Singing is one of those things children love doing. It is also something many teachers feel concerned about, when it comes to personal vocalising adventure. For some reason or other, many teachers are reluctant to engage in signing with children at classroom level. In many schools these days, music programs are vested in singing and instrumental teachers. The domain is one into which classroom teachers, even those of early childhood children, too rarely venture. That may be because of self-consciousness, embarrassment or because they genuinely believe they have no musical talent.

Singing is something I enjoyed with children in many different school settings, in grades at all levels and in all kinds of schools.

I don’t profess to be an expert in musical terms, but enjoyment should be the key to singing. Holding a tune helps, but for most if that does not come naturally, it can be cultivated.

Having fun with singing helps. Singing for enjoyment ought to be considered, especially as singing is confidence building for children. I believe that to sing can also build teacher confidence. The exercise is one that promotes vocal projection, facial expression, and correct word usage. Listening skills are enhanced because singers have to listen out for each other.

Some of the songs I taught children years ago, they still remember years later and as adults. I have had that feedback. Children I know from more recent years remind SS me of songs taught.

Memory building

Without doubt, learning the lyrics and music that goes with singing, helps when it comes to memory building. Songs stay with people for years, sometimes a lifetime, after the learning. The stimulation of memory is important because the ability to memorise is one of the characteristics with which we have been blessed.

Part of the appeal to memory is that of challenging children to learn the rudiments of the song as quickly as possible. When I was a primary school student back in the 1950’s, we used to have singing lessons to our schools broadcast over the radio. Lessons were weekly for 30 or 45 minutes. Once the song we were learning was introduced, the singing teacher would drag the learning out over several weeks. We poor children would back up phrase by phrase, line by line and verse by verse for what seemed an eternity. The enjoyment of singing became entangled within this torturous learning process. When teaching singing, be smart about methodology.


Singing can be linked with other elements of the curriculum, especially Social and Cultural Education. Attached is an example to illustrate.

Musical Appreciation

‘Linking’ similarly applies when it comes to musical appreciation. Music and instrumental appreciation is helpful when it comes to studying countries, cultures and people of the world. Musical appreciation is a strategy that helps us better understand and appreciate Indigenous Australians.

Children are asked to use their imaginations to create stories, write poems, manufacture art/craft pieces and to carry out scientific experiments. This may extend to electives studies, speech preparation and other activities. There is no reason why children, even very young children, can’t be encouraged to create and teach (under guidance) their own songs.

Singing is a great activity, one I recommend.


Attachment: Brumby Jack


See the dust cloud on the plain,

Hear the sound like falling rain,

Flashing hooves and heads held high,

As the wild bush brumbies gallop by.


*Here comes Brumby Jack,

Bringing the horses down the track,

Hear his come as he wheels them around,

He keeps them together safe and sound.

There’s Stumpy, Billy. Silver Dan,

Pickles, Jim and Pelican,

He has a name for everyone,

And when he calls they come at a run.


He loves his wild bush friends so well,

Many a farming man can tell,

He’ll never eat or go to bed,

Until he’s sure they’ve all been fed.


From the mountain side to the distant plain,

Here, there and back again,

They roam the country wild and free,

‘Cause that’s the way they want to be.


Conversation and Discussion Points – a few

*Discussion points about wild horses and why – origins.

*Location, location – where found.

* Property and farm damage.

*Use of horses and how domesticated horses could escape, breed and create brumby herds.

*’Life of a horse’.

*Persuasive argument on pro’s and cons of horse rearing, breeding, use and so on.

* Word study ; ‘wheel’, ‘roam’, ‘plain’ and so on.



July 1 2020 will mark the 42nd anniversary of Northern Territory Self Government. It is also an anniversary for education, because education was the first portfolio taken over for local management by the Northern Territory Government. The Northern Territory has a rich educational history – but you wouldn’t know it!

It is a sad fact that our history of education in the Northern Territory is pretty “muted”. A lot has gone on over time but remembrances are diminishing as people leave, move on or become deceased. When Gary Barnes took over as Education CEO in 2009 he rued the fact that there was no history of education in the Northern Territory to which he could refer and be informed as the incoming CEO. This situation eleven years and two CEO’s later has not changed.

