False allegations are soul destroying, physically and mentally destructive. They can drive one into a deadly panorama of blackness through which glimmers but faint futuristic light.

False allegations are soul destroying, physically and mentally destructive. They can drive one into a deadly panorama of blackness through which glimmers but faint futuristic light.



They can be career ending and life destroying

Students deserve the very best in terms of pastoral care that can be offered, Teachers and leaders must be circumspect in their approach to matters of this nature. There is no room for compromise. However, to accuse teachers and school leaders falsely seems to have become a fashion. Lawyers ask those in toruble with the law to dig deeply into their memories in order to come up with instances of inappropriate conduct (particularly of a physical or sexual nature) that may have been put upon them when young; that in order to try and establish mitigating circumstances and lessen the impact of prosecution. To drege up some inapppropriateness for anywhere up to 30 years ago can give free rein to imagination.

I know for an absolute fact that false allegations of a historical nature can be absolutely embroiling. Suddenly alleged perpetrators are caught up in police investigations. They are presumed to be guilty until they can prove themselves to be innocent and can become instantly non-entitled to continue occupational engagement (if they are still teaching or working with young people) until the matter is resolved. That can take many weeks and months.

Surely the ultimate unhappiness for a teacher, particularly male teachers happens if they are falsely accused of wrongdoing in relation to students. Those who wrong children deserve punishment. However at times reporting of inappropriate conduct is mischevious and deliberate.

In Australia, with several commissions of inquiry happening in to alleged institutional abuse ovee time, advertisments and reporting coverage are rife with invitations for alleged victims to search their souls and come forth in reporting mode. Part of the inviration may be the lure of compensation at some future time.

Genuine matters need to be reported. However those who make mischevious, false and malevolent accusations are home free and there is no recourse in law for those falsely accused to seek justice. Even if innocent of accusations, the notion of ‘mud sticking’ is very real and slurs on character everlasting. Those falsely accused are never ever again in a good place.

While the matters after investigation may resolve and be found to have no substance, allegations have a huge impact the accused, so much so that the accused becomes the victim of the piece.

Whatever the reason for the reporting mischief, it has a deadly impact upon the psyche, inner feelings and wellbeing of the person against whom accusation is made. This impacts on the accused, affecting feelings of physical wellness and mental equilibrium. Although not guilty of sin the accused would feel like an abomination because these sorts of allegations cut very deeply. False allegations leave permanent scars, a deep unhappiness that may follow so accused educators beyond their retirement and into their graves.


Never ever underestimate the value of keeping a diary. You never know when you will be thankful you did!

Never ever underestimate the value of keeping a diary. You never know when you will be thankful you did!

In a previous entry I wrote of the value of record keeping. Many professionals keep brief records because of the time it takes to compile these documents. Over the years I have put hundreds and hundreds of hours into diary keeping and extended records including case notes. My diaries are personal documents. Copies of all other records were always kept. When I retired, these records came with me.

Records can help if one becomes involved with writing. As a regular contributor to newspaper columns and in writing for online and print publications my records have been an invaluable assist.

In recent years, it has become commonplace for past students to begin litigation against former teachers and principals. These actions can be about any number of issues, ranging from teaching ineptitude resulting in fail grades through to allegations of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Without the advantage of records, recall is at best vague and hazy. With the assistance of records, searches can be made to assist in refuting false and malicious allegations.

I strongly urge educators to establish the diary habit and practice record keeping. You never know when this habit will reward you for the effort.

VIGNETTES SERIES 6: Vignettes 20 – 22


Vignettes 20 – 22



There is a great deal of talk at the moment (2014) about “direct” teaching being a good way forward. This methodology is deemed to be especially appropriate for indigenous children. It is the model used at some schools on the Cape York Peninsula, and an approach espoused by advisor to our Prime Minister on educational matters Noel Pearson.

There is certainly a place and need for direct teaching because that is the way Primary engagement between teachers and students are best manifests.

With 32% of Northern Territory students being indigenous the proposition for use of this model certainly holds up.

From experience direct teaching works well. The model being spoken of as an emerging approach is certainly not new. Direct teaching methodology has been one practised by many teachers for a very long time. There may be different styles and emphases on the way it applies but direct teaching is direct teaching.

