ASK FOR HELP

One of the strongest attributes of the teaching profession is that of ‘fraternity’. Collegiality and sharing are elements of that togetherness. Unlike some occupations in which people feel they have to sit on problems or challenges and muddle through, teaching invites those with questions to seek assistance in finding answers. This does not mean teachers should not have a go, but rather that they seek support to help in reaching satisfactory outcomes.

This might include asking for clarification when a particular theory or teaching practice is not fully understood. It could be that teachers are struggling with classroom management, that discipline policies need explaining; a myriad of issues may press upon the teacher’s mind. They will remain there unless help is sought or given.

Teachers are often credited with having a sixth sense. Part of this is having the intuition to understand matters that others might be finding confusing and offering advice or support. Gumption needs to be a characteristic that allows teachers having difficulties, to ask for help if it is needed.

It is not a sign of weakness or inability to ask for support in understanding matters that are not fully comprehended. If there is a need ‘sensed’ in others, ask if they would like assistance. Two way caring and sharing should be informal, a part of the relationships that establish between members of staff.

In some cases, mentors are assigned to staff members new to a school. Building a two way professional relationship with a mentor or coach is wise. Beginning teachers can contribute to these relationships for they often have a better understanding of new methodologies than those who have been in schools for a number of years. Therefore meaningful two-way relationships can be established.

Keeping in touch with each other in a professional context is essential to the professional growth of teachers and school staff members. If problems are not shared and help not sought, worry, despondency and despair can set in and infect the soul. It is indeed sad if this happens … and it need not!

Caring and sharing are attributes to be cherished and practised.

THE ‘BEST EVER’ SCHOOL APPRAISAL MODEL

THE ‘BEST EVER’ SCHOOL APPRAISAL MODEL

by pooroldhenry

Educators are quite constantly involved with processes relating to testing, measurement and evaluation. This is done in different ways by people directly and indirectly connected with schools. While most factors of measurement relate to academics, there are other things to be considered when evaluating schools.

Over time priorities and processes have changed. These days within the NT a detailed visit by senior colleagues including a group of the principal’s peers and senior management staff is the way appraisals are undertaken. The process lasts several days. Examination includes conversations with some school staff members.

The Northern Territory Education Department has been concerned about the performance of its schools since taking over responsibility for education in 1978. Various models have been followed.

One of the very best was called the “Internal/external School Appraisal Model”. This involved members of the school staff and members of community working in groups to analyse the various aspects of school function. Teaching performance, staff relationships, student welfare, school appearance, communications and all other factors were examined. Each panel included staff and community members. A facilitator was appointed for each group.

Groups had the ability to glean information from a number of options. Included what questionnaires, interviews, and of course the self-awareness of that particular aspect of school function built within the group. Toward the end of the process each group presented in turn to the whole school staff and also members of community who cared to attend those sessions.

From the report grew recommendations for future consideration. Each group also indicated things that were being done well and should be continued.

After presenting, each group report and recommendations to the forum of staff and community. Some revisions were then made and a priority put on the recommendations.

When all groups had presented and the final report from the “internal process” developed, this then went to an external panel which considered the report. This panel had the opportunity to order the recommendations as a whole.

This was a very elongated process. However it enabled all staff and those with a keen steak and interest in the school to have input. Importantly the report was owned by school staff and community members.

I applied this model at Nhulunbuy Primary School when first becoming principal. Again, it was used it Karama Primary School in 1987. Of all the methodologies used over time to help centre school action in the right directions this approach was by far and away the most effective.

When people within an organisation own what they do including developing the context of futures direction the whole process is validated by ownership.

Although it may never happen I would certainly recommend a return to the past when it comes to appraising a school and its place within the community.

ON SELLING SCHOOLS

These days and Darwin and the Northern Territory a lot of schools, particularly the private ones, are spending big dollars on advertising what the schools have to offer students. Without naming schools, some of them are spending thousands and possibly tens of thousands of dollars on advertising.

Print media is used. television and radio advertisements are frequent and there is a huge push by schools doing this advertising almost beseeching parents to enrol children.

Again without naming names, some schools have achieved quite burgeoning student populations. Response to advertising has something to do with abnormally high enrolments achieved in relatively short periods of time.

It goes without saying that appealing to parents may well cause some of the schools to downplay their expectations of student behaviour. “Relaxation” of school rules may be part of the way appeal to students is achieved through outreach.

