary of headguruteacher.com. I wrote about my first year here – and then I was astonished by the way blogging and twitter had taken off and become a part of my professional existence so quickly. Since then, it’s grown further; through blogging about education and a few personal interests, I’ve been offered so many fantastic opportunities. Blogging has opened doors and given me the platform to engage with the education system at a level that I’d never have had access to without it.
In terms of stats – which, admittedly I do take far too much notice of – headguruteacher.com has had 530,000 hits in the last year. As you can see from the top 20 list, some posts have been especially huge but, on average, the blog gets about 1300 views per day. That has been accompanied by a growth of twitter followers, from 6000 to 17500 since May last year. I can’t quite get my head around that and I’m enormously grateful. There is a wonderful growing community of people engaging with each other through blogs and twitter and I’m lucky to have found a niche as one of a few teaching Headteacher-bloggers. As I said last year, it’s so liberating to be able to do all of this without needing permission or approval and I love the fact that, whenever I like, I can bash out my thoughts or observations for other people to engage with.
I find that writing a series of blogs helps to keep the momentum going. The Great Leadership series helped put put some thoughts together and, more recently, the Pedagogy Postcards provided a structure for some scattered ideas. 20 might have been pushing it but, once I’d set out the list, I needed to see it through. In A Blog Blog: The things that seem to matter, I run through the top 6 posts at the time. The Bill Rogers’ Behaviour Management Top 10 is regularly the hit of the day and it was lovely to meet him in person back in January.
Beyond the stats, the most exciting benefits of blogging have come through the opportunities I’ve been presented with. Here is a run-down of some of the things that have happened in the last year, more or less directly as a result of blogging as headguruteacher:
June: The Wellington Education Festival
I had a 45 minute slot in a packed room, talking about Great Lessons. This was a real treat. I loved the fact that people wanted to pile into a small room to hear about regular lessons. That’s what an education festival should be about. It was also fantastic to hear Geoff Barton talking about literacy. I can’t wait to return this year.
July-August: Meeting ‘OfQual’
Having written about exams and assessment on my blog, I was delighted to be contacted by Amanda Spielman and then Glenys Stacey from OfQual who both separately invited me to meet them. It was fascinating to meet the real people behind the organisation and to hear their views about the recent changes to exams; the issues of grade inflation, marking accuracy and some of the technical aspects of the exam system that are rarely understood or even discussed. It’s clear, having met them, that they act on the basis of their technical analysis rather than because of political pressure. We may not like to hear it but some of the changes were needed because things had simply gone awry. My main conclusion is that not enough people really understand the mechanics and inherent limitations of the exam system; we need to work on that. I wrote about some of this here.
September ResearchEd at Dulwich College.
What a joy this was. Meeting Laura McInerney and hearing David Weston talking were my personal highlights but, as I say in my review post, it was the fact that this happened at all that was so brilliant. Since then, it’s become a proper Thing. Tom Bennett and Helene Galdinoshea have set up a process for professionals from different spheres to engage with each other through the search for answers. It was sorely needed – and now exists. It’s exciting to be part of it.
September: Saying ‘penis’ out loud on Radio 4
I got a call from the BBC Radio 4 PM programme to talk about my approach to teaching Sex Ed. They’d picked up on a Guardian Network blog I’d written a while ago where I talk about the ‘any questions’ box. I went to the studio in London for a live interview. It was fun. A colleague said his mum spilled her tea when she heard me say ‘penis’ on air – in the context of ‘teachers of SRE need to be confident saying ‘penis’ out loud’. I couldn’t believe how many people heard that brief segment; long lost friends got in touch. And I got to meet Eddie Mair.
February: Meeting the Three Michaels
A major spin-off from blogging has been the opportunity to join the Headteachers’ Roundtable. In the last year we’ve worked out what we are – a think tank. We’re not a representative group – those already exist. We’re just a random group of people who find we have ideas in common – and people listen to us, which is great. We met Michael Gove in August last year and then, following further meetings and exchanges, we secured a fascinating meeting with Michael Gove and Sir Michael Wilshaw at the same time. It nearly didn’t happen – but it did. Mike Cladingbowl was there too; three Michaels and us. It’s interesting so see how these powerful people operate; the machinery of government is fascinating. We held our own and said what we wanted to say. You can never tell if you are just being humoured or whether you are actually having any influence – but things are moving so we can’t complain.
