All in a Tweet: Teaching great lessons? It’s down to us.

This is one of the most re-tweeted and recycled 140-character message I’ve thrown into the twittersphere.  Every so often, it goes around again for a few more days – including a recent round initiated by @TeacherToolKit, Mr McGill.  I was chuffed to find it quoted at the top of this blog by David Didau.

From some of the responses I’ve had, I think it resonates with some people because it suggests a kind of rebelliousness: do what you like, do it your own way, express the freedom and autonomy you need to teach the way feel is right.   It suggests being liberated from external forces that continually dictate how teachers should do their jobs.  It sounds like a rallying cry: Choose how you want to teach and do that anyway, whatever the powers might say.  Power to the people; Speak truth to power… etc.

Actually, the main reason I wrote this is because of the persistence of what I regard as a strong tendency to use the existence of external powers as a barrier that teachers erect themselves.  It can become an excuse not to have to think too much; a form of Stockholm Syndrome in the classroom. There is far too much of this:  people complaining about the latest directive from on high; the latest OfSTED outrage; the latest perversely narrow focus emanating from league table pressure; the lastest SLT-led hoop-jumping atrocity – without ever stating better alternatives.  Too often people are swift to complain but slow to express what should be done instead. (This applies to other areas like curriculum and assessment design).

My tweet was a call to teachers to escape from the cage – which is already wide open – and to take ownership of everything they do in the classroom.  Not in the spirit of ‘leave me alone to get on with things’ but in the spirit of teaching lessons that are GREAT because that is what you choose do; not simply because you are told to. I meant that, instead of bemoaning someone else suggesting that standards could be higher or lessons more effective, take that upon yourself and make your own choices about teaching great lessons that lead to great learning. It’s a challenge: that we should match the Powers in the search for what ‘great’ means in practice, not simply accept their version of it or absolve ourselves of responsibility for being less than great.

It’s not up to them; it’s up to us. Every lesson. But it has to be GREAT. No less.





  1. You are so right with that word GREAT Tom. I am getting a little tired with all the moaning & ringing of hands & totally agree that it smacks of using those external bodies as an excuse. It seems that great teachers who are positive and upbeat are too busy to blog or tweet which is a shame as we need some balance. They could always see that as a waste of time of course.


  2. Thanks, Tom. I’ve been doing quite a bit of work with Middle Leaders recently, and it strikes me how some are very much in the ‘Why we can’t…’ frame of mind: ‘The head wouldn’t let us/our SLT wouldn’t be happy with that/our systems won’t work that way/that isn’t the ethos in my school…’

    The best Middle Leaders see that they have the opportunity to make their particular domain GREAT and then, as a beacon of excellence in their school, to lead change from that position.


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