Inspirational Teachers Inspirational Learners

A book of hope for creativity and the curriculum in the twenty first century

By: Will Ryan


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Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 182mm x 222mm
Pages : 288
ISBN : 9781845904432
Format: Paperback
Published: March 2011

What is it that inspirational teachers do differently?

In short, they plan for their pupils to be inspirational. Many teachers who join the teaching profession do so because they were taught by inadequate teachers and they feel they can provide a far better and more exciting education for youngsters than they received themselves. Whereas other teachers speak with clarity of detail about stimulating and influential teachers who inspired their lives and now they want to do the same. This book is an examination of what our most inspirational teachers do in order to get creative and inspirational responses from children. It aims to put fun back into teaching, provide a framework for creativity in the twenty first century and act as a book of hope for the new curriculum proposals.

For primary school teachers.

Picture for author Will Ryan

Will Ryan

Will Ryan has worked in schools in South Yorkshire for over forty years as a teacher, head teacher and local authority adviser. As a head teacher he led a school that prized itself on genuine pupil creativity and was described by Ofsted as outstanding'. He is a speaker and Associate of Independent Thinking Ltd.

Click here to read Will Ryan’s blog.


  1. An utter breath of fresh air, Will brings children front and centre offering creative and genuinely inspirational approaches to use in the classroom.  This book will offer opportunities to practically reflect on practice and infuse your classroom with a new sense of creativity. 
  2. I found this book most engaging. The text is written with empathy towards the profession whilst providing real examples of how to improve teaching to an inspirational level. I think this text is very useful for teachers from differing backgrounds and helps to remind you why teaching can be a rewarding experience.

  3. The book is particularly persuasive when the author concentrates on episodes, observations and reflections that have risen from his experiences over thirty years as a teacher, head teacher and local authority advisor. The case studies, resources, anecdotes and apt references to experiences many readers will have enjoyed, for example The Simpsons and the poem 'Invictus', make this book an interesting read. The connecting discussion and arguments promoting the differences between the charismatic performer and the inspirational teacher is engaging and convincing. There are also points in this book that stimulate thought. For example, a useful figure is presented on page 16 which illustrates the structure of the link between inspirational teachers and inspirational pupils (interesting that the adjective 'inspirational' is used for pupils, not 'inspired', suggesting the inspiration resides in pupils and is locked by the teacher, not that the teacher transfers it). The structure begins with the inspirational teacher who plans for inspirational pupils through organising the development of thinking skills, enterprise, literacy and the arts, and awe/wonder/spirituality. It would be too easy to scoff at the latter as being typical of a certain 'soft and fluffy' primary school mentality. Throughout the book there is emphasis on values and underlying philosophy arising from interaction with the real world and people, and a focus on equipping today's primary school pupils so that they will be able to make sense of the complex world they will inhabit as adults. This clearly resonates with the ethos of the University of Bedfordshire's Education Strategy which is aimed at encouraging learners to know who they are and who they want to be and at stimulating a curriculum that is meaningful, active, challenging, reflective and collaborative. The structure finishes with a definition of the outcomes of the inspirational teacher's planning and interventions 'Successful learners, responsible citizens, confident individuals who are independent enquirers, creative thinkers, reflective learners, team workers, self managers and effective participators.' This is CRe8 in a nutshell. This sense grows as one reads on.
  4. Capturing the passion Will Ryan feels for teaching and creativity, this book draws us in from the start, giving a vision of what education could and should be.
    It provides a scaffold to take us through the practical steps of developing an exciting new curriculum, tailor made for our own schools. Each chapter is grounded in sound principles, and the whole is peppered with thought provoking and inspirational anecdotes.
    Any teacher would gain from reading this book - and pass it on to the senior manager!
  5. Inspirational Teachers and Inspirational Learners brings together the most current thinking about Primary Teaching and attempts to describe what inspiration in the classroom really looks and feels like. It was a really thought provoking read, offering anecdotes and ideas to consider about creativity and innovative teaching. A good read for all those really passionate about primary Education.
  6. Someone urgently needs to give Michael Gove a copy of this book, or better still, just make Will Ryan the new Education Minister. He presents a clear vision for education in the twenty first century that is creative, enterprising, and yes, inspirational.

