Some speakers and presenters may feel they can presented with minimal preparation and a ‘winging it’ attitude and that will not be noticed. How wrong they are! Empty rhetoric and hollow speech is fairly quickly recognised. less-thank-polite audiences will let presenters know about content paucity while they are speaking.

In more academic and possibly refined circles, the audible response may not come. However, audience members will make mental notes about the speech and the presenter may be presenting to that particular group for the last time.

Careful preparation is ever so important. Neglect is perilous.

Offer Speakers Improvement Tips

OFFER TO IMPROVE OTHERS (Presentation skills)

A true collegiate support for presenters, can be the clear and unbiased feedback offered to them by a colleague or professional friend. Offering to evaluate might be a tactic; similarly, the presenter may ask a colleague to evaluate his or her presentation.

Oral feedback is valuable and is aided if supported by written comments. These might be key points, with both methods aiming to offer the presenter a chance to improve delivery. Part of this should be recognising strengths (offered as commendations) and commenting on arenas needing development (offered as recommendations).

Reflection is supported by evaluation.



I am a member of Toastmasters. Many years ago, a fellow member of our club offered to video several of us presenting speeches for evaluation. Part of the evaluation was a study of the video he took as we presented.

I thought I’d made a fair fist of my speech. When the video of my presentation was played back, I discovered (along with everyone else) a number of ‘anomalies’:

• I overly shuffled and the movement was out of sync with and detracting from my presentation.

• I scratched my posterior on two occasions.

• I once picked at my nose.

• Several times my eye movements were out of context in not supporting my trying to reach the audience through eye contact.

Without the video revelation, I would have been unaware of these unconscious actions.

These days, videoing on mobile if using an iPad makes the whole process simple. My suggestion is that readers consider having someone video presentation for the sake of weakness awareness as a precursor to improvement.

Is Change Diminishing Education?

Educational Change

Content on understanding key learning rudiments in maths and language has been downgraded.

Impressionistic and interpretive learning has come to the fore.

European history and literature is being moved to the backburner.

Everything indigenous is increasingly front and centre of learning.

It seems that less and less is being taught at schools because teachers are increasingly occupied with accountability and recording requirements. More and more key learning requirements are being pushed into students as homework requirements.

Blurred learning is justified by not failing students; competition between students is discouraged, and reports are long on words and short on meaning.

Data compilation including recording, drives teaching and learning strategies. Data is the king of the educational castle.

Schools and staff seem to have less and less influence in driving educational contexts. Educational direction and priorities are set from on high. Education at school level is reactive rather than proactive.


I wrote this paper in 2008 and it was published on the International Confederation of Principals site.

The issue then is more of an issue now.

Male teachers all over the world and especially in Australia and our Northern Territory are a vanishing species. What has happened? There is in my opinion a need to turn the situation around, and increase the number of male teachers in our schools, particularly our primary schools.

One of the most satisfying periods of my teaching career was at Nhulunbuy Primary School, at Gove, in North-East Arnhem Land, 650 kilometres east of Darwin. During my time of principalship (1983-1986), the school had an enrolment of 750 students, from Transition through to Year Seven. There were a further 90 children being readied for formal learning in our preschool.

The school had a staff of 52 teachers and ancillaries, which included nineteen male teachers (36% of our teaching staff). We men had our own Touch Football team, we made up almost all of one of the local cricket teams, and we were a major contributing force to local rugby league, basketball and other male-focused sport teams.

I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but a gender balance of that nature is a rarity. The ratio of male-to-female teachers in Australian primary schools these days is 1:27. At 1:9 in high schools, the situation is just a little better, but still, 90% of the staff are women. At Leanyer School where I was Principal for 20 years, we had at best five male members of more than 30 staff. There are some schools where the only male on staff is the janitor!

Where have all the male teachers gone, and why? Male primary teachers are an almost extinct species. Men in teacher training at all levels are rare. More and more qualified and practising male teachers are leaving for other apparently less stressful occupations.

Historical Reasons

There are historical reasons for the perceived unattractiveness of primary teaching to men. They centre on the perceptions of salary, status, community regard and an inherent idea that men working with children runs counter to the male psyche. The notion of ‘macho’ and the nurture of children seem somehow to be incongruent. This reasoning is somewhat mythical. Maybe it’s even ‘claptrap’! To hang the diminishment of the male teaching species on such ideas is illogical. But it does nothing to ease a very real situation, that there are now very few male teachers, particularly in primary schools.

Men Under Siege

I have no doubt that male teachers in primary schools are under siege. Along with fellow educators, I study the media’s coverage of our profession. While the media is interpretative, and accuracy sometimes skewed, it still reflects the perceptions generally held by society of social institutions and its managers.

Diet of Male Dysfunctionalism

The community at large is fed a bountiful print, radio and TV diet of stories about male teacher dysfunctionalism. There has been, and continues to be, a plethora of stories alleging interference with, and abuse of, children by male teachers. Sadly, some instances of infringement and violation against children and students are proven in courts. However, a significant percentage of allegations leading to court action are found to be baseless.

For those who have been tried, ‘legal’ acquittal does not negate the associated moral perception and social indignation. Those found ‘not guilty’ by courts and those who never go to court because charges are dropped, are left feeling tainted. In the minds of the wrongfully accused, the damage to their reputations is everlasting.

Children and students are increasingly aware of their rights to care and protection. ‘Stranger danger’, the ‘Kid’s Helpline’ and similar strategies are filling what, historically, has been an information void. It’s important that children do understand their rights and the respect that is due to them. Information from student disclosures, however, needs to be carefully checked before action is taken. If the information offered is accepted without verification, with allegations subsequently found to be untrue, then the accused is violated.

The Need for Human Warmth

Male teachers face a real dilemma. It’s no secret that primary children, particularly younger ones, often seek to be physically close to their teachers. Gripping the hands of teachers, giving teachers cuddles, wanting to sit on teachers’ laps are manifestations of this deep-seated human need. Female teachers seem to be less at risk in this situation than males. Males may want to respond to children with humanity warmth and empathy, but are warned off by a deep societal frown.

By contrast, middle-aged female teachers are often regarded in a ‘grandmotherly’ way. It seems somehow much more socially acceptable for them to respond to the affection of children. A male teacher of the same age has to be much more circumspect, lest his actions be interpreted as those of a ‘dirty old man’.

