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

POINTS TO PONDER

It would make sound sense for our NT schools to close to students (other than those of essential service workers) this Friday, after 9 weeks of an 11 week term. Attendance i I s desultory and the community confused by the present situation. For week 10 to be the final week of term, one during which teachers prepare materials for distance learning would be an eminently sensible approach. And term two should definitely start as one of distance/online learning rather than physical attendance in classrooms.

As it stands, schools will be open in week 10 and closed to students in week 11.

There needs to be a firming Australian position on schools being opened or closed and when and what services will be offered online. The variations from state and territory to state and territory is, at this point in time, very confusing.

——

There is NO WAY KNOWN that Territorians who have had contact with the coronavirus through association with those on ships or in touring parties, should be allowed to fly home on commercial airline flights. At the very least their contagion should require medical evacuation to the NT. All those in the NT with COVIG-19 have arrived as regular passengers. That is totally wrong and should not be condoned by authorities.

There is a massive truancy problem in NT Schools, particularly in remote areas. Whether schools are open or closed is immaterial to these hundreds of non-attenders because their behaviours of educational avoidance will not be affected.

—-

COMMUNITY ATTITUDES DISTORT COVID-19 MANAGEMENT

PLAY THE BALL, NOT THE MAN

Throughout my time as an educator and writer (more recently a Linked In contributor and blogger) I have tried very hard to focus on issues and not directly on people who may be involved with process. It is the issue that is important rather than direct focus on people who may be involved.

In respect of the coronavirus and its impact upon Australia and Australians, I find it hard to remain within that frame of comment.

The issues surrounding COVID-19 are gripping Australia and indeed the world. To their credit, Australian Governments at every level are mounting realistic campaigns of response to this contagion. However, their intentions and efforts have been and are being thwarted by people of all ages who, from the onset of the virus, have chosen courses of action that pose a threat for themselves and for others. AND THEY DON’T CARE UNTIL THE PROVERBIAL HITS THE FAN: WHEN THAT HAPPENS THEY CRY OFF POOR AND WANT THE GOVERNMENT(S) TO BAIL THEM OUT OF THEIR SELF CREATED PREDICAMENTS.

The examples of stupidly, crass, uncaring selfishness and flagrant disregard for others (as well as themselves) are epitomised in any number of examples of selfish, stupid (and more recently illegal) behaviour.

I share just a few.

• The hundreds and indeed thousands of Australians who have taken passage on cruise ships and gone cruising after the virus broke out and people became aware of its infectious potential and spread.

• The hundreds and indeed thousands of Australians who have left by air on overseas holidays after the announcement of this deadly virus became known.

• The selfishness of travel companies, especially those connected with cruising, who appealed to people to sail into danger because of special travel deals being offered.

• The idiocy and crass stupidity of people who, with the virus closing in and states/territories limiting travel nevertheless elected to travel interstate on holiday and now find themselves well and truly flummoxed by imposed travel restrictions.

• The arrant disregard for the welfare of others by people who have taken commercial plane flights to their home state and territories while knowing or suspecting they were infected with the virus

• The vile misconduct of people who have deliberated violated the terms of isolation after having been placed into self-quarantine because of their association with the virus.

• The wickedness of those who are required to self isolate, but who have given false addresses about their physical location to authorities.

• The crass stupidity of people who were happy to go to bridge parties, clubs, pubs, the beach and other places once social distancing provisions had come into place.

• The short sightedness of officials who allowed the unchecked disembarkation of ‘Ruby Princess’ passengers. This after being told by staff on the ship that there were no issues. (Post the virus, this story and similar releases suggesting that passengers on ships are fine when they are not, should be fully investigated with legal consequences for any non disclosure being an option).

• The greed and selfishness manifest by a minority of people (but a minority of many hundreds) who stripped and continue to strip shelves bare of essential products.

• The wrongfulness of those who left cities in vehicles to strip stores in nearby towns of essentials needed by locals.

This is not a list exhausted of examples illustrating wrong doing. It demonstrates how much harder it is for authorities to manage major health and economic issues when confronted with issues of this nature.

When “I” comes before and replaces “we” to the extent that has occurred, a picture of selfishness and self-centredness emerges; one that distorts the efforts and intentions of authorities and one that shows how little too many care about our Australian community as a whole.

POINTS TO PONDER

POINTS TO PONDER

Educationally, I think 2020 will become a ‘marking of time’ year at primary, secondary and tertiary level. Whatever can be cobbled together to support a maintenance of some study attitude will be useful, but that will be about as far as it goes. For students to be a year older and more mature in the ways of life when returning to reopened schools and universities in 2021 may not be a bad thing. 2020 looks like being a global gap year.

—-

If schools are closed provision will have to be made for the children of doctors, nurses, medical support staff and child care workers. and so on. Without this support there will be a major drop off in medical and related professional staff able to go to work. This surely means some schools will have to be partially opened to provide for this care.

—-

The COVID-19 virus is a threat to schools and schooling. It is the most major threat to education since the introduction of NAPLAN testing in 2008. This virus adds to the annual mental threat and worry NAPLAN poses to students, teachers and school leaders. The need for resilience is being sorely tested.

—-

It is beginning to appear that the Australia-wide NAPLAN testing program due in May, could well be disrupted by the impacts of COVIG-19 on education. This might be a good time to consider the discontinuation of a phyrric and increasingly irrelevant testing program. NAPLAN has become an ingrained annual habit that defocuses schools, staff and students from relevant, meaningful teaching and learning

POINTS TO PONDER

POINTS TO PONDER

Educationally, I think 2020 will become a ‘marking of time’ year at primary, secondary and tertiary level. Whatever can be cobbled together to support a maintenance of some study attitude will be useful, but that will be about as far as it goes. For students to be a year older and more mature in the ways of life when returning to reopened schools and universities in 2021 may not be a bad thing. 2020 looks like being a global gap year.

