Our principals, teachers and school support staff are doing an outstanding job of managing student education and welfare needs in a Covid environment that demands careful and constant attention. School leadership and oversight has always been challenging. The degree of difficulty Covid adds, creates massive oversight requirements. I sincerely hope the community appreciates the efforts of all school staff in these very difficult times.


Sadly, the focus on NAPLAN testing is alive and well and continuing to grow as a significant educational point of focus. This testing regime is the major occupier of school staff meetings and gatherings of principals and school leaders. NAPLAN testing which commenced in 2008, was supposed to test student competencies at a particular point in time. Unfortunately it has become a measuring stick which is overwhelming education.



Putin rules with iron rod,

All Russians grumble,

Putin will prevail,

Resistance will tumble.

There is only one answer,

And it never will be,

In essence all Russians,

To Putin bend knee.

Protests are all show,

Nothing they mean,

Kowtowing they kiss,

The road where he’s been,

They simper and crawl,

To buy life and space,

And fail always to see,

The disdain on his face.

Putin says ‘jump’,

People acquiesce, their heads nod,

In Russia Putin’s not human,

In Russia, he’s god.

UKRAINE FACTS – small wonder Russia wants Ukraine

I found the following:

For those who ask:

“Why does Ukraine matter? “

This is why Ukraine matters.

It is the second largest country by area in Europe, and has a population

of over 40 million – more than Poland.

Ukraine ranks:

1st in Europe in proven recoverable reserves of uranium ores;

2nd place in Europe and 10th place in the world in terms of titanium ore reserves;

2nd place in the world in terms of explored reserves of manganese ores (2.3 billion tons, or 12% of the world’s reserves);

2nd largest iron ore reserves in the world (30 billion tons);

2nd place in Europe in terms of mercury ore reserves;

3rd place in Europe (13th place in the world) in shale gas reserves (22 trillion cubic meters)

4th in the world by the total value of natural resources;

7th place in the world in coal reserves (33.9 billion tons)

Ukraine is an important agricultural country:

1st in Europe in terms of arable land area;

3rd place in the world by the area of black soil (25% of world’s volume);

1st place in the world in exports of sunflower and sunflower oil;

2nd place in the world in barley production and 4th place in barley exports;

3rd largest producer and 4th largest exporter of corn in the world;

4th largest producer of potatoes in the world;

5th largest rye producer in the world;

5th place in the world in bee production (75,000 tons);

8th place in the world in wheat exports;

9th place in the world in the production of chicken eggs;

16th place in the world in cheese exports.

Ukraine can meet the food needs of 600 million people.

Ukraine is an important industrialised country:

1st in Europe in ammonia production;

Europe’s 2nd’s and the world’s 4th largest natural gas pipeline system;

3rd largest in Europe and 8th largest in the world in terms of installed capacity of nuclear power plants;

3rd place in Europe and 11th in the world in terms of rail network length (21,700 km);

3rd place in the world (after the U.S. and France) in production of locators and locating equipment;

3rd largest iron exporter in the world

4th largest exporter of turbines for nuclear power plants in the world;

4th world’s largest manufacturer of rocket launchers;

4th place in the world in clay exports

4th place in the world in titanium exports

8th place in the world in exports of ores and concentrates;

9th place in the world in exports of defence industry products;

10th largest steel producer in the world (32.4 million tons).

Ukraine matters. That is why its independence is important to the rest of the world .

I Small wonder Russia wants Ukraine.


Educational organisation within schools is many things to many people. Principals and school leadership teams are motivated and inspired by many different stimuli. The elements and influences which press upon schools are poured into a metaphoric funnel above each place of teaching and learning. Community, hierarchial and government expectation cascade onto schools like torrential rain.

While Principals and leadership groups are able to analyse, synthesise and consider ways in which the schools might accommodate demands from without, proportion and perspective can become lost. The flood of seemingly insatiable demands rained on schools, can be destabilising.

This is especially the case in situations where Principals and leadership teams feel that everything demanded of the school by the system (and of the system in turn by Government), has to be acceded and put into practice. Knee jerk reactions cause inner disquiet for staff who are often reluctant to change without justification, but are pressured to make and justify those changes anyway.

In metaphoric terms, schools that comply with these demands, remind me of a frog hopping from lilly pad to lilly pad on a pond’s surface. Sooner or later the frog will miss in its leap from one pad to the next and do a dunk into the water. I believe like a duck, we need to do a lot more deep diving to ascertain what rich life there is at the bottom of the pond. Too often school leaders are urged and in turn urge teachers, to skim the surface of learning without exploring issues with children and students.

