RELIGION – A FADED PRACTICE

Do you practice religion?

PRACTISING RELIGION

Brought up as a young person in a religiously inclined home, I practised religion and felt myself to be affiliated with a particular church followed by my parents during my formative years. That continued into my early teens and really up until I turned 20. Within my church I served as a lay preacher, are used leader, a person who participated in running Fake-ation Bible Schools for young people in our hometown and so on.

Not so long after I turn 20, I was appointed as a delegate to the State Conference held each year by our church. during that conference I was astounded to learn that money operation as in all churches belonging to this group were regularly asked to give, and give until it hurt, was not being used for the furtherance of the work but rather by the church leaders to amass assets. These assets included the purchase of property for investment and so on.

I asked questions at the conference of our leaders and those who were there as delegates. I was it that we were being urged to give money to further the churches work within Australia and overseas, when investment and by implication bank balances seem to be the important thing and the way that money was being directed.

In response to my questioning I was more or less told to “mind my own business”. Decisions impacting upon the church were made by people in positions of authority and it was not my right to question the propriety of what they did.

For me, being involved with organised religion and the visibly practising Christian began to cease at that point in time. I remind affiliated with the church only to satisfy my parents. That made me feel somewhat hypocritical because what I was on the outside was not how I felt about religion on the inside.

With the passing of time I disaffiliated from the church and from organised religion and that remains the case to this day. I have however tried very hard throughout my life to live in a decent and principled way and to help others per my mission statement which I will re-list at the end of this response.

For a long time after my severance from religious formalities church practices I felt guilty about what I done and felt that I had somewhat apostatised. Some years, in fact decades past and I wrote a letter to my parents, who felt guilty about my departure from the faith, to point out that they had not failed me – that I had made my own decisions about the church and religious affiliation. I hope when they passed it wasn’t with the feeling of guilt that they had misguided me in someway.

It was about going back to that conference and considering the priority is the church exposed and the practices (it seemed to me) in which the church engaged.

My parents had wanted me to train as a minister and become a pastor of the church. That of course never happened.

However, I think that my life as a teacher, educational leader and a person working with others has enabled me to fill the work I’ve done with the same (hopefully) positive outcomes for them (and myself) that would have ever been achieved had I followed my parent’s occupational wishes.

LIFE BEFORE THE INTERNET

Do you remember life before the internet?

Life before the internet

I am 77. Born in 1946, I could write a tome about pre-internet communication and interaction. For the moment two reflections will suffice.

The first example of difference relates to urgent communication pre-internet and pre-modern telephone communication.

Urgent messages were sent by telegram. The sender would go to a post office and pay two shillings and sixpence for a telegram of twelve words (maximum) including the name and address of the receiver. That is $2.85 in today’s currency.

The sending post office relayed the message via phone to the post office nearest to where the message recipient lived. The message was hand copied onto a telegram form, placed into an envelope, and given to a post office junior who delivered it, usually on a bicycle to the recipient.

This process was the way urgent messages were transmitted from sender to receiver for decades.

I am drawing on personal experience to illustrate the second instance of life before the internet.

In 1972 and 1973, I earned extra money by reporting on football and basketball for a country newspaper printed – linotype printing – in Perrh each Wednesday for distribution on Thursday and Friday.

Football was played on Sundays. I had to round up the details of the games played at four different locations, type up my report on an Olivetti typewriter, drive it 25 kilometres to a pick-up point and give it to the driver of a road transport bus for delivery on Tuesday morning to the newspaper office for inclusion in the paper’s sports pages.

The Internet has made what were elongated and complex communications processes, so much simpler and easier to manage.

GOTTA BE GOOD AT SOMETHING

GOTTA BE GOOD AT SOMETHING

I WASN’T GOOD AT

On the Farm as a Child

Extracting double-gee plants and seeds from growing wheat crops.

Removing eggs from. Underneath clucky hens inmm laying nests.

Hand milking cows.

Crutching and doctoring flyblown sheep.

Eating vegetables prescribed by my Mother.

Wearing a hat for sun protection – and I have suffered!

Resisting spoonfulls of sugar from the sugar bowl.

Denying myself scoops of fat from the dripping tin in the Coolgardie safe.