—-

If schools are closed provision will have to be made for the children of doctors, nurses, medical support staff and child care workers. and so on. Without this support there will be a major drop off in medical and related professional staff able to go to work. This surely means some schools will have to be partially opened to provide for this care.

—-

The COVID-19 virus is a threat to schools and schooling. It is the most major threat to education since the introduction of NAPLAN testing in 2008. This virus adds to the annual mental threat and worry NAPLAN poses to students, teachers and school leaders. The need for resilience is being sorely tested.

—-

It is beginning to appear that the Australia-wide NAPLAN testing program due in May, could well be disrupted by the impacts of COVIG-19 on education. This might be a good time to consider the discontinuation of a phyrric and increasingly irrelevant testing program. NAPLAN has become an ingrained annual habit that defocuses schools, staff and students from relevant, meaningful teaching and learning

COVID 19: THE GRIM REAPER’S FIRST COUSIN

COVID-19, which had its birthplace in the wild meat markets of Wuhan in late November and early December, now blankets the world with its insidious and medically challenging manifestations.

Australian Federal State and Territory Government ineptitude and slow reactive response along with the dismissive and non-conforming behaviour of many who should be isolating means this virus is upon us at a rate of knots. Exponential spread is upon us and there will be no flattening of the infection curve.

I have no empathy for those who went cruising after the ‘Diamond Princess’ situation because anyone with a grain of common sense would know that onboard ship infections would reduplicate. And allowing international ships in to dock after the embargo was called is misplaced empathy and a misjudgement by Scott Morrison and his advisers.

Nor do I have sympathy (but plenty of latent anger) for those who took off on overseas holidays after the Chinese-Wuhan Virus and its spread became known to those with half a grain of world awareness. Phyrric bravado and attitudes of “it won’t get me” don’t cut the mustard but predicate the behaviour of fools. When outcomes that could have been preventable become really rough, these people expect the Australian Government will come to their rescue and bail them out.

Sadly, they are right for that is exactly what the government does. They spend up big bringing the now seriously minded ones home to infect the rest of us.

People being flown back to home states and territories, when coming into Australia from suspect situations should be flown on dedicated charter flights, NOT on commercial airlines.

How many of the passengers on the two flights that brought infected people from interstate to the Northern Territory will succumb to this evil pathogen. Fully infections the three would have been because they had no sooner lobbed in Darwin that they were declared coronavirus positive: In other words, authorities (and they themselves) would have known of their contagion before they boarded commercial flights.

Thanks to non-caring people and to reluctant authorities who are prepared to play reactive catch-up laced with misplaced empathy, we are going to really catch this contagion big time.

By the end of March our 1,030 infections as of today’s date (21 March) will be up to if not over the 5,000 mark.

Maybe COVID-19 is one of the seven last of the world’s plagues described in the New Testament book of Revelation.

Note: I am publishing this on my ‘Education a Life Force’ site because COVID-19 impacts every aspect of life and has major implications for educational emphasis and outcomes.

EDUCATION FUNDING PRIORITIES NEED REVAMP

There has been a significant change in the setting of funding priorities for schools during the past ten years.

Prior to the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008, it was extraordinarily difficult to attract money for school capital works programs. Principals and school councils were often frustrated by the delays in gaining initial approval. Generally works were included in treasury’s forward estimates.

In some cases, approved works remained in abeyance for so long, they were re-announced as new initiatives before gaining final funding approval.

Minor New Works programs for infrastructure projects up to $250,000 were similarly queued for lengthy periods of time.

The GFC consigned this scenario to history. In order to stimulate building and construction, the Federal Government created the Building Education Revolution (BER). Many billions of dollars were released to state and territory educational systems. ‘Build, build build, like there is no tomorrow’ became the order of the day. Along with all educational authorities, the NT Education Department was overwhelmed with BER money.Funds were allocated for major construction in every Northern Territory school.

A BER downside was the prescription placed on the use of money. Buildings had to be for science laboratories, school libraries, classrooms, assembly halls and physical facilities. When particular schools had higher priorities they were discounted. Timelines attached to the program required projects to be completed and funds expended by specific dates. This meant that building and construction programs had to be undertaken during term time disrupting school programs, in some cases for weeks on end.

Although the BER is now history, there has been a significant shift in funding priorities for NT schools. Compared with pre BER days, it seems that limitations on capital and minor new works funding have been relaxed.

Government tenders in the NT News each Wednesday confirms that money is being allocated for playground equipment, shade structures, irrigation upgrades and other works that were rarely funded in past times.

Previously, it had been up to school communities to fundraise for these ventures.

It is a worry that major funding for schools seems to be based on the fact that projects must support the building, construction, and infrastructure industry. There is a need for funding to recognise and support teaching and learning programs in classrooms. The ‘heart’ of the school is the teaching/learning interface. Buildings and facilities are necessary but should not be prioritised to the detriment of core learning needs.

Funding balance is important. While facilities are necessary, the support of students through classroom programs must not be compromised.

Note: This paper is based on the Northern Territory but there are parallels around the rest of our country.

STORY TELLING ALL BUT FORGOTTEN

STORY TELLING

At the risk of sounding too 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 telling and story readings. The possible reluctance that teachers may feel about telling stories to children is not new. When I was a primary school student in the 1950’s, 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.

Advantages

Some of the positives of story telling are as follows:

* 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 word studies. The possibilities are endless.

* Some texts which share stories are written in the ‘language of yesteryear’. There are two volumes that come to mind, being ‘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.

Qualities

* 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.

Concluding thought

I could go on about story telling. A good story told well, 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 the capacity to imagine as they get older. 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.