    Despite including some rather depressing examples of everything that is wrong with this country's education system, this is overwhelmingly a hopeful book, with a finely drawn vision of everything that teaching and learning should be. In this age of increasing accountability, over-prescription and emphasis on testing, it is easy to see how creativity, originality and critical thinking have been stifled in our schools. Will Ryan strikes a careful balance between exploring what went wrong with education and putting forth his agenda for change. This agenda includes broad sweeping philosophical ideas that will inspire a cognitive shift in mindset, along with concrete examples of creativity and inspiration in action. I defy anyone to read this book and not feel energised by its contents. Most of the ideas and examples come from primary schools, but the message is equally relevant for secondary teachers.

    Provocative quotes are used throughout the book to inspire argument and debate. One that Will uses to close the book sums it up perfectly: Teachers do what they believe in extraordinarily well, but what they are told to do merely to a mediocre standard (John Abbott). Will Ryan's inspirational book will remind teachers to do what they believe in and believe in what they do.
  7. The book arrived at lunchtime and I took a sneaky peek as I ate my lunch it looked interesting. However, I had to wait until later that evening to properly sit down and have a read. I then couldn't put it down. It even took precedence over the next few episodes of 24 I was currently watching on DVD. If you are a 24 fan you will know just what a great commendation that is! Four hours later I had finished the book now I need to read it more slowly, with more thought towards application.

    But what of the content? Well that is summed up in a phrase Will himself quotes on page 163. Alan Bennett talks about the best moments in reading being when you read something that you yourself, have already been thinking. This is just what this book is like a summary of my thoughts on thinking from the past year or so. I run a consultancy and training company which runs workshops for teachers and school management across India. Our latest developments have been courses on 'Thinking Skills' for Primary and Secondary teachers. So far these have proved very popular with schools, as teachers realize the need for children to be thinking. We cannot continue to teach the same things now and into the future as we have been for the last 50 or even 20 years. Students now need skills more than content a change which is going to take India (a very exam and content based education system) a long time to adapt to. It was eye opening for me to see the tables on pages 73 and 74 showing the survey results which I assume were from England? It seems India is not so different after all.

    Although the book is very UK based, it is concept based enough that it is applicable to other countries around the world. It also refers to many popular books / videos out there The Outliers / We are the people we have been waiting for / Shift Happens all offerings I have discovered and enjoyed over the past few months.

    I shall be incorporating some of Will's thoughts and concepts as I re-evaluate my training sessions on 'The Role of a Teacher' for schools' orientation weeks. As we fashion inspirational teachers so we will create inspired learners.
  8. This important and urgent book opens with one of the saddest education stories I have ever heard. As a head, the author had talked to an eight-year-old pupil in his school who was bemoaning the boredom inherent in a project on rivers that involved her cutting out parts of diagrams from a pre-published worksheet and sticking them on to another piece of paper to illustrate the water cycle.

    The child argued that this was "a load of rubbish" and proceeded to describe with great enthusiasm aspects of the real life of a river that lay at the end of the lane from the school. Some years later he chanced, as a local authority adviser, on the same girl, now a teacher herself. She told him that one of her latest lessons related to the journey of a river, making use of a lesson downloaded from the internet that involved a diagram and the children sequencing sections of text to piece together the story of the water cycle.

    When reminded of her response to this same task as a pupil and asked why she hadn't been able to act on her own advice, the answer was sadly predictable. The drive to ensure a 5 per cent improvement in standards in English and maths meant no "extras" like out-of-school visits, with their attendant health and safety risks, no story settings until the following term, and no deviation because all she had to do was use the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency schemes to ensure the topic was covered.

    This prologue encapsulates most of the charges that Mr Ryan levels with unerring accuracy at the state of education in England: a results drive to the point of madness, inflexible management (one could hardly call it leadership), a lack of imagination in interpreting the national curriculum, the stifling of intellectual curiosity in the young and the inhibition of creative teaching. The triumph of Dickens' Mr Gradgrind, one might think, is almost complete.