Dedicating time to feeding and watering the fowls.

Cutting heads off roosters being prepared for sale in our home town.

Sitting still in church.

Focussing on the study of mathematics, physics and chemistry.

As an Adult and Educator I wasn’t good at:

Accomodating Type B personality people.

Pretending agreement with policies with which I actively disagreed.

Having to take on staff members who were ‘gottabees’.

Having to acquiesce to ‘ascribed authority focussed’ superordinates.

Sloppily dressed members of staff.

Accepting system perogfatives to ‘water down’ expectations for some students.

Appreciating system and Australia-wide testing regimes.

Not sharing my school’s successes with media.

Being told in 1974 that I was over-educating indigenous children.

Lots more examples could be furnished; in fact many more hundreds of things at which I am not good could be listed.

A GOOD THING

One thing I believe myself to be good at doing is saying “sorry” when I’m wrong, learning from my mistakes, appreciating those who point out my weaknesses and improvements, and always striving to do my best.

Oops – that is four good things.

What are you good at?

HAVING IT ALL

What does “having it all” mean to you? Is it attainable?

Having it all

What is
Having it all
Accumulating assets,
Wanting, wanting,
Money,
Starting with cents,
Happy with a little,
But not for long,
Wanting,
Always wanting,
More and more and more,
Cents to dollars,
More and more and more,
Until the money bin is as full,
As Scrooge McDuck’s silo,
Build another, another, another,
But never ever is there enough,
The more breeds unhappiness,
Misery and despair ever enveloping,
The heart, the spirit,
Then the mind.

STOP,
Cease the downhill slide,
Immense wealth,
But nothing in the soul,
But emptiness.

REVERSE,
The trend,
Deprioritise the money,
Deprioritise your inner man,
Peace of mind,
Inward satisfaction,
Contentment with my lot.

THAT,
Is,
Having it all,
For every day,
Of life.






MALE TEACHERS ON THE ROAD TO EXTINCTION

Written for the International Principal’s Conference held in Norway in 1988. My paper was published on their website.

The situation has not really changed, other than having male teachers in percentage terms of the overall teaching force continuing to decline.

Gray – Male Teachers: The Road to Extinction
Henry Gray, Australia

Male teachers all over the world are a vanishing species. What has happened? What can be done to turn the situation around, and to increase the number of male teachers in our 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. Until recently, this town of 4,200 people was accessible only by air. 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, we are a staff of 38. Only five of us (13%) are male. 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 colleagues, 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

The problem of the male teacher shortage is one that may 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. Do readers have any suggestions about how this problem can be solved?

CONVERSATION CRITICALLY NEEDED

Who would you like to talk to soon?

CONVERSATION NECESSARY

I would welcome the opportunity to talk soon. Not to one individual but the whole of the Northern Territory Government Cabinet. I would also like to include our Department of Education’s Chief Executive Officer together with the heads of sub-departments.

Sadly, that conversation will never become a reality and will remain a wish to happen in my head.

The reason I would like to talk with these people is to ask them to reflect upon the past. Look in the rear vision mirror where the Northern Territory Government and Education have come from.

Life and organisation are all about the past, the present, and the future. I do believe that informing what happens in “the President” should take into account what has happened in “the past”. However, they do sell them the case.

Policies and processes defined as “new“are often far from that. They are, in essence, revisiting what has happened in previous years, been implemented and then discarded because of problems. A lot of the new policies coming into vogue (and this has happened over time) are simply revisitations of what has been trialled and then discarded.

This on-again, off-again, on-again, off-again, on-again is tantamount by to revisiting the wheel with organisations including the government, going around in circles. I’m not saying that we don’t need to move forward – we do! But in moving forward we need to take account of what has gone before.

I would very much like to talk with the people nominated, in order to point out numerous instances of revisitation based upon the above methodologies since the 1970s the 1990s.

But as I said, that conversation will never take place because nobody in high places is interested in thinking about past successes and failures: Through trial and error they would prefer to find out for themselves.

THE A5 FILE OF MEMORIES

What personal belongings do you hold most dear?

PRECIOUS POSSESSION

Over the years one accumulates a lot of material and many possessions. They all have value.

