10 Years of teacherhead.com

This is posted on the 10th anniversary of starting teacherhead.com. Originally it was headguruteacher.com to match my twitter name but after the ‘guru’ bit started to cause some grief, it was ditched. Guru means teacher…. but it was hard to keep explaining that!

For the last 10 days I’ve been posting a count-down of the 10 most-read posts in that time – take a look for the full run-down.

My very first post on May 11th 2012 featured a picture of me standing next to the kitchen blackboard wall we had back then – in my shorts (!) – and set out my intentions:

Hello world!

Hello World.  Having been inspired by Alan November @globalearner  I have decided to participate instead of simply watching from the sides.  I am planning to use this blog to share […]

Already in the first post I mention think-pair-share, tackle ‘hands up’ questioning and allude to plantation vs rainforest. The final lines: This blog is my attempt to walk the talk;  I want my students to blog so I am going to do it with them. Let’s see what happens.

Well! It’s not entirely an exaggeration to say that what happened was rather life-changing. 10 years later, after hitting ‘publish’ on over 750 posts, gathering 7.73 million blog hits including at least one from every country in the world (except the disputed territory of Western Sahara), it’s become quite a thing. I engage with this website nearly every single day.. writing, curating, checking out comments and stats.. it’s part of my life in a way I could not have anticipated.

In this post I’m going to go through just a few highlights, mainly one per year, to illustrate the range of issues and interactions that I’ve been involved in through this blog.

2012.

This post combines several components that have become a feature of this blog: I’m talking about something absolutely ordinary and everyday that most teachers wrestle with; I’m exploring and promoting the work of a high profile researcher and – significantly – enjoying the engagement with that research: Hattie commented on this blog post about his work. I was so delighted. (I still am!).

2013

This is my most-read post by far -at 360K views, more than double the next nearest. It’s based on a CPD session I delivered in the early 2000s based on watching the classic Bill Rogers Positive Behaviour Management video series. For a while this post came up first on a google search for ‘behaviour management’. The response confirmed that writing short pieces about everyday issues was going to reach far more people than longer more conceptual pieces ever would.

2014

Meeting OfSTED: The Game has Changed.

This post follows on from the excellent accounts from David Didau (@LearningSpy)  and Ross McGill (@TeacherToolkit) about our meeting with Mike Cladingbowl at OfSTED HQ on Tuesday this week. (Update: Shena […]

This post comes from a strange period when edu-blogging was on the rise and even Ofsted and the DFE would reference bloggers as people of influence. A small group of us was invited to talk to Ofsted to clarify their position on grading lessons. It was officially not policy even though, de facto, plenty of inspectors still did it. This meeting helped communicate the clarification. It still astonishes me that one of these bigwigs called me up while I was at the shops one weekend to check I was happy with some wording. Such a bizarre way to make policy. Anyway – it was interesting and the response to the blog post was huge – it really was a big deal that his change was underway.

I’ve added this because the Pedagogy Postcard series is typical of the approach I’ve tried to adopt over the years of describing common teaching activities  in a short punchy style.  Writing 20 posts in a short period was quite intense but also very rewarding.  Oliver Caviglioli tells me that this series was what prompted him to invite me to work with him on Walkthrus.  Many of the ideas here were included in The Learning Rainforest and then Walkthrus.  

2015

Nicky Morgan vs The Bell Curve.

Dear Nicky… I’ve just read this: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/hundreds-of-coasting-schools-to-be-transformed In there it says this: Schools eligible for intervention will be those which fall below a new ‘coasting’ level for 3 […]

This post was a response to Nicky Morgan’s decision to create a pass/fail threshold in the new 1-9 grading system. I was furious and let-rip. I normally pride myself on being super measured but not always! Sometimes you just need to say what you feel.

2016

This post gained traction after a twitter-furore surrounded a primary head who rather foolishly countered my tweet of this post with ‘it’s just a theory’. Richard Dawkins picked it up and RT’d my post; Dara Ó Briain did too. Expressing rational evidence-based secular views about our origins is something I feel passionate about so I was thrilled to see this gain some exposure.

2017

One the routine wordpress blog stats is the Best views ever  in one day.  For me this was on December 2nd 2017 when I had 26,000 views in one day which followed me publishing this post the previous day.  I wrote the post on the train back from a day of training in a school – off the top of my head, 10 things that schools should stop or do less of.  It clearly struck a chord –  and found its way onto Facebook – hence the big response.  No single day of blog hits has come anywhere near since. 

