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Reflecting upon the last ten years

By December 31, 2019No Comments

The ends of decades, years, months, weeks, days – they’re all great opportunities for reflection. When I look back across my last ten years I feel blessed to have had the opportunities and career I have had, the impact I’ve been able to see in the schools I’ve worked in and the friendships and relationships I’ve made and developed.

Like many of my blog posts, I often doubt that anyone will read them (although Jill Berry is amazing at reading and feeding back) but they are good for me to write and so it is in that spirit that I write this post…

Filling my car up recently in Clevedon, I heard “Hey, Mr Anderson!” (yes it was in a Matrix-style voice) called from across the filling pumps – it’s not the first time it’s happened. I turned and saw someone I didn’t really recognise in their mid-twenties. It was an old student of mine from more than ten years ago. He had gone onto University, was married and his first child was on the way, but he saw and recognised me and had to say hello. We spent a good twenty minutes catching up, it was lovely. These moments mean the world to me now as someone who doesn’t teach full-time any more.

The decade in summary

In 2010 I was a Head of Department at a big secondary school in North Somerset. My (now eldest son) was due to be born shortly. Between then and now, I’ve moved out of teaching full time and I now have two children aged 8 and 10. They are the best thing I’ve ever done and they make me proud every day. Something I realised very quickly was how arrogant I was to think parenting was easy as a teacher. So many teachers without children hold that same opinion. If every day is a learning day, I think that becoming a parent has probably been my biggest and steepest learning curve I’ve experienced. I can attest that if you’ve ever found teaching hard, teaching is an absolute breeze compared to parenting, that’s for certain. It’s been an amazing journey this last decade watching my boys grow into kind, caring and responsible young people and I cannot wait to share in their successes and achievements between now and 2030 and beyond.

In 2011 I worked closely with my colleagues to bring one of the world’s first iPad 1:1 initiatives to my school and this was a fantastic learning experience for me. I went on to hold a variety of roles in the school as I moved through the ranks. I was already organising Teachmeets at this point at the school and with speakers including Vic Goddard, Tom Sherrington, Alex Quigley, Pete Jones, among many others – the YouTube channel I created with is testament to the dedication of the amazing teachers who gave their time to present and share at the event and the awesome colleagues I had who helped to make it possible.

In 2013 I wrote my best-selling ‘Perfect ICT Every Lesson‘ which received widespread acclaim and in 2015, my blog won the UK Blog Awards ‘Education Blog of the Year’ award – a ceremony I couldn’t attend as I was already working internationally. I distinctly remember receiving the news in my hotel room when working at #edtechIST in Istanbul and ended up individually thanking hundreds of people for their congratulations and well wishes deep into the early hours.

Around about the same time I was invited to become an Independent Thinking Associate, joining what for me was and remains an amazing collective of fantastic educators joined with a common purpose, to think differently about making education the best it can be for all.

During the decade I achieved a number of different statuses, achieving Apple Distinguished Educator, Google Certified and various Microsoft certifications too. I don’t really openly support any of the three companies over each other – I think they all have amazing offers for education, but to focus on just one, does, I think, a disservice to our students/pupils as we should always strive to do the best by them and the school’s community, not the companies who provide the technology.

That said, the best bit of working with those three companies has always been the opportunity they bring to teachers together to learn, network, share and collaborate together. I am thankful to Google, Apple and Microsoft for the opportunities they have given me to do these things over the years.

January 2015 saw me take the difficult decision to leave teaching full time in schools. I took the big leap to work independently, not really knowing if it would work, but I’m pleased I did what I did.

Since then I’ve been lucky enough to work at schools and keynote at events all around the world; from Dubai to Melbourne, Hong Kong, Bangkok, London, Helsinki, Amsterdam and even back to where I started my teaching career back in Peterborough. I find it humbling to think back at what I’ve been able to achieve and the schools and ultimately the students I’ve been able to help. I got into teaching to make a difference and whilst I hugely miss the Community impact aspect of working in a school and the collegiality of working with and seeing the same colleagues and students every day, the work I do now and the experiences it has brought have been amazing.