February: The OfSTED Explosion
In a completely separate event, I was invited to meet Mike Cladingbowl during February half-term as one of a small group of bloggers. It seemed odd to us that OfSTED would seek our views given that we don’t represent anyone, but it created an extraordinary outcome. I wrote about it in this blog ‘Meeting OfSTED, the game has changed’ – which generated a monster response. Over 80, 000 views so far, mostly via links on facebook .
Following our meeting, they clarified their position regarding grading lessons. Mike Cladingbowl even rang me to discuss the statement before it went out. It was as if they needed quick feedback and, through the likes of David Didau and Ross McGill (@TeacherToolkit), the blog community was a tangible contact point to engage with the profession. My blog will never have a response like that again. Unless, maybe, I put ‘OfSTED’ in the title a bit more often.
March: The Labour Skills Taskforce National Baccalaureate proposal
I’ve been working with Heads’ Roundtable on a Baccalaureate trial which is ticking along nicely. Meanwhile, through Chris Husbands at the IoE, I’d been invited to join the Labour Skills Task Force to support their 14-19 curriculum policy work. This was a blog spin-off; Chris would never have heard of me otherwise. Anyway, in March, after a few weeks of intensive work – mostly by Chris – we published the report. Top of the list of proposals is to introduce a National Baccalaureate. I am thrilled to have managed to get this idea into the mainstream of policy formation. There’s still a long way to go but it’s exciting to have played a small part in pushing the idea this far.
March: Talking about PRP on Radio 4
I had another call from the BBC R4 World this Weekend team to talk about PRP. I’d been identified as someone who would speak against it, following various blog posts including ‘Psycho vs Wimp’. It was a live debate with Dame Sally Coates on a Sunday afternoon. My wife said that I won; I choose to believe her! And I took a selfie of myself with a Dalek in the foyer which impressed my son. Win-win.
March: The MH370 Connection
Bizarrely, the day after the PRP thing on Radio 4, CNN came to my house to interview for a totally different reason. The disappearance of flight MH370 has generated a lot of interest in my blog about the death of my father in a hijacking in Malaysia in 1977. The internet searching had taken them to it. In fact various lovely and sad comments from other people affected by that tragedy have been left on my blog as a result. CNN wanted to do an piece about the grieving process. It was more emotional than I expected – but luckily they did a good job. This time blogging had had a different power altogether. The story is here.
April: Meeting Martin Robinson to talk about Trivium 21st C:
I read Martin’s book on the train commuting to work. I took screen shots of the bits I loved and exchanged messages with him on twitter. What a great way to read a book. I wrote a review of the book in this post – and, following subsequent exchanges, arranged to meet Martin during the Easter holidays. This is one of the best education books I’ve ever read; it’s exciting to be able to meet the people who influence your thinking in this way. I’m looking forward to putting the ideas into practice in my new school. Grammar; dialectic and rhetoric. Philosopher kids in the agora.
May: Headteachers’ Roundtable Education Manifesto
Helping to write this manifesto is one of the things I’m most proud of. Working closely with John Tomsett is one of the most wonderful doors to open since all this started. He’s the soul of education as far as I am concerned. Now, through blogging and joining Heads’ Roundtable, we’ve arrived at this. I hope people read it and get involved in discussing the policy ideas. I think we’re onto something.
May: Teach Now! Science: The Joy of Teaching Science has been published
A year or so ago Geoff Barton asked me to join him in producing a series of books for new teachers. It took several hours in the small hours over the summer holidays and weekends either side to do it but I am now proud to say I have written a book. It’s just kicking off now with pre-orders on Amazon. I’ve no idea what people will think of it- but Geoff liked it so that can’t be bad. Alex Quigley and I have been partners in crime throughout the process which has been fantastic.
So – it’s been quite year. I don’t expect the next year will be the same. I’ve got a new job and that will take up a lot more time while I give it my full attention. However, I will write about the journey – and try not to be bothered as the blog stats plateau as they inevitably will.
Thanks to everyone who has given me support throughout the year. I’m eternally grateful.