It is time, and overtime, for school based educators to get onto the front foot in response to matters within the arena of educational debate. For far too long, educators in schools from Principal to classroom teachers and support staff, have been reacting to pressures from above. ‘Above’ includes the supposed educational support area embraced within the overall systemic educational hierarchies. (This is often referred to as Educational ‘Carpetland’.)

For eons of time, those in schools have been beaten around the ears with demands, suggestions, requirements and imposed priorities coming from above. ‘Above’ ultimately is higher and more rarified than system carpetlands. The head office of every Australian State and Territory Educational System is under the command of its relevant Education Minister. Notwithstanding the things said about consultation and lip service paid to the idea that discourse precedes policy, it is true to say that a great deal of what is imposed on systems by governments is done in quite not-consultative and dictatorial fashion.

This means that a great deal of demand placed upon systems is done on the spur of the moment and without proper consideration of policy pros and cons.

It needs to be understood that State and Territory Governments in turn have demands placed upon them by the Australian Government. Hearsay and general awareness would suggest that most things happening in our schools are at Federal behest. This is because of compliance and accountability tags attached to money made available for educational initiatives. I believe while States and Territories espouse the merits of independence in decision making and priority setting, their capacities in this regard are very limited. Unless they do things ‘The Australian Government way’ and comply with the strings attached to monetary grants, funding can be partially of wholly withheld.


On the face of it, there should be opportunity for State and Territory Education Ministers and Chief Executive Officers to discuss matters relating to educational policy and development in a frank and reasonable manner. From what I understand, these conversations rarely happen. I have been told that the agenda for COAG along with discussion papers are often presented close to meeting times, giving little time for fair and proper consideration of the issues at hand.

As a long term school based educator who for many years wore the pointy end of decisions I have come to believe that the (Australian Government) Education Minister and Department of Education say “jump”: State and Territory counterparts respond with “how high”! Healthy educational debate rather than weak-kneed acquiescence to Commonwealth demand is necessary.

A still recent and massive example of this need relates to the Building Education Revolution program (BER) that poured billions of dollars into States and Territories for infrastructural development. While facilities were added to schools both private and Government, prescription about what could and couldn’t be constructed strictly curtailed the value of money for facilities in many individual circumstances. Many schools would have willingly used funds to supply human rather than material resources, in order to support teaching and learning programs. That option was not available.


For years and years school based educators have been beaten up by government and by members of the public at large because of student under performance. The fact that students achieve less successfully than their overseas counterparts is an achievement shortfall laid squarely at the feet of educators.

(In rushing to this comparative judgement, it matters not that the socio-cultural and geo-topographical Australian context is wildly different to similar overseas contexts. Our multiculturalism and the vastness of our ‘wide brown land’ makes Australia a vastly different and uniquely individual place within which education has to be provided.)

It seems with the passing of time student competence and levels of achievement are declining. This is small wonder, when one considers the impacts upon society of changing preferences and pressures placed by an increasingly cosmopolitan and rapidly growing population. A further exaggeration impacting upon us is the sad fact that society in wealth terms is definitely two tier with the pauper class a growing group because of cost escalation.

It is time to stop being reactive and start being proactive in educational matters. We need to play a part in shaping educational priorities and futures.



When students needed to lift their standards, teachers and parents used to work at encouraging students. Now it is a case of non-perfoermance being the teacher’s fault.

How the worm turns.

One of the sad transitions that has occurred over the past forty years has been the gradual turn of student performance issues back onto teachers. It used to be that genuine (real) non-effort on the part of students became a concern shared by teachers with parents. Together then would exhort students toward greater engagement. These days, the minimal outcomes achieved by students with such dispositions is blamed back onto teachers in an almost sole fashion. Teachers are hammered if children don’t achieve, notwithstanding the commitment of the child and the support of home. Teachers are handed few bouquets but are regularly clouted about their heads by figurative brickbats. Small wonder the joy of teaching is so short-lived and so full of dissolution for many classroom educators.