Rules and expectations that are stated may not be enforced or offending may be lightly treated if behaviour becomes an issue.

It’s important that schools advertising for enrolments do so in a way that causes parents and their children to understand what school rules are in place and importantly will be in forced. Playing down or minimising rules for the sake of retaining student is most unwise.

However, it is easy to see that if advertising and constant appeal to parents to enrol children becomes the norm, rules and regulations as stated and the way they are enforced may well be different the one from the other. I believe it important that school rules and regulations should never be compromised for the sake of convenience. The endgame will be that the reputation of the school suffers.

PRINCIPAL ABUSE IS NOT ON!

PRINCIPAL STRESS ALLOWANCE – WHAT AN IRONY

Principals in the Northern Territory receive an annual allowance of several hundred dollars which they can use to help alleviate the symptoms of stress.

To my way of thinking this is an irony that borders on being farcical! Possibly the biggest faux pas is the presumption that all principals are going to be stressed and need this money to support them in a way that is almost soplike.

It’s as if the Dept Of Education is saying to Principal “you are going to be stressed. That may be in some form of abuse that’s directed at you. But here, take this money and use to buy stress relief support.”

What the Northern Territory Government and the Education Department should be doing is confronting the vulnerabilities our school leaders face head on and dealing with offensive issues rather than offering some sort of salutory support and tokenistic recognition.

On many occasions over the years, principals of government schools have been abused, sometimes quite horrifically. I’m not going to elaborate incidents but am aware of quite a few and could detail them to anyone interested. My concern is that every effort seems to be made by authorities to paint these incidents as minimalistic.

This off-handed treatment leaves principals (and others) who are abused feeling themselves to be people held in low esteem with little self worth. They can quite easily come to believe that nobody is interested in the situation and that they just have to wear the consequences of abuse.

And I believe that when principles (and all those connected with education delivery) are subject to abuse, that the legal section of the Education Department should get right behind them and force the issue all the way to the law courts. Nothing of this nature should ever be covered up. Principals should not be told in effect to “suck it up”.

Abuse is rife and incidents of abuse are becoming more common place. The answer to dealing with the issue is not create yet another policy but to enforce those policies already in place. What is needed is a proactive response rather than a reactive wimpier on the part of authorities.

To be abused is not part of the duty statement of any principal or school leader.

TEACHERS IN CRISIS POSITIONS

TEACHERS UNDER THE PUMP

Teachers in our classrooms are increasingly on the receiving end of conduct that is totally inappropriate from, it would seem, an increasing number of students. That may not of been confirmed by any formal tertiary study; however reports that are prepared by systems indicate a trend toward disrespectful and often physical behaviour by students toward teachers and those who are ministering to their needs in our schools.

Newspaper reports are often based on anecdote; however what is written needs to be taken into account and deserves a more active response that often given.

Without the shadow of a doubt teachers are well and truly under the pump and a more and more at the mercy of students who prefer to be antagonistic and disinclined toward learning rather than taking advantage of what’s offered in what should be a teaching learning

environment.

It galls me greatly to hear and to read of teachers who have objects thrown at them, who are hit, punched, pushed and hassled and who have to spend more more of their time trying to control unruly behaviour when they’re supposed to be getting on with the job of teaching.

What also galls me is the way in which education departments tend to go “softly softly“ on these issues. dept Of Education and education ministers need to grasp the natural on this one and come out on the side of teachers in a far more proactive manner and seems to be the case. Departments tend to “minimise” the issue and this often information that these incidents don’t happen very often.

Not true! They are happening more and more frequently, With greater and greater impact upon those subject to student behaviour, That is anti-classroom anti-learning and downright anti-social.

I take my hat off to our teachers unions who strive very hard indeed to raise the subject and to maintain it at the level of importance it deserves. I deplore departments of education who like to more or less pretend that these things are not going on, or if they are that incidents are minimal and isolated.

They are not minimal and they are not isolated! The number of teachers taking medical and stress leave (again anecdotal from a recording viewpoint) is proof positive that this blog is not me talking out the back of my hat.

Wake up government, wake up Dept Of Education and work on fixing this problem. Ignore it and watch what was a mole hill and is now a substantial hill turn into an absolute mountain.