The challenge is increasingly exacerbated by the phenomena of single parent families. Single mothers often ask that, if possible, their children be placed with a male teacher, for the sake of masculine role modeling. The scenario can become one that creates an acute conflict within the mind of the male teacher.

The Future for Male Teachers Is Not Rosy

There is an increasing focus on male teacher vulnerability but tackling the issue has been, at best, oblique. Deflecting the issue is no way of handling its challenge. At some stage – hopefully sooner rather than later – a considered response to the issue by senior managers will be necessary. Ignoring the situation won’t make it go away. In an age where litigation is increasingly common, the threat to male teacher integrity is likely to become more pronounced.

There are many factors that impinge on the issue of school staffing. Conversations with teachers reveal that the tension of being a vulnerable group weighs heavily on the minds of remaining male educators. I once had an excellent male teacher come to me saying he was resigning because of the weight of this perception. An outstanding teacher was forever lost to the profession.

The problem of the male teacher shortage is one that will rapidly worsen in the near future, given the ageing teaching profession and the imminent retirement of large number of existing male teachers. Unless something is done, primary schools will soon be staffed almost entirely by women.

Female teachers are valued educators and do a great job. However, there is a need for gender balance within schools for the sake of organisational equilibrium. The worry is that we are sadly out of balance.


The focus on what education should be all about – equipping people with basic understanding, skills, and competencies – is fast disappearing. In many places it has already gone. Students in schools are the poorer for what has been lost.

Included are the following. They are not in any particular order of importance, but the fact that these capacities are no longer taught or have been lost is a sad reflection on education.

• Handwriting skills are no longer taught. Children do not know how to hold writing tools.

• Tables are no longer taught. Calculators apparently suffice, meaning that children can manage computational skills with the aid of the device but they do not have any knowledge or cognitive understanding of what they are doing.

• Reading for comprehension is no longer important. Students don’t have to understand the meaning behind the words that they are reading. Ignorance however, is NOT bliss.

• Spelling is no longer important and not taught in the same way as used to be the case. Word building and understanding now have their repository in history. Contemporary teaching is minimal if at all. Why learn what spellcheck will fix, at least after a fashion.

That is just part of what education has lost.



What Some Children Thought when surveyed at Leanyer School. I thought they were wise little Solomon’s

Ugh this

The vast majority of educators are very earnest people. They want what is best for children and are committed to quality educational outcomes. Educational technology has evolved hugely, particularly in recent years. We have come a long way in a very short time.

When I commenced my teaching career over 40 years ago, it was blackboard and chalk, supported in a limited way by Fordigraph spirit duplicated sheets. Then came the manually operated ‘Gestetner’, an ink-based machine. You would roneo off increased numbers sheets of paper that gained an impression from a waxed original cut by typewriter or stencil tools and then reproduced for student use. The coarse paper used would often smudge and carry ink runs which blurred the text. The worst part of this ‘technology’ was the potential you had to muck up the stencil while it was being prepared. There was this pink correction fluid that could be brushed on in the stencil so that it could be made over but any mistake always seemed to show through. Things looked up somewhat when the ‘Gestetner’ could be plugged into a power point – that was, if you had power.

I can remember seeing my first computer attached to industry during 1982 in the administrative office of a progressive mining company. It occupied a huge room and had miniscule capacity in today’s terms.

From a school’s viewpoint, shares went up in the mid-80s when we received, at my primary school, a limited number of ‘Boroughs’ units with CBASS software. At the same time, schoolchildren were beginning to have access to Alpha computers, then Commodore 64s. The first Apples arrived a little later.

By that time (1987), I was in a new school, Karama in Darwin’s northern suburbs. Coles introduced an ‘Apples for Computers’ program where, over a number of months, the value of dockets confirming goods purchased could be swapped for Apple computers. Many, many schools enthusiastically entered into the drive for dockets so computers could be purchased. Apple computers were small, heavy and very expensive. Printers and accessory equipment were also costly.

We have certainly come a long way in the last 30 years. Technologies supporting learning have grown and multiplied. Access and availability have increased exponentially, aided by a significant plunge in operational costs from the viewpoint of purchase, maintenance and online access.

We can say that computer technology ‘is everywhere, everywhere!’ It becomes the case of question, balance and wise use.

At my school, Leanyer School, in Darwin, we have certainly benefited from computer and other technological developments. Rather than writing a paper from the viewpoint of somebody who started with nothing, technologically, who has become a principal well and truly supported by, I wanted to gain an understanding from a group of students in year six (11 years of age and rising to 12 years) about what they thought. So I posed to them a number of questions. They were under the general heading of ‘computers in schools’.

The questions

What do you like about computers in schools, and as a part of education?

What subjects are best supported by computers? Why?

What subjects if any are not helped by computers?

What might our school and our world be like if there were no computers?

What would be the thing you would least like to change about our computer use at Leanyer?

What would be the things you would most like to change about computer use at Leanyer?

What do you like most about the internet?

What do you like least about the internet?

Pretend I (Henry Gray, school principal at Leanyer) have never used a computer and do not know what a computer is or what it can do. Write me a short piece of explanatory text so I can begin to understand this technology.

Frame of reference

This group of students is well immersed when it comes to technology, technological appreciation and understanding. Many have wide ranging access to computer at home. Their learning at school is supported by computer access with enhancing technological immersion through Smart board use and by access to other technological devices.


Prior to the exercise, the group and I engaged in a short conversation and I told them that I would like to use their responses to inform a paper I was doing for an online conference. We discussed online conferencing so they fully understood with this paper was going. I also told them when the paper was published, I would give them access to it – and that will happen. I will also share with their parents and caregivers. Naturally, children will be identified by first name only when quoted.

In talking with the children prior to their completing the questionnaire, I explained to them that often adults talk about education for children and that sometimes the notion of educational discussion with children doesn’t happen as fully as it might. (It is easy to leave younger children out of the loop when it comes to inputs they can make and ideas they


What do you like about computers in schools and as a part of education?