Maybe some universities need to place more onus of responsibility on students. Attendance optionality at lectures, tutorials or at organised online sessions is anathema. Seems that some universities are happy to extract course fees for students than cut them so much slack there is no further obligation upon those students other than the completion of assignments or attendance at exams.

I am a part time lecturer and supporter of students at the CDU. I value my role with them and I know they appreciate their engagement with me. Importantly, we know each other as people. During sessions we are on the same plane together. I also have to mark assignments. Marking work submitted by ‘invisible and unknown’ students is a lot harder than knowing those whose work you are marking. Marking rubrics go some of the way but they don’t tell markers about student character.

I worry about students who enrol internally or externally in courses, then overlook course requirements. The university makes but the students who operate this way gain very little in terms of the learning collective. My role is with education. Education involves sharing. One of the skills encouraged with pre-service teachers is that they are able to developing collaborative skills. Relationships with peers, parents and students are important. If training in isolation is encouraged, little is being done to develop the togetherness aspect of what teaching is all about.

It is good to know students whose work you are marking. When you don’t know and have never met people whose work you are marking, both they and you are at some disadvantage.
My internal groups is not huge – 12 students tops. And yes, I would be very sure that we are on the same situational plane. I work in an old fashioned but effective way with students.

I have done online work with big numbers and make it my business to establiash an e-mail data base enabling me individual or collective contact. If they want a phone conversation, students can email or message and I’ll return calls and discuss issues. I also encourage students to network each other.

Over 40 plus years I have built considerable resource material and have most of it in electronic form. These resources I share with students on request or if I think a particular issue can be supported with materials I have to hand. My indexing system gives me fairly quick access to these materials.

I always ask students to feed back on practical experience (as pre-service teachers) in terms of both celebrations and challenges. I am writing a series of vignettes (70 to date) oriented toward providing students with ideas.

I have had much feedback from students appreciating this approach.

My other point is that lectures are not lectures. Our programs follow a structure and meet course requirements but it is all done conversationally. A three hour time period, with a break at the half way mark, quickly passes.

I would never claim to be conventional but that is not the major issue.


While written from the viewpoint of appreciating women as educational leaders and managers, my belief would be that they bring enrichment to all organisations.  We discount them to our clear and distinct disadvantage.



In all forums with some minor header changes

Women are key players at all levels. I believe the following attributes to fit their character as ‘the invaluable group’.

1. Women are all seeing, all knowing and able to join in fifteen conversations at once.
2. Women are aware: They have 360 degree vision.
3. Women have clear goal orientation and crystal-like focus.
4. Women cut to the chase and don’t dither around the edges of issues.
5. Women are careful synthesisers and succinct summarisers of situations.
6. Women are adept at timetabling and planning; they are meticulous plan followers.
7. Women have awareness.
8. Women show empathy to those who are under the pump.
9. Women excel in engaging others in planning and organisation.
10. Women have excellent leadership and participative perspective. They are both on the organisational balcony with all-encompassing vision and on the dance floor with and among those engaged with endeavour.
11. Women make an extraordinary contribution in going forward.
12. Women contribute proactively to staff endeavour and leadership balance within schools and systems.



Women are all seeing, all knowing and able to join in fifteen conversations at once. I mean this in a totally appreciative and complimentary context. The broad based awareness women have of their surrounding environment makes them the superior gender when it comes to awareness. They have, in my opinion, a panoramic appreciation of what is going on around them. Ladies read body language and more empathetically understand reactiions of others than do men. Not only can they contribute to a conversation in which they are participating; they also gain appreciation of the tenet of surrounding dialogue. These finely honed environmental skills add to their situational awareness. As a male leader, I was always wise in seeking feedback from female staff leaders on matters we were dealing, for this helped inform in a way that was beyond my own interpretative capacities.