This approach certainly enhances the quality of engagement between teachers and students. It is about teachers “doing” things with students in an interactive context. When teachers direct or instruct children without actually engaging distance between teacher and students is created.

To involve and to do things with children in an instructional sense offers a superior approach to the teaching and learning task. It brings teachers and children closer together. When direct teaching takes place there is a strong in friends of teacher interest in what the children are doing and therefore in the quality of work outcomes. I believe this model adds meaning to teaching.



In Vignette 15, I touched on the need for teachers to “model” for their students. This extend is to include dress standards maintained by teachers in schools.

In my opinion it would be a good thing if the state and territory departments work to establish dress codes for teachers which were mandated. At one stage that used to be the case in some of the states.

With the passing of time departments have vested confidence in teachers that they will dress appropriately and according to standard setting. For most teachers follow a reasonable and sensible dress code, there are some who don’t enter in the correction.

Correcting teachers by advising on dress standards can be difficult and embarrassing. Where practicable it is advisable that female teachers should be spoken to about dress standards by a female member of the senior team. Likewise if mile teachers need advice that is best offered by a male member of the senior staff (if indeed there is a male in the senior leadership cohort).

I believe that the teacher dress does not need to be “over the top”. Neither should people dress scantily or inappropriately because this let’s the standard of our teaching profession down quite badly in the eyes of the public. Whether we like it or not, members of the community do talk about the way we dress and comment on our general behaviour and deportment.

Recently (2014) the New South Wales Department of Education introduced minimal standards of this for teachers which will be regulated in that state. This may have been because of a need for this issue to be addressed. Whether other departments will follow in a similar direction remains to be seen. It is to be hoped however, that teachers will dress in a way that shows their respect about profession so that regulation is not necessary.

I gained at the end of the day, teachers are modelling and setting standards for students. That is something we need to do in a respectful and empathetic manner. While it may be considered not proper to talk about these sorts of things the way we dress and our quality of deportment as teachers is certainly something that students and the public take into account when considering teachers and the profession.


Technology Can Create Separation

It is important that technology in classrooms and schools should be appreciated. It is important that teachers and students share teaching and learning opportunities,where these are enhances by the use of technology and equipment available. However, technological tools should never be allowed to stand in the place of the teacher.

Can be all too easy for teachers to recycle from direct interface with students, preferring instead to establish communications with learners through software packages available to support learning. Using attachments like blackboard, Skype, Scootle, and a myriad of other learning aids can help when it comes to refining and extending student learning. These devices must be under the control of teachers and structured in the way they are used to support student learning. It can be all too easy for teachers to hand pass their role in student learning development to the point of becoming detached.

The best most enriched learning comes from the contact developed and maintained between teachers and students. It is nice to “put a face on learning”! I believe students appreciate teachers who are there for them in a direct and first-hand context. To disengage, deferring classroom teaching practice to a robotic attachments with mechanical voices is anathema.

Perspective is important. Nothing can ever replace the first-hand relationships that develop and involve between sincere, committed teaching professionals and students primary, secondary and Treasury with whom they are engaging.

VIGNETTES SERIES 5 Vignettes 17 – 19


Vignettes 17 – 19


COMPUTER ‘LOCKDOWN’ (Follows from Vignette 2)

This thought relates to an earlier one about the need for teachers to be people who move around the classrooms. These days it is easier for teachers to become “captured” by the computers. They become “jailed” at their teachers table.

This happens because of the emphasis placed on darter collection and analysis. Everything comes back to darter driven outcomes. That being the case it is all too easy for teachers to be so focused on data collection that the computer is a constant companion. Rather than moving around the classroom and working with children there is a tendency to be deskbound asking children to really deliver results so the chicken input those into computer.

This in turn in carriages children to one-way traffic from their desks to the teachers table.

It is necessary in my opinion the teachers of all students, particularly early childhood and primary children to be among them, moving from desk to desk.

Data of course it does have to be input but if that takes priority over the mechanical manifestations of teaching and working with children directly then something needs to change.

It is important that teachers be aware of and make “mind notes” of the amount of time they spend incidentally context at their tables with their computers. That ought not to be the major percentage of time occupation.