With that in mind, I have wondered for a long time whether or not it would be possible for a thread on “history”, with sub titles to differentiate the specific aspects of Territory Education that have happened in the past, to be built into the department’s website.

Under defining subtitles (aboriginal education, bilingual education, and so on),an annual chronology could be established so the comments on specific subjects relating to the year of happening could be included.

I have raised this in the past only to be told that the resources necessary for setting up and maintaining a program of this nature would make it uneconomic. I would counterargue that costs would be quite minimal because the program would simply be added as an element of the Education Department’s existing website.

Specifics of content might even be moderated by a volunteer or volunteers who would have specific oversight of the historical thread. I would envisage this as being done in conjunction with the Media and Marketing Section of the Education Department. Advice and assistance might well be provided by the NT Archive.

There are other ways in which this reference to our history could be extended. Oral histories by past educators is an approach that could be an element of recording our history. Another might be bylines relating to theses and dissertations, that relate to educational history and developments in the Northern Territory completed over time. Referral to these studies would be useful.

At the moment any documentation of this nature would be housed with Charles Darwin University or the Northern Territory archives. Cross referencing in a “trove” manner to these sources could be useful.

I am aware that progress is a constant and acknowledge the fact that systems and priorities have to change over time to meet needs. However not having a history of where we have come from in educational terms is to our eternal detriment.

Among other advantages, history is informing and can help in preventing a repeat of failed processes and mistakes from the past. The decisions that are being made about education should be informed. Part of that information is an awareness and appreciation of our history.

I would welcome readers consideration of this issue and look forward to comments on the subject.


Years ago while Principal at Angurugu Community School on Groote Eylandt (a school that at that point in time enjoyed top level school attendance), I was asked to write a paper for the Pacific Women’s Jubilee Conference of the value and the importance of the role of women within Aboriginal communities. That was well over 30 years ago.

Paper Prepared for the

Pacific Womens Diamond Jubilee Conference

Held in January 1982

A dilemma of the developing Aboriginal society is one of attitude. Women can play a vital role in societal development, if the society will let them.

There is abundant evidence to show that young Aboriginal women can do well at school, and that they do achieve. The dilemma is ‘for what’. Often it is for a return to the camp life, where child bearing and child rearing provide the only relief from the monotonous domestic routines that follow.

Aboriginal society is patriarchal. It is what men say that counts, and what men want that happens. Aboriginal women have vision, for they are thinkers and they know what they want. But they often don’t have the power in their society to put their thoughts into action. They just don’t count enough.

This so often means that education only frustrates teenage girls growing up into women, because education shows the girls concerned what they could be and trains them toward doing things they learn about. In the end however, it means nothing because society tells them they must fill a position in life that puts them into a less important position than men.

Aboriginal culture and tradition is important. But often men, who are the custodians of this culture think ‘back’ to it without thinking ‘forward’ enough to the changes forced on Aboriginal society by the time and place in which we live. Women in Aboriginal society seem more futuristic; they think to the future and with education gain the understanding they need to play a part in the change that happens.

Economically, the men command the money the community earns, even when that money is earned by women.

Time and time again women will be asked to hand over money they have earned, so it goes on other things than providing food for families and children in those families. I have frequently seen women interrupted in their work b y those coming to demand money for this and that. Woman contribute to local economy by seeking work and earning money. But too often that money is taken by demand and disappears.

Many women became frustrated because they earn money they never see. They have to earn it while still doing huge amounts of ‘looking after’ at home.

Aboriginal society might be more progressive if women had a say in the development of that society – both locally in each community and overall by their membership of land councils and other organisations. While women can influence the thinking of their men by talking to them, they never actually do any of the (wider level) talking. If they could put their thinking into action, many communities might be further advanced than they are.

It is not so much a question of education and training for women that is a worry, but one of what satisfaction the education and training is giving. If any. It seems to be that training gives women a chance to earn money that others can take. There needs to be training in the thinking that is necessary if Aboriginal women are to come out as spokespersons and leaders who can be seen to lead in their communities.