Another quality vested in women and often lacking in men, is a capacity for 360 degree vision. The expresssion ‘eyes in the back of their heads’ fits because of the totality of awareness with which ladies are blessed. After a staff meeting involving 40 or 50 people, I always felt it wise to ask the women members of my leadership team for their feedback because the meeting elements I missed (body language, eye exression, non-verbal contact between people) they picked up. This enabled us to appreciate the meeting more fulsomly than would have been possible for me alone, or in conversation with another male. This is just another quality with which women are blessed and which mmen can fail to recognise.


From working with many women over the life of my teaching career I can vouchsafe for their clear goal orientation and crystal-like focus. Ladies, far more than men can divine a path that leads through from aims and objectives to goal outcomes. While there are always exceptions, I felt that women with whom I worked were less likely to be sidetracked by diversions than men. Their approach and priorities establishment helped me, in terms of reminding about the fact I needed to keep on time and on task. Oven many years, I was blessed to have some outstanding female members of the leadership groups which developed at my schools.


Women cut to the chase and don’t dither around the edges of issues. When confronted by tasks, they quickly align the best and most efficient way to get from task start to goal accomplishment. They do accept advice but are able to synthesise and sift valid suggestion from what might be extraneous. Women are less bogged down when it comes to dealing issues than many men. They are definitive in approach and get things done. While appreciating the contributions of those who approach shared tasks positively, they are not in the business of treating foolishness lightly. While valuing the contributions of some men within my operational sphere over the years, I knew that if something needed to be done quickly, efficiently, accurately and conclusively, it was best to delegate management and decision making to a woman.


It is common for women to be demeaned by men, who have them as garrulous and gossiping. This is entirely unfair and equally, incorrect. Both men and women are want to wax lyrical in social situations but when it comes to business and organisational propriety, women are far from idle chatterers. They are quick and adept at taking on board information about issues, summarising succinctly and drawing out the main points conversations confirm as needing attention. In my opinion, they do this better than men.

The capacity of ladies to synthesise and extrapolate to directions it would be wise to follow is well established. It is a fact that women have this capacity. To listen but then quickly work through to a point of where the organisation, based on information to dater, can go forward with confidence makes them people who contribute magnificently to organisations.


Women are adept at timetabling and planning; they are meticulous plan followers. I believe they are far better at meeting deadlines than men who are in charge of organisations. Over the years I was blessed to work with ladies as members of leadership teams and had cause to thank many of them over the years for keeping me focussed and on track. Our leadership ‘mix’ always included men and women and without female contribution we would have been less effective leadership teams. Many was the time I had cause to thank the female cohort for reminding me of and insisting on the follow through of timelined obligations.

One of my smartest moves was to delegate (both task and decision making responsibilities) to ladies who were members of our leadership groups. They ensured that we managed in an ‘on time and on task way’. For mine, they come up trumps.


Women who lead have a 100% awareness of what is going on within and around their organisations. Their sixth sense, womanly intuition, enables them to know what is happening within the school, company or enterprise. They have a sense that keeps every aspect of their domain within their mind’s eye. Men’s awareness is less broad, less perceptive and far less acute.

Knowing their places of work so intimately enables female leaders monitor the performance of their teams. They are not nosy and intrusive, simply aware. I believe Gail Kelly, Westpac’s CEO demonstrates these leadership principles. so too, do many women who are involved within leadership teams. What blessings they bring to their workplaces.


This gets slightly away from my focus on education.  However, the consideration  of macro-issues (our economy is a macro issue) is important.  I confess to feeling pessimistic about the direction in which this country is heading and how it is managing the economy.


