A Year in the Life of Headguruteacher

headguruteacher is one year old.
headguruteacher is one year old.

A whole year has now passed since I set up this headguruteacher blog.  And what a year it has been!  The whole world of twitter and blogging has turned out to be far more rewarding, both professionally and personally, than I ever imagined.

Blog stats....on the day it reached 150, 000.
Blog stats….on the day it reached 150, 000.

I am amazed that, just in time for this first anniversary, the blog has had 150,000 hits and I’ve gained 6000 followers on twitter.  This is far, far, beyond my wildest expectations. The twitter-blog universe has had a significant influence on my thinking about education, has provided numerous professional opportunities and has brought me into contact with lots of great people. It has also allowed me to believe that I can actually write…..something that has taken me by surprise to no small degree.  100 blogs posts later, I’m still working on it and there is still so much more to say!  The democratic, self-publishing, self-editing freedom of blogging is so liberating… it is wonderful not to ever worry about seeking the approval of a newspaper or magazine editor with their own agenda; something I have never managed to do.

Here is a list of my top-rated posts:

The headguruteacher Top 20
The headguruteacher Top 20

This shows the range of issues that have caught people’s attention: marking, behaviour, homework, various pedagogical ideas and a few leadership issues: accountability, evaluating teacher quality and, one of my personal favourites – Rainforest Thinking.  It’s no surprise to me that my two top-rated posts are reports on great ideas from other people: Closing the Gap marking from Saffron Walden High School and Bill Rogers’ behaviour strategies.  Generally, ideas for posts arrive more or less randomly, although I did make an attempt to put a sequence together with the Great Lessons Series:

The 10 Post Great Lessons Series
The 10 Post Great Lessons Series

The list  of countries is quite remarkable… now over 140.  Some arise from random internet searches but, nonetheless, it is quite a thrill to know that people from around the world can and do engage with some of the ideas.

Screen shot 2013-05-10 at 06.32.28
Hits from 140 countries

It is an interesting period for our education system and I am grateful to all the people who have followed the blog and made comments.  It is the dialogue and discussion that make blogging so compelling.  I doubt I will sustain the output or the hit-rate but you never know…….

I would like now to register my gratitude to a few people who have helped me along the way, taking things in chronological order.

To begin with, I want to thank all the students and teachers at KEGS. I make endless references to the amazing things that they do and, without them, I wouldn’t have much material! I’m especially grateful to the students in my physics classes who tolerate being photographed and posted on twitter on a regular basis…

Then, Alan November, @globalearner.  In May 2012, he ran a conference for Heads and others in Essex. He showed how powerful twitter and blogging could be, explained how a deck could help to organise tweets and how anyone could connect to anyone, regardless of status…  I was sold.  He also told us about David Mitchell @deputymitchell and his inspiring work with blogging at Heathfield Community Primary School in Bolton leading to superb class blogs like this one.

I had already been using twitter for my school @KEGS_Chelmsford.  This is a one-way information feed that I use to report news to parents and interested parties.  However, in June 2011 I set up my own trial twitter account playing with the Indonesian phrase ‘saya guru’ (meaning I am a teacher) as a twitter ‘handle’.. to form headguruteacher.  After just one week of hearing what Prof Brian Cox had for breakfast, I gave it up as a stream of trivia.  Fortunately Alan November encouraged me to resurrect it.. and things went from there.   Here are the other people I want to thank:

@VicGoddard: Fellow attendee at Alan November.. but already a twitter big-shot following Educating Essex. He sent me a tweet saying ‘I’m your 50th follower’…. I was chuffed to bits. He’s a legend….

@vicgoddard on a visit to@KEGS_Chelmsford
@vicgoddard on a visit to@KEGS_Chelmsford

@LearningSpy: David Didau’s  ‘year in the life of an English teacher’ blog was an inspiration, leading me to explore his back-catalogue. Wow!  He was the first blogger I encountered that modeled genuine intellectual rigour with a bit of no-nonsense tell-it-how-it-is challenge.

@RealGeoffBarton: Re-tweeted one my early posts, taking me over 3000 hits. I was so grateful. Geoff subsequently led the extraordinary GCSE fiasco challenge with great vigour and continues to be inspirational.

In July David Weston @Informed_Edu came to visit my school just at the start of his big leap as head of the Teacher Development Trust… and he’s continued to be one of the most sane and knowledgable people out there.