Education and training to be successful must succeed in enabling Aboriginal women gain that confidence necessary to their emergence, so they are seen as a visible voice for their people. If education only ‘trains’ to the point of giving skills and work understandings to women, then they will continue to be hidden in a culture that traditionally allows men to be seen and keeps women hidden.

Education to be really meaningful must succeed in enabling women to rise to a point of making social and economic decisions. Women have to be seen as equal.


There was a time not all that many years ago when children in school were taught the art of handwriting. How to form letters how to write clearly neatly and legibly and above all our ultimately to enjoy writing.

Part of this focus centred on lessons and reminders that included the physical aspects of writing. There was posture (how to sit comfortably when writing) how to position the paper (for slope and legibility) and how to hold a pencil or writing tool so that it was commanded by the writer and held comfortably.

Sadly handwriting lessons have become a thing of the past in most schools. The justification for this is the keyboarding skills are more important than the ability to write by hand and that keyboarding technology has supplanted hand writing.

To me, the fact that handwriting has now been diminished to the extent of being almost non-existent as a learning area is not only sad but also sentences young people to growth into adulthood without adequate handwriting skills.

The way in which a growing number of people hold a pen, pencil, texta or other writing instrument offers a visual display of pure torture. They don’t know how to hold a pen or pencil comfortably and look as if the process is one of agony.

Added to this is the fact that fluency on paper when using a writing tool is largely non-existent. Much writing is illegible and concocted in a way that makes reading extremely difficult. Gone is neatness, pride, and the internal satisfactions students used to feel when producing written text of quality.

Yes, children may be able to use keyboards but there are many occasions on which handwriting is the necessary recourse.

I deplore a system that graduates children who are possibly literate enough when it comes to keyboard manipulation but almost illiterate when it comes to writing and the use of pen, pencil and paper for written communication.



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.


CDU and PR Matters

I imagine that the outsourcing of some PR functions by the CDU is to help rebuild public confidence in this institution. Territory appreciation of our CDU May have been shaken by revelations about budget deficits and changes in course offerings.


Number 1 Issue

The number one issue confronting Indigenous Australians and educational attainment is school attendance. Despite the expenditure of millions to encourage attendance, deliberate avoidance of school means that far too many children are being deprived of learning they need to be successful in life.



Our predisposition towards NAPLAN and out conferral of “holy grail” status upon this testing regime is bizarre.



Reporting to parents and caregivers in most primary schools, is a task undertaken each term. Toward the end of terms one and three, teachers report orally. Oral reports allow for conversations with parents on student progress. They enable teachers and parents to discuss progress including student strengths and the challenges they face.

Written reports are provided toward the end of terms two and four. These documents are looked forward to by many parents. They are at times photocopied and sent to grandparents or other relatives living at distance.

For teachers, report writing is a task not to be taken lightly. The importance of reports to parents in large part influences the way in which these documents are regarded by our department and school principals. They are valued and valuable documents.

There are a couple of things that need to be understood. The first is that with teaching being increasingly a collaborative effort, a number of teachers may need to contribute to the preparation of student reports. Secondly, the steps leading to final report documents, mean that reports have to be started many weeks before the end of each term. Allowing time to prepare them reasonably is something that can be easily overlooked.

Consider the following:

* Reports as a statement from teachers to parents need to be honest and


* Spelling and grammar need to be correct as they reflect teacher standards.

* Reports should be factually correct.

* Preparation is helped if teachers have a critical colleague read through their

documents before sending them to senior staff for vetting and approval.

* What is written needs to be substantiated by background facts supporting

statements of progress. Inaccuracy can be embarrassing to teachers if report

comments are challenged by parents and cannot be refuted.

* Language needs to be carefully chosen, reporting on facts and not supposition.

* Avoid words like ‘will’ and choose words like ‘may’ when talking about potential

for improvement. Absolute words throw the onus on teachers to make things

happen; it is up to the student to achieve his or her potential.