I like it that computers can help you learn will find places on maps. They are good to use so you can stay in contact with your friends. They are also good fun.’ (Manoli)

‘Computers are good for typing up school projects.’ (Riley)

‘I think that would because there was something we needed to know but could not find it in a book (we would find it). It is a faster way to find information on things.’ (Sahara)

‘What I like is that you can use computer for writing and for doing little assignments (particularly writing questions to help groups in discussion) for an example our Tournament of Minds team.’ (Jenny)

‘I think computer is good in helping us to learn that if we talk to strangers we do not tell them our names.’ (James)

‘For some people it makes things a lot easier to learn.’ (Bailey)

‘I think computers as a part of our school are great for projects and research and if we need information for homework.’ (Chloe)

‘I like a computer for education because it helps me write faster.’ (Hamish)

‘I like computers because they help you search some of your work and school you don’t know.’ (Klein)

‘I like that computers can help in research and learning.’ (Liam)

‘I like computers in schools for our education because they help us do many more things quickly. Computers are good for reports, writing and many other things.’ (Paris)

‘I like that if you need information on the subject can just go onto the Internet and look it up.’ (Nikitas)

‘… I can look unknown information learned more about people, things and (testing) animals of the past.’ (Erin)

‘It is easier takes less time to type; it is quicker and easier to search for things.’ (Jaylee)

‘I like the games on computers that really make you think.’ (Chelsea)

‘I like computers at school because you can do Internet searches.’ (Drew)

‘Computers offer an easier way to research school work. Help us in many different ways to get things completed.’ (Jemma)

‘It is much easier finding out things on the Internet than using books.’ (Karla)

‘Computers are like a shoulder to lean on for schools. They help you find out things you don’t know. Computers teach you things including how to use them.’ (Claudia)

‘Some games on the computer help us strategise our ways.’ (Cayne)

‘Working searching (for information) and typing together with fun activities make computer worthwhile.’ (Evita)

‘I like computers in education because they can help students learn.’ (Yasmin)

What subjects are best supported by computers? Why?

‘Maths has because it can lead to online understanding (through extension). Plus in schools you can play games like ‘Braintastic’ and ‘Targeting Maths’.’ (Manoli)

‘I think writing is the best use for computers because you can go fast.’ (Riley)

‘Library if you need to look for: to read to the class. Maybe science to find out things.’ (Sahara)

‘Literacy including writing and sometimes maths.’ (Jenny)

‘Writing because some people have trouble with handwriting.’ (Bailey)

‘Maybe history because there’s a lot of information about famous people in the past and other countries.’ (Chloe)

‘Maths and history are best supported by computer because of the speed and ease in finding things out.’ (Klein)

‘Writing essays because it would take too long to write by hand.’ (Liam)

‘Typing, power point and essays.’ (Paris)

‘The computer is good for Maths because there are maths games online that help you learn while having fun.’ (Nikitas)

‘Reading. Reading information is the core part of computers. Reading also improves language and people learn new names and words.’ (Erin)

‘Maths and spelling. You can search for words, go to maths games and calculate on the computer.’ (Jaylee)

‘I think all of them because they can be found on the computer or the Internet. You can test your brain without getting embarrassed in front of everyone.’ (Chelsea)

‘Any type of research subject.’ (Jemma)

‘I think ‘Theme’ is the best area for support because you can type information.’ (Drew)

‘Theme study.’ (Claudia)

‘History because the internet can help (ours understand) and also assist with writing reports on the subject.’ (Yazmin)

What subjects, if any, are not helped by computers?

‘Physical education because computers can’t help you to stay healthy.’ (Manoli)

‘(In my opinion) maths.’ (Riley)

Art or physical education because PE is where you do something active. Art is where you draw or paint or something (creative) like that.’ (Sahara)

‘Your ability to know how to read.’ (Jenny)

‘I think internet helps with all subjects.’ (Chloe)

‘Music. Computers can’t help people … about music and notes.’ (Klein)

‘The subjects not helped by computers are physical education, art, maths and DIPL (Doorways into Practical Literacy).’ (Paris)

‘Spelling. I think that the computer doesn’t help with spelling because when people are talking to someone else on the computer they abbreviate … and use slang words.’ (Nikitas)

‘None.’ (Erin)

‘Handwriting, because on the computer you can only type. ‘(Jaylee)

‘DIPL (Doorways into Practical Literacy) is not good to have supported by computer because it has spell-check (meaning that you don’t learn words as you might).’ (Drew)

‘The subject that is not helped at all is art because it is something you do yourself. If you use a computer to do it, you have no right to call it a masterpiece.’ (Claudia)

‘Maths because there are calculators on some computers and it would be better for students to work problems mentally.’ (Yazmin)

What might our school and our world be like if there were no computers?

‘We wouldn’t have medicines to help us get better or be as smart or find pictures or videos to help us with work.’ (Manoli)

‘There would be lots more (use of) pencils and paper with lots of trees getting cut down so they wouldn’t be as many trees left. It would be harder to (do) research.’ (Riley)

‘May be a little hard to find things. Plus we would waste paper because the teacher would have to write a lot down.’ (Sahara)

‘It would be pretty hard because if you had to do a long assignment it would mean more writing and longer time.’ (Jenny)

‘I think our world would still be quite normal because we may have never known what the computer was and what it did.’ (Chloe)

‘All schools and the world would be reading more books, doing more drawing, writing and painting. People would be more active and talking.’ (Klein)

‘We would have to find all the information for projects from books. We would also have to use typewriters instead of Microsoft word.’ (Liam)

‘Well the world be the same. It would just be a little bit harder to store information kits and talk to people in other places around the world.’ (Nikitas)

‘Very slow and we wouldn’t have the ability to learn much about technology and how to use it at schools. We would be able to be smart about researching in books.’ (Erin)

‘It would probably be a boring school and we would waste our time because of searching for things in books and taking a long time to find information in the right book.’ (Jaylee)

‘As children’s/adults wouldn’t be as educated but also the world would be a lot safer because people could not find out information about you on the net.’ (Jemma)

‘We would be living in a cut-back life because mostly everything is controlled by computers. Mankind is putting our lives to the computers and to take it away with the terrible -but we are humans so we would fix it like building a bridge again.’ (Claudia)

‘Things would not be updated and you wouldn’t know if something was to happen straight away. As well, we wouldn’t have as much fun because games we play will not be there.’

‘People like computers would be bored because they would have to do something else. People would not be able to do their work properly. People may not be able to go to other countries because computers and printers have to be used (for booking and travel arrangements).’ (Evita)

‘If the school and our world did not have computers it would be harder for students to learn. For the rest of the people it would be hard to check on email or write stories or a column. It would be really hard (without computer).’ (Yazmin)

What would be the thing you would least like to change about our computer use at Leanyer?