*We have lost manufacturing industries to overseas destinations.
*We have a Fair Work Act that is strong on rhetoric but in many cases short on practical and sensible expediency.
*We have introduced massive red tape and bragged about the easing of paperwork accountabilities.
*We have sold residential property to overseas interests in such volume as to price Australians out of the housing market.
*We have sold and keep selling massive tracts of agricultural land to overses interests.
*We have agreed to free trade agreements which open Australian markets to foreign imports, tenders for goods supply and priority to overseas suppliers to the detriment of domestic interests.
*We have offered huge tax concessions to major industry in a way that almost lets them off the tax hook.
*We allow mining exploitation and business profits otherwise to generate benefit for overses companies and their foreign shareholder base.
*We borrow and spend $100,000,000 each day more than is generated by our domestic production.
*We endorse greater and greater percentages of our GDP being spent on offsetting interest accumulating on our government borrowings. We believe that major indebtednes is a wonderful thing.
*We discourage workers through increasing tax imposts..
*We think that salaries for CEO’s and Government Department Heads should be paid in their hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars each year.
*We are overgoverned to glory. We have too many layers of government.
*We pay retired politicans benefits that are generous to the point of being almost immoral.
I could go on.

No wonder we have a tattered economy and a fractured economic outlook. The future is bleak.



It seems that the thrust of education is toward developing opportunities for students to progress through the practise of technology supported learning . Devices from electronic smart boards to computers, iPads and other devices are front and centre. More and more schools are developing a “bring your open device” policy when it comes to technology. It seems that the children are increasingly immersed in technologically focused learning.

There is a place for technology in our schools. However if devices replace teachers it will be to the detriment of education. The best learning outcomes are achieved through direct interaction. When using computers and iPads, children can easily log out of learning and go onto some amusement or games application.

Approach to lessons and learning needs to be based on time and organisation. There needs to be a patterned and ordered approach to learning. Taking teachers out of the equation and replacing them with computer controlled programs, detracts from education.

The emphasis in the NT is toward Direct Instruction (DI). Concern about poor educational outcomes has lead to a revival of this instructional method. “The Direct instruction strategy is highly teacher-directed and is among the most commonly used. This strategy is effective for providing information or developing step-by-step skills. It also works well for introducing other teaching methods, or actively involving students in knowledge construction.” (Instructional strategies online, Saskatoon Public Schools)

Explicit teaching, lectures, drills, specific questioning, demonstration and the guiding of listening, reading, viewing and thinking are direct instructional practices. DI is about close interaction of teachers with students to enhance teaching and learning opportunities. Computers and iPads by their very nature can put distance between students and teachers. If their use is not carefully managed they can become a distraction.

A very important part of teaching and learning is the way body language and facial expression impact on classroom outcomes. Teachers can sense confidence about what if being taught through student responses. Similarly, students can sense how their teachers feel about work being completed. Shared personal contact within classrooms is a very important part of learning. Computer based education does not allow students or teachers to appreciate body language or facial expressions.

Technology has its place in education as a support to learning. However classroom focus should be about interaction between teachers and students. Replacing teachers with computers will impact negatively on the quality of learning and educational outcomes.




Quality education is influenced by the relationships that develop between students, teachers and parents. There are two other groups who make great contributions to education within schools.
* School support staff who add value within administrative and classroom contexts.
* Volunteer people who give their time in support of schools.

The contribution made to their schools by volunteers can be easily overlooked. Parents and caregivers who are able to spare an hour or two here and there can be of great help in a number of ways. They might hear children read, help with changing readers, or be support people when teachers take classes on short excursions. One school last year had parents and school supporters come in to help with an oral reading program that took place each day.

There are many ways in which volunteers support their schools.
* Assistance in school libraries with cataloguing, shelving and covering books.
* Assisting schools with supervision on sports days or extended outings.
* Assistance with extended Territory and Interstate excursions and camps.
* Sewing programs to help with making costumes, making library bags, art/craft aprons and so on.
* Volunteering time to support fundraising ventures.
* Offering as volunteer school crossing monitors.
* Supporting school canteens through cooking or being on the serving roster.
These are a few of the ways in which parents and community members can support schools.

Where are the Volunteers?

Parental work commitments has reduced the potential pool of school volunteers. However, having parents give a little time to their school on rostered days off happens in some schools. Advertising for volunteers in newsletters or on websites may generate a positive response. Personally inviting parents to volunteer time or approaching residents in senior villages may help build a volunteer list.