Being involved with the Edtech50 movement has been a highlight of recent years. It was, in fact, Ty Goddard and Ian Fordham who organised my book launch in a yurt in Brighton (see image above) and so my relationship with them both is probably as long as this decade too. Being able to shine a spotlight on the great work going on across the UK in schools and FE colleges using technology is a real privilege. We have a long way to go but with every journey starting with a single step, we are well along this path now which is brilliant to see.

Recently I have seriously been exploring returning to teaching and leadership full-time although I haven’t yet found the right role/school for me.

In the last five years, I have worked with more than 20,000 different teachers, received amazing feedback wherever I’ve worked and travelled the world, working with some of the most well-regarded schools in the world.

Things aren’t always a bed of roses

The decade hasn’t been without its difficulties. I’ve had some health issues with diabetes; I’ve divorced, fallen in love, messed that up; all sorts… Like many, I have my own battles each and every day. I keep on smiling and do my best. I always hope to help others wherever I go/can.

We all have our inner demons, which is predominantly why I am not as vocal on Twitter or share as much as I used to. Whilst I still share and agree that Twitter is the best staffroom in the world, it is a sad reflection of our times that social media is filled with so many educators vying for the latest snake oil, creating PR storms for themselves, the latest fad-tastic blog post, the highest number of retweets or their latest book deal. I’m not quite sure how I fit into that space. I continue to try to create things that will help others and support their important work in their schools. Projects such as this one with Al Kingsley of NetSupport (to whom I am grateful for our continued work together) to share a guide to creating a digital strategy is one such example:

For me, I keep on each day trying to make my children proud, help and work with amazing educators and edtech companies and do my best to stay on track with my mission to make a difference, wherever I can. I’ll leave that rat-race activity to everyone else. It doesn’t sit right with me. I don’t write or do what I do for popularity, I still just want to continue to help others, to make a difference and to learn new things every day.

I have always realised that a lot of the resources and work I share publicly could be perceived as marketing, it’s never been that for me; I’ve just wanted to help others. It doesn’t always appear that way when I look at the activities of a number of educators on Twitter.

With that in mind, one aim I have for 2020 is to get myself back blogging and sharing again more frequently. I also plan to get my long-awaited second book published. Hopefully, a book publisher will read this and get in touch! I’m certainly not going to allow my spark to dwindle in the shadows as I have allowed myself towards the end of this decade.

I am very fortunate to have some amazing friends in my life who have helped me to survive and still thrive. Thank you. There are too many of you to name individually but you know who you are. Thank you. Add to that, the unconditional love and support of my children, I am very blessed. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do each day if it wasn’t for my children. They are my world.

So what’s next?

January 2020 sees me starting my fifth year working for myself, supporting schools with consultancy, training and Insets, keynoting and speaking at conferences and working with edtechs to support their products and their development. I have an exceedingly busy January and the rest of 2020 is looking good too. If you’d like to work with me, I’d love to hear from you.

I am starting a new aspect to my business in 2020 which I will be launching at BETT linked to my support of edtech companies and I’m excited to launch my new website which should will happen in time for BETT too.

BETT week is going to be huge and I’m looking forward to working most closely with NetSupport, being on their stand every day, supporting their speaker area and having the area as THE place to meet others attending the event.

Please do come along and say hello. You’ll also be able to to find the Association of Network Managers, Henry Platten from GoBubble, Russell Prue hosting NetSupport Radio which is the official radio station for BETT2020 and a programme of speakers each day sharing stories from their schools too; it’s going to be huge!


You can also find me speaking for ClickView in the ‘Tech in Action’ area, hosting a roundtable event for Adobe and sharing about Digital Strategy for Frog who I’m on their education advisory board. More information on these activities will be shared closer to the event.

I’m not making any New Year’s resolutions. If life has taught me anything, self-improvement and development is just like good CPD, it should be part of your routine; something you do every day that forms into a habit taking one small step at a time. My mantra is to just try to be the best version of myself that I can be, each and every day and I hope that it’s good enough because I’m certainly not perfect – there is no such thing.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me over the last ten years, my colleagues, my family, those schools who have booked me, everyone who has been there for me and everything and everyone in-between. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for you and your support. Thank you.

Here’s to ten more amazing years! I wish you the very best of successes in your lives.

Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson, @ICTEvangelist. Click here to learn more.

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