5 years launch blog speakers onscreen

The Launch of It Takes 5 Years...

What a happy day Saturday 24th October 2020 was! That was the day we held a virtual launch of #ItTakes5Years…

It was my good friends, Dame Alison Peacock and Professor Sam Twiselton, who persuaded me we should have a launch and it was Richard Robinson’s idea to ask Emma Turner to host the event – and a brilliant idea it was. She’s a natural and keeps the flow going beautifully.

I wrote to all the original eight co-authors who had so swiftly and willingly contributed moments from their early careers for inclusion in the book, asking if any would be willing and able to join us on a Saturday morning and to my amazement every one of them replied promptly that they would. How I wish I could have invited all the other eighteen contributors but it would have made us all so small on ‘streamyard’ that we wouldn’t be seen, and there would not have been enough time for all to do more than introduce themselves… We shall save the full team appearance for the live launch post the pandemic.

Explaining the thinking behind this high-speed publication – seven weeks to write, three weeks of proofing and assembling and one week to publish thanks to Richard and Ben, my colleagues – was an important element of the introduction to the event between Emma and myself; that innocent  conversation over a Chinese meal with Kirstie and Ben led to the fastest turn-around I have ever known. Yes, that all-important  throw-away remark by myself to Kirstie all those years ago over dinner in a hotel when she was my front-of-house, before she converted her degree into a teaching , certainly led to the fastest write over long hours six days a week to produce this guidance and advice for early career teachers in time for the new school year. And we did it! And we made the remark the title of the book!

It was when the sections from the co-authors came in that I suddenly realised, to my great surprise, that every one of the eight of us had had such similar experiences and emotions at the start of our careers. That was what led me to throw the net wider and ask on twitter if anyone else would be so generous as to contribute, and I am deeply grateful for the additional eighteen contributors who stepped forward so willingly.  And yes – their early career experiences replicated the pattern. Yet no-one had told any of us how hard it would be at times in those first years in the classroom, how much we would want to bare our souls to someone and say how we were really struggling at times, even though it seems safe to assume that most of the lecturers who taught us and the colleagues in the staff rooms had almost all had similar experiences and worries.

So that was the premise of the book – to make the great reveal and to announce to our newly qualified colleagues the best guarded secrets of education – that ‘the emperor has no clothes on’.

My sincere thanks to all who contributed in any way, to all who ‘attended’ on the 24th and to the thousands who have viewed the video since, as well as to the many who have purchased the book and for the warm and generous feedback they have given us.


A fun and flexible approach to improving children’s vocabulary, speech, and writing.

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It Takes 5 Years...

I was sitting chatting with Kirstie Pilmer one Sunday afternoon in late May (at a safe ten feet of course) when Kirstie started telling me about how much she was enjoying her fifth year of teaching as a qualified teacher.

“Do you remember telling me it takes five years to become a fully effective teacher?” she asked. “I thought that must be an exaggeration and I remember thinking in my third year that I really was a fully effective teacher. But now I see what you mean. I don’t have to think about it anymore. I can sail into my classroom and start, I can respond to wherever the children take the learning, I can throw in anecdotes and jokes and illustrations and examples… It has become a fluid and natural process and I LOVE it!”

“That certainly won’t be how this year’s NQTs will be feeling in September, having been in lockdown since March,” I said. “Nor even those in their second year, as they only completed half of their NQT year in normality.”

We discussed the stresses and issues teachers in their first four or five years would be facing during lockdown and whatever came after it, and the fact that they would need lots of help and support.

“The trouble is,” I commented, “everyone will be needing help and support for as long as this lasts, regardless of how long they have been teaching, because it is a new crisis for everyone. No-one has ever been through this before… no-one can advise… there isn’t a book on how to do it. Headteachers have been amazing at keeping schools running in such terrible circumstances.”

And that’s when the penny dropped! We couldn’t write a book to help experienced teachers through the worst pandemic ever to hit the globe, that would be a job for the future if ever needed, but we could write a book to help those in the early stages of their professional career.

“Do you think you could tell the story of your first five years in the profession, Kirstie?” I asked. “Warts and all, that difficult class you had last year and the stresses and problems you have met on your journey?”

It didn’t take long to persuade my professional friend of ten years (Kirstie used to be my ‘front of house’ and driver for almost three years after she graduated and before she trained as a teacher) that her input would be invaluable for those new to teaching and that her contribution could be a vital part of the book. And it was thus that the idea was born.

“I have just finished my fifth year of teaching and it was a completely different experience. I was confident in my ‘teacher skin’ for the first time… it feels as though someone just flicked a switch and suddenly, I got it. Things I wasn’t sure about previously slotted into place, and now I feel like I can see the whole picture rather than lots of little parts of it.”
(Kirstie Pilmer, August 2020)

As I started to take down notes and ideas and the book started to take shape in my mind, I suddenly realised that the experiences of just two teachers (Kirstie and myself) was not enough for a balanced picture and I approached the seven esteemed colleagues at the peak of our profession, who all agreed to be co-authors, contributing pieces of two hundred words or more on their early experiences in the classroom. Then I had the idea of tweeting to see if anyone else would be interested in joining us and this resulted in eighteen absolutely fascinating accounts of teachers’ journeys into teaching, some written by teachers in the very early stages of their careers and others by colleagues close to retirement, by consultants and by university lecturers. These contributions give the text authenticity and I am so grateful to all the co-authors and contributors for their enthusiasm and time.