I believe the children respect teachers who move among them. That movement is also necessary for teachers to get to know their pupils in the best possible way.

Teachers do have to spend time at their desks with their computers, but it should be reasonable and not overdone.

School days are hectic and “hurly-burly”. There is so much to do and so little time in which to do it! That being the case, it is easy for teachers and students to overlook the need for classrooms and personal space within (desks, tables, lockers and so on) to be kept in a reasonably clean and tidy state.

There can be nothing worse than opening a student desk to see a mass of learning material, waste material, socks, hats, toys, and other bits and pieces shoved in all higgledy-piggledy and to the extent that it’s hard to exert the pressure necessary to force the desk lid closed.

Another area easily sullied is the classroom floor. Pencil shavings, bits of writing tool, pieces of paper of all sizes, items of clothing, food scraps and wrappings if children needed the tables and other things finish up as then try to strewing around on the floor. Often the floors left in the polluted state until cleaners come in at the end of the day and endeavour to straighten out the chaos.

That is not a good look! Neither does it do anything for the reputation of the class or teacher – for cleaners certainly talk amongst themselves and to each other about the state of things they find in classrooms.

They need to be some basic rules about classroom cleanliness and tidiness. That can be hard because of pressure is driving on teachers and students. Nevertheless it is necessary. Some suggestions:

. Have children periodically (at least once a week) go through and clean the lockers of residue.

. Undertake the same routine for desks but possibly a little more often. Make sure the children have loose papers fastened into books or folders is the case might be.

. Have children or students pick up any rubbish from the floor at the end of each session or period. That become something done before recess and lunch breaks. If insisted upon that process becomes “automatic”, a habit of many children will undertake without having to be reminded.

. (Ensure that the above applies equally to older students as well as younger. Students will sometimes argue that it is not “cool” to pick up after oneself and to keep things tidy. That particular lackadaisical mindset needs to be overcome.)

. Check the children keep refrigerators closed and lunchboxes tidy within.

. If children aged lunches in the classroom, check to make sure that their lunch containers are clean, that they keep their food as they should, and that any genuine rubbish goes into the bin.

. Cupboards and, and Benchtops belong to the whole class. Include those areas in the cleanliness and tidiness drive. It might be appropriate to assign particular students groups to particular common areas within the classroom and it becomes their responsibility to ensure that tidiness is maintained.

* Make sure that the teacher for example is one that models to children. Teachers tables and work areas need to be kept tidy and organised in the same way as being advocated for children. There is nothing more powerful than personal example.

. Having students involved in group competitions reward cleanliness and tidiness in my opinion is a good idea. Rewards can be extrinsic or intrinsic. Reinforcing the need for positive civic attitudes is important and putting clean, tidy needs into some competitive context can be quite fun.


in our modern, technological age, it seems that every child has a mobile telephone, smart phone or similar device. It’s understandable the parents give their children phones in order that they might be contacted in emergency situations. However there is a time and place for their use. That time and place are definitely not within schools and certainly not in classrooms.

If children bring mobile telephones to school they need to be kept in their bags in their lockers. If there is a worry about security may be appropriate for teachers to take and lock these devices in a secure place.

It is altogether too easy these days for children and students to misuse smart phones. Sadly, there seems to be a trend toward taking inappropriate photographs of students who are being bullied, interfered with, or who are in compromised situations. These photographs of been circulating for all to see.

When this happens within a school context it casts the school, its leaders and staff in a poor light. When students have been embarrassed or injured and that recorded on phone camera all sorts of recriminations can come back on the school. A great deal of time is taken in trying to resolve issues and overcome the hurt occasions by the wrongful use of those devices.

Far better that the school have a rule that smart phones another recording devices do not belong within its boundaries.

We need to be aware of the trouble smart phones can cause if they used for wrong purposes and at the wrong times. They need to be carefully secured and not used during the school day.


This is my last column for 2014. It was published (in edired form) in the Suns Community Newspapers on December 17 2014


Another school year has passed into history. Despite distractions the essence of education, teaching and learning within our schools, has continued.

The EBA has occupied teachers, schools and the system for almost the whole of 2014. Sixteen months after it began impacting on government schools, the EBA was settled in the 39th week of the school year. Never ending negotiation resulted in unsettled relations between the government and its schools. Differences of opinion aired through the media impacted on the thinking of the NT community.

