If I did the Myers-Briggs test, I’d come out as an introvert. Perhaps I’m a typical scientist because I’m the type who will sit in a meeting and observe, assess all the evidence and possibly say something towards the end. I remember the interview for my National Strategy consultant job involved a ‘fishbowl discussion’ where we were asked to discuss a topic and a few people stood around the edge observing. I said very little as various people vied for the floor to have their opinion heard. Surprisingly, I made it through, despite saying very little, but I suppose that was quite an important skill for a consultant to have: To listen.
I think one of the reasons that working with Debbie was (and still is) so fantastic is that we go about things very differently. We worked together as ASTs a few years ago and if I picture the two of us in a meeting it would seem as though I wasn’t there half the time! Debbie would be a Myers-Briggs extrovert. She talks a lot but in such a good way – she asks really perceptive and challenging questions, perhaps typical of an English (as well as Media and Film, she’ll kill me if I miss those out) teacher, she is very good with words. Ever the scientist, I’d observe, listen and make a couple of points or ask a question towards the end and leave the meeting still pondering on some of the points raised.
So what led us to write a book together? I’m going to be honest here; I decided quite a few years ago that I was going to have a try. I had a boyfriend at the time who had edited a book and regularly wrote articles for specialist magazines (I know, that sounds intriguing, I just don’t want to give too much away to protect identities but they weren’t that type of publication). The thing was, he asked me to proof-read and check the spelling and grammar ‘because you’re a teacher’ and as I did this I thought: ‘Well if he can do this why can’t I?’
Fast forward a few years and I was working with Debbie on some training sessions focusing on moving from Good to Outstanding. These sessions went down well and I started asking people whether they thought they’d read a book along these lines. I discussed this with Debbie and obviously, she asked all the right questions and there we were. We spent the summer holiday that year writing a chapter each and then emailing it to one another. We were so excited and started the challenging process of giving it a name. I was totally taken, in my naivety, with ‘The O word’ but various people politely informed me that this might mean a different thing to many people and I might want to rethink that one!
One of the things we realised once we’d finished was that we should really get someone to proof-read what we had and this is where my lovely Dad came in. Bless him, he went through every single word of the book and forensically edited it. He didn’t just check the spelling, punctuation and grammar (but I would like to mention here that Debbie, the English teacher, definitely had more grammar errors than me. This was a proud moment for someone who had to work very hard to get an A in GCSE English!), he also cross referenced and checked for continuity errors. It must have taken him days, quite possibly longer than it took us to write in the first place.
The story of publishing is that it took quite a while. We submitted a proposal to a small publisher and although they were interested, it didn’t seem to be the right time and didn’t come to anything. It was during this process that we discovered Twitter. The forms from the publisher all asked about Twitter accounts and blog sites and we didn’t have a clue about any of this. One of our ex-colleagues had moved to a school that was already using Twitter a lot and she had been badgering us to get on board so we decided to have a look. At the time, it seemed like a perfect solution to the fact that Debbie had taken on an Assistant Head job in a different school and we were both panicking that we weren’t going to be able to work together any more.
It isn’t an understatement to say the Twitter changed our lives. OK, so maybe not in a momentous way, but it has had the biggest effect on my career since getting that Nat Strat consultancy job. The people on Twitter are amazing; I could watch debates and discussions (and cusses about football from @JamesTheo and @C_Hendrick) all day and the support network is unbelievable. We started blogging and I could not believe the feedback. As I said, I struggled through GCSE English and here were people reading and enjoying what I had written. As an aside, people have said to me that they really want to blog but don’t know how to start and this is what I tell them: I start pondering about something when my brain is in ‘autopilot mode’, for example, when I’m driving or in the shower, and then I just sit with the laptop and type what is in my head as if I were saying it.
Back to the story. We are so glad we set up the Twitter account and one of the many fantastic outcomes has been making contact with the delightful Holly from Bloomsbury publishing. Holly was brimming with energy and enthusiasm from the outset and it spurred us on to make the many, many (many) edits to our book.
So June 18th 2015 is the release date for ‘Lesson Planning Tweaks for Teachers’ an important date of course but today has been a much more important day for me: The day I got to show my Dad an actual copy of our book. It’s an important day because I didn’t think I’d be able to do this and every time we had more changes to make I became surer it wouldn’t happen.
In September 2014 my dad was diagnosed with a brain tumour and for someone so cerebral and proud of his intelligence it was the worst possible news. We (me, my brother and sister) were devastated and made the most of every moment as doctors warned us he was unlikely to make it past Christmas. Dad has been so brave and determined for his children and grandchildren and we have been so blessed to have months longer than expected. I’ve been selfish recently when Dad has said he’s had enough, I’ve said: ”Just hang in there, you can see my book in a few days.” So today I finally got to show him that all his hard work was worth it and his comment?
“When’s the second book out?”