“Then came the wrath of the former PE co-ordinator. I naively thought he had happily swapped from PE to maths… There was bad feeling, which came my way by association… I remember one day in a crowded staffroom he said:

‘I bet she doesn’t even know the off-side rule.’

That night I enrolled in evening school to become a qualified football referee. Needless to say once I qualified, I knew more than he did about the off-side rule. Boom! Back of the net!”

(Ginny Bootman August 2020)

Meanwhile, I commenced the writing of the actual book in June and wrote solidly for seven weeks. The words just poured out… I scarcely had to refer to my research or notes. I was staggered at the way details from over fifty years ago and on through my career came flooding back – particularly the trying and tough times. I often wrote for between six and ten hours a day and my part of the book was finished in first draft in seven weeks. The fastest write ever for me.

The seven co-authors and eighteen contributors had a tight deadline too. We considered it essential to have this book available from the start of the new academic year in September. Every single one of them met the deadline and I then switched to compiling the book itself.

I spent a full week on proofing, editing and rewriting my own contribution (sixteen chapters) and on proofing the contributions as they came in. Then the document went to Richard Robinson for two consecutive proof reads and the process of publishing. Richard is the best proof reader I know – alongside my brother who also did one proofread. When all proofs were complete and all edits had been made we had exactly met our deadline of the 19th of August and the completed manuscript went to print on target, on the 31st of August. On Wednesday the 2nd September a large palette of boxes of books was delivered to Richard’s office. The remainder of the week was spent signing pre-release orders and all the co-authors’ and contributors’ copies and the big post-out occurred on schedule with books available from Friday the 4th of September. Job done!

It was during this intense process of compilation and proofing that the amazing fact hit me – the experiences of almost every one of the twenty-seven of us at the start of our careers were so very similar. That is when I finally realised how important the book might be. All except two of us had experienced similar fears, worries and stresses and a significant number of us had had to find our own way through, with little or no real help. That is the experience that has driven so many to leave our profession after only one or two years recently. ‘It Takes Five Years to Become a Teacher’ aims to help these teachers to survive and to thrive!

“Little did I realise that the window was unfastened and as I leant back, smiling and feeling cocky, the window opened right out and I literally fell backwards straight out of the window – proper Del Boy style – and landed on the back path…

Safe to say no more work was done that afternoon, and during the three more years spent in that classroom,  I never sat on the side again!”

(Alex Caunt August 2020)


A fun and flexible approach to improving children’s vocabulary, speech, and writing.

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Myrtle Marple book cover

Myrtle Marple

I love this book! I had great fun writing both the first two books of this series – yes, the second has been finished as long as this first one – it just hasn’t gone through publishing yet. Why am I so keen, when I am truly proud of ‘Journeys’ and ‘Bonkers Boris’ cracks me up? I think it is because – secretly – Myrtle is me!

The house is a house I once lived in… the setting is a setting I once loved. The only things I never had are Myrtle’s gadgets – but I wish I had! The extraordinary relationship that develops between the twins and Myrtle is the heart of the series. The twins are so alike and yet so different… Dan (Daniella) is far the more sensible one, although far from afraid of going on an adventure, while Dom (Dominic) is much more of a risk taker, albeit with a touch of flatulence.

This unusual trio haven’t even met at the start of this first book and, when they do first meet there is some caution and a couple of clashes. However, when Myrtle’s precious virtual friend, Doogle, goes missing, they become a tightly knit team. Which is just as well, as Dom gets himself into quite a scrape.

This was the first book for children that I actually completed and submitted for publishing, and I was thrilled when Olympia accepted it. However, due to my insistence on receiving hard copy for proofing – I always used to proof on hard copy – the second proofing was lost by the British Post Office and the publishers started the process again. Consequently, Bonkers Boris Meets the Mayor sailed past Myrtle and pipped her to the post. And I stopped demanding hard copies!

The two series are not in competition of course, mainly because the target ages are quite different as demonstrated in their length, form and illustrations. Bonkers Boris is aimed primarily at six to ten year olds, while Myrtle’s main audience will be nine to twelve year olds, although with parents or teachers reading them to children, wider audiences will enjoy the stories.

So, much as I adore the disaster-defined Boris, Myrtle will always have a special place in my heart!

Ros Wilson signing her new books

A Nerve Wracking Week

The publication of my 1st 2 books for entertainment.

I thought I would be so excited when my first 2 books for entertainment arrived from the publisher. Of course, I had already had several educational books published but that was not the same. They told it like it was, if you believed in what I was writing about the books made perfect sense, if you didn’t – they didn’t. Both attitudes I was perfectly comfortable with.

Now, in semi-retirement, I had written my first three ‘books for fun’. One (It’s Just a Journey With Ros) had been started in 2014 and abandoned due to pressure of work, the second (Myrtle Marple and the Vanishing Virtual) was started in the same year and the third (Bonkers Boris Meets the Mayor) was started in 2015 and also abandoned for the same reason. All of them were resurrected and completed following my relocation to Leeds.