    Is it any wonder that a 2007 Unicef report on the wellbeing and happiness of children ranked the UK as the worst of the 21 wealthy nations surveyed? Should we not despair when a colleague of Mr Ryan's tells him that her son went through 35 mock Sats papers before the tests?

    Despair, fortunately, is something this book has no truck with. Its subject is inspiration and it is the author's unwavering belief that inspiration is the birthright of every child, and creative teaching the key to providing it.

    Inspirational Teachers Inspirational Learners sets out to show how, even in the present circumstances, this can be achieved. Literacy and the arts are key; awe, wonder and emotional and spiritual intelligence need to be nurtured; learning outside the classroom is essential; there needs to be passion, courage and faith.

    Ofsted does not come out of his anecdotal evidence well. That is, perhaps, predictable. But his biggest challenge is to school leaders: "The prime duty of any school leader is to take a dynamic and inspirational lead on the curriculum ... it should course through every vein to create a passionate community where everyone wants to learn ..."

    The tick-box mentality of many school managers, with their insistence on paperwork and uniformity, gets short shrift: "I have become firmly convinced that the size and degree of elaboration within planning documents is inversely related to the quality of action and learning."

    But any head wanting to take up the challenge of creating an inspirational curriculum will find plenty of practical help here with encouraging enterprise, "awakening joy in creative expression" and pursuing alternative means of assessment. This is a book that aims to effect improvement and realise an ambition, not simply moan about the current climate and the sterility of many of our classrooms.

    Particularly important are his claims for a return to what might be called "real literacy", with story at its heart. A study by the National Foundation for Educational Research suggests that while standards of literacy achieved by pupils have risen, a love of reading in boys and girls - Harry Potter notwithstanding - has declined.

    It is not unrealistic to attribute this at least in part to one of the most damaging trends of the past few years: the rise and rise of the use of extracts, rather than the enjoyment of shared whole books. Stories inspire; children need to be exposed to full texts; daily story time needs to return to every primary classroom.

    Mr Ryan brings a wealth of practical experience as well as idealism to this book. The questions he asks schools to ask of themselves are enlightening and his suggestions for moving towards a more creative and inspirational curriculum are well grounded. The anecdotal sections of the text make their points with humility and humanity, and although in some cases they provoke anger and frustration they also point the way to remedies. In short, Inspirational Teachers Inspirational Learners is itself an inspirational text that should be on the reading list of all educational administrators and on the bedside table of all school leaders and classroom teachers.


    Will Ryan has worked in schools in South Yorkshire for more than 30 years - as a teacher, headteacher and local authority adviser. As a headteacher he led a school that prides itself on genuine pupil creativity and was described by Ofsted as "outstanding".

    The verdict: 10/10.
  9. The materials in this book were the basis of a fabulous training day with Will Ryan. The whole collaborative was buzzing. The excellent mix of ideas provided stimulating thinking and challenge, a context for curriculum development and for our visioning work. The content provided excellent and real ideas that reflect real school life. The message from the executive governors and staff was that this was the -˜Best training day ever'. The materials in this book will remind you of why you came into the profession. It was a great way to start our journey of collaboration with two schools.
  10. Will gives a very convincing argument for doing the right thing for our children. His brilliant stories make you laugh and seethe in equal measure. I laughed at the fantastic wisdom of children and seethed at the way some of our brilliant teachers are made to feel inadequate because they are not following the latest teaching fashions.

    Will`s enthusiasm for teaching is contagious. He speaks from the heart whilst drawing on a wealth of research from some of the most inspiring educationalists in the world. Yet it is his practical approach, with so many examples of great ideas, that makes this book such a useful tool for teachers.

    Two things really stand out in reading the book:
    Firstly, it challenges the reader to think about what is really important for our youngsters if they are going to succeed in a rapidly changing world. Secondly, Will`s call to action when he asks us, `Will you go the extra mile for the children in your care and help the magic of childhood be enhanced by electrifying learning opportunities? I hope so.` And so will everyone else that cares about children`s success!
  11. Will Ryan`s book, Inspirational Teachers, Inspirational Learners, does not just tell you how education and educationalists have to change their thinking. It explores real and concrete areas for change, that need to be seriously looked at for twenty-first century teaching and learning.