But in singling out just wanted to one in terms of my own personal self and not taking into account family (the most precious of all associations in life), my most precious possession would have to be an A5 folder containing plastic sleeves in which materials can be placed.

In that folder I have copies of awards, appreciations, academic records, life memberships, and several photos remembering particular events of importance throughout my life.

It’s a simple folder and one in which I store precious memories. From time to time I take this folder go through it and reflect upon its contents.

Self-reflection in a private way is important and this folder with its contents is my reference point for these reflections.

ALICE SPRINGS – WHERE TO NOW

ALICE SPRINGS DILEMMA

The issues of Alice Springs are beyond party politics.

Several key events in Alice Springs this year, including a motocross derby, the Caravaners conference and the NT Cattlemen/Women’s Association conference, were moved to other venues.

Because crime is uncontrollable and rampant, the light festival crowd is down.

Organisers of the Finke Desert Race fear a drop in visitor numbers.

The Central Australian Football League communities competition, generally held on Alice Springs ovals, has been put off because the city council feels the numbers coming from communities into Alice will add to crime problems already tearing at the city each night.

Bipartisanship and a common approach to overcoming issues confronting a community under siege is the only way forward. The need for action, applied without fear or favour, is now.

HENRY THE BOWER BIRD

Do you have any collections?

THE BOWER BIRD

Metaphorically speaking, when it comes to collecting and collections, I am a bit like a bower bird. I hang onto things for a long, long time and create frustration in others when I won’t tidy up, throw out, or give away items that I have collected.

Among the collectables I have kept are the following:

All my annual diaries from 1970 onward – there is a gap here in there but they’re mostly intact.

Copies of letters that I sent to people over the years as we were working in rural and remote parts of Western Australia and the Northern Territory. They are a good record.

The various trip diaries I compiled when we were travelling overseas and interstate.

Albums of coins, especially those appropriately cast for commemerative reasons.

Chronicles of teaching and administrative materials that I acquired over the years, in order to assist others and also to stimulate writing on educational subjects, something I do in retirement.

Collections of slides and photographs of places that we have seen, worked in, and lived in, over the years. (These need to be converted).

In terms of collection I have given a great deal of material to the Northern Territory Archives, because as I get older it becomes of less used to me and if it’s not given a way where it may be useful for research purposes in years to come, it may well finish up at the rubbish tip when our house is cleared

out.

Copies of articles I have contributed to publications over many years. Included is the volume of 300 columns I wrote for the Northern Territory News in a weekly column “ Gray Matters” for nearly 6 years after my retirement. (I have never written for remuneration .)

I also have a great deal of material that is saved online, including photographs, written materials and so on.

I really use LinkedIn as a source where by written material is retained in a collectible manner.

I blog and have over 2000 pieces of written and .saved material.

Collectibles ultimately translate into a trove of quite wealthy information.

LEGACY ON ‘LEAVING’

What is the legacy you want to leave behind?

LEGACY ON LEAVING

I enjoy life, but I am a realist. As a 77-year-old man I know that I am on the downhill stretch, heading towards the sunset of life. At one stage as a younger person I used to be frightened about passing over, but that is no longer the case.

Life has four phases in terms of the mortal stage.

You get born.

You grow up.

You become old.

You go dead.

I am well aware of the phase of life I now occupy.

The overarching legacy of life that I want to be leaving behind, relate to the first aspect of my mission statement which reads “to fulfil and be fulfilled in organisational mode, family, work, recreation“. If my legacy is an affirmation of positive fulfilment of this position, I will be well satisfied. Those three elements (a tripod if you like) have been my focus and concentration for a very long time. I want to depart this mortal coil leaving behind memories and indeed a legacy so show that this checked it has been fulfilled.

I want people to remember Henry Gray as a person who was a man of integrity.

Finally, I want to be remembered as a person who “ worked with a smile in his heart“. I want to be remembered as somebody who enjoyed what he did and with that enjoyment lifted others up, helping them along pathways of life.

Leaving behind a lot of money and assets doesn’t worry me particularly, but I will die satisfied knowing that there is a reasonable asset base that can be drawn upon by our children and their children.

In short, when I go, I want to be remembered as a person who left the world or the areas of his involvement enhanced and enriched by his presence.