‘Targeting maths because we will be less exact.’ (Manoli)

‘Nothing.’ (Riley)

‘Not being allowed to use the computers at lunchtime.’ (Sahara)

‘For all primary children to have the right to use computers nearly every day.’ (Jenny)

‘Not too sure about that yet.’ (Chloe)

‘The internet and the educational games.’ (Klein)

‘Nothing. I think we’ve got a perfect computer system.’ (Liam)

‘When you least want to change is the internet going away.’ (Paris)

‘The educational games that are on offer to us.’ (Nikitas)

‘Nothing. I like (our) computers how they are.’ (Erin)

‘That they are free for anyone to use at any time during school hours.’ (Jemma)

‘I would least like to change our password control.’ (Claudia)

‘Targeting maths on the computer is both fun and educational. I would like that to stay.’ (Cayne)

‘The thing I would least like to change would be internet access because it helps us finding information.

What would you most like to change about computer use at Leanyer?

‘(I would like) safer internet access.’ (Manoli)

‘I would really like a change to the website blocking (policy).’ (Riley)

‘Being allowed on the internet at lunchtime (not rostered) with no past being required to go onto the internet.’ (Sahara)

‘Access and understanding for little kids so they can learn more.’ (Jenny)

‘The internet is still a little slow at the moment on some computers and some of the computers keep freezing.’ (Chloe)

‘Can we could have a music site?’ (Liam)

‘Nothing. I think these computers how they are.’ (Erin)

‘I would most like to change the speed of things so that files open more quickly.’ (Jaylee)

‘Not all websites should be blocked.’ (Jemma)

‘I think we should get more computers for classes to use maybe four or five more per class.’ (Drew)

‘Basically the type of computers we have. (Brand name) is old and not updated meaning computers are slow most of the time.’ (Cayne)

What do you like most about the internet?

‘I like the Internet because it has games, email, MSN and Facebook.’ (Riley)

‘That it helps you find things out faster than a book (search).’ (Sahara)

‘Games and things we need for homework and assignments.’ (Jenny)

‘It is so easy to learn things from.’ (Bailey)

‘You get to play games search for information you need.’ (Chloe)

‘I like internet because you can search of anything you want including games, fun websites and much more.’ (Klein)

‘The thing I like most about the internet is when we do projects and I can look up the information.’ (Paris)

‘I like that you can have fun while learning, get information and (that you can) talk to people somewhere else.’ (Nikitas)

‘That it doesn’t take half an hour to load a page you want.’ (Erin)

‘I like searching answers to questions and playing games that are on the Internet.’ (Jaylee)

‘It’s an easier way to talk to your close friends and it helps a lot with schoolwork.’ (Jemma)

“I like using the Internet for my work”. (Drew)

‘The best thing …about Internet is its ability to hold all that information including Facebook.’ (Karla)

‘I like to do things on the computers including games like fun brain, typing tournament and others that are educational.’ (Claudia)

‘Exploring it because it is good to find out new things.’ (Yazmin)

What do you like least about the internet?

‘The thing I don’t like about the Internet are all the viruses.’ (Riley)

‘That sometimes if you look something up like ‘monkeys’ it goes do something totally different.’ (Sahara)

‘Improper things and that’s about all.’ (Jenny)

‘Sometimes people post things that can be dangerous.’ (Chloe)

‘The thing I don’t like about internet is that it takes too long to load.’ (Hamish)

‘I don’t like people making websites that are inappropriate for children.’ (Klein)

‘Wikipedia because people lie on that site.’ (Liam)

‘The thing I like least about the internet is when it doesn’t have the right information.’ (Paris)

‘I don’t like that people can get into your personal account and change information on the internet.’ (Nikitas)

‘What I least like about the internet is the Wikipedia. No one gives way some information, most of it isn’t true and people can edit it and write more false things.’ (Erin)

“How it sometimes takes ages to open pages and that it stores pages that have viruses.’ (Jaylee)

‘I like everything about the Internet but not when people bully you online – but I don’t listen to them.’ (Chelsea)

‘It’s not very safe (not as safe) as it should be.’ (Jemma)

‘I don’t like the internet because if you post something everyone sees what you say.’ (Drew)

‘The thing I like least about the internet is how people can put up false facts.’ (Karla)

‘When you look up something and get rubbish information.’ (Claudia)

‘That people can listen to your conversations and barge into them, for example when I and my friend are having a conversation and it is interrupted.’ (Cayne)

Pretend I (Henry Gray, the school principal at Leanyer) have never used a computer and do not know what a computer is what it can do. Write me a short explanatory text so I can begin to understand this technology.

‘First, I will show you how to use the computer and the basics. I would help if (you) didn’t get it right the first time.’ (Riley)

‘A computer is a box face we can look at things faster than in a book. You can download and tighten things including work. You can play games, go on Facebook. You can Google which is a fast way to find something.’ (Sahara)

‘It’s a technology; it helps you understand things and tells you stuff you may not have heard of, it may help you in life and for you to know better. It also provides you with Word documents to type on.’ (Jenny)

‘The computer is like an encyclopedia but has much more information. You can type in what you are trying to find and there would be lots of options you can choose from. Sometimes you have to be careful what you do on the Internet because it can be quite dangerous.’ (Chloe)

‘I would show you how to log on the computer and help you find things. I would help you know how to write on the computer. Then I would show you how to save so that you don’t have to start all over again. Finally, I would show you how to log off.’ (Hamish)

‘A computer has a Central Processing Unit (CPU) and a mouse, keyboard and lastly a monitor. Computers can help you search some of your project and help with homework and other work.’ (Klein)

‘A computer has a hard drive can be used for many things such as looking up information or for doing homework. It has a keyboard ordered to type upon like a typewriter and a mouse for clicking through files.’ (Liam)

‘A computer is a device you can use when you need information, pictures, writing and lots more. Computers are handy because they are there when you need them.’ (Paris)

‘A computer as a technological learning tool that can help you with lots of school requirements. It is … great … that you can play games and chat to friends and family.’ (Nikitas)