Staffing cuts affecting senior secondary schools from the start of 2014 added fuel to the EBA fire. These issues have played some part in transitioning many families toward enrolment in private schools.

Marketing plays a part in determining where parents enrol students. In an earlier column I suggested that schools ought to consider developing a media profile. There is little evidence to show this happening. The fortnightly ‘School to Work’ supplement in the NT News includes two pages of stories about schools, drawn from around the NT. Apart from the supplement, occasional stories are few and far between.

The issue of school attendance has been on the agenda in both urban and rural centres. Department of Education school attendance officers are fully occupied on most school days in our cities and towns. Further afield, ‘Nigel Scullion’s Army’ of federally funded truancy officers have been encouraging better school attendance from indigenous students. However, poor school attendance and absenteeism remains a Territory-wide problem.

The Territory continues to do poorly in the NAPLAN testing program. Schools and regions that do well ought to be celebrated because dismal overall statistics hide the positive results. While there is more to school than NAPLAN it is sometimes stated that these tests are the only tool available to measure school successes.

The Middle School Review undertaken by Vic Zbar and Bruce Wilson’s report into Indigenous Education were two major reviews this year. Both make strong recommendations for change. Zbar recommends student consultation and involvement in change management, a need too often overlooked.

The Wilson Report stresses early childhood and attendance needs. It advocates regional residential education for remote students, a method which was tried and failed in past decades. The tyranny of distance has been solved by many indigenous families. They have moved into urban and town centres, enrolling their children in primary and secondary schools. Growing multiculturalism is a strong demographic in our urban schools.

As the 2014 educational year reaches its endpoint, school principals and councils are left wrestling with the issues of global budgeting (GB). GB has sent alarm bells ringing throughout the system. This model of funding accountability was introduced to schools in September, to become operational from January 1 2015. It has caught many schools short. A longer lead time bringing global budgeting online at the beginning of 2016 would have been a better option. This issue is the number one challenge facing Robyn Lambley our newest Education Minister. Five changes to this ministry in less than two and a half years is not helpful because no minister has had the chance to fully develop within the role.

Territorians will be hoping education settles and goes places in 2015.

VIGNETTES SERIES 4 : Vignettes 14 to 16


Vignettes 14 – 16



The life confronting teachers is always busy. It is very easy to get behind with routine classroom tasks. One of the areas easily overlooked is that of marking children’s work. In particular, that can apply to book work, homework, and other tasks set for children. It can also include extra work set by way of sheets or other materials children asked to complete. These days children do a lot of work online and sometimes submit files for marking. That happens for both primary and secondary school students.

It’s extremely disappointing to students if work submitted for marking is overlooked. Initially children will be very disappointed that work has not been marked. If non-marking becomes a habit, then attention paid by children to work tasks will gradually decline. The reason for that is a belief that even if work is submitted to their very best standards, this will not be recognised or acknowledged. In short, children can come to believe the teachers are disinterested in what they produce.

That in turn takes from the self-esteem children feel, the pride in self and their attitude toward work tasks. If teachers file to mark work in the way suggested this can become very demotivating for children. Regardless of everything else they may believe that teachers are not into rested in them.

If a child brings to your attention the fact of work to be mark is outstanding, my suggestion is to apologise and then set about marking the assignment as quickly as practicable. Letting students know that this has been an oversight on your part as a teacher will not hurt. Children respect honesty.


When marking, do so as thoroughly as possible. My suggestion is to correct spelling, punctuation, and other omissions. They’re so neatly and in a different coloured pen open parenthesis preferably red) to block the child has used.

Children appreciate comments written on work and I believe that stickers or stamps are an absolute “must”.

Students love to share our appreciation for work show on by teachers with the parents, siblings and with others. Teacher care and attention to marking can be the icing on the cake for students I like to know the work is appreciated this will help them further in a motivational context.



I don’t believe that we can over estimate the importance of teachers modelling for students. This goes for primary and secondary students.

In some contexts teaching is regarded as being a profession in which one group (teachers) tells the other group (students) what to do and how it should be done. This of course is rather simplistic definition of teaching and learning processes. It hardly examples the interaction and togetherness that ideally embraces teachers and pupils in teaching/learning contexts.