Beneath the educational top soil, there are rich substrata of understandings that need to be explored. That depth learning can be overlooked through rapid movement from one initiative to the next.

This approach is one that does little to positively enhance the way those working within schools feel about what they are doing. Staff become ‘focussed by worry’ and internalise feelings of discomfit about what and how they are doing. They wonder whether they are valued and appreciated. While staff members may not talk about feelings of insecurity in an ‘out there and to everyone’ way, their expressions of concern and disquiet are certainly expressed to trusted colleagues in an ‘under the table’ manner.

Teachers may maintain a brave face to what they are doing, but beneath the surface suffer from self doubt. This leads to them becoming professionals who overly naval gaze, generally in a very self critical manner. Teachers can and often do become professions, who feel there is little about which to self-congratulate and rejoice.

Establishing Priorities and Building toward Positive Atmosphere

In this context and against this background it is essential that empathetic school principals and leadership teams, offer reassurance and build confidence within their teaching and support staff cohorts. They need to help staff understand that ‘frog hopping’ is not essential. ‘Deep diving’ into learning, whereby children and students are offered the opportunity of holistic development needs to be encouraged.

If this is to happen, Principals need to take account of two very important considerations.

* They need to act in a way that deflects as much downward pressure as possible away from staff. They need to be like umbrellas, open to diffuse the torrent of government and systemic expectatiion, keeping change within reasonable boundaries. This will ensure that schools, students and staff are not overwhelmed by cascading waterfalls of macro-expectation. Principals and leadership groups need to maintain as much balance as possible within their schools. In spite of what system leaders may say, random acceptance and blind attempts at implementing every initiative will lead to confusion st school level.

* The second critically important consideration, largely dependent upon the ability of school Principals and leadership groups to be selective in terms of their acceptance of change invitation, is that of school tone, harmony and atmosphere.

Tone cannot be bought as a material resource. Neither can it be lassoed, harnessed or tied down. The ‘feel’ of a school is an intangible and generates from within. It develops as a consequence of feeling generated among those within the organisation.

I feel that the atmosphere of a school, which grows from the tone and harmony within, is best expressed as a weather map which superimposes on that school. Once, I had a rather clever member of my staff take an aerial photograph of ‘our place’ and photoshop a weather map over our school campus. This I kept close for it was necessary for me to appreciate the ‘highs’ within our school. I also needed to take account of the ‘lows’, being aware of the fact we needed to make sure they were swiftly moving and not permanently affective of the people within our borders.

Atmospheric Challenge

Within schools are three key groups of people – students, staff and parents. Watching overall is the wider community. Change of personnel and client is common, with the arrival and departure of children and staff. Systemic demands and government priorities are hardly constant. This opens schools up as being organisations in a constant state of flux. Just as weather patters change, so too, do pervading atmospherics within schools. Those feeling on a positive ‘high’ today, may find that feeling of well-being eroded by something that unfolds tomorrow. Contrawise, circumstances causing feelings of despondency (‘low’ points) can be lifted by awareness and relationships building efforts.

It is up to Principals and leadership teams to ensure that positive atmosphere, precious yet fragile, is built and maintained. It is easy to lose the feeling of positivism, so necessary if an organisation is to grow and thrive on the basis of its human spirit.

I recommend the wisdom of building spirit within our schools.



Today I turn 76 years of age. Physically, I feel my limitations but hope my my mental acuity is still intact.

In both physical terms and mental capacity, I want to retain my independence. The thought of being dependent on others, fills me with apprehension. I believe that euthanasia or the allowable extinction of life should be available to me in advance of my ultimate deterioration. I do not want to become a burden on others, a physical wreck or a person of vacuous mentality.

Once as a younger person, I was apprehensive, indeed frightened, about dying. As a aging septuagenarian, that is no longer the case. I have lived a full life and have given to family and community.

My wish is to pass over with my independence intact. Surely that is not a sin.

Henry Gray

February 24 2022

Teachers Revisit Singing and Story-Telling

Revisit Singing and Story-Telling

Singing and story-telling used to be very much a part of school activity. Curriculum changes and pressures placed on teachers have almost assigned these activities to history. Yet they can fill an important place in our classrooms.

Children love singing. When it comes to a personal vocalising adventure it is also something many teachers decline because of self-consciousness. It is unfortunate that many teachers are reluctant to engage in singing with children at classroom level. In many schools singing is left to the music teacher. The activity is one in which classroom teachers, even those responsible for early childhood children, rarely engage.