‘A computer is a smart, rectangular box. It contains a high source of technology and is built in a complicated way. There is another box which contains the wires and power bits. Attached to the power box is a keyboard. The keyboard is a set of buttons that have the alphabet, numbers (to 9) and other smart functions. Another thing is called a ‘mouse’. A mouse lets you click on buttons on the box screen. That is a computer.’ (Erin)

‘It is an easy technology and you will get a hold of it after a while.’ (Jaylee)

‘Computer can do nearly anything. It is easier to find things on computer. It is one of the best things ever made (refrigerators and electricity are better).’ (Chelsea)

‘You can research all types of different things as well as do some work. You are able to listen to music, talk to friends, discover celebrities, watch movies go on all sorts of websites … and obviously many other things like drawing, taking pictures and so on.’ (Jemma)

‘A computer is a machine that is supposed to make life easier. It is a machine that brings enjoyment and surprises to all.’ (Claudia)

‘The computer is a device that people use for knowledge, fun, talking and humour. It has a square shaped mirror that shows questions and problems you can answer. You can use when you want to talk with friends.’ (Cayne)

Some concluding thoughts

One of the things children spoke and wrote about as being of concern was the fact that inappropriate websites can come up. When Googling, quite by accident, might come the emergence of what one student said were ‘rude websites’. Our school and our Department of Education and Training have very active surveillance programs to ensure inappropriate sites are barred. This is something to work on constantly.

One student commented on concern about the interfering with images that may be up on sites owned by people. She said to change other people’s property is ‘… very rude and I don’t like it’.

Another student suggested that we should be a little bit more thoughtful when considering games we do and don’t block. Some games of educational value are blocked and to have access would ‘… make you think and use your brain’. ‘Not all websites should be blocked’ from another student suggests we need to discuss with children what sites are blocked and why blockages are programmed.

Our policies on sites and access are in the interests of children but we do need to make sure they understand why some sites are off-limits. Additional information carefully communicated will have positive educational benefits and make children aware the responsibilities they have in relation to their online behaviour. Survey responses this point (about blockage) came through on quite a few occasions.

One of the points coming through was that if we had to resort to paper and pencil because there were no computers, the loss of trees because of conversion to paper would increase the level of forest loss.

Most children appreciate the opportunity to talk with friends with many of them having conversations around the globe. I don’t think we realise at times just how much part of communications computer has become.

A theme (probably a wish) expressed by the majority of children was that the internet should be more available for games. Definitely, many children believe that games online add to living opportunities. It becomes a question of balance and education toward that end is something we need to take into account.

While the internet is appreciated, children abhor misuse. That feeling came through from most students. People changing and interfering with things they had no right to touch was anathema.

I want to thank students who shared with me because their perceptions are both informing and enlightening. If anything, this opportunity reinforced the fact that we need to take account of what children have to say and the ideas that they have as we shape things and go forward together. It’s the going forward together that is important. From that grows understanding, awareness shared empathy and organisational synergy.

Above all, and importantly, while technology is enriching and providing extended learning opportunities, I would hope that the notion of holistic education is always there. It’s the academic, social, emotional and moral/spiritual aspects of development that make up the whole person. I hope the technology and its use in our schools supports that but doesn’t diminish nor minimise those characteristics, traits and personality domains that are ever so important to us being both individuals and a collective of people together.


I am the past Principal of Leanyer School, in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. I was Principal of that school for 20 years from 1992 until 2011. Now retired I am an educator of some 43 years standing, over 40 as a School Education Leader.


(Some Reflections of a ‘Yesterday’s Leader’)

One of the organisational contexts that has been precious over the years, is a belief in the fact that institutions should progress in an onward and upward direction. “Steady state” development has always been important. It is confirmed as a practice if what has gone before is accepted and built upon by those new to organisations. The idea that succession in office should require the successor to dump as baggage the organisational culture he or she inherited in order to start all over, is anathema.

The best organisations are those that build, accepting what has driven the particlar institution to date and moving it along. There will be some changes, including practices that might be deemed redundant. By and large however, it will be a case of incoming leadership accepting existing culture and building on existing mores. Modification, refinement, revision and extension come to mind as drivers of this precept.

Suspect organisations or those that have their credence called to mind, are those in which leadership changes are generally or always accompanied by the dumping of inherited culture in order to ‘start over’. Leaders who practice this philosophy seem to be uncomfortable with other than their own ideas and perceptions. They contextualise the organisation they have inherited as threatening, until the vestiges of development occurring under previous leaders are expunged. This means ‘wiping the slate clean’ and pretending that ‘what is’ (inherited culture) ‘never was’ because it is peremptorily wiped out.

Metaphorically, that assigns everything built up over time to the waste paper bin. If organisations are build from the foundation up, its a case of big time demolition and the reduction of what has been to a pile of rubble. Leaders who are comfortable with only this operational style are not satisfied until the very foundations on which the organisation was built, are gone.

Expunging School History

Schools are organisations. The application of this principle, (tear down to build up) to schools and school communities can, in my opinion, be extremely destructive. While it might identify the Principal or Leadership Group as the sole owners of what ultimately comes to hallmark the school, damage done in ‘evolving toward’ and reaching this point can be destructive to the extreme. Organisational history and school history are wiped out; what remains are cultural scars.

Leadership so styled flies in the face of logic. It is generated by a false belief that in order for the new leader or leadership group to feel safe and comfortable within the school, its past must be dimmed until it vanishes into a never remembered past – a past that fades until fully shrouded by the ‘never was’ mantle.

Genesis 1:1 – In and Back to The Beginning

There used to be criticisms leveled about leadership changes in remote area Northern Territory schools. It was of concern that Aboriginal Schools were destabilised by the fact that incoming leaders assigned existing policies to the WPB as the first step in ‘starting all over again’. The fact that schools were always at Genesis 1:1 ‘in the beginning’ meant that little accumulative progress was made.

There used to be an advertisment on television talking about the propensity for people to take ‘two steps forward and one step back’. With Indigenous Education it became more a case of ‘one step forward and two steps backward’. This was largely the result of incoming leaders and staff members not accepting the authenticity of pre-built culture developed by those who had come, contributed, then gone.

When this happens in school contexts, the clock resets to zero and the organisation is forced to start over. The cycle of recommencement is not confined to Indigenous Schools. It happens elsewhere. It happens far too often and the happening has a deleterious impact on schools and their supporting communities.

