TIME FOR SOME RETHINKING

INVESTIGATING THE ORIGINS OF COVID-19

This is an absolute must. The origins of COVID-19 MUST be investigated. There can be no procrastination.

All nations on earth, no matter how big or small, should take responsibility for actions that impact upon their citizens and upon the citizens of other countries.

It is in this context that Australia and other countries have called upon China to participate in the World Health Organisation investigation of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China. An outbreak that has gone on to become a global strangling pandemic.

For China to round on Australia berating this country and others for asking that an inquiry be undertaken is both childish and suspicious. Along with the rest of the world, China should want to ascertain the cause of this outbreak, with a view to control circumstances that might otherwise lead toward a future pandemic.

It should have been the World Health Organisation (WHO) who called China out on this issue, rather than it being left to Australia to say what others were thinking.

Australia’s economic dependence on China as an importer and exporter of goods impacting on this country needs to be considered and reappraised. That China is our largest trading partner makes us beholden in a way that is tenuous and unhealthy.

Part of the answer to over dependence on one country in almost a sole trading manner may lie in market diversification.

We also need to return to the era if self sufficiency in manufacturing for we have surrendered too much capacity, relying ever more extremely on products manufactured overseas.

COVID-19 must cause us to pause and think.

We need to take forward greater independence and the ability to be self sufficient. We need to leave behind the dependence and the reliance we have placed on other countries and their economies for what we need in material terms. We need to become an independent country, not one with an economy that is beholden and subjected to the whims and manipulations of other countries.

LEARNINGS FROM COVID-19

SAVING MONEY IS A LOST SKILL

One thing I have learned from the coronavirus outbreak is the fact that saving money is no longer a part of the Australian culture.

When I was growing up, one of the very important impressions placed upon me was a belief in the wisdom of saving in order to spend. My parents particularly put a stress on the importance of having money prior to making purchases.

When I was a young man, the idea of buying goods on spec was frowned upon.

Obtaining goods before having the wherewithal to buy them was called “hire purchase”. The practice was rather discouraged. One of the touted disincentives that was touted was the inadvisability of having to pay extra for goods by way of interest on top of what was being borrowed.

Fast forward 50 or 60 years and Afterpay, and other schemes encouraging people to “buy now and pay later“ are all the go.

People think nothing of paying extra for goods by way of interest on purchases and don’t consider interest as being dead money. Over the course of their economic lifetimes too many people are paying tens of thousands of dollars in debt money: Interest paid is dead money.

I fully understand and appreciate the need for mortgage arrangements for house purchases and even for the buying of a motorcar. However, the idea of living from hand to mouth in daily living terms is anathema and it’s something that has always filled me with horror.

To learn that Australian households are the second most indebted in the world (behind Switzerland) is absolutely awful! For every one hundred dollars of income households earn, they are in debt for $120. That’s all about expenditure over income and the multiplier effect over time is quite deadly.

No wonder people are broke!

If anything, I hope the COVID-19 might reinstitute thinking about the wisdom of saving so that the day income ceases is not the day abject poverty commences.

EDUCATIONAL POINTS TO PONDER

The way on which children and students have been ‘batted’ between home, school and care centres must be very disconcerting for young minds trying to understand matters about the coronavirus and its consequences. It is to be hoped they don’t succumb to feeling unwanted and unloved.

The (almost) 1000 teachers who stayed in remote communities during the recent school holiday in order to void possible COVID-19 contamination and virus spread, deserve special commendation. To surrender one’s holiday (and that of family members) takes extraordinary dedication and special commitment. This is an example of people who are members of the teaching profession going well above and beyond the call of duty.

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One can empathise with remote area police being required to remain within communities because of COVID-19 imposed restrictions. Limitations on travel and movement apply equally to other government employees resident within these communities. I think especially of teachers who were required to stay put during the recent holidays and who, by the end of term, will have been in their locations for six months. Thank you all for your efforts.

MUTING ON CAPTAIN COOK IS NOT RIGHT

MY SADNESS

I subscribe to an online daily program which publishes significant academic papers, inviting comments from readers.

Recently, the issue of Captain Cook arriving on his Australian coastal exploration 250 years ago elicited a number of papers on the subject of his voyages and the aftermath.

Comments were not allowed and the opportunity to comment was barred by restriction as soon as the papers were published.