Singing is an activity I enjoyed with children in many different school settings, in all grades and in all kinds of schools.

I’m no expert in musical terms, but enjoyment should be the key to singing. Holding a tune helps, but if that does not come naturally, it can be cultivated.

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.

Memory building

Learning the lyrics and music that goes with singing, helps when it comes to memory building. Songs learned stay with people for years, sometimes a lifetime. The stimulation of memory is important because the ability to memorise, one of the characteristics with which we have been blessed, is enhanced by practice.

Part of the appeal to memory is that of challenging children to learn the words and tune of the song as quickly as possible. Make singing exciting.

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. ‘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.

Creative appeal

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.

Telling stories is an enriching teaching and listening experience.

At the risk of sounding old fashioned, I extol the virtues of story telling. These days, with the advent and use of smart-boards and connecting devices, teachers often use audio-visual technology when it comes to story reading and story telling. The possible reluctance that teachers may feel about telling stories to children is not new. When I was a primary school student we used to have ‘Junior Listener’ stories broadcast to us by radio. For half an hour or so we would sit at our desks in rural Western Australia and listen to the story of the week being read to us by a presenter in Perth. Memory fades with time but I cannot remember our teachers being much into story telling. We were read to from time to time. However in those days, books were not attractively presented or full of colourful illustrations to be shared with children.

Teachers should not feel reluctant about telling or reading stories to children. Sadly, the skill of story telling is becoming a lost art. I always gained great satisfaction from being able to share stories with students from Transition to Year Seven. I believe that teachers of older students can fashion their delivery of material in a way that transmits it to students in story form. Story provided ‘setting’ and helps place the context of message into a feasible environment. It helps students understand the application of theoretical contexts.

To tell stories with and to children is to engage with them in a primary conversational context. Stories told with animation and conviction, with supporting gesture and eye contact, engage children and switch them on in a way that draws them close to the message being conveyed.


Story telling offers many educational positives.

* The quality, meaning and context of language, word usage and meaning can be followed up by discussion during ‘conversational pauses’ within the story or at its end when the story is being reviewed.

* Questioning to test listening helps to build the notions of concentration and listening. To have ‘mini quizzes’ where there is some sort of contestation build within the group (for instance, girls versus boys, contest between class groups and so on) adds to student focus and engagement. This strategy discourages students ‘switching off’ and mentally wandering off into the distance.

* Having students work on ‘prediction. and ‘forecast’ by sharing their thoughts about where the story will head and how it will conclude can be an interesting and testing strategy. This approach helps develop the skills of logic and reasoning within thinking.

* Language study is enhanced. Asking children the meanings of words and words within context is an example. Similes and antonyms can be developed as a part of word study.

* Some texts which share stories are written in the ‘language of yesteryear’. There are two volumes that come to mind, ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’ and stories by Hans Christian Anderson. These stories not only introduce children to a vast array of very colourful old fashioned words that have been superseded by the idiom of modern language. They are also set in social situations of the past, largely replaced by the social attitudes and disposition of today. These stories lend to wonderful exploration of word development and a comparison of historical and contemporary social mores. They help with developing understanding of what has changed and why behaviours once acceptable have been replaced.

* The appeal of stories to imagination and ‘the mind’s eye’ is such that art growing or flowing from story presentation can be colourful and creative. If the story is one drawn from history, asking children to think of clothing, transport, buildings and other artefacts from the past can help with differentiation and clarify understanding.

* A great way of treating longer stories, is to serialise (or mini-series) them, with ‘to be continued’ as part of the understanding. That is a great way of helping children anticipate what may happen. A good story being well told can also be a motivator. Continuation can be applied as a reward for effort and endeavour.


* Make sure when telling stories that you use clear, expressive language. Take the part with language variations, of the characters you are describing.

* Engage children by asking them to respond by being characters in the story. Have them thing about and describe the characters, moods and attitudes of those around whom the story is centred.

* Have children act or visit the story or parts thereof through dramatic expression. Drama is a subject very rarely considered these days.

* As a story teller, make eye contact with the group. Vocal expression is important including pitch, rhythm and other elements of speech.

End Point

I could go on about story telling. A good story well told, will be remembered for a long time. I still have people, now in their late teens and adult years, tell me they remember my story telling and how much they enjoyed stories I told.

It is a sad fact of life that adults tend to lose their imaginative capacities. To engage in story telling is to keep the imagination of the story teller alive and flourishing. As a school principal, I used to talk with children about the importance of imagination and imaginative thought. To tell stories has helped keep me in touch with this advice.