Starting Over

There is a saying “If there is no problem, why fix it?” The answer to this question lies in an innate belief that people contemporary to organisations feel impelled to individualise the institution in order to leave upon it their mark and their stamp. They don’t want their contribution to be in any way diluted. In a school context this means incoming Principals and leadership teams don’t want what they have to offer, to be colored or tempered by what has gone before. Rather than accepting and building upon organisational history the preference is to dump inherited culture and ideology, therefore starting over again.


It seems there is a lack of logic to an approach that discounts organisational development, attempting to return (its) time and historical clock to zero. Nevertheless it happens and not infrequently. One probably never quite knows why, so contemplation has to be somewhat conjectural.

The Question of Personal Security

Perhaps the most significant reason new leaders attempt to shed the ‘old’ and ‘established’ school practices is their desire to make a mark that is not seen to be influenced by what has gone before and therefore been inherited.

There may be concerns by new leaders they cannot get on while historical residue remains. They desire to put distance between themsleves and the organisation’s past feeling that until and unless they do, they will be minimally acknowledged. They don’t want to be compared to past leaders lest that comparasion shows them up in a poor light. The best thing to do therefore is to promote a ‘fade out’ of what has happened in past years. “I can’t get on while memories of your involvement linger in the background’ may apply. That being the case the ‘new’ incumbent’s aim is to “put distance” between herself or himself and past leaders.

This worry may be aggravated by the new leader or leadership group feeling uncertain or insecure in the new position. The need to ‘prove oneself’ may come from inner motivation: It may also be that the new leader has been told she or he needs to take the school in a certain direction.

The incoming leader may have been told things about the school are wrong and need to be put to rights. The need to be a ‘fixer’ has certainly been put on incoming principals appointed to various schools in the Northern Territory over the years. Unless the Principal lives up to the expectation… ! The consequence may be less than palatable.

These matters go to the heart of personal security. Often it seems those new to principalship suffer from feelings of insecurity. This is likely to be exacerbated if the Principal is taking up appointment in an interstate or intra-territory location.

Elements Impacting on ‘Person Security’ Issues

The issue of security – with its close links to personal well-being is impacted by further considerations.

1. The fact that the Principal occupies (in the NT) a non-permanent position with the maximum temporary appointment being a four year contract, adds to anxiety and can create feelings of personal disequilibrium. The Principal becomes a creature anxious to please and therefore a person who is very conscious indeed, of superordinate expectations.

2. The loading down onto schools of Government expectations with accompanying accountability and compliance requirements may make new leaders anxious to show their worth by doing it their way – where their way has close alignment to systemic policy.

3. There may be a belief held by the incoming leader that the previous incumbent will somehow continue to impose upon and influence matters at the school. It could be a case of ‘gone but not really’. This means that in terms of SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) Analysis, the previous Principal and leadership group are regarded as threatening the newly appointed leader.

This being the case, the new leader will take every opportunity possible to distance her or his predecessor from the school. There is a certain worry about new leadership being compared and contrasted with the past; this can be felt as a threat by the new leader, particularly if the previous leader was in place for a substantial period of time and during that time had built up a respect base of appreciation within the school community.

An astute leader new to a school community will carefully assess that past and aim to engage her or his predecessor in a way that enhances opportunity and builds strength for the incoming leadership team.

There is danger that if the incoming leader and leadership team predetermine the outgoing leader to be a threat, this concern may become a reality. It is not hard to imagine that if the outgoing leader perceives herself or himself to be regarded as ‘alien’, this too may become a reality. No-one who has made a sincere commitment to an organisation for a long period of time appreciates being tossed aside and regarded as distasteful. It would take a noble person indeed, to ‘suck this up’ without reacting. Incoming leaders need to be careful about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

4. It follows that new leadership may suggest that what is inherited is inferior or sub-standard. That justifies statements such as “drastic remedial action is necessary” and “things will get worse before they get better” – implying that if those within the school have been comfortable in working within an inferior environment, they will be given a good shake as the new leadership groups takes the school toward betterment.

Wise leaders take their time to carefully assess inherited environments before initiating wholesale change. While they may wish to change the way schools are branded, this needs to be done with care. Good inherited organisational practice deserves to be maintained, not tossed aside.

5. Plagiarism is an interesting juxtapositional point that comes into the equation of new leadership, particularly in Northern Territory schools. There are rapid population shifts within the Territory. It is not unusual for schools to have a turnover of one third to one half of the school student population every twelve months to two years.

With this being the case, incoming school leaders can allow processes and practices to lapse for a period of time, then re-introducing them as new ideas after twelve months or two years. This is accepted as healthy change by a client group who, not familiar with the way it was, considers these changes to be new rather than ongoing. This could apply to school assessments, reporting to parents, school marketing, methods of newsletter circulation and so on. Far from being new, these approaches are back to the past; however they are claimed as being new ideas. Undeserved credit is given to leaders for what is tantamount to recycling.

‘New’ initiatives and approaches are new to those who come later, but not to those who have been there all along. In other words, what is ‘new’ is really old hat.

Concluding Thoughts

No -one denies that school leaders (and leaders of other organisations) need to be given a fair go. Pragmatic people rejoice with leaders for and in their management and administrative successes. Those who don’t are sadly negative or inherently jealous.

However, when incoming leaders in turn deny what has gone before, wanting to minimise memories of previous leadership contribution and distance their predecessors from the current and contemporary organisation, a similar negative applies. The one is hardly better than the other.

Some leaders from the past may want to ‘push in’, being reluctant to let go. Others are more than willing to relinquish but can stay connected in a positive context as resource people.

It is behoven on school leaders to be careful lest their actions lead to negativity and generate bitter waters and bad feeling for and within their organisations.

Looking back from Over the Western Horizon

I share with you now

The words of this poem

I was valued yesterday

But yesterday’s gone

Respected ’till yesterday

I’m now on my own

The sun’s set on my leadership

And yesterday’s gone.

No one remembers

What went before

“He did a good job”

But is remembered no more.

Let’s wipe out the memory

Of all that he did

“It will be done MY way”,

Past practice – not good!!

Take care with this thinking

I implore from the past

If you turn good practice to fallow –

While your tenure may last …

‘Twill be bitter not happy …

It’s wise to know

That your practice and style

Will reap what you sow.

