hope that 2016 can be the ‘Year of Common Sense’ for education. Research is important, so too are new initiatives. We ought also appreciate and continue to develop approaches and strategies that work well.

A worry for me is that too often, things that are working well, are tossed out simply because they have been around for a long time, AND WORKING WELL. I suspect there care times where teachers and school leaders who want something new because what they have is old hat and boring – no matter that what is in place works well and for the betterment of students. Is tossing aside proven my practice, really a common sense approach? Or is there a certain giddiness and excitement about new ideas that causes us to supplant practice without regard for the fact that this may work against the best interests of students?

May ‘common sense’ prevail in educational pursuits during 2016.

FOR POLITENESS SAKE – Uphold and Model Respect and Good Manners

These days, manners are not practised by habit. Many children (and adults) are poorly mannered. It seems that a big percentage have never been taught the rudiments of good manners at home. Child care programs may try but their prime focus is on minding, not on teaching.

All too frequently children overlook ‘excuse me’, ‘please’, ‘thank you’. ‘i beg your pardon’ and so on. Although it gets monotonous, correcting students who overlook these essences of politeness and good manners is important. Commenting in a praising context to children who do remember to use these words and expressions can offer positive reinforcement.

One of the most frequent oversights occurs when children butt into conversations being held by teachers with another student or students. That impetuosity certainly needs correction. Children need to appreciate the need to wait their turn when dealing with teachers.

Manners can be broached through appropriately constructed lessons. To involve students in situational role play where manners need to be practised can help. Periodic classroom discussions about manners and politeness might be useful.
The subject could be broached through a Socratic Discussion session.

Strategies to reinforce the need for good manners including reinforcement through daily classroom interaction should be part of teaching and learning strategy.


Excursions can play a very important part in extending educational understandings for children. To study in classrooms and to learn in the traditional way and also through online all library extension is fine. If children can be taken out on visits to places being studied, that really helps. To “see” what one is being taught and to observe things as they happen in action reinforces and cements learning. Excursions can help make learning live.

There is a need to prepare students for excursions. Ideally, excursions should be the middle segment of the lesson or learning sequence. The initial elements of lessons lead into the excursion, with follow up after the excursion tying the venture into learning outcomes. All excursions should be relevant. There is at times a tendency for excursions to be stand alone affairs with disconnection from teaching.

Binding excursions into the text of learning is part of the warp and weft of the learning fabric. These activities have a meaningful part to play in teaching and learning. They can enrich the program and add value to educational outcomes.


I wanted to wish everyone connected with WordPress and who have shared my blog all the very best for Christmas and the New Year.

On January 1 each year, for many years, I have anticipated the months ahead and considered how far we had to go until year’s end. Suddenly we are looking back on the year that has been, and looking toward the next.

Thank you for the professional time we have shared during the year. Thank you too, for taking the time to read my blog.The beauty of ‘WordPress’ is the 24/7 connection it offers. I am often sitting and talking, watching TV with one eye, or listening to the radio when engaging with material that finds a home on my blog.

I hope this hear has been one of success and fulfilment. And I hope the goals you set for 2016 will be satisfied.

All the very best.

Henry Gray


We hear lots about the need to focus on the four element of literacy, reading, writing, speaking and listening. They are all important.

Unfortunately, they are sometimes regarded in ‘cart before the horse’ terms of importance. Reading and writing are held to be the major players in this literacy quartet. Speaking and listening, ESPECIALLY LISTENING are discounted.

Listening should be considered the first and very foundational literacy skill. Certainly it is the quality that engages babies and very small children. In terms of acquisition, listening, speaking, reading and writing develop in that order. Certainly these literacy skills are developed in what becomes a melded or blended fashion. They complement and reinforce each other.

The onus placed on reading and writing, discounting listening and speaking as happens, contributes to poor listening skills. Cognition and comprehension are both impacted. Also discounted by non-listening attitudes can be respect for the opinions of others.

Speaking cogently, politely and correctly also needs re-engagement. Sloppy speech is not a quality of which the user can be proud. What is said and HOW it is said are important quality.

Correct speech and careful listening are literacy attributes can can and do build confidence in people. They should never ever be consigned to second class status.


In retirement from full time work but as an educator who still makes peripheral contribution, I have discovered something very interesting.

When in full time work within schools, principals and their staff members are on the ‘inside’ looking ‘out’. New ideas, approaches, initiatives and priorities developed within the wider policy and planning domain, after some pre-consideration, are funnelled down on to schools to pilot, trial, implement and generally manage. New initiatives (so called) often come down in volume, meaning those in schools have very little time to think about what might be entailed before they have to wrangle them into place. It is this imperative that gives riser to the complaints of curriculum overcrowding and lack of time to work systematically and in a carefully managed context.

Schools are the end-point of these new educational directions . Implementation is often compulsory and has to be undertaken within a very limited time frame. The consequence of this methodology is that those in schools are case into reactive do mode. they have little time to consider the Genesis and the evolution of initiatives before they land on schools. Principals and staff members, along with school councils and communities of students and parents are discouraged by these pressures from giving genuine feedback. They have little time for talking because they are so busy doing.

