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Tom came to teaching with one goal in mind – to be an inspiration. He continues this mission by providing workshops for students and teachers in all aspects of learning to learn.


Think it worked

It did...


Until there is commitment....

Tom Barwood

On Wednesday I was presenting at the Herts for Learning County Conference for Primary Deputies and Assistant Headteachers (this was in Stevenage in Hertfordshire). The theme of the conference was ‘Succeeding against the odds – how leaders make it happen’.

First up was the inimitable Sir John Jones who is both erudite and funny. His presentation was around ‘the courage to lead’ and was illustrated by his ‘eight pillars of transformation’.  I was up next and whilst Sir John is a tough act to follow everyone had eaten lunch and were ready for something new so I delivered on ‘SAT = Stress and Anxiety of Teaching?’ and talked about how to keep your head when all around people are losing theirs.

The final speaker was Marcus Orlovsky from Bryanstone Square Foundation whose title was ‘You expect me to do what?’ and was how to make change happen in changing circumstances. I do normally like to take the time to listen to other speakers but I had to shoot off to Hertfordshire and Essex High School where I will be running an Able, Gifted and Talented Summer school in July.

Apart from coming home with a whole load of quotes and quips from Sir John I also reflected on my own presentation and in particular one of my slides. I had a variety of themes in my presentation ranging from descriptions of stress through to looking at mindfulness but also looking at a model (which I don’t claim to have invented) called the VRAPP model. This stands for Vision, Responsibility, Action, Passion and Persistence and is a five stage model which can be used to help people create or generate transformation in schools.

The slide which I suppose I reflected upon the most was the following one which is the one which comes under the banner of responsibility. The point I try to make is that it is important to write goals to make things happen but a bit like kids who spend all their time redrawing their revision plans but never get round to revising it is important to just get on with it. The idea of ‘ready, fire, aim’ is one that I heard a long time ago but is one that has resonated with me over the years.

                                                                                         READY - FIRE - AIM

                                                                                         READY - FIRE - AIM

It is, however very easy to start forgetting this stuff and become a little complacent and so I remembered another of my favourite quotes from W.H. Murray which contains within it another great quote from the mighty Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – a sort of Russian Doll of quotes.

The quote is on commitment and is as follows;

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness concerning all acts of initiative and creation. There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen events, meetings and material assistance which no one could have dreamed would have come their way.

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets: "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now!"

It is that mention of hesitation which really got me. I recently completed a sprint triathlon which I entered at very short notice not having done one for nearly seven years. The event wasn’t half as bad as I imagined it would be and so I decided I might like to do another. In a lovely twist of fate an e mail came through with details of one in two weeks time but featuring a longer outdoor swim. I have to admit that I hesitated but then after checking with my wife I put my name down. I now have just over a week to try and get myself ‘match ready’ but already I have been out cycling and running, had my bike serviced and plan to do another mini tri on Sunday morning. It feels good to be back in the zone.


So often in life new directions have opened up for me by just doing something. Many might call me impetuous but it works for me. Essentially I left the world of advertising by walking into to a branch of Trailfinders when I was en route to an exhibition at Earls Court and telling them I wanted to go round the world. Remembering the tired look on the agent’s face I don’t think in was the first jaded yuppy in a suit to walk in and ask for that! Walking out with the string of tickets and £1500 worse off required a lot of very imminent decisions (resigning from work, telling my girlfriend, renting out the house to name but a few!)

I got into the world of consultancy by taking the number of the person who came into the school I was teaching at to talk to the sixth form on motivation and then ringing him that night to say that he had three choices – I was either going to work with him, work for him or nick his ideas and do it myself. I sort of ended up doing all three!

One of the ideas I have always dreamed of is do my Learn to Learn presentation live on stage and be filmed. Much to the annoyance of many people I booked a theatre and did that a couple of years ago using the theatre at Northampton School for Boys. I don’t think the timing suited the school or more particularly Paul Dix who was presenting on behaviour management the week before or the people who had said they would film me. Typically though I went ahead and did it. A total of thirty eight people turned up; mainly family and friends although I was interviewed by BBC Radio Northampton.


Skeptic Vision.jpg

So all in all do I still recommend this rather impetuous course of action? The answer is for me is a definitive ‘Yes’. So whatever you think you can do or dream you can do in the classroom then begin it now. I guarantee it will ripple across your life in a way that you never imagined.