Those who volunteer need to be cleared by a police check and also have to obtain an Ochre Card confirming their suitability to work with children. School councils sometimes elect to pay the costs of obtaining these clearances. People are able to support schools through volunteer service once these matters have been finalised.

Volunteers should not be taken for granted. Acknowledging them with certificates of appreciation, sponsored morning teas and other periodic tokens of recognition will help cement their relationships with schools. Invitations to school assemblies and concerts may help them feel included within schools. Those who give of their time and share their talents with schools are a valued group. Without their contribution, schools would be the poorer.


Teachers should “model” for their students. This extends 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 believe 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.


Helpful hints and background thoughts.   Readers may find these useful.

What children and students derive from lessons and lectures is proportionate to the planning and preparation efforts of teachers and lecturers. Attitude is partially instilled by visible practice.

‘Remembered’ teachers and educators are those recalled by students years later as people who cared and made a difference. To remember that ‘schools are for children’ should never ever be forgotten.

When the career pathways of teachers and educators are finished, the ‘results’ of their contributions are left behind. Those results reflect through the lives of past students, now today’s adults.

It is too easy in these technological days of computers, calculators and other gadgetry to discount the importance of spelling, tables, handwriting, even thinking. Neglect is disservice to students.

There is a lot of debate these days about whether or not handwriting should be taught at school. In some countries, including Finland and the United States, handwriting has gone by the by. Rather than being taught how to use a pen, all students are given the opportunity to learn keyboard skills including touch typing.

While trying to understand why this change has occurred I would be the very last person to advocate that handwriting should become a skill of the past. Rather I believe that it should endure forever.

I am certainly not down on keyboards and computers. But for children to have both handwriting and keyboards is optimal. To become mono skilled with handwriting going out the door would be altogether wrong. There are many many occasions in life when handwriting is important and indeed the only written communications method available.

When teaching handwriting, the “3 P’s” rudiments immediately comes to mind. That has to do with the methodology of writing. It is about;
* pencil or pen hold
* paper position
* posture – the way we sit in order to write most effectively and comfortably.

Stressing these things over and over again until they become habitual is important.

Part of handwriting is teaching children how to hold a pen or pencil so that it is comfortable and their fingers and wrists don’t ache. Watching people write these days can be quite a torturous experience because of the way in which writing tools are held. It’s obvious from observation that many people have never been taught how to write. That is an absolute pity.

These days specific handwriting lessons are often not offered in class. Or it may be that there is a handwriting text where children simply open and copy what’s written for them. I believe that those texts are enhanced by use of a transcription book and also with teachers demonstrating letter formation, joins, words and so on the whiteboard. The idea of children learning by copying really helps when it comes to handwriting development.

The way paper or writing books are positioned helps when it comes to the slope of letters. Writing from left to right is part of this and can be difficult particularly for left-handed children. Left-handers tend to “drag” their arms across pages as they write from left to right meaning that dog ears and crumpled pages become the norm. Train children as they finish a line of writing to lift their arm going back to the start of the line.

Support children with lessons as a transition from printing to writing script style. Linked script is part of this and it does take time to teach. Little and often is important and I would suggest a handwriting lessons every day.

Remember to comment on handwriting and praise the effort that students put in to the script. Be they printing or writing this praise will help.

Handwriting is so important. It needs to be revived not neglected.


I once read that ‘to teach is to touch lives forever’. There can be no doubt that the influence of good teachers positively impacts developing lives and questioning minds in a life-long manner.


The essence of education should be the development of children and students to take their place as the adults in tomorrow’s world. This essence of education should not be supplanted by the trivial.

Educational policy and direction seems to wrap thoroughly around the needs of students at the lower end of the learniing spectrum. We should not overlook those in the middle and at the top end.


Listening, speaking reading and writing are essential communication skills. Use of technology often substitutes for live conversation. Texting and messaging have their place but ought not replace face-to-face speaking and listening. Correct sentence structure including the use of punctuation, word choice, intonation and clarity should be built into verbalisation. Children also need to clearly hear messages so they understand what has been said. Unclear speech and poor listening skills can develop from lack of practice and the substitution of keyboard communication. Reading from texts may be supplemented by electronic media but should never be supplanted by screen reading. Nothing beats books.

