The Shazam Style of School Leadership

The Shazam Style of School Leadership

Have you ever heard a speaker, wrote something down and implemented the suggested practice?

You have? You are an educational shazamer!

Shazam is a well known music app. It is widely used to find the names of songs and artists. For my talk for @EduFestNI. I decided that I would use this concept of Shazam to describe leadership styles.

You see for me leadership and learning, go hand in hand.

You need to understand pedagogy and keep up to date with it. You need to draw from the leadership experience of others and Shazam the good stuff. When you Shazam the right song you can fill the dance floor and sometimes get people moving without realising it.

As a teacher nothing made me happier than walking into a colleague’s classroom and seeing a good idea. I enjoyed reading Blogs, Twitter and Pinterest to see wall displays, hear new innovative practice and Shazam ideas.

As with Leadership you need to Shazam you need to keep abreast of what is happening in other schools locally and globally. It refreshes you and most of all it gives a feeling of reassurance that you are heading in the right direction.

During my talk, I talked about leadership styles and much more. I recommended several books to Shazam.  Most are fairly publications new but great thought provoking reads for teachers and school leaders.

These are:

The Best Job in the World – Vic Goddard

The art of standing out – Andrew Morrish

The Five Love Languages – Appreciation in the work place – Gary Chapman (A further blog post on Five Love Languages will follow in the Autumn)

Confident Teacher – Alex Quigley

Leadership matters – Andy Buck

Headstrong – Dame Sally Coates

As a school leader it is easy to get caught up in the everyday events of school and be so busy developing others you forget about your own professional development – so recharge and enjoy the music of other schools and leadership experience every and now again.

So before term starts, SHAZAM to develop your teaching or your leadership. You will be richer for it.





A lesson from the Euros…Dare To Dream… effort+belief=success

Since the 10 June, I have been enjoying every ounce of the Northern Ireland #daretodream hashtag as a school leader.

Since the Euros started our pupils have enjoyed a range of activities. They have been busy designing new football kits and writing letters of advice to the manager Michael O’Neill. We enjoyed a Northern Ireland Feast and had a Euro Shirt day for charity. The primary language of the school has been French for the past three weeks. A French cafe is in operation every break time, ran by an efficient Year 2 class. Several new football songs have been composed and the school flag is on tour in Paris.

For every match the team has played, we’ve sang a Northern Ireland song instead of one of our traditional assembly choruses. The whole school has even enjoyed doing the bouncy on the front lawn.  The mood in school has been great. The staff and children have been jubilant in their celebrations. Our parents have engaged with the whole spirit of our activities and shared many of our activities proudly on social media.

As an inclusive school, we also have noted the success of other teams in the Euros too, as we have children from Poland, Portugal, France and the Republic of Ireland.

For me the best part has been the #daretodream assemblies.

I have based all our assemblies over the past couple of weeks on this hashtag. I have focused the children on the fact that they too can dare to dream. I have talked about all sorts of football analogies. I’ve applied them to school life and our school values. The support staff has even started to attend, one even said that if her school assemblies where more like that when she was at school she would have went more often.

The highlight for me has been a dad who just happened to be former N. Ireland International Goal Keeper who volunteered to come in and talk to the pupils in assembly on Monday morning. He explained that whilst we can all dare to dream unless we believe in ourselves and work hard you cannot achieve our dreams.

It reminded me of the work of Matthew Syed. He writes that in order to be the best at anything you need 10,000 hours of practice. Without effort, challenge and belief you will not succeed. Talent, he believes is a myth without it.

Every endeavour pursed with passion produces a successful outcome, regardless of the result. For it is not about the winning or losing -rather, the efforts put forth in producing the effort.

M. Syed

In today’s modern world, I feel that our children expect success and instant gratification for little effort. I found it extremely humbling to hear one of our school dads and former pupil of a local school, telling my pupils that his success was down to his effort and belief in himself to reach the top.

Win, lose or draw regardless of whatever team you support. The biggest lesson we need to teach our pupils through the Euros; is that not one footballer got there on talent alone. They got there by working hard. We need to encourage our pupils to believe in their abilities and help them to fulfil their potential.





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.