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

ASSISTANT PRINCIPALS ARE LEADERS IN WAITING

Paper reproduced from an earlier publication because the role of Assistant Principals remains a very key issue

Assistant Principals, a key group within school leadership teams, celebrated their day on September 25. The day was one encouraging AP’s to leave behind their normal duties and meet for the day at the Michael Long Centre in Darwin.

NT Principals Association President Elect Britany Roestenburg invited Assistant Principals to this day of learning, refreshment and celebration. She wrote this was “an opportunity for you to connect with your colleagues and other experts to enhance your skills, explore current trends and research and celebrate your successes.” The day long event was followed by networking opportunities at the Darwin Surf Club.

The Assistant Principals in our schools are leaders-in-waiting – or should be. Many have been in the NT for years. Their experience generally includes time as classroom and Senior Teachers before they earn Assistant Principal status. We need to appreciate and value the contribution of these long term educators.

It stands to reason that some Assistant Principals may feel unappreciated and undervalued, a feeling sometimes exacerbated by the promotions system.

In order to evolve and grow, systems need a leadership mix that includes both external and internal appointments.

The percentage of external appointments to Principal positions in our schools has been at a high level in recent years. This limits promotional opportunities for Assistant Principals.

History confirms that some of those appointed as Principals from interstate are quite temporary. They leave after several years, often returning to the states from which they were recruited.

The appointment of Principals from interstate may deny leadership opportunities for those who have come up through the ranks within the NT from leadership opportunities. That dampens the morale of the homegrown Territory educational workforce.

Long term territory educators understand our educational system and people. They build up substantial relationships with parents, students and the communities within which they work. This develops trust, understanding and confidence.

When external appointments are made, Assistant Principals with aspirations to the next level of school leadership are overlooked and can become deflated.

If Assistant Principal positions are not vacated by a local promotion, career pathways available to Senior Teachers are also blocked.

Experience at each promotional level is important, but if career pathways are choked off, the teaching dream can sour.

This is especially the case when advertisements inviting young people to consider teaching in the Northern Territory suggest it is a career with opportunities for advancement.

Our schools deserve leadership that melds interstate and homegrown leaders. Selection has to be a question of balance and Assistant Principals should not be ‘the overlooked class’.

EDUCATIONAL POINTS TO PONDER

I hope many of our students who are facing situations of phyrric and compromised year twelve results, elect to revisit their final year of secondary school in 2021. COVID-19 has played havoc with and destabilised the 2020 educational year, largely trashing learning opportunity that should be satisfying and rewarding. Revisiting year 12 next year could provide the fulfilment stripped from students this year.

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It is a shame that the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has seen fit to cut the interest rate on the Dollarmite accounts of children who are learning to save through school banking. Saving money is becoming an increasingly rare skill and children need to understand the importance of saving against the future. The CBA’s reduction of what was already a small interest reward for a very important attitude is disappointing. Hopefully children will not be discouraged from saving.

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Congratulations to Bryce Fullwood our home grown Territorian, who has debuted on the Supercar stage. He has done the hard yards and worked assiduously to claim the status he is now earning. He is an example to all young Territorians and has proven that hard work and dedication pays off.

TAKING THE INITIATIVE

TAKING INITIATIVE

It can be easy, particularly at the beginning of one’s career, to “bite off more than you can chew” when it comes to task seeking at schools level. In order to get on and create a good impression, there may be a tendency to volunteer task undertaking an extra curricular school contribution beyond a reasonable point. When this happens, tiredness and ingrained fatigue can set in.

I have a commitment also means that many tasks are undertaken want to tightly, with a few being qualitatively managed. It’s better to study the framework of extras carefully in order to insure that’s what is done, is well done! Being the “willing horse” also put you in a position of vulnerability. People sometimes look for those willing to take on the extras, then dump on them in an unholy manner.

That is not good for those at the start of their career. It is important to take time and adjust, making haste slowly and growing into the teaching profession. While people can be too selfish, always considering the “I” factor of the profession, it is easy to go in the opposite direction and become somebody who is used by colleagues and the school.

As careers develop, it is important to hit a happy medium. That is personally satisfying and enables people to meet their obligationsto others and the profession as a whole.

PARENTS PRIORITY SHOULD BE THEIR CHILDREN

The best love and care children can have, is that offered by parents. Too often this is disregarded and overlooked.There is a belief that early learning educators, teachers and after school carers can stand in the place of parents.

A Sunday Territorian article ‘Hands on parenting is what helps children’. (April 2, 2017) touched on a truth that in these modern times is too easily discounted. Study authors Stacey Fox and Anna Olsen from the Australian National University found that, ” reaching out to children, talking with them and helping them with their homework matters more than income or background.”

This realisation was one of the revelations of this family focussed study conducted by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY).

It seems that work preoccupation can distance parents from their children. Before and after school care have become a way of life for children whose parents leave home early and arrive home late. They are often placed in vacation care during school holidays because their parents are at work.

Many parents are both preoccupied with and wearied by work, making quality time with their children during the week a rarity.

While family catch-up may happen at the weekend, there is a need to manage domestic chores and get ready for the working week ahead. In this context it can become easy for children to again be overlooked. Their need for family closeness and attention may be misunderstood by parents.

According to Fox and Olsen, “children … benefit when their parents provide a positive environment for homework and play a role in school activities.” Primary school children particularly, like their parents identifying with them in school settings. Parents attending assemblies, participating in parent teacher nights, and supporting extra-curricular school activities is a highlight for their children.

