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

Reflections of a well trained teacher

Teachers who trained in the 1960’s, 70’s and until the very early 1980’s will think of ‘The Australian’ headline (‘Basics test for trainee teachers’, 5/5) as being about ‘back to the future’. Those who trained as teachers during those years HAD to pass basic literacy and numeracy tests before graduation. Those deemed not to be literate and numerate (by passing without error a Year 7 maths test and a 100 challenging word spelling test) were failed and could not graduate. I recall that our training college, we were allowed one spelling error in 100 words – any more errors and the test had to be resat.

In addition, we had pass reading and speaking competency tests and needed to demonstrate a general ability to work empathetically with all students during practice teaching rounds in schools. Our overall teaching was assessed, which included ability to both timetable and maintain appropriate levels of discipline and class management. We had to pass our practical teaching rounds.

Over the years, teacher preparation has drastically departed from what were prerequisite competencies. Sadly, a degree does not mean graduates are competent in the domains of literacy, numeracy and general modelling. May these proposed changes become reality – and a return to past high standards of pre-service preparation.

Food Police destroy school canteens

School canteens used to sell a mix of food and drink ranging from the nutritious and wholesome to sweet drinks and snack food. Student choice was paramount. Education was part of helping children make choices.

Then the food police happened along abd school canteens were limited to selling everything nutritious. Fun foods and flavoured drinks were outlawed.

Now sales have gone down, canteens are struggling or closed and students buy what they want from shops before and after school or by going off at lunchtime to the nearest delicatessen.

But the food police are happy.

NO respect for social institutions

During the past 46 years, the length of time I have been in the Northern Territory, there has been ongoing downturn in the level of respect paid to our social institutions and those who are responsible for leading and maintaining their functions.

The time has long since passed, when the general public as a whole extended courtesy to those responsible for delivering essential services. Members of the police force, paramedics, bus and taxi drivers and emergency services personnel are far too often made the butt of community discord and anger. School teachers and support staff, health department personnel and those administering housing and community services also have to endure the spite of vindictive and disgruntled ‘clients’. In more recent times, service station operators and shop assistants have suffered abuse.

Key community organisations and those employed to keep them functional are increasingly at the mercy of verbal, physical and often violent assaults at the hands of the public.

When matters are reported, follow up action rarely occurs. Sadly, victims are often told to put up with abusive behaviour in order to avoid ‘inflaming’ situations. This supplication simply serves to make aggressors even more antagonistic. They go the harder with aberrant conduct because of the blind eye turned on their previous actions.

The degeneration of community respect for service providers is patently obvious. I can only wonder at the general level of law, order and attitudes that will be shown toward key institutions and personnel in another 40 years

Talents are Variable and Individual

Everyone is someone with a special skill, capacity, ability or talent. We do well to reflect upon what we DO WELL, rather than being envious or jealous of others. What we do effectively and efficiently, may be a skill or skills that have passed them by.

Using our talents for the betterment of others and the good of all is a worthy ambition. And all the better if the giving is genuine and humble, not done for the sake of glorification or to be noticed.

May we be contributors for the good of all. And let us give thanks for the skills, capabilities and talents with which we have each been blessed.


Thank you

To all those teachers who put the education of children above all else in their professional lives.

To all those teachers who always remembered that schools are for children.

To all those teachers who earned respect from students and their parents.

Australian Education into Decline

Natasha Bita’s column “Crunching the numbers to halt the STEM decline” (30/4 & 1/5) points to an absolute despair confronting Australian education. For far too long, education has been subjected to a diminution and dumbing down of standards and expectations. With less than 10% of year 12 students opting to study the highest level of mathematics, we seem to be sinking to ‘alarming new lows’ (as started by Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute director Tim Marchant) in our ambition for students.

What should and shouldn’t be included within the domain of curriculum priorities involves never-ending conversation between education ministers, education department heads, business and industry representatives, professional groups, school councils, teachers unions, subject specialists and others. Juxtapositionally, ambition for a better tranche of graduates, multi-skilled in areas necessary for manufacturing, industrial, commercial and environmental enhancement, does not seem to be forthcoming. There is an abundance of talk about what we need to do, in order to enhance the educational standards of students. However, there seems to be a lack of will on the part of authorities to translate these ambitions into action outcomes. Despite the concerted efforts of those with stake and interest in the issue, the inclination of students toward STEM subjects continues to decline.

Without change, there is a real danger that the term ‘dumb and dumber’ might take root when describing the accomplishments of far too many students and the Australian educational system as a whole.

May is here

All the very best to all students, teachers, school support staff and school leaders as we enter the month of May. We are now well and truly into the school year with well established school routines, processes and procedures. May each day bring educational fulfilment for students and teachers alike. May students perceive education to be an offering of the gift for learning and may each day be a joy for teachers.


The NT looks set to undertake some massive expansion in the domains of construction and development. This is a especially the case for Darwin, Palmerston and nearby areas. The words ‘boom’ and ‘booming’ spring to mind as planned expansion titillates our senses.

I recall words of wisdom addressed to school leaders at a national conference that took place in Darwin in 1992. Frederick Wirt, now the Professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois (USA) spoke with delegates. His address was titled ‘Will the centre hold?’ Wirt lauded growth, development and expansion but cautioned it should never be at the expense of consolidating and reinforcing infrastructure already in place. His suggestion was that developments should always be based on a solid foundation. He urged leaders and developers to avoid recklessly frog hopping from one initiative to the next without careful planning and intuitive thought.

We would do well to keep Wirt’s advice in mind as we move from the past and present into the NT’s future.


there are far too many teachers and professionals who lack empathy when it comes to dealing with colleagues, clients, and those with whom they are associating. There is no room for dispassionate highhandedness when dealing with people. Education is all about humanity and developing others. There should never be putdowns, sarcasm, and other manifestations of behaviour by those in charge which will cause discomfort and squirming on the part of those with whom they are dealing. It is fine to point out things that might be done differently and better but this needs to be done Humanistically and in a way that encourages the person being developed to make the effort. Putdowns are turnoffs and we don’t need that in our professions.

Remember the importance in the practice of empathy and always unto others as you would have them to do unto you.