The BEST Leadership Style in Theory and Practice

Concentric management: a team approach to educational leadership

Much is written and said about leadership. Of all subjects, writings (and sayings) about this subject are probably more prolific than about any other. A sub-set of leading in general terms is the specific comment directed toward leadership within the educational domain.

School leaders are offered more in terms of oral and written comment than most. To pick and choose and to digest between models that are promoted as being superior to others is almost a full-time occupation. In fact, it is possible to become so involved in the naval gazing that can go with leadership consideration, that one can forgets to lead!

While theoretical considerations and the underpinnings of leadership models are important, to overlook the practicalities of leadership makes for very poor application. It is leadership in practice that makes the leader a leader, because that is what others see in outcome terms.

When considering leadership, matters of methodology and style come into play. Leadership models and types offered by proponents of the technology run to myriad proportion. It seems there is a style available for all occasions, alternatives than can be shaped to meet the needs of all situations. Again, it can come to a point of leaders being so busy considering leadership that they fail to lead.

Over time, and down the years since Samuel Taylor began the formal processes of writing about leadership typology (in the modern era), it seems that the key focus has been on hierarchal constructs. There have been variations within that model, with distance either maximised or minimised in terms of member identification within the leadership group.

Embracing the pyramid: hierarchical leadership

Hierarchical leadership is perhaps the most common, in wrapping around leadership modelling. In total hierarchical terms, there is the leader who sits atop the organisation in splendid isolation from everyone else. Such a leader is typically an autocrat’s autocrat – an out and out dictator! Leaders of this ilk may be where they are in part because of charisma, but more often because of singular, bloody-minded jackbootedness.

This leadership style is typified within various republics and totalitarian governments. That level and degree of hierarchical leadership, fortunately, does not pervade within education. It is however, all too apparent within countries whose populaces are tortured by such leaders.

Lone leadership is somewhat of a rarity. Much more common – and perhaps the most pervasive of all leadership models is that of shared hierarchy, with leadership layers going from top management echelons to middle then to lower level management. Accountabilities are generally upward toward the pyramid pinnacle, with accountability requirements generally being directed downward.

Below the levels of the pyramid containing the leadership group (who may or may not be a team) are positioned the workers, those within the organisation who make up its base. In other words, they are the foundation upon which the pyramid rests. This is a model of dependence and reliance, but may be one that minimalises respect and trust. It all depends on the linkages that exist between people within the organisation.

A fallacy of the pyramid is that those atop the structure (even those only half-way up as they look down) is that self-righteousness, self-importance and a sense of inflated personal self-worth can take over. Those within the leadership domain separate from those they are supposedly supporting through leadership and grow away from the team. Those they lead, in turn, come to look upon them with disparagement and with a lack of respect for them in the positions they occupy. Rather than working together, the group tends to pull apart. In organisations where the fabric is rent, the centre fails to hold, with hollowness replacing wholesomeness.

This is not fanciful discourse but an indicator of what can happen if those within primarily use the organisation for the sake of personal and individualised gain. Successful people organisations – and schools are critical people developers – work best if those within focus on togetherness and sharing. That can happen better if traditional hierarchical structures are restructured, flattened and shaped to reflect a concentric leadership approach.

Concentric leadership

Concentric leadership discounts hierarchy by flattening the pyramid. The leader remains the leader, those within the leadership structure occupy their positions, but all become part of the structure in terms of equality that cannot exist within the separation imposed by traditional hierarchy.

From above, a concentric organisation is best represented as a circle. In the middle of the circle, symbolising the cohort of souls that make up that place is a series of dots, representing the leadership group. That group are set ‘one apart’ from the majority but are in no way magnified or accentuated in the way traditional organisations describe and transcribe leadership. The majority of those within the organisation are signified as boundary riders who stand side by side to make up the organisational circle.

Mathematically speaking, a ‘circle is a series of dots. Symbolically speaking, each dot represents a member of the group standing side by side (left and right hand) with peers. That is a ‘bird’s eye’ view of a concentrically lead institution.

From the side and applying the principal of a circle being represented by a series of dots, a concentrically configured organisation is seen as shown below. In a school like mine, the biggest dot represents the principal, flanked by two assistant principals and two senior teachers.

Mathematically speaking, a ‘circle is a series of dots’. Symbolically speaking, each dot represents a member of the group standing side by side (left and right hand) with peers. That is a ‘bird’s eye’ view of a concentrically lead institution.

From the side and applying the principal of a circle being represented by a series of dots, a concentrically configured organisation is seen as shown below. In a school like mine, the biggest dot represents the principal, flanked by two assistant principals and two senior teachers.

Everyone else within the school community stands on the same plane and at the same level as the leadership group. Such an organisation is one priding itself on offering equality of recognition, with everyone being on the same plain. This model does not identify people on the basis of subordinates looking up and superordinates looking down. Everyone looks at each other is terms of simple sideways or ‘across the circle’ eye movement. Concentric leadership in principle and practice is designed to promote feelings of equality and togetherness in a way that would be frowned upon by traditional hierarchal adherents.

Respect-based leadership

My purpose in writing this piece is not to uphold one leadership style in a way that denigrates other models. It is rather an attempt to outline an approach which, if right for an organisation and if practised, can work to bring a group together in a way that releases powerful and positive organisational synergy.

In all situations and regardless of model, leadership is either ‘ascribed’ or ‘acquired’.

Ascribed leadership is the authority vested in a position by its creators and recognised by its holder(s). It is a power based leadership with expectations ‘commanded’ by superordinates. If the position holder doesn’t comply with expectations held of the position by those above, tenure can be short. An ‘upside’ from the viewpoint of the occupier can be that the incumbency offers the occupier a chance to wield power.

Sometimes that authority can be applied indiscriminately, but usually in the knowledge that the position holder will be protected from subordinate reaction by superordinate protection. A lot of middle level managers relish the power and authority vested in such positions.

Ascribed leadership authority is a perfect fit for the hierarchal model, where positions are (or can be) filled by those supplicating upward while operating quite intransigently in a downward direction. Ascribed authority is popular among those who want to get on, because it can offer guarantee of upward mobility by key decision-makers if the job is done to expectation at the level of occupancy.

Acquired authority is earned on the basis of perceptions held for leaders by those around him or her within the organisation. It grows from perceptions held of leaders that are respect based. Such authority is not conferred but is earned by way of the recognition that is shown to members of leadership teams by those being lead. Without doubt, it is the harder but more meaningful and everlasting of the two authority types that are in play.