Singing and story telling are enjoyable activities. I recommend both.

Henry Gray


Leaders and members of staff in our schools are required to attend many different forums. These range from unit or section meetings, staff meetings involving all school staff members, to conferences, workshops and other professional forums.

Although they may not openly speak about their concerns, participants often feel a certain sense of resignation about having to participate in seemingly endless rounds of meetings. There is often a sense of resignation to this inevitability along with feelings of compulsion because attendance is required. If people do not attend, their absence is noted and they may be talked about in less than positive terms. They may be counselled for non-participation, with absences being held against them when their organisational futures are being considered.

All this adds up to an internalised reluctance on the part of people to engage in these forums. The thought of “meeting after bloody meeting” comes to mind and creates negative mental pictures about the worth of these gatherings. Of course, participants don’t speak this way, but thought processes may belie outward appearances.

This adds up to meetings and gatherings of all types being unlooked forward to events. There may be resentment and even bitterness on the part of some because they desperately want to be elsewhere. Some believe they should be at work, not again absent from their prime places of employment. Nevertheless, they are obliged to attend these meetings, forums or conferences. When attendance requirements end, there is often a feeling of immense relief that “finally” they can be elsewhere.

It would be a real plus for these attitudes to be overcome and replaced by positive reactions.

My propositions for modifying the end points of meetings may help to overcome these negatives. In the case of local or school based forums, school principals and meeting leaders could invite input by participants. In the wider context and when dealing with major conferences, those changes might be adopted by conference presenters and organisers. If that was to happen, those attending would be much more positive in their attitudes and feelings about engaging.

Anything to enhance feelings and belief about the benefit and use of forums, would be a positive outcome.

Engagement should not be overlooked

In many forums, meetings and conferences, the idea of “engagement” by audience and participants is minimised or downplayed. This happens even in workshop contexts, with the word “workshop” being misapplied. It often happens is that the group invited to workshop engage only their listening skills, with there being no active opportunity to participate in any exchange or sharing of ideas. The activity is merely about listening to the ideas espoused by the presenter or group facilitators .

The singular requirement for listening is even more pronounced in other, more high level forums. Lengthy expositions, often supported by PowerPoint slides seem to have no end.

The sufferance attendees feel could be changed if they had the opportunity to participate meaningfully in planned activities.

In all contexts where people are gathered together for professional engagement, two way exchange is more enhancing than the prevailing practice of one way communication. When one does all the talking and everyone else all the listening, meetings lead to audience disaffection

What can be done

The following ideas are only suggestions. There could be more ways of enhancing engagement by participants in attendance at professional gatherings.

• In unit and staff meetings, consider asking everyone who is participating, to join in building a shared conclusion. This could be done by way of a round robin where people are asked to offer a commendation about the meeting, through verbally sharing something they have gained. Rotation could be clockwise or anticlockwise if the group is sitting in a circular arrangement. Comment could be invited from right to left or left to right if people are seated more traditionally. If they are so inclined, participants should feel free to “pass” to the next person without comment. To go around the group a second time asking for a recommendation (how something might be done differently or better next time), would offer valuable feedback to presenters. Seeking a second commendation or recommendation might enhance the exercise.

Having somebody record or summarise comments made, would offer valuable feedback to presenters. This participation would help those attending to feel they are part of the meeting.


Professional forums and workshops could be planned so the same opportunity could be offered to participants. This would be an “enabling strategy”, providing presenters with feedback and clues as to what’s really appreciated by audience members.

This isa significant approach because the quality of feedback will indicate to presenters both perceived strengths and areas of need within the presentation. Those seeking to expand the knowledge of others through their presentations will gain insights into what audience members and listeners clearly understand, along with anything they do not understand. This information can be invaluable in re-shaping presentations or modifying what is being offered for subsequent forums.

Conference organisers and presenters could organise for group participation to support any or all aspects of the program. Presenters could build feedback opportunities into their workshops or lecture based presentations. A period at the end of each presentation could be set aside for “question-and-answer” responses. Audience members might offer feedback aligning with the “commendation, recommendation, commendation” (CRC) feedback loop. This approach could be varied by pausing at the end of each section of the paper, inviting audience members to comment. Varying methodologies to sample responses could be employed, but the structure should be one enhancing two-way engagement and interaction. If they knew they were going to have an opportunity to join in, more people might be inclined to opt into conference programs. Two way exchange is a more appealing dynamic than ‘one way’ listening.

