Ross Morrison McGill, otherwise known as @TeacherToolkit on Twitter and author of a rightly popular blog, has followed his excellent 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Outstanding Lessons with another equally successful tome – Teacher Toolkit – Helping You Survive Your First Five Years. The book is structured around five principles of Da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man’ of Resilience, Intelligence, Innovative, Collaborative and Aspiration. Through this structure, the book covers practically every area of teaching and the challenges all teachers face both on a day to day basis, such as marking and duties, to the exceptional, such as planning your own teachmeet.
A genuine strength of the book is that it is rooted in realism and from someone who has ‘been there, done that’. This highly personal approach does not just highlight the successes but also presents the mistakes and low points that so many of us have experienced in teaching. In reading this book, there were so many connections I could make with what was been said – both good and bad – that made this an intriguing read. Springing from this was the wise advice brimming in each chapter which we should all do and aspire to. The advice given in each section is a mix of common sense and pragmatism which clearly helps professional development and all achievable by tweaking one’s work rather than radical overhaul. This clearly taps into the marginal gains theory of improvement which, I feel, is the most convincing argument for continual improvement.
Alongside this treasure trove of advice is, like Ross’ previous book, it is written for the Twitter generation of teachers with continual references to Twitter with what is akin to a Twitter Hall of Fame, of who to follow and why. You cannot argue with such a list as each account should be on every teacher’s Twitter follow list. Also, hashtags are offered should any reader want to tweet what they have found in the book which invites genuine interaction with the author and others.
The book is beautifully designed by Polly Norton and produced by Bloomsbury Publishing making this book accessible and easy to read. The only criticism of the book is that although the book is targeted to those in their first five years of teaching, any teacher regardless of experience can read it and get something out of it. Being someone who is rapidly approaching ‘old lag’ status in my department, the book provided a reminder of what I should be, and am, doing every day and why. As the book states in its first section – ‘There is no silver bullet in this book that will cure any personal weakness in your own teaching. Education is a lifelong journey and this book serves merely as another chapter in your own professional learning journey’ . This book achieves this in spades and should be on every teacher training and NQT book list. Essential reading.