I emailed the editor as follows.

“I wanted to ask why it is that comments are not being allowed on any of the papers being published to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Captain Cooks’s coming? I can’t understand this limitation.”

The editor replied:

“… Perhaps there was a concern about racist comments. We have very limited moderation capacity so it’s an issue for us to keep things on track and sometime we have to close comments rather than run the risk. I’ll try and find out what happened here, but I’d imagine it would a combination of being short staffed and fear about racism.”

It often seems that two way conversation on the subject of Australian history and development is discouraged. That there are at least two viewpoints to every issue is held to be blasphemous when it comes to consideration of Indigenous Australians.

And that is so wrong!

SCHOOL ATMOSPHERE – NEVER MORE IMPORTANT THAN NOW s

Seven years ago I wrote this paper (one of the first I published on my blog).

It was relevant then and in light of present educational uncertainties, possibly more so today.

I’d love reader feedback.

SCHOOL ATMOSPHERE – PRECIOUS BUT FRAGILE

Posted on February 15, 2013. Reposted with introduction May 1 2020

Educational organisation within schools is many things to many people. Principals and school leadership teams are motivated and inspired by many different stimuli. The elements and influences which press upon schools are poured into a metaphoric funnel above each place of teaching and learning. Community, hierarchial and government clamor rain can come down like the cascade from the end of the funnel onto schools in almost waterfall proportions.

While Principals and leadership groups are able to take, analyse, synthesise and consider the way in which the school can and should accommodate demands from without, it is easy for a sense of proportion and a perspective on reality to become lost. The flood of seemingly insatiable demands heaped on schools can result in destabilisation and disequilibrium.

This is especially the case in situations where Principals and leadership teams feel that everything demanded of the school by the system (and of the system in turn by Government) has to be acceded and put into practice. These reactions, best described as knee jerk, cause an inner disquiet within staff who are often reluctant to change without justification, but are pressured to make and justify those changes anyway.

In metaphoric terms, schools that comply with demands so made, remind me of a frog hopping from lilly pad to lilly pad on a pond’s surface. Sooner or later the frog will miss in its parabolic leap from one pad to the next and do a dunk into the water. I believe we need, like a duck, to do a lot more deep diving to ascertain what rich life there is at the bottom of the pond. Too often we are urged and in turn urge our teachers, to skim the surface of learning without exploring issues with children and students.

Beneath the educational top soil, there are rich substrata of understandings that need to be explored. Too often that depth learning is overlooked. Educators know that depth learning is disregarded because of the imperative that we drive on, moving rapidly from one initiative to the next.

This approach is one that does little to positively enhance the way those working within schools feel about what they are doing. They become ‘focussed on worry’ and internalise feelings of discomfit about what and how they are doing. They can feel both disenfranchised and destabilised. They wonder whether they are valued and appreciated. While they may not talk about feelings of insecurrity in an ‘out there and to everyone’ way, their expressions of concern and disquiet are certainly expressed to trusted colleagues in an ‘under the table’ manner.

Teachers may maintain a brave face to what they are doing, but beneath the surface suffer from self doubt. This leads to them becoming professionals who overly naval gaze, generally in a very self critical manner. Teachers can and often do become professions who feel there is little about which to self-congratulate and rejoice.


In this context and against this background it is essential that empathetic school principals and leadership teams offer reassurance and build confidence within their teaching and support staff cohorts. They need to help staff understand that ‘frog hopping’ is not essential and that ‘deep diving’ into learning, whereby children and students are offered the opportunity of holistic development is encouraged.

If this is to happen, Principals need to take account of two very important considerations.

* They need to act in a way that deflects as much downward pressure as possible away from staff. They need, as I have previously written ( ) to be like umbrellas, open to diffuse the torrent of government and systemic expectatiion, keeping change within reasonable boundaries. This will ensure that schools, students and staff are not overwhelmed by cascading waterfalls of macro-expectation. Principals and leadership groups need to maintain as much balance as possible within their schools. In spite of what system leaders may say, random acceptance and blind attempts at implementing every initiative will lead to confusion st school level.

Principals have to have the courage to say ‘no’ to changes which come at them giddyingly and often in a poorly considered manner.

* The second critically important consideration, largely dependent upon the ability of school Principals and leadership groups to be selective in terms of their acceptance of change invitation, is that of school tone, harmony and atmosphere.

