I was brought up in Quarry Bank, a small town near Dudley in the middle of England. I went to the local primary school like my father and grandfather before me. Quarry Bank is a creation of the industrial revolution. A few hundred metres from my house was the first place where iron ore was ever smelted with coking coal. One of my grandfathers was a chain maker and the other a joiner. I understand that at the age of ten, my great grandfather worked hauling coal out of a pit; that is until his mother managed to apprentice him to the pit blacksmith.
I went to the local comprehensive (non-selective government school), “Thorns School and Community College”. It was a mixed experience. The school improved while I was there but it could be quite a violent place and we were subjected to a number of teaching fads. I remember making videos in English lessons and I was never taught grammar.
The schools in Dudley did not have ‘sixth forms’ – sixth form covers the last two years of high school i.e. Grades 11 and 12 in the U.S. and Australia. So I went to a ‘sixth form college’. I struggled initially because I was quite a way behind my peers who had come from different schools. I managed to turn that around and eventually did well.
I then went to study Natural Science (physics) at Cambridge. I was a member of Fitzwilliam College. I never really participated in clubs and societies but I had a good time and earned a decent degree at the end.
I applied for a teaching degree (a P.G.C.E.) as an insurance policy. I thought that I would end-up doing something else but that I would never be unemployed with a teaching qualification. The summer after I graduated from Cambridge, and before I started my degree, I went to teach in Uganda. That is when I fell in love with teaching and knew that this was going to be my life.
I completed my P.G.C.E. at the Institute of Education in London. I had a great time living in the heart of the city although I don’t think my course fully prepared me for my career. I was offered a teaching position at my main placement school, a comprehensive school in North West London, and took that up. I stayed for two and a half years.
I then moved to a comprehensive school in Ealing that was officially identified as ‘facing challenging circumstances’. I began as deputy to the head of science. After seven years, I was Assistant Headteacher, line-managing a couple of Year groups. I am proud of what we achieved there. When I joined, it was in a pretty bad way but with a new school building and under the guidance of a new headteacher, the school turned itself around both in terms of behaviour and exam results. I then secured a position as Deputy Headteacher at another comprehensive school in London.
During this time, I married a wonderful Australian who had come to London to teach. She stayed longer than she intended. We moved into a terraced house in Watford and had two beautiful little girls.
We realised that we didn’t want to raise our girls in that house and made the decision to move to Australia in order to give them a better life. We landed in late 2010, moved in with my wife’s parents in Ballarat and sent our resumes to virtually all of the schools in Ballarat and Geelong.
Pretty much the only interest we attracted was from independent schools. One government school showed an interest in me but all they could suggest was that they would be advertising for a science teacher at the end of the year and I would be a strong candidate. By this time, we had a number of solid offers on the table. So we went to work at an independent school in Ballarat.
This is the school where I teach today. It is a successful school that values research and that opened my eyes to a side of education that I had only been dimly aware of. I started blogging. Initially, I did this pseudonymously on a badly named blog called ‘webs of substance’. I just wanted to experiment and throw ideas around. When a few people started trolling me about this on Twitter I decided to write only under my own name and closed the old blog.
Blogging has led to a number of doors opening for me. I am now studying for a PhD and I have given talks at a few education conferences. I have written two books, The Truth About Teaching and The Power of Explicit Teaching and Direct Instruction. I am still a teacher and I want to be a better one.
Note: If you are reading this because you want to find an angle to personally attack me then the most popular ones to date are that I work in an independent school and that I used to blog under a pseudonym.