In 2017/18, a happy series of coincidences found me speaking at the annual retired teachers' lunch at Chaddesden Park Junior School; the school where I began my career as a teacher.
It was a deeply moving experience. These former teachers spoke with passion about their jobs, sharing memories of pupils and events. Proud, knowing they had made a difference.
Days later, I attended another reunion with some of the staff from Grange, where I was headmaster for two years, and again, we mused about our former students, many of whom have gone on to become teachers themselves (lump in throat time).
Since then, I have spent some time reminiscing about my own career. I wrote my first book in 2010, Creating Tomorrow’s Schools Today. I had never intended to write a book and in its first draft, it was simply a personal reflection of my teaching career, my beliefs and my experiences at Grange.
To me, it still is this, but I was fortunate as it captured the interest of educators and parents globally which opened up a whole new world for me. A world which has taken me on geographical and cultural adventures. It has given me the chance to meet and experience lives and environments well beyond education. It has given me access to world leaders, sporting icons, cultural heroes and business titans. I would be lying if I told you it hasn’t been amazing; a life filled with pinch yourself moments but…
Towards the end of 2017, I was giving a speech in Edinburgh about education and its future. Afterwards, a young teacher approached me and asked me to sign a well-thumbed copy of Creating Tomorrow’s Schools Today. She smiled, said thank you and then remarked, “I never thought I’d get the chance to hear you speak, as I’d been told that you were no longer involved in education.”
I was a little taken a back but understood what she was saying. That was the catalyst for this book.
The truth is that once a teacher, always a teacher. When I left Grange and the front line, I never saw it as walking away from teaching. I didn't leave because I’d become disillusioned or bored. I left because I truly believed I was being given an incredible opportunity to broaden my own knowledge, experience and education. My wife reminded me that I had spent my career urging my students to seize opportunities and have the courage to take risks so I should do the same.
Again, I didn’t plan to write this book. I wasn’t sure that I had anything left to say about education, however, these recent meetings and experiences taught me otherwise.
I may have left front line education, but I have never been more passionate about education and what we need to do to ensure we give young people the best platform in life to aspire, dream and discover their purpose and value.
It is an exploration of the world as I have seen it and what I believe that means for us and most pertinently, our children. Whether you're an educator, parent, carer or employer, I want this book to be a call to arms, to inspire people to debate, discuss and develop new vision and values.
I wish I knew then what I know now.