Keyboard skills and the ability to electronically produce written text adds to the student repertoire. This should never be at the expense of handwriting. Mastery of paper and pen communication is important, enabling the written word to be produced anywhere and at any time.

Technology supports education but in no way should it replace traditional literary and mathematical teaching and learning. Should that happen, students will be the losers.

Some say private education is good as parents have to pay to enrol their children. Public education is mediocre at best and best avoided because it is ‘free’. People tend to look down on free things.


From birth until death, education is an incremental and ongoing process. It never stops. Those who think they know it all do themselves a grave disservice because there are always new things to learn.


So much about education has a “modern” and “new age” emphasis. A great deal of what happens educationally is driven by technology. Some believe that technology has supplanted the need for learning basics. Computers, iPads and other technologies have their place in supporting students. However, they should always be tools used to enhance assignment preparation and work requirements. If students rely on devices to provide spellchecking, grammatical correctness, accurate mathematical formulae and so on, they may meet learning requirements without understanding what they have done. This is especially the case when voiceover or on-screen directions advise students what to do next in reaching toward solutions and answers.

Cognitive understanding suffers when directed learning fails to provide pupils with the understanding of ‘why’ solutions and answers are correct. This reliance on technological assistance can start in primary school and extend all the way through to tertiary study. That takes away from students their ability to reason and think. Computers and iPads become a crutch on which they lean too heavily to help satisfy learning requirements. There can be nothing more dissatisfying for students, than not understanding solutions to questions that are solved by technology, rather than their own brain power.

Work life balance for all, including students, is important. Study, including homework, should not be so voluminous that is gives students little time for relaxing, reinvigorating and having fun.

As teachers and principals we need to work on catching students and staff doing something good so we can offer praise. Meaningful and sincere not shallow and trite compliments. Praise pays dividends.

Curriculum priorities and teaching strategies are constantly changing. It is important to keep up with the times. Schools also need to offer predictability and steady state development to students.

From working with pre-service teachers, the issue of almost universal concern is that of classroom management and achieving as teachers in a context of dealing with respectful, motivated children.


From speaking with a lot of pre-service teachers, I believe the thing they celebrate most is being able to make a difference. They rejoice when children come to love learning and personal progress


From time to time print and online articles emphasise the importance of workplace satisfaction and happiness. Some even address the need for work places to be fun places. Humour, laughter and light-heartedness are promoted as having tension relieving capacity. Inherent within this is a suggestion that not everything we do will be perfect and errors will be made. We need to have the ability to reflect on our mistakes and learn from them about how to improve and do things more successfully. An element of this ‘sitting back’ is the ability to reflect seriously but also light-heartedly because there is often a funny side to outcomes.


There is a need for those who share workplaces to ‘give and take’. We should welcome the evaluation of our efforts by others and be prepared to offer feedback to them as colleagues. It is important for well-being that people within organisations are able to share with each other. This includes the both receiving and giving of advice and appreciation.


I really admire teachers and school staff members who have a deep, enduring and long term commitment to their roles as student educators and supporters.

Some use schools as trampolines – launching pads to greater glory. How wrong it is that some are selfishly motivated. I have nothing against upward mobility but if schools are ‘used’ by those who want to climb to the top regardless, those who get to the top may find a lack of respect held for them by those who were colleagues.


It is over-the-top naval gazing and ‘paralysis by analysis’ that has become the major preoccupation with systems. Accountability is rampart and trust in teachers and their judgement discounted.


I always remembered student and staff birthdays with letters to students and cakes for members of staff. These remembrances paid dividends. They confirmed my appreciation for staff and students.

At the end of each week, we should mark time. We need to pause, reflect on the week that has been, consider what we have done well and give thought to tasks confronting us in the week ahead.