I have always favoured the idea of teachers discussing reports with children and students about whom they are prepared, on a one-to-one basis. Commendation and recommendation for improvement might be part of these conversations. Post report discussion with parents can also have positive spin offs, particularly if the approach is one of offering encouragement.

Reports reflect outcomes based on effort. That, together with character traits that contribute to good citizenship deserve recognition. While academic success is important, the social, emotional and moral/spiritual aspects of development are also worthy of mention. That is not always possible because these criterion have been expunged from many reporting templates.



There are some who say that attention the spelling is old hat and the discipline of being able to spell accurately and correctly is not really necessary anymore.

In an age of computer technology, they argue that the computer, iPads and similar gadgets provide students with correct spelling options through “spellcheck” and other text refining devices. Therefore it is not necessary to know how to spell words by heart any longer.

Others argue that in terms of priority spelling is a basic that no longer needs to be taught. There are other teaching and learning priorities.

Maybe “experts” believe that spelling skills will be aquired by osmosis. Some people genuinely believe that spelling accuracy isn’t important because corrections for both spelling and grammar can be provided by checks built into attachments for word documents and others. I believe that is the lazy way out.

I once had a teacher say to me “I don’t teach spelling because I don’t like it.” Teaching basics is apparently boring and quite stifling for some people. This overlooks the fact that teaching important basic understanding this is repetitious and not all learning is tinsel and glitter. However, there is a way of engaging children with spelling that makes it quite exciting and a looked forward to activity. There are numerous spelling games available that can be adapted for classroom use. These can be developed to support and reinforce graduated learning where the specific spelling word building an extension program is being followed.

Spelling and word appreciation games up also available and this is one area where computer or iPad use can be reinforcing. My contention however is that spelling is an area that requires basic teaching. It can’t all be left to children working on devices and acquiring the understanding they need without teaching going into the program.

An example of one game are used with spelling was to ask children within their minds to configure words broken into syllables attached to a piece of elastic. There is the word. As you stretch the elastic within your minds eye, the word breaks into syllables. The study of the breaks enables one to follow the patterning of the word. When the word had been “examined” the stretched elastic is relaxed, the word comes back together and is spelled orally as an intact unit. I found this method worked particularly well especially if it was built into a game including competition between children for accuracy and recall.

There are plenty of other games that can make spelling a fun learning experience. They are helped by teacher engagement and involvement in the process.

I believe we neglect spelling at our peril and to the eternal loss of students.



Education is exciting, often because of the chance to innovate and try out new ideas. However, it is important to consider and study the merit of new ideas. ‘Reform’ and ‘initiative’ are words often overdone.

Education that bounces from one new idea to the next, to the next in rapid succession, can present a destabilising and hard to follow classroom experience for children. There seems no end to the plethora of ideas, approaches and priorities that come along.

It is important that schools and teachers apply a filter to suggestions of change. The pros and cons of issues need to be considered. To grasp at something new for the sake of its novelty is unwise.

Schools and staff who take and consider ideas and change suggestions are wise. This is where the value of collaboration and conversation comes to the fore. Within every group, there are those who want to run with change, others who prefer dialogue and careful consideration and a third group who dig in and avoid change at all costs. From this delightful mix, school organisation evolves.

Some thoughts:

* Discuss issues with colleagues and also be a sounding board for them.

* Read and research new initiatives.

* Make a list of the pros and cons relative to change in teaching approaches.

* Discuss ideas with people who may have trialled them.

* Make the subject one for discussion at unit meetings and possibly whole staff meetings.

* Consider whether changes will build on what has gone before, or whether

they will mean starting all over again in particular areas. There is a lot to be

said for ‘steady state’ or incremental development.

* Take into account budgetary implications of change. Programs that are resource heavy can finish up costing schools a lot of money.

* Consider if change addresses major learning needs or if it is simply about embellishment or ‘prettying the edges’ of learning; is it about superficiality or substance?

Change ought not be resisted by habit. Neither should it be blindly accepted for change’s sake. Consider new ideas on their merit including thinking, reading and discussion with others.

Importantly, consider that change builds on what has gone before. To throw out everything that has been developed, using change as an excuse to ‘start all over’ would be the extreme of foolishness.