The way a school feels is intangible. It cannot be bought as a material resource. Neither can it be lassoed, harnessed or tied down. The ‘feel’ of a school is an intangible and generates from within. It develops as a consequence of feeling generated among those within the organisation.

I often feel that the atmosphere of a school, which grows from the tone and harmony within, is best expressed as a weather may which superimposes on that school. When Principal at Leanyer School I had a rather clever member of my staff take an aerial photograph of ‘our place’ and photoshop a weather map over our campus. This I kept close for it was necessary for me to appreciate the ‘highs’ within our school. I also needed to take account of the ‘lows’, being aware of the fact we needed to make sure they were swiftly moving and not permanently affective of the people within our borders.

Learning about Atmosphere

My learning about atmosphere did not come about by accident. In 1994 while at Leanyer, I was asked to act as our region’s Superintendent for a period of six months. At that time Leanyer was somewhat struggling when it came to material resources and that was a worry. Other schools seemed to have a lot more in material terms. Although not jealous, an inner aspiration was to be like better resourced schools.

During my tenure in the acting position. I visited each of our region’s schools, some on more than one occasion. I made contact with Principals and took every opportunity to go into classrooms meeting and talking with children and teachers. I also visited Leanyer School but as an ‘outsider’ not as someone presuming ‘insider awareness’. (I wasn’t there; someone else was acting as Principal and I needed to accord leadership space and respect).

The most critically important thing I learned during my time as Superintendent, was appreciation of organisational atmosphere. No matter how good schools looked, no matter how many material resources they held – if they did not ‘feel’ good, they were lacking quite decidedly.

Part of my learning was predicated by appreciation of Leanyer ‘from the outside in’. Having been Principal for two full years at the school before temporary promotion, I was used to viewing the school from the inside out. Opportunity to look at the school from a different perspective along with comparative opportunity, helped me appreciate the blessing and joy abounding within the school. It felt good! The atmosphere within was second no none!!

Organisational atmosphere is both precious and fragile. There is no guarantee that this intrinsic quality will remain constant. The way people within schools act and interact changes regularly.

Atmospheric Challenge

Within schools are three key groups of people – students, staff and parents. Watching overall is the wider community. Change of personnel and client is common with the arrival and departure of children and staff. Systemic demands and government priorities are hardly constant. This opens schools up as being organisations in a constant state of flux. Just as weather patters change, so too, do pervading atmospherics within schools. Those feeling on a positive ‘high’ today, may find that feeling of well-being eroded by something that unfolds tomorrow. Contrawise, circumstances causing feelings of despondency (‘low’ points) can be changed by circumstances, becoming ‘highs’.

It is up to Principals and leadership teams to ensure that positive atmosphere, precious yet fragile is built and maintained. It is easy to lose the feeling of positivism so necessary if an organisation is to grow and thrive on the basis of its human spirit.

I learned a long time ago about the importance of atmosphere and recommend to readers that we all always work to build the spirit within our schools.

AN OFFER OF SUPPORT TO UNI STUDENTS

I was a casual staff member at Charles Darwin University (CDU) for four plus years from late 2011. During that time I worked with the Faculty of Education, dealing with both International Students and others connected with teacher training. I developed a lot of material relating to language issues and also much material covering aspects of classroom management proactive along with material to do with speech and speaking.

As a member of the CDU Alumni I received a letter from Vice Chancellor Simon Maddock asking for thoughts to be given to donating money to support International Students who are presently caught up in the impasse generated by COVID-19.

The money thing is not possible. However, I am happy to share material with students who might gain benefit from material I have created. I am not after being paid for what might be shared, because that is not the point of my offer. Helping to support students, particularly those in Preservice teaching mode or those with language needs is my prime objective.

Aside from LinkedIn, I am at henry.gray@bigpond.com.

A great deal of material is on my blog at henry gray blog.wordpress.com and can be used by those who might find it of benefit or assistance.

I have indexes of materials and don’t mind sharing. Just ask.

COVID-19: A PRINCIPAL SPEAKS OUT

COVID-19 : A SCHOOL PERSPECTIVE

This post below was made by a school principal on a Facebook post. It was shared by another and in time the sharing reached me.

I acknowledge the source and share this post on my blog for it offers the perspective of a school leader on COVID-19.