The two can be conflictive. Respect is not necessarily earned by those leaders who play the power game, through adhering strictly to the demands and expectations of the position which come from above.

Neither is the leader who earns subordinate and peer respect necessarily highly regarded by those above, for the perceptions attaching to acquiring respect based recognition may infer a certain weakness in the character of such leaders as seen by superordinates. They may believe that respect has been offered because the leader is compromising, vacillating or too giving. Such a perception might threaten the ‘management on the basis of tight ship’ principle.

Trust, accountability and concentric leadership

Concentric leadership is not a model that will work well in distrustful situations. It may be that those at top leadership levels do not trust a leader further down the organisation, who advocates concentric practice because he or she may be seen to be less authoritative than desirable. There are also concerns that leaders who consult and fully engage with others in the organisation are weak, in not being able to make up their minds without considering the opinions of others. There is also suspicion that such consultation will be responded to in a selfish and narrow manner by those who are asked opinions by the leadership team.

There can be issues that arise from within organisations where a desire by leaders to be concentric, is signalled. Those within the structure may suspect that statements of intent are empty rhetoric, words without meaning. To sell the concept of concentrism, leaders must act and ‘live’ within a way that encourages trustful responses. This is perhaps best helped if leaders are available to their teams, avoiding being seen as remote or aloof.

Concentric leadership is in my opinion, anathema to the principle of ascribed management but sits comfortably in a context of acquired leadership. If leaders are on the same plane and operate at the same level as all within the organisation, then trust has to be a quality in place. By the same token, the leadership team does have an organisational accountability setting them a little part from others within the team. That context is shown by the elevation and the magnification of the dots, central to the linear structure as indicated in my first diagram.

There should be and there will be an identification of the concentrically positioned leadership group by those outside the organisation, meaning that the prime focus of accountability will be honed in from above, to where it belongs. There will also be an appreciation by those within, that the leadership team has a job to do. With everyone operating on the same level, communication should be enhanced because those within the organisation don’t have to crane their necks in ‘looking up’ to the leadership group.

Rather the ‘looking up’ is inward and soulful being based on the respect and trust that developed within a group in which everyone is on the same plane. True concentric leadership gives a new and positive meaning to the concept of the ‘level playing field’.

Quality leadership: never utopian but constantly striving

No organisation anywhere can boast leadership panacea, because organisational equilibrium constantly changes. However, in striving for the best that can happen within an organisation, I strongly commend an approach that takes concentric leadership into account. The advantages are there, provided that trust is a quality that exists and which can be factored in to strengthen through concentric practice.

While concentrism may fly in the face of the hierarchically inclined, it can be promoted and shown as building a character and strength that is positive and enhancing. In a school context, the trust and respect growing from such an approach adds hugely to internalised values. Vesting confidence in such a model is helpful to the macro-organisation in achieving its goals because of the micro-satisfaction of its parts. Happy and well functioning school units mean that DEET Corporate is enhanced.

If those within schools are happy, satisfied and achieve organisation balance that in turn is good for the superstructure that is our Department of Employment, Education and Training. If the system is going to build and develop, then the genesis of positivism has to come from its foundations. Schools are the foundation on which DEET is built. Concentric leadership may well influence, in a positive way, ‘from the ground up’. If that happens, with an enhancement of trustfulness upon which the model is predicated, then all augurs well for future system developments.

Be warned, however! There are those to whom such a model is anathema, because the one thing they don’t want is for their positional power and ascribed authority to be wilted.

Concentric leadership is for those who believe in collectivity and togetherness. It can be organisationally fulfilling because it satisfies all those within, who have genuine stake and interest in the school or situation they are leading. It will never suit those whose aim is to pontificate, dictate and lead by command from the great heights of hierarchal pyramids.



This familiarisation and awareness education will (would) support graduate teachers by providing insights into the dynamics of interaction likely to occur within schools and their communities and also between teachers and students in the classroom context.

It would consider singular schools and communities along with the wider interface of the Northern Territory community.

It would take account of the social and cultural elements likely to impact upon and influence the three-way relationship co-existing between teachers, students and parents/primary caregivers. Included could be the wider factors impinging upon and influencing relationships.


1. To help students construct a teaching program and teach in a manner which takes into account the strengths, needs, ambition and their potential contribution to Australian society of:

* Traditionally oriented and urbanised Indigenous Australians from communities, outstations, camps and towns.

* Ethnic minorities.

* Displaced and resettled children and families.

* Defence Force Families and others who regularly transition between states and territories.

* Students with special needs.

2. To consider the broader cross-cultural issues and relationships inherent within Northern Territory (and indeed Australian) society: To canvass optimum economic, political, social and cultural developments of all community sectors, with emphasis on caring, sharing and mutual harmony.

3. To engender confidence, awareness and understanding needed to approach members of minority groups, including capacity to empathetically hear and understand their concerns and interests


To pose the following questions and situations and engage with students toward answering them:

1. How can teachers communicate the importance of schooling to students and parents in remote community settings?

2. Why is schooling important in cross-cultural contexts?

3. How much flexibility on the teacher’s part is reasonable when working in

cross-cultural contexts?

4. How can female teachers best adapt to male/female role expectations in remote communities and when working with minority groups?

5. Strategies available for coping with extreme behaviours including understanding and management.

6. The need to adapt or maintain one’s own mores when teaching in cross-cultural situations.

7. Truancy impacts in remote and urban schools.

8. The need to fully consider and be aware of child abuse issues, including mandatory reporting, in all community (remote and urban) situations. This will take account of legislation, within school communication, possible parent/carer response to reporting outcomes, supporting victims and so on.

9. The need for ethnic groups to be aware and understanding of the wider (majority) norm of expectation.

10 . The issues of disparity between the number of males and females in teaching and teacher leadership positions. Background and reasons for this evolution.

11. Consideration of equal opportunity and affirmative action as it could or might apply on the basis of gender and ethnicity. The considerations that teachers need to take into account around these matters.

12. The attitudes likely to be held by parents, students, existing staff toward new teachers coming into schools to teach. The potential of graduate teachers to contribute to the school/community ethos.


Depending on what CDU and our DoE wanted from a focussing viewpoint, there are a number of ways in which this study could be developed.

This is a suggested framework.