One of the very important aspects of the leadership offered by teachers is the modelling they do through their own personal example and conduct. Students being young look to and emulate teachers and others. An example of this is the children often tell the parents that particular viewpoint is right because it is what the teacher thinks, therefor it must be right.

Without being prescriptive in anyway, I believe that modelling extends to include the following:

Dress standards
Speech patterns and modelling – setting a bright example free speech and vocalisation.
Showing respect.
Handwriting, including in students books and on whiteboards.
Correct spelling and accuracy in word usage.

This list could go on, but I’m sure you get the drift. Teachers deal with the development of people. It’s as we do and how we are that is so important to those we teach and shape toward being the adults of tomorrow.



One of the most important things about offering security to children is the way in which teachers speak “with” them. Often it’s a case of teachers talking “at” or “to” those they are teaching.

When dealing with each other in staffrooms or collaborative sessions or during professional development sessions, teachers speak conversationally. They each feel comfortable with the other and conversations reflect this attitude.

When dealing with children however, teachers often lose the conversational element replacing it with what might be termed “command language”. The niceness of speech often dissipates and delivery takes on a quite harsh quality.

Metaphorically speaking teachers when dealing with each other, are somewhat like motorcars which come along quietly from point a to point b. However, when relating to children those same teachers trade the cars for four wheel drive vehicles, lock them into 4×4 and then grate their way through conversation with children in a manner that can be far from pleasant. Language can be embracing or off putting. In order to draw children close in terms of comfort, qualities of conversation and vocalisation are important. There is no way the teachers will draw children in and toward them if their language is the push off in terms of its invitation.



Vignettes 11 – 13


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 he 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. I gained, 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.


It is all too easy bees days for teachers to become disassociated from the classroom teaching space and somewhat “distant” from pupils in terms of the seating within. This has come about in part because of our preoccupation with computer and with the requirement that we are forever developing data to input, indicating student progress.

Unfortunately it can happen that teachers very rarely leave their tables because of attachment to this device. Communication with students across the classroom is by voice.

I believe that in terms of location it is important for teachers to be aware of the physical essence of the children and where those students sitting.

As a person who sometimes works at schools level with teachers on practice I follow the rule of drawing a map and over a period of time showing how, where, and when teachers have moved around the classroom to contact students the desk level. This can be done into Waze. The first is to have a photograph of the classroom as it’s set up but without students at desks. On the face of that “blank” draw a line that tracks the route followed by teachers around the classroom over a period of say 20 minutes. The other method more simply is to draw an outline of the classroom including desk locations. In the same way track the teacher for a point in time indicating direction of movement by occasional arrows across the track path.

Student teachers always appreciate that feedback, for a chosen just where they’ve been how they’ve moved, which students have been contacted the most, which the least and so on. It also shows students in terms of the movement toward a teacher rather than allowing the teacher to circulate.

It is very important for teachers to spend time with each student and this is best done by getting away from the teachers table, leaving the computer mobile’s, then moving around talking to students and seeing how their work at an individual or group level within classrooms is progressing.

The other great thing about this methodology is that it helps teachers to get to know students, to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses and to better understand the way they relate to each other with in the classroom. This awareness is very important and sadly often overlooked.


This vignette in part is a follow-on from Vignette 12. When moving around classrooms and relating to children at desk level, it is important not to “Loom”. Looming is to stand above the child looking down at the child causing the child was down there to look up at you the teacher. This place is the child at some disadvantage when it comes to communication with the teacher. It may also give the impression that the teacher is much more important as a person than the students because of the hype differential.

As well, students often have developing voices and the further away you are the less chance there is of catching for the child is saying. Misunderstandings can happen.

It is far better for teachers moving around classrooms to bend down, Neil, or Steve when talking to children so that they looking at each other more or less from the same level. My experiences that this builds the quality of contact between teacher and student. One of the advantages is that it enhances I contact and enables teacher and student to talk to each other with lowered and therefore more conversational voices.

To get down and work closely with students also builds confidence in relationships particularly from the Charles viewpoint towards his or her teacher. It overcomes the perception that can be held by children at the teacher is above all and somewhat remote as a person from them as pupils.

Try it! It works.