The bigger picture

Once retired and with the pressure of day-to-day work lifted from one’s shoulders, the chance to consider proposed change takes on a different character. It becomes possible to view issues from the outside (the school) looking in rather than being inside the school looking out (at systems and government positions).

Being able to consider issues in a more dispassionate and less intimate weary does provide the chance for consideration and also for contribution to the shaping of policies and programs before they are down lined to schools. This can be done through contribution to working parties and accepting invitations to make submissions during discussion phases of change being considered. Some retirees joint committees considering policies at this level.

Walking away from education when retired does not afford this opportunity. For those who remain in touch, there can be a role to fill. Part of that giving back is considering how change impacted upon those within schools, from a first hand experience trial viewpoint. That can be an important perspective to include in discourse prior to ideas reaching school level.

REMEMBERED EDUCATORS – Adding values that stay with students

One of the joys of being an educator is to be reminded at times of successes that students experience and of the good things that come their way. Not of of that success relates to academics. There are social, emotional and moral/spiritual qualities that can and should grow and develop within students.

During my years as an educator I have worked with tens of thousands of students. Quite deliberately, I have never retained contact through social media. I don’t use social media accounts. However, if I read of successes they have had in later life, I will make an effort by to contract and congratulate them. That applies to successes coming the way of past students, right across the spectrum of contribution.

Often parents of past students will let me know, as we pass in the street or meet in shopping centres, about how their children are travelling. I always make it a point of passing on my regards and in most cases I remember these students. This would happen for me, in the relatively small city of Darwin, two or three times each week.

It fills me with joy when reading of successes of past students in the newspaper or via radio or television report.

One remembrance stands out. Years ago, I had in our school a student who was a very decent young man. However, he al;ways averted his eyes away when talking to others. On several occasions I invited him into my office and tutored him on the art of gaining confidence through eye contact. Years later, he came up to me in a Restaraunt, reminded me of his name (I hadn’t forgotten) and thanked me for taking the time to help him develop his eye contact skills. He was going places and was no we an aeronautical engineer. This is one anecdote but there are hundreds of others.

Not all outcomes have been rosy. Through my schools have passed thieves, burglars, rapists and murderers. I have also had the experience of having to cope with past students feeling so down on themselves that they have taken their own lives. So from time to time, I question myself as to whether I could have done anything during my time of association with them, that might have swayed them away from these courses of action.

It is our contribution to education now, that has its outcomes on the lives of people in years to come. And while unexpected it is nice be be thanked and appreciated by those whom you taught when those years do come.


Today I received a letter of thanks from the CEO of our Department of Education for a contribution made toward the shaping of our revamped Education Act in the NT. He is the type of person who acknowledges and appreciates the efforts of others. He would have taken the time to have letters prepared and personally signed to all contributors.

Received this letter made me feel intrinsically appreciated. It also reminded me of the fact that receiving expressions of thanks these days is far more rare than was once the case. It is so easy to brickbat people but bouquets are offered far more infrequently.

Returning to the practice of a ‘culture of appreciation’ would do a great deal to lift feelings of well-being and morale. Feelings of happiness and satisfaction are often in short supply. Re-building will lift organisations, in our case schools, and those within.


One of the things that grates on my soul, in Australia at least, is the propensity of Universities to go in for awarding honorary doctorates and on occasion, honorary professorships, to politicans, sports personalities, defence force personnel and ‘noted’ members of the public. When these honorary honours are conferred, they are often accompanied by statements in the media announcing conferees as academics.

This is just not right. If flies in the face of logic which confers doctorates and high level accolades on the basis of research and serious study. If also offers a figurative ‘slap across the face’ to those whose qualifications are genuinely earned, often at considerable personal sacrifice and cost.

A particularly galling aspect of this recognition is that honorary qualifications are often conferred during graduation ceremonies, at which the ‘honorary’ awarded is highlighted well and truly above genuine graduates.

There are plenty of other accolades that can be offered to people who have done well and made contribution in political, defence, sporting and community domains. There is no need to dilute the purist notion of academe by conferral of honorary awards.

Or have I got the bull by the tail?


Mottos can reveal a lot about any organisation. Allow me to share two.

My teachers training college had as its motto ‘Non Nobis Solum’, translating as ‘Not for ourselves alone’. This to me was an expression of teaching’s aim. We are there for others. For me as a student teacher and then as a new teacher going forward, it was a pointer about the perspective I would do well to embrace.

My last school as principal was at Leanyer in Darwin’s Northern Suburbs. Our motto, born in 1992, my first year of twenty in that place, grew from a need to express an ambition that needed reinforcement at that time. ‘Together as One’ became our motto. It’s application and remembrance did a lot to draw us together in oneness and unity of educational purpose.

It might sound simplistic, but mottos are important as statements underlining school organisation and ethos.