I think the publishers (Olympia) were a little horrified when this trio of books followed each other to their desks in rapid succession in the last months of 2018 and the early part of 2019, but to give them credit they stuck with me and accepted all three for publication. Sadly, Myrtle Marple was lost by the Post Office when it had been returned for a proof read and that book had to restart proofing again (usually there are 5 proofs before signing off, one by the Olympia proof reader, three by myself plus one by a person of my choice). Myrtle Marple is now moving successfully through the process.

For my personal choice of proofer it was a no-brainer. Richard Robinson is the best proofer I know and is so thorough and such a rigorous critic. It meant a huge amount to me when he actually enjoyed my books, saying they were well written.

Having gone through all these steps to achieve publication, and the wait of over a year in the case of Journeys, it was a great shock to me how nervous I was when the first set of complimentary books arrived. I gave all those away to educators I admired and was surprised to find that suddenly – of the 25 of each book I had received – I had none left! Not even one of each for myself.

Silence! I waited and worried and feared that I might be exposed on Twitter or similar as the emperor with no clothes on! And then, the next day, the rash of tweets started with lovely comments and photographs of people opening or holding up their copies and expressing excitement to be a recipient.

I shall always be grateful for those first generous words of feedback, as I pursue my new career in writing.

It's Just a Journey with Ros book cover

It's Just a Journey

Concord, Massachusetts, U.S. Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882) was an American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. (Wikipedia)

Emerson is accredited with being the first to say:

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”

My life has been one heck of a journey, taking me halfway round the world and back and punctuated by many funny, scary and traumatic experiences on the way. My talks have long reflected this and now – to my pride – my new book, ‘It’s Just a Journey with Ros’ tells the tale.

I started writing ‘Journeys’ virtually, through my talks at conferences and events. I will never forget the first time I told the story of ‘Bernard’ – Head of Maths in the first school I taught in. Having been invited to speak at the first ever ‘Beyond Levels’ conference organised by Dame Alison Peacock (Chair of the Chartered College for teachers) and former Head teacher, Julie Lilly, I continued to speak at subsequent events. After one well known speaker had the audience laughing at his tales, Dame Alison challenged me publicly to:

“Follow that, Ros!”

So I did; and those of you who have heard the stories from my early days as a teacher will know why, on his very first public ‘outing’, Bernard brought the house down!  He has been with me ever since on my journeys around the country, as has Stan, Mrs. Sparrowhawk and Michael’s gift.

You will be fascinated by tales of my very first flight, the American Missile Base and living through one of the most destructive hurricanes to hit the Caribbean.

We lay, mainly silent, cuddling a child apiece, and listening wide eyed as the horrific noise outside grew to a thunderous roar. The hours passed — midnight and beyond, and the building rocked and shook, the roof creaked and groaned, lifting and sinking continuously, and many a time we feared the whole thing was going to fly off, or the walls would come down, but it withstood the fearsome storm.

The winds screamed on, and the rain was a dense, horizontal curtain of white — driving parallel to the ground, as impenetrable to see through as the thickest fog. Suddenly, at about four in the morning, silence fell. No wind or rain could be heard… only a deep, wet darkness could be discerned through the doors.

“T’is de eye…” muttered the Braccers in hushed, but knowing tones, and we all sat silently and waited for the predicted, resumed onslaught from the opposite direction…

We sat and gaped at the terrain before us,  acres of huge boulders, many as large as a car, were piled between six and ten feet deep from the gently lapping water’s edge up to where the road must have been and on across the land and round the houses to the foot of the bluff. Sticking out from between the rocks, there were palm trees and whole sea grapes uprooted and protruding at crazy angles, punctuated by telegraph poles snapped like twigs, planks and iron bars (presumably from smaller constructions in yards), thousands of huge, full grown sponges ripped from the seabed, and heart-breaking masses of dead fish of all sizes.

(It’s Just a Journey with Ros: May 2020)

You will be amazed by my adventures on the ocean, on the roads and in travels overseas.

But most of all, I hope you will agree that – at the end of the day – life is just a series of journeys; physical journeys, emotional journeys, professional journeys and learning journeys.

You will laugh, you may cry, but please enjoy it.

It's Just a Journey with Ros

Apollo moonshots could be seen taking off from Florida when Ros Wilson’s career took off in the Bahamas. A child of the forties, she trained as a teacher in the sixties and has also taught in the Cayman Islands, the Middle East and even the UK. Having been hit by Hurricane Alan, honked out by a dead cat dragged in for the nature table and having helped haul sheep out of a crisis at Christmas, she found she’d salted enough wealth away in the bank of experience to take on consultancy work, too.

She now writes authoritatively on educational practice and policy.

Of popular and professional interest, her story can now be read for fun, hilarity or interest by all. No parent ill-informed about the professional background of school teachers, nor would-be schoolteachers ill-informed about what they could be in for, will regret relaxing and enjoying the fun and laughter of It’s Just a Journey with Ros by Ros Wilson.