@TeacherToolkit - the first tweacher celebrity?
He gets between 500 and 1000 Twitter interactions per day, holds down a demanding full time job, is a family man, and still manages to churn out high quality blog posts at a phenomenal rate. But he gave me a good half hour of his time last night to answer some of my questions about his new-found celebrity. They say give a job to a busy man...
Ross McGill, better known to those of us on Twitter as @TeacherToolkit, had just returned from Canada where he's been spreading the word about how teachers can be more efficient with their use of time and hone their resilience.
Despite the jet lag, I was struck by how chatty and enthusiastic he was. There is usually a bit of an awkward stage at the start of my interviews where I set myself up, explain the process and try to cut the ice with some small talk. Not so with Ross. He launched straight in, telling me with evident delight, about his journey from jobless design teacher to digital superstar. His work rate is phenomenal. Each weekend he immerses himself in timing and reach analytics, search engine optimisation and a host of other house-keeping jobs connected to his burgeoning online empire. But he hasn't reached his position as the most followed teacher on Twitter in the UK simply by being canny with fluff pieces and social network marketing tricks. He's written well over 300 blog posts - all of which are catlogued here - on a host of topics to do with education. He writes well, frequently and with great clarity of thought. Teachers seem to love his work.
If you follow his Twitter stream - which he manages entirely on his own - it's impressive how regularly he posts and how promptly and personally he responds to those who connect with him. I had assumed that my request for an interview with him would have passed unnoticed; when you're followed by 80k+ people it's easy to see how stuff might get buried in the torrent. He replied almost immediately though, asking me to contact him direct through his website. Here he purports to respond to 99% of all Twitter interactions and all e-mails. I can attest to the truth of this. The stupefying workload this must entail, on top of all his other commitments, is reason alone to respect what he does.
Inevitably there have been trolls: people jealous of his success, or simply looking for a fight. He's measured and circumspect about this though. He doesn't want to live in an echo chamber filled with fawning acolytes and welcomes robust debate. His school, and the Headteacher in particular, are supportive of what he is doing and are relishing basking in the reflected glory of having the UK's first celebrity teacher in their midst. For his part, Ross has taken his success in his stride; he hasn't yet been stopped in the street, but finds people come up to him at conferences to ask him whether he's @TeacherToolkit. That catchy Twitter handle, incidently, pays homage to his background as a design teacher.
As a subject for my research into Twitter use by senior leaders in schools he is an archetype. His online presence led him to write a book and he is quite open about the way he used his Twitter connections to spur him on and feed him ideas. And he relates how it took him just two months from receiving the commissioning request to submission of the manuscript. He is living proof of the power of Twitter to connect school leaders and, as the instigator of the #SLTchat hashtag, has done more than any other teacher in the UK to get leaders talking to each other. He sums it all up rather nicely in this video.
In short, he's given me a huge amount to write about as I press on with my EdD. Cheers, Ross!
If you're a senior leader reading this, do get in touch if you'd like to contribute too.