About pooroldhenry

I was a long term Northern Territory (NT) Educator, commencing my teaching career in WA in 1970. We came to the NT in July 1975 and worked in remote, town then urban communities. My tenure in the NT was at Numbulwar School (1975- 1978), Angurugu Community School on Groote Eylandt (1979-1982), Nhulunbuy Primary School (1983-1986), then Karama School (1987-1991) and lastly Leanyer School (1992 until retiring in January 2012). I filled the position of school principal from 1977 until my retirement. My career started at Warburton Ranges in WA as a teacher in 1970 then as headmaster in 1974. My major focus on and belief in education is that it develop children and students holistically, preparing them for the whole of life. Educational partnerships involving staff, students, community and department have always been important. I am a Fellow and Lifetime Member of the Council of Education Leaders, a Life Member of the Association of School Education Leaders (recently rebranded as the Northern Territory Principals Association) and was awarded the Commonwealth Centenary Medal for contribution to education. A member of Toastmasters International I am an Advanced Toastmaster Gold (ATMG). I hold a number of degrees and remain actively interested in and contributive to education. A highlight of my 'recent' life (from 2011 until 2016) was contributing to Teacher Education at Charles Darwin University. This has involved marking, tutoring and lecturing in a part time capacity. I was also involved with our Department of Education (NT) as a member of the Principals Reference Group (2012 until 2016) and have worked with others on the establishment of a Principals Coaching and Mentoring program. From 2014, I was the Education Minister's Nominee on the NT Board of Studies until its reconstitution in July 2016. Prior to retirement from full time work I represented the Education Department on the Board (2009 - 2011). I was working in support of students enrolled with the School of Education at CDU from 2012 until 2017. I enjoyed the chance to give back to the profession which over many years has done much for me. From July 2013 until the end of June 2019, I wrote a weekly column about educational matters for the Darwin/Palmerston /Litchfield 'Suns' Newspapers and then the rebranded 'Suns Newspaper' with Territory-wide circulation. This newspaper ceased publication in June 2019. I occasionally write for other papers and am a contributor to professional magazines and online discussion about educational matters. Included were regular contributions to the Australian Council of Education's 'e-Teaching' and 'e-Leading' publications, which ceased as communications organs in December 2017. I hold retired member's status with the Australian Education Union (NT), contributing occasionally to union publications. I am presently working on developing a series of vignettes, aimed at providing information that pre-service and beginning teachers may find useful. They are oriented toward assisting with an understanding of practices that may assist meet professional and teaching needs. To date, 89 of these have been completed. I contribute to general conversations and various groups on ‘Linked In’ and am also a contributor to ‘The Conversation’. I have a blog site at henrygrayblog.wordpress.com and invite you to access it at any time should you so wish. Henry Gray February 28 2020

Ready for Teaching beyond Training

READY FOR TEACHING BEYOND TRAINING?

Ready?

Ready for the classroom misbehaviour and the management of ill-disciplined children.

Ready?

Ready to teach children as young as five about the meaning of ‘consent’.

Ready?

Ready for the NAPLAN tests which for many are an annual educational abomination.

Ready?

Ready to deal with an increasing number of parents who have no respect for education and educators.

Ready?

Ready to be weighed down by a curriculum to which elements are added and added without anything ever being deleted.

Ready?

Ready for endless exercises in professional development, which often seem to be purposeless and trite – indeed after hours time filling exercises.

Ready?

Ready for hours and hours and hours of educational input where teaching is more about data collection for systemic justification than it is for children.

Ready?

Ready for a career that so many teachers find to be disappointing and fruitless and so disenchanting that up to 70% of those graduating from pre-service into our schools, leave within five years.

Ready?

Never ready for what education is becoming.

WAR IS COMING AT US

With each passing day, I feel more and more that war in our region is just over the horizon. Your editorial today points toward a catastrophic situation happening within the next 18 months. I can sense that within a very short period of time after the conflict starts between China and Taiwan, America will cut in on the side of Taiwan. Maybe just with weapons support, but more probably with air and sea engagement on behalf of Taiwan. Australia will dutifully come in on the side of America, and could well attract retaliation. First it will be by economic embargo and then physical response in the form of missile, rocket and drone retaliation. For Darwin and Cairns, it could be a cause of revisitation to the second world war takeout of these cities of the north, during those months by Japan.