EUTHANASIA MUST BE ALLOWED

I believe euthanasia to be a very critically important subject. It’s not one that can be swept under the carpet. I believe that euthanasia has a lot going for it and that we need to cut through the hype and the emotion that often detract from a rational and logical consideration of the subject.

I am a strong believer in euthanasia. When Marshall Perron introduced and had passed his “Terminally Ill Bill“ in the Northern Territory in 1996 I was delighted. I was equally as disgusted when the Federal Parliament voted up a recision bill move by Kevin Andrews and seconded by Tony Burke.

Since the time Perron bill was introduced then canned, Victoria and now Western Australia have passed on our passing laws legalising euthanasia under particular circumstances.

I wrote to Kevin Andrews on the subject quite some number of years ago and was less than impressed by his rather offhanded dismissive reply.

I am a 73-year-old man. Fortunately I have my faculties about me and I’m reasonably fit from a physical viewpoint. There would be no way knowing I’d want to be reduced to a mentally febrile or physically reduced person that can happen upon people in old-age.

My passion on and about the subject was conveyed to Kevin Andrews and I’m producing my letter sent to him via email a number of years ago. My thinking on the subject has not changed.

The letter is produced “as was” Quinn sent and I am including my thinking that embraced my letter at the time.

.EUTHANASIA – A LETTER TO KEVIN ANDREWS

I am a believer in and supporter of Euthanasia. I wrote the following letter to Kevin Andrews some time ago and share the text.

Dear Mr Andrews

For a long time I have been distressed by the fact that you saw fit to introduce a private member’s bill into the Federal Parliament during the Howard years, which went to the overturning of the Northern Territory Euthanasia Bill. This is a matter about which I have harboured resentment for many years.

The NT Euthanasia Laws were well shaped and carefully structured by our then Chief Minister Marshall Perron. It was a day of relief rather than rejoicement when those laws were enacted into legislation.

In opposite vein, it was a day of rather astounded and disbelieving sadness, yet inevitability, when your private member’s bill got its overriding guernsey in Federal Parliament. I do not know if this bill was your own initiative or whether you were prevailed upon to move it to the parliament by other members of the Coalition. In any case, the rescinding of our most reasonable NT Act did our Territory and Northern Territorians a great disservice.

It is interesting that, by degree, the world is starting to catch up with Mr Perron’s ‘Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill’, which became part of our law over 20 years ago.

I have just turned 70. In my time, members of my family have passed in sad circumstances during which their rationality and their humanity was progressively dismantled by creeping loss of body and mind. I have seen that happen for many people and my awareness grows with advancing age.

For mine, I am desirous of incorporating into the provisions of my hastening old age, a provision that should I become totally incapable or demented, to the point of my reliance on life becoming the full responsibility of others, that I be allowed to decline my mortality: That I be allowed this as a legitimate right to determine, while still of sound body and mind.

Your bill stripped me of a basic human right and the possibility of action that should be an entitlement. I was deeply disappointed in what you did then. That disappointment remains until this day.

Sincerely

Henry Gray

11 March 2016

Mr Andrews eventually replied in a nondescript manner. Just to tell me in broad brush terms that the Federal Parliament acting on its operational principles, scuttled one of the wisest, most decent and empathetic pieces of legislation ever introduced into any Australian Parliament.

I still seethe about Mr Andrews and the Federal Parliament for mechanically and unreasonably brushing aside the Marshall Perron Euthanasia Bill. Few things in my life have been unforgivable. This matter is an exception.

GONSKI and PERSONALISED LEARNING

GONSKI or no Gonski, the following should be necessary and scripted learning directions.

[* They need to start early in school life.]

* The teaching of LISTENING skills.

* The development eye contact.

* The development of manners, deportment, politeness, respect.

* The focus on looking after goods and personal possessions.

* Focus on speaking skills and the correct enunciation of words.

* Teaching times tables by rote.

* Teaching children the rudiments of handwriting including legibility.

* “How to hold a writing tool skilfully and comfortably”.

* Focus on respect for others and for self.

* Teaching and practising rthe importance of silence.

* Focus on correct word usage, not banalities and profanities.

I could go on.

The guts and the essence of character development, Gonski or no Gonski should happen and be prescriptive.

That may be hard when a lot of newer teachers who have not had the benefit of this teaching as students, find what I have written to be totally foreign.

Gonski or no Gonski, education is ever progressing south into theunderside of mediocrity.