• I believe that this feedback approach could have a place at the end of conference formalities or during conference dinners.

• Feedback and discussion opportunities could be inserted at the end of each conference session, day or at the conclusion of the conference. This would vary the approach of having designated rapporteurs who summarise proceedings for a passive, listening audience. Enabling more people to participate in the conclusion of sectional or overall activities would be appealing for many participants. The benefit of this is a requirement that people would have to listen and understand in order to be able to make meaningful comment. That would help overcome the universal problem of people being in attendance but mentally shutting of from the program.

• This approach could take the place of guest speakers at conference dinners. Having a roving microphone which ‘visits’ from table to table asking people to comment on conference highlights and personal learnings, would be a way of sharing conference highlights in a semi social situation. Commendations and recommendations could be included. In order to introduce some variation, people sitting at each table could be asked to respond to a particular question in relation to the conference. This would broaden the scope of responses and keep people thinking.

Concluding Thoughts

The variations suggested are intended to be constructive. If adopted, they should guarantee a greater level of participation within meeting, workshop and conference forums than has traditionally been the case.

If people attending conferences are guaranteed an opportunity or option to participate, their level of enthusiasm and desire to engage will rise proportionately. In far too many cases people are summonsed or required to attend. They do so reluctantly and somewhat resentfully.. There is really no “heart engagement” or wanting to be there. It’s an obligation, a drudge and a chore. Attendance in part may be coerced because professional futures may depend on involvement. Of course, resentment would not be expressed out loud because it might reach the wrong ears, so people put on a bold front and attend. This is not an ideal situation but it is the way many people feel about having to attend a whole plethora of meetings.

Overcoming these feelings and taking away disconsolate attitudes may help boost enthusiasm about professional gatherings organised for professional pursuit. If mundane meetings can be made more meaningful, organisers, participants and everybody connected with these activities will emerge as winners.

Henry Gray


A great deal is made of the need for interpreters and translators to support Indigenous Australians in the NT who are said to have no understanding of English. English has been the dominant and prime teaching language in all schools, including remote schools, since the 1960’s and 70’s. To say that people have little or no understanding of English is totally wrong.

Speech and speaking clubs like Toastmasters are offered a new challenge; developing within members and through community workshops, the ability to speak clearly, expressively and audibly while wearing masks. With this facial coverage becoming an ongoing and prescribed need, such training is becoming essential.


The closure of ‘Flip Out’ will be very disappointing for many children and young people in Darwin and the Top End. One after another, venues catering for the recreational needs of youth seem to be closing their doors. Hopefully this will not be a continuing trend, because they need things to do and places to go.


It happened in June 2020

A couple of days ago I heard an astounding item of news on the radio. It was so gobsmacking, I had to stop to express my thoughts for a blog entry.

The person concerned has worked in the aeronautical engineering industry for 50 years. At the present moment he is/was working for Jetstar.

Jetstar along with Qantas is downsizing its workforce. This gentleman received a message of a phone in and called the number.

He was greeted by 2 1/2 minute message which had been pre-recorded. It let him know that after 50 years his services were no longer required; he was being dismissed along with a good number of other people.

No ‘by your leave; , ‘I beg your pardon’ or anything else – just a pre-recorded, impersonal message giving him the flick.

As a person who worked for over 40 years with people in another context, I could not but think “how rude, how callous, and just how bloody awful.”

How was it possible that a person who is given half a century to an industry can be so offhandedly dismissed! Where is the world heading when faithful service rendered for so long, counts for so little!


Teacher quality is front and centre of educational discussion at the moment. “The Australian” columnist Glenn Fahey (18/2) has offered particularly telling and insightful commentary on the subject. Soul searching and comment about the need for change is futuristic in outlook, because focus and money has not resulted in accelerated learning outcomes. I believe that in looking forward, those responsible for teacher preparation need to reflect on the past teacher training practices, revisiting and including some of those key elements in our 21st century teacher preparation courses. When I trained in the 1960’s teaching methods were taught, practice teaching was paramount and phonics underpinned all aspects of language learning.

I worry that critical teaching and subject methodologies are now insufficiently stressed. Rather than prospective teachers receiving that understanding while in training, they graduate with degrees and as neophytes are expected to begin acquiring practical teaching skills and dispositions upon full-time entry into classroom teaching positions. Fahey extols the importance of graduate teachers learning from their experienced colleagues. That helps, but basic training is critically important. Superficial training means graduate teachers will flounder and students will suffer.