I may be accused of pessimistic imagination, but I think not. It is not hard to imagine our northern cities and towns, thousands of kilometres closer to China than our southern counterparts, being decimated as China pressures the Australian government to demur from even more drastic action by the land of the Panda.

Regardless of pros and cons, there is a certain irony about what is likely to transpire in nearing future: Taiwan, under the ‘One China Policy’ is not recognised by either America or Australia, nor for that matter by very many countries and governments. In the broadest sense, if China takes physical action against Taiwan, under the terms of the policy of recognition, the action would be tantamount to civil war.

Those close to the heart of action within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) refer to Taiwan as the “Treasure Island of our Motherland”. It will not be long before they CCP goes all out for what’s they define as reunification through a process which, more and more likely, will engulf Australia.

We have every reason to be concerned about the unfolding months ahead. As Australians, we will certainly be involved.

UNIVERSITIES EMBRACE SLIPSHOD STANDARDS

I am gobsmacked that some of Australia’s universities, supposedly led by thoughtful intellectuals, would contemplate lowering entry requirements for admission to courses, so critically important in preparing future contributors to major industries. That tertiary institutions would set the bar low “… to take subpar students” (“Weekend Australian 6,7/8) is making a mockery of the standards that should be expected of higher education. Sacrificing quality (course calibre) for quantity (increasing numbers of students admitted to courses) can lead to only one conclusion; that universities are more interested in income from students and government funding, than they are to maintaining reputations based on course standards.

Many students who are admitted to degree study under these conditions, will be drafted into remedial and ‘catch up’ programs, saturating bridging courses. Student drop out rates will skyrocket – but not before exiting students have been responsible for generating dollars into university treasury coffers.

The motivation for attracting students to university courses at degree level must be based on a valid ATAR score. To water down standards flies in the face of common sense. If universities are determined to lower entry level requirements, the Federal Government should take responsibility for enrolment processes by prescribing entry level requirement that cannot be diluted.

Teacher Training is up the Creek

Natasha Bita’s story “Radical fix for teacher shortages” expressly and by inference, raises issues deserving earnest consideration. Most point toward issues that have challenged the profession for many years, indeed from the time prospective teachers commence training.

I worked as a part time lecturer, tutor and marker within the Education Faculty at Charles Darwin University from 2010 until 2016. Teachers in training during those years regularly gave me feedback on a number of concerns.

Many felt hampered because student behaviour (which they could not control) distracted them from teaching.

There was concern because subject teaching methods had not been taught during university lectures.

There was a belief that they were often ‘used’ by schools to babysit classes.

Visits by lecturers during practice teaching periods were increasingly infrequent as university staff used student time away from university for their own research and sturdy purposes.

A constant distraction was the need students had to work at jobs order to earn money for food, transport and accomodation.

The burden of accumulating HECS debt confronted many students.

If training is founded on a regime that causes teacher disaffection to grow right from the start of training, it is no wonder school education faces its 2022 quandary. I only hope that our new federal education minister Jason Clare can help right the wrongs that have been accumulating for far too long.

“LISTENING” IS A FORGOTTEN SKILL

I recently conducted two simultaneous online polls which asked two important questions about literacy and oracy. The first posed the question “Which is the most important literacy function, listening, speaking, reading, or writing?” The second survey asked respondents to consider “Which is the most neglected oracy or literacy skill, listening., speaking, reading or writing?”

Half the respondents (50%) indicated that listening was the most important of these attributes. In terms of neglect (the second survey) 61% responded that listening was the most neglected skill in the literacy repertoire.

Listening is foundational to the emergence of other literacy competencies. Following birth, children acquire an understanding of the world through listening and speaking, followed in time by reading and writing. To overlook the importance of listening lessens the capacity of children (and adults) to think cognitively, reflect upon and comprehend what is happening around them. At home and school, children should be taught to listen so this becomes an ingrained habit.