“ **Usual disclaimer, I’m a scholol principal but I speak only for myself. Others may have different ideas**

I’m seeing a lot of threads online with the same general theme, so I wanted to just given a schools perspective on it all and answer some FAQs. Also happy to answer any questions people have that I can answer.

Lots of people feeling stressed, overwhelmed and under pressure by the work being sent home for kids. I hope this can help with that somewhat.

Few points to note first :

1) This is not homeschooling. This is an unprecedented emergency situation impacting the whole world. Let’s keep perspective. Homeschooling is a choice, where you considered, you plan for it and you are your child’s school teacher in whatever form you choose . This is at best distance learning. In reality, it’s everyone trying to separate their bums from their elbows because none of us know what we’re doing and what’s right and wrong here.

2) You are, and always have been, your child’s primary educator. If you decide that your child isn’t going to engage with anything sent home and is going to spend the entire period playing in the dirt, or baking, or watching TV, that is your choice. That is your right. It is clear in the constitution. There is nothing to stress or feel guilty about.

3) Schools don’t know what they’re doing either. They got no notice, no prep time and we’re told ‘continue to plan lessons as normal and just send them home’ as if that is in any way possible. If it were, we’d all be out of a job very quickly. I won’t rant about my thoughts on the Dept on this, but suffice it to say your school is winging it.

4) It is absolutely not possible to facilitate distance learning with a primary aged child and work from home at the same time. The very idea is nonsense. If you’re trying to do that, stop now. You can certainly have activities where your child learns, but your focus is your job, and survival. Again, unprecedented. Stop trying to be superheroes.

So, a few FAQs:

– My school has sent home lots of physical work. Pages and pages, hours and hours. How am I supposed to get through it all?!

You’re not, don’t try. Your child’s teacher spent a couple of hours in utter panic gathering things to send home so they could say they did their best and there weren’t a lot if complaints that enough didn’t go home. It’s not a competition, or a race, it’s unlikely the teacher will even manage to look at it all.

– My school keeps sending home links and emails with more work. How do I make it stop. Ahhhhhh

See above. These are suggestions and ideas because the school is worried itl be said they’re not offering enough. Use them if they suit you, don’t if they don’t. If you’re getting stressed, stop opening the emails. No one will know!

– X in my child’s class has everything done and we’ve barely started. Will they fall behind?

Even if everything were equal in terms of support and time and number of kids etc (which its not) kids learn at different rates. In the class there’s a wide range of levels in all subjects, there’s different paces and there are many kids working on differentiated level of work. It’s almost impossible for teachers do differentiate at the moment, so you have to do it. By expectation and by time.

Your child will not fall behind. This is all revision and reminder work. If kids could learn new concepts without specific teaching we wouldn’t need teachers. They will cover all of this again, multiple times.

– I’m not doing any work with my kids. All their doing is Lego, cooking and playing outside.

All of this is learning. Very valuable learning. Give yourself and them a break.

– How can I get three different lots of work done with 3 different kids of different ages?

You can’t, stop trying. If they’re old enough, try to get them to do little bits independently. Otherwise try to do something they can all engage with, reading a story together, some free writing, baking etc.

– So what’s the bare minimum you’d expect?

For me, survival mode. I won’t pretend that may be true of all teachers, but you know what if they can’t have perspective in a time like this then I wouldn’t overly worry about their opinion anyway.

My ideal for my kids in our school?

– A bit of reading every day (independent or to them or via audiobook etc)

– some free writing now and then. If they’ll keep a diary or something, great. If not, would they draw a comic?

– Practical hands on maths. Be that via cooking, cleaning, outside or some maths games physical or digital.

– Some fine motor work. Lego, cutting, playdough, tidying up small toys.

– Physical exercise everyday

– Some art/music where possible through the week. Doesn’t need to be guided.

-Stretch goal, if old enough getting them to independently work on a project is great for keeping brains ticking over. Get them researching in a book or online and putting together something to present to you or family.

– If younger, lots of imaginative free play, the more independent the better.

You are doing enough. You are loving your kids and supporting them through a difficult time. Look after yourself. Minimising stress is absolutely vital in a time like this for mental health. Don’t let this be something that stresses you. Only you can control that by accepting it is in your circle of control, you are the primary educator and this is all your call.

Happy to answer any questions if you have any.

*Apologies, this post is much longer than anticipated.”