Share the magic #edufestni

As a child, I was always fascinated by magicians. I remember a birthday party where one lovely gentleman arrived at my house. Much to my delight he pulled a real bunny out of a hat, found coins behind my ears and guessed my chosen card.

I really did fancy myself as a magican so I practiced daily on pretty much anyone who would let me.  I’ve never forgotten the joy that card tricks brought me. I think I lost days shuffling cards and hiding them up my sleeve. Perhaps I was no Houdini but I loved the showmanship.  

Despite enjoying my playful experience, my father broke the news that I was no Paul Daniels at the tender age of nine. He told me it was time to focus my energies into something else. So I started playing schools….

A while back, I read Sir John Jones book “The Magic Weaving Business” I realised my aspirations to be a magician had actually been realised albeit slightly differently than originally imagined.

If you look up the definition of a magican you will find it is

a person with exceptional skill in a particular area

As teachers we all develop exceptional skills in such a wide range of areas. As our experience grows, we continue to practice our craft. We reflect on it. We refine the tricks to further engage and motivate our pupils. 

In Northern Ireland, I see, I hear and I am aware of exceptional teaching across all sectors and phases. As one of the organisers for EduFestNI I want to encourage you to share your magic. 

Teachers believe in your talents, share your good practice and sign up to present at EduFestNI. You can lead a session or sign up for our TeachMeet or simply come along and network with your ideas. 

Whether you come to the event on 16 August to learn some classroom tricks or you decide present and share some. You are a magic weaver and now it’s time to share your magic.

Go on #sharethemagic at EduFestNI 

I promise that the impact on our young people in Northern Ireland will be truly magical. 

Compassion beyond the classroom…

When we become teachers, we have no idea of the journey that our classroom practice will take us on. 

On Wednesday, a close friend informed me that a parent of a child in her Year 3 class had died. 
She felt heartbroken for her pupil, sadness for his family and loss, a personal sense of loss. As mummy herself, her heart strings were pulled knowing he had said his goodbyes not fully understanding that it was final.

For my friend, the next weeks will be hard but I am confident she will care and nurture her pupil. She will listen, understand and comfort when required. She will create happy, playful moments. She will ensure that the school is sensitive to times when mothers are being talked about and give him room to speak about his mummy when he wants. 

She will remember this child for days, weeks and years to come. She will share his grief and try to protect him throughout his time at her school.

Teachers take on roles that aren’t nailed down in job descriptions. They carry their students in their hearts and minds. 

At times, the needs of our children often mean we assume parenting roles. 

We become the constants in their lives. They seek our attention, our discipline and our praise. 

You may wonder why I chose to blog this piece. His mummy was a colleague in my last school. A beautiful lady inside and out. I’ve struggled for words to support my former colleagues knowing there will be a vacant seat in the staff room. My husband and I cannot imagine the pain her family feel but the biggest comfort is to know that the school her child attends will do an amazing job nurturing him and in the future his sister. 

I cannot tell you how proud, I am to know my teacher friend will go beyond what is expected of her in the days, weeks and years to come because she has shared and emotionally invested in his life.

My friend and her colleagues are doing a walk for the cancer centre. If anything demonstrates compassion beyond the classroom – I think this does. A walk originally planned to show their support will now be done in Jill’s memory. 

Should you wish to sponsor her please click the link below:

The Balcony View of School Leadership… Get off the dance floor


 The Balcony View is not a new concept in leadership. It is well documented that the balcony allows leaders to observe and take a strategic overview of what is going on. 

The work of Heifetz. R and Linksy. M in their book Leadership on the Line encourage leaders to get on the balcony and adopt adaptive leadership.

The analogy of being on a dance floor, being part of the action makes it difficult for leaders to see who isn’t technically dancing or who is moving in the wrong direction. By getting on the balcony leaders afford them-self with time to reflect on the bigger picture. 

Leadership in schools is always active, it is busy and it is tiring. At times we don’t afford ourselves time to be fully reflective.

By sitting on the balcony, we have oversight of the situation, we can mobilize the right people in the right way to effect school improvement.

Taking time out away from the calls and the emails is what I felt our team needed. So I organised a leadership team day away. 

In my preparations for the day, it occurred to me what a privilege it is to have daily oversight of the school. To have the best view of all that is going on in school. 

Sometimes I’m too busy dancing and juggling in the midst of action to the appreciate it. I probably don’t withdraw enough. 

Reflecting on our day away, talking  through our current plans, reviewing what has taken place and thinking ahead to the future has reenergised the leadership team. It is good to stand with them on the balcony. 

It felt good to share the view.


Let’s give our pupils a campaign to stop the drill…

I’m not normally so clued into environmental issues butI would like to encourage all those schools with an Eco Club should support the Stop the Drill campaign at Woodburn, Carrickfergus. 
Woodburn is a beautiful forest with a huge reservoir that has spectacular views over Carrick and Belfast. It provides water for homes, schools and businesses in the greater Belfast and Carrickfergus area.   

Cutting a forest down, killing wildlife is not what I want to teach my kids. The water supply where I live and the school in which I am Principal could be polluted. 

I believe that oxygen and clean drinking water are fairly important to living so I am backing the stop the drill campaign and urge my fellow colleagues in schools to do the same. 

I believe children are the future… Teach them well.

We could be heroes #magicweaving 

A member of my staff was visibly upset last week by death of David Bowie and this week by the guitarist, Glenn Frey of the well known American band the Eagles. 

Being a child of the 80s, I have vague recollections of David Bowie’s interesting attire on Top of the Pops and a rumour of playing the Eagles tracks backwards to hear encrypted messages. 

It is strange how death can shock us even when we do not know the person on a personal level. I know many who dug out the vinyl records and took time out to reminist over recent days.

David Bowie may not be everyone’s cup of tea but for me the line we could be heroes from the song Heroes has resonated with me since hearing the news. 

I wrote a piece a while back hero or hero maker and again I am reminded that as a school leader we need to encourage our staff to be the heroes…even just for one day. 

Teachers are the king or queen of their classroom kingdom and with this position comes responsibility beyond coronation. 

Maybe our school colleagues may never feature on MTV (top of the pops is so last century!) but they will be etched in the memories of their pupils. 

I had a teacher in secondary school, who had a passion for two subjects History and PE. His love of History inspired me to have a subject specialism in the area and to teach it with conviction. He was my form teacher, he showed care …mainly through quick witted humour and defused many tricky discipline issues with the skill of a stateman. He respected us as his pupils and in doing do gained our respect. 

Interestingly, he shared his name with Bryan Adams though spelt differently, the pop star who had a number one with Everything I do… I do it for you…which stayed at number one for 16 consecutive weeks. I’m not sure Mr Adam’s mentra was the same but for me that’s often how it felt. 

I heard he retired recently, in my mind he will always be an educational hero of mine. He inspired me to work hard, he taught  me to play fair and expected me to do well.

As teachers you can leave a legacy in your kingdom. Make sure your pupils remember you for the right reasons.

We could be heroes…

I’m adding the #magicweavers – after listening to Sir John Jones at the Lisburn Principals association conference. Maybe you will seek out your hero or magic weaver…