2017 wasn’t a happy year for me in many ways and I did use this blog to express my thoughts and feelings at that time.  Some people praised the honesty and openness but actually doing this caused lots of problems; you can’t talk publicly about difficult situations that affect real students, parents and teachers – not to mention your own family – as if it’s private. I  was wrong to publish some of the things I did and all those posts are now set to be private. I rarely read them because I’ve moved on from that time.  However, it’s a reminder to me of the complexities around blogging – there are some responsibilities and sensitivities; there’s a level of discipline and self-restraint needed alongside the freedom to express yourself on your own platform.  

2018

I’ve included two posts here because both of them have resonated far beyond the point of me writing the blogs.  I’ve always tried to keep close to the discourse around curriculum thinking and so I wanted to try to develop some clarity around the concept of ‘knowledge-rich’.  My four-point definition has been re-quoted multiple times since. It’s not something you remotely anticipate when writing a blog post but it’s reassuring when the way an idea is captured seems to resonate or supports wider discussion. 

The Rosenshine post was the catalyst for lots of things. My ResearchEd talks on Rosenshine then led to the In Action book – which went rather wild! – and then the In Action series and, to a large degree, the whole Walkthrus series and enterprise.  The idea of reorganising 10 principles into four strands started in this post where I cut up and re-ordered  Oliver C’s blue graphic .   

2019

This post is included because it’s one I am most happy with, reflecting the work I’m currently doing supporting schools with teacher development.  I love observing lessons; I find it endlessly fascinating just how challenging it can be  and this post was an attempt to distil it down to one central challenge.  

2020

Just ahead of the UK lockdowns,  I wanted to park my Rosenshine masterclasses in a recorded version – at that point with a view to moving on to other things! However my videos seemed to meet a demand for online CPD and they’ve now had over 250,000 views.  This post is now a place I link all my Rosenshine-related posts so it’s a bit of a one-stop shop. I love just how much rich teacher-talk can spin off from this superb short paper and then 10 key principles Rosenshine outlines. 

A thread through various blog posts over the years has been linking ideas from research with the realities of teaching in classrooms.  I’ve found that cognitive science has provided superb tools for considering the challenges inherent in numerous scenarios and the model for learning presented by Dan Willingham and others has been a key reference for many years.  This blog explores the value of the model and nicely represents that whole strand of thinking on teacherhead.com in general. 

2021

Another regular feature of my blog has been the focus on very specific elements of pedagogy, increasingly referencing our walkthrus. Cold Calling is one the key techniques for teachers to master in my view and I’ve written several posts about it. I’m keen to support teachers to overcome their inhibitions around it so was very pleased that  this was the top-rated new post in 2021. 

2022

Bringing things up to date, I’ve recently started using Five Ways To… as a format for presenting a range of ideas in a digestible form.  This is similar to previous series – Great Lessons, Pedagogy PostCards  – and it seems to work.  The post on reading is the most recent but all the others are linked via this twitter thread. 

Where Now?

2021 represented a high watermark for blog stats – fuelled by people working from home during lockdowns – and I know I’ll never match that level of engagement. Psychologically that’s already had an impact on the intensity and frequency of my blogging endeavours. I feel I can relax and allow things to slow down. There’s a kind of pressure to build and build that I’ve created in my mind so, now that I’ve peaked, I can relax! Already as a result of taking the pressure off, I’m reading a lot more of other people’s posts which has been superb. The #edublogshare tag on twitter has brought several brilliant bloggers to my attention.

No doubt I will continue blogging long into the future – I can’t imagine that that itch to write and express ideas won’t going away – but the frequency will definitely drop as I focus more on walkthrus and a few other book related projects.

I’m hugely grateful to everyone who has ever engaged with me on this platform, leaving comments here or on twitter or shared posts online or printed out with their colleagues. It’s been an incredible experience really – one that wouldn’t work if people didn’t engage and share and respond. Writing into a void can feel strange – beyond organising my ideas, what’s the point of it if nobody else reads it? For me, writing for an audience that is receptive and engaged is incredibly rewarding and I’ve valued it hugely. So – thank you all. As ever, if you’ve read down this far, you are a legend!

Let’s see what the next decade brings…

STATS:

To complete the celebration, here’s a special episode of Mind the Gap where Emma asks me about the blog….

2 comments

  1. Congratulations- you have been inspiring! Always said I would have loved to have had a head like you,
    With best wishes, Liz

    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Tom

    This is such a useful service from an incredibly knowledgeable person. Comment, insight, evidence and challenge – all pertinent and relevant.

    Keep doing what you’re doing for another 10years!

    Thanks, Paul

    Paul Turner(he/him) Policy Specialist M: 0773 423 0582 Q6, Quorum Park Benton Lane, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE12 8BT ncfe.org.uk NCFE is a charitable company registered in England and Wales. Company Number 02896700 | Charity Number 1034808 ._.__

    Liked by 1 person

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