EUTHANASIA SHOULD COVER MENTAL ISSUES

People who have the onset of dementia, should be able to opt to euthanise at a future point in time when they are no longer cognitively aware of their circumstances and situation. They should be able to write this into their wills while still of sound and understanding mind. There can be nothing more awful than living as an empty person without mental capacity.

77 NEXT BIRTHDAY

I AM HEADING TOWARD 77

My next birthday will mark my 77th year on earth. Physically, I am aware of 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.

GET SCHOOL PRIORITIES RIGHT

It seems that realisation about the unrealistic burdens placed on schools by system demands and expectations has finally dawned. As Natasha Bita reveals (Teacher leaders lash new schedule, July 30,31) “Stressed school principals are demanding changes to the new national curriculum … blasting educational bureaucrats for imposing ‘cruel’ workloads.”

School leaders largely brought the impossible workloads now being confronted, upon themselves. From the mid 1980’s, the notion of ‘self managed schools’ was touted as a way of delegating departmental control for local education to schools and their councils. This devolution of responsibility was interpreted by principals as a way of building positional autonomy. The thought of enhanced recognition and status, lured many to the changes offered.

Among the ‘self managed school’ proponents were Professor Brian Caldwell (then University of Tasmania) and Mr Jim Spinks, Principal of Rosebery School on Tasmania’s west coast. They introduced this concept to NT Principals at a 1987 conference. Spinks offered a strong caution: He advised that as principals added to school accountability and curriculum responsibility, they should ‘drop off’ those components that may become dated and irrelevant. This was necessary to retain balanced and manageable responsibilities.

Some 35 years later, it is obvious that schools have become burdened with an overloaded curriculum and huge administrative workloads. School leaders and staff members are held to constant, rigorous and often unreasonable account for school outcomes. It is small wonder principals are crying ‘foul’.

INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES and ALCOHOL – ‘YES’ or ‘NO’

The controversy over whether indigenous communities should or shouldn’t allow for consumption of alcohol within their boundaries (‘Rivers of grog’ fear as ban ends, 26.7) places me in somewhat of a bind.

Some communities, Including Numbulwar and Angurugu in Eastern Arnhemland where I worked from 1976 until 1982, were declared ‘dry’ at the time. That was 20 years before John Howard, as part of the Commonwealth intervention, mandated ‘dryness’ for all communities in August 2007. There were numerous breaches of the rules, usually by people able to get alcohol from alternative sources before returning and acting untowardly while alcohol affected. However, by and large there was adherence to the policies operating in these and other communities, which supported tranquility and relatively peaceful living.

I now live in Darwin and have seen and experienced the deleterious impact upon our urban community, created by people coming from dry communities to obtain alcohol. The desire to access alcohol is a major contributor to business and residential break-ins, which in our cities and towns have skyrocketed in recent years. Domestic violence, drunken behaviour and long grass living situations are largely behavioural by-products of people primarily focussed on wanting alcohol.

If communities are allowed to return to local supply of alcohol, this will alleviate a lot of the pressures placed on our cities and towns. However, the relative quiet of those communities, until now without alcohol, may evaporate.

The whole issue poses a cleft stick situation.

Teacher Training should be about the practice of teaching

Natasha Bita’s column (Students to plug teacher shortage, 21/7) filled me with the hope that teacher training may be going ‘back to the future’. Rejuvenating the focus of student teachers undertaking training in classrooms, under the guidance of experienced classroom practitioners, is long overdue.

Teacher training, until the late 1970’s placed significant emphasis on practice teaching. Back in those years we completed two year training programs, with periods of time each term undertaken as teachers in classrooms. We worked with students and were answerable to practised classroom teachers and visiting teachers’ college lecturers. My best learning (1968/69) was done within classroom environments.

My only worry would be that preservice teachers under a revamped training scheme, not be given ‘Carte Blanche’ classroom exposure without coaching and supervision. If they are left without guidance, there could be negative consequences. Otherwise, this proposal is a step in the right direction, one which will help training teachers learn how to teach.

At the moment, they graduate with theoretically based teaching degrees and have very had little timer in school classrooms. It is left to schools to which they are appointed as full time staff members, to then teach them to teach. Small wonder that so many become disaffected and leave a profession which could offer enduring professional satisfaction.