In the summer, @Edutronic_net:  Chris Waugh left a comment on my post ‘What makes a great teacher‘? Ever since we’ve been in communication, met a few times and shared some great ideas.  Chris’ comment was the first time I felt my blog was making some kind of sense… and that blogging about general ideas was valuable. Chris’ own work with Edutronic.net and the Blogsync initiative has been amazing and I was keen to feature him in this blog: Joy.

With @Edutronic_Net in his wonderful classroom
With @Edutronic_Net in his wonderful classroom

In August, I started following @TeacherToolkit, one of the mighty figures in the twittersphere for education. Shortly afterwards I discovered that this was actually the very humble Ross McGill, a former colleague I’d worked with in Haringey for five years when I was Deputy Head and he was Head of DT. Amazing coincidence.  Ross’ big-up doubled my follower count from 300 to 600 in about two days. Meeting Ross with David Didau was a great moment, heralding the birth of #SLTchat shortly afterwards… I remember Ross sharing his idea with great enthusiasm.

@LearningSpy, me, @TeacherToolkit  a Hornsey cafe
@LearningSpy, me, @TeacherToolkit a Hornsey cafe

Following Mark Anderson @ICTEvangelist, was an early indicator of the sharing power of twitter. Hearing about TeachMeets – notably #TMClevedon – from Mark inspired me to want to run one in Essex.  Martin Burrett  – the magnificent @ICTMagic and Andy Knill @aknill, responded to my twitter call-out and our very own #TMEssex was born.

Throughout the autumn, the blogs by @johntomsett and @huntingEnglish (Alex Quigley) became my chief source of leadership and pedagogical inspiration. Amazingly, they both work at the same school – it must be such a great school!  I met them both at separate conference events… and continue to work with them on different projects.   A blogging highlight around this time was when John Hattie himself commented on my blog about what Hattie says about homework….

Meeting John Tomsett at Heads' Roundtable, Passmores.
Meeting John Tomsett at Heads’ Roundtable, Passmores.

Through headguruteacher, and an initial recommendation from Ross McGill, I’ve become a contributor to the Guardian Teacher Network and I’ve joined the Headteachers’ Roundtable group, which has provided a superb forum for taking forward ideas about our qualifications framework.  I’ve also started working the SSAT on their new Vision 2040 Group and with the Labour Skills Task Force alongside the super-savvy Director of the Institute of Education (@Director_IoE) Chris Husbands.

Alongside all these professional opportunities, the great joy of the last year has been meeting and sharing ideas with members of my virtual staffroom: Helene O’Shea @hgaldinoshea  and Kev Bartle @kevbartle, who manage to combine being incredibly supportive, interesting and challenging all at once; plus Pete Jones, @pekabelo and Russell Plester @plestered and many others who feature on Pete’s twitter tube map.. so many incredibly interesting people!

@pekabelo's tube map
@pekabelo’s tube map

I’m extremely grateful to all the people who follow the blog and leave comments, especially Nick von Behr (behrfacts.com)   who often leaves extremely encouraging comments and asks some good probing questions.

So…that’s it.  Thanks all.  More to come.    I am actually trying to write a book (more about that another time) and that is taking up a lot of time… and going very slowly…. but hopefully headguruteacher will tick along in the background.


  1. Dear Tom glad to know about your blogging journey over the last year and thanks for mentioning me at the end of this post (I’ve just celebrated my 101st post yesterday after a bit more than a year). When Michael Gove mentioned a list of education/teacher bloggers in his NCTL speech, while my first reaction was that you should have been there as well, on further reflection I was glad you weren’t. Personally I think you are the best and perhaps he just wouldn’t recognise it?


    • Thanks! The experience of others who were mentioned has been mixed…. My contact with Gove has been two very bizarre encounters. One, at Liverpool St station when I approached him in my cycling gear to ask for some funding for a project. (Answer was no). The other was at the London Festival of Education at IoE when I asked a question from the floor about pig-weighing and got a swift rebuttal. I doubt he remembers either. 🙂


  2. Gosh: “the first blogger I encountered that modeled genuine intellectual rigour with a bit of no-nonsense tell-it-how-it-is challenge.”

    Thanks Tom – it’s a privilege to have been part of your journey.


  3. Fantastic Tom. Just to let you know. a) your blog inspired my blog! b) your writing inspires my writing! The power of blogging/twitter is a revaluation for us all in the profession to behold! Keep it up, I know it is hard, but sharing ideas such as the network of teachers on Twitter (and those mentioned here) must be reaching – between us – millions of readers!


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