    Following significant and very welcome changes to the Scottish education system from 5-14 to Curriculum for Excellence, this book is a real gold mine of ideas and examples for those educators who have found it challenging to change their ways of thinking and teaching. For those following the English system, currently in the process of change, this book gives a real heads-up, with tangible examples of exemplary practice that coax real ideas, some tried and considered, to move primary school education firmly forwards. Furthermore, the checklists planted carefully throughout the book will help to guide any teacher, department or school towards inspirational learning.

    Read this book to gain a real sense of can-do, of wanting, perhaps needing to become an inspirational teacher, to encourage inspirational learners to be the very best they can be.
  12. Ranging from The Beano`s Bash Street Kids to Lorenz`s butterfly effect, and with words such as `joy`, `passion`, `awe and wonder` featuring throughout, this book is certainly an inspirational read. Although aimed more towards primary teachers, the ideas it contains are equally applicable to the secondary sector.

    Will Ryan captures some of the really pertinent agendas of today`s educational world, arguing strongly for schools to place inspiring children and young people at the heart of curriculum development and school improvement. Contained within the book are amusing but thought-provoking anecdotes which encapsulate the thinking behind the practice.

    Whilst each chapter can be read individually, the sum is far more than its parts and the book offers strong messages to school leaders and classroom teachers who may be feeling disempowered by government edicts and who would prefer to put joy and a passion for real learning back in the classroom but perhaps lack the courage. This is a book of hope for twenty first century education and those who work within it.
  13. This publication provides school leaders with an innovative framework to evaluate, enhance and develop a relevant primary curriculum for the twenty-first century. Recent experience of using these stimulating materials has enabled all of our staff to be engaged in the process of developing a rich and inspiring creative curriculum. A `must read` for senior leadership teams in this post-National Curriculum era.
  14. The materials in this book were the basis of a fabulous training day with Will Ryan. The whole collaborative was buzzing. The excellent mix of ideas provided stimulating thinking and challenge, a context for curriculum development and for our visioning work. The content provided excellent and real ideas that reflect real school life. The message from the executive governors and staff was that this was the `best training day ever`. The materials in this book will remind you of why you came into the profession. It was a great way to start our journey of collaboration with two schools.
  15. Will Ryan is one of those unique educators who `walked the walk` before he started to `talk the talk`. I have been privileged enough to be in an audience of teachers during one of his inspirational sessions and his book manages to take that inspirational magic and reproduce it in ink, on paper. Will`s book is full of humour, common sense and passion, much like a great lesson.

    Over the years too many people have created a mythology around teaching and learning that has over-complicated what is, at its heart, a very simple set of principles; translate tough concepts into the tangible, make it matter, be inspirational and provide contexts and experiences. In this book, Will nails it!

    We are entering very challenging times for education; teachers are feeling increasingly stressed, their jobs and the way they practise are under threat and they are desperate for someone or something to provide inspiration and guidance. Will`s book may well be a significant beacon.

    If you are looking for inspiration, wanting to be reminded of just why you have devoted your professional life to working with kids; if you want to feel that education and our young really do have a positive future then read this book, be inspired and continue to build a system worthy of our children!
  16. From the beginning I wanted to read more. Will explained how the book would be useful and the effect it would have on pupils. Throughout the book there are interesting quotes and anecdotes which make it very readable. Readers are given the opportunity to reflect on their own practice regularly. There are scenarios of good practice that Will has observed and teachers could use these to develop their own inspirational ideas. A valuable read for any primary school teacher.
  17. Inspirational Teachers is a carefully created and rewarding adventure through the world of inspiring education. Every teacher should take a chapter to school with them and aim to deploy as many ideas as possible. The book actively promotes the development of sound pedagogy with a passion for learning and mixes in a combination of excellent delivery skills for good measure. Inspirational Teachers is suitable for all, whether you are comfortably outstanding, challenging mediocrity or just aiming a little higher. The book shoots from the hip and provides a delightful range of pithy quotes and snippets of conversations about learning. As Will Ryan says, we should never forget the potential of powerful and well-chosen words to guide us as they have done for so many people in so many different situations.

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