According to the study, children really welcome and greatly value the first hand connection of parents with their educational development. In terms of hands on parenting, “the aspects which appear to matter most include high expectations and aspirations for children, shared reading between children and parents and family conversation.” (Fox and Olsen)

Children need room to move and develop as independent human beings. ‘Helicopter parents’ who constantly hover around children can be very stifling. They suffocate independence and dampen the decision making potential of their offspring. However, when parents are there for children, engaging with them, nurture and love are to the fore. And it is these attributes in parents their children want and need.

MOBILE PHONES DO NOT BELONG IN SCHOOL

Mobile phones in classrooms

in our modern, technological age, it seems that every child has a mobile telephone, smart phone or similar device. It’s understandable the parents give their children phones in order that they might be contacted in emergency situations. However there is a time and place for their use. That time and place are definitely not within schools and certainly not in classrooms.

If children bring mobile telephones to school they need to be kept in their bags in their lockers. If there is a worry about security may be appropriate for teachers to take and lock these devices in a secure place.

It is altogether too easy these days for children and students to misuse smart phones. Sadly, there seems to be a trend toward taking inappropriate photographs of students who are being bullied, interfered with, or who are in compromised situations. These photographs of been circulating for all to see.

When this happens within a school context it casts the school, its leaders and staff in a poor light. When students have been embarrassed or injured and that recorded on phone camera all sorts of recriminations can come back on the school. A great deal of time is taken in trying to resolve issues and overcome the hurt occasions by the wrongful use of those devices.

Far better that the school have a rule that smart phones another recording devices do not belong within its boundaries.

We need to be aware of the trouble smart phones can cause if they used for wrong purposes and at the wrong times. They need to be carefully secured and not used during the school day.

QUIZZING IS FUN AND GENERAL KNOWLEDGE EXPANDING

Nothing beats good old fashioned quizzes as engaging time fillers. Quizzes also have relevance to general knowledge and understanding. They can be related to subjects being studied, to skills development and to general knowledge – to name but a few options. One of the best topics has to do ‘the world around’ in terms of constructs within the local environment. Topics that come to mind within this genre included:

1. School Source

* Features in and around the school and its grounds.

* Identification of teachers who are teaching in particular units or rooms; call it ‘location, location’.

* Roles filled by people within the school. “Who is our principal? Who is our Janitor? Who is our canteen manageress?” and similar questions.

* For older students, chronological recall of who has been in the school and their capacities in times past.

* Historical events embracing the school including anniversaries. (It may be that a quiz of this nature is given ‘on notice’ allowing students a day or a few days to visit the historical archive of the school in the library/resource centre to study material from which questions may be drawn.

* Quiz material is embedded within literature and can be part of the study relating to science, SOCE, mathematics, music and other school subjects.

2. Community Context

* ‘ What’s where’ and similar questions relating to the local shopping centre or a nearby major shopping complex.

* Questions about road names, parks, sporting facilities, churches, natural or man-made landmarks, street names, bus routes and so on that apply to the location or suburb.

3. Territory Context

In similar vein, questions about the Territory or State in terms of landmarks, topographical features, tourist destinations, notary public people, parliamentary make-up, mining, agricultural pursuits, industries, parliamentary details and do on can be source material for quizzes. There can be a link to local and extended excursions with students being made aware of the fact that quizzing will be part of the follow-up program.

4. Australian Context

Included might be questions about federal parliament, names of State and Territory capitals, features of major cities (i.e. Sydney’s ‘coat hanger’ and opera house), methods of travel to reach these places, attractions within cities, states and territories, weather and climate, celebrations (i.e. Australia Day, Anzac Day),sporting events (i.e. Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race, football codes, Territory players in Australian sporting teams), topographical features, naturally occurring phenomena (i.e. droughts, floods, bush-fires,weather disturbances), and so on. The list of source material is endless.

5. Process

The important thing is to construct quizzes according to the age, background and comprehension of students. However, quizzes which start within the confidence zone of known and understood issues can extend to enable children to explore, through quizzing, areas of new knowledge and understanding.

It seems that there is a surprising lack of general knowledge these days. Many adults let alone children have no grasp of what might be termed ‘general knowledge. Quizzing is one way of helping to develop this base of understanding.

When conducting quizzes between groups, watch that the exercise does not become a ‘free-for-all’ with children, having no consideration for others, calling out answers in loud, drowning tones. It has to be ‘hands up’ or a variation of that methodology. With arms, avoid the distraction that goes with frantically waving extensions. Still, rather than wildly gesturing arms should be acknowledged. Set the protocol ground rules before commencing the exercise.

6. Quiz examples

I will include a couple of examples of quiz construction in this vignette. However, quiz questions can be pulled straight from one’s head. Groups within the class can play in competition with each other. The context may be a ‘girls versus boys’ approach or any other arrangement that comes to mind. If as sometimes happens, a teacher has to take temporary responsibility for another class, it may be that the quiz is between the two classes, or a number of children selected as representatives from each class.

7. Variations

There are lots of variations to traditional oral quizzes that can be stimulating, engaging and exciting. I may write of these in the future.

Happy quizzing.

THE POWER OF EXAMPLE

I don’t believe that we can over estimate the importance of teachers modelling for students. This goes for primary and secondary students.

In some contexts teaching is regarded as being a profession in which one group (teachers) tells the other group (students) what to do and how it should be done. This of course is rather simplistic definition of teaching and learning processes. It hardly examples the interaction and togetherness that ideally embraces teachers and pupils in teaching/learning contexts.

One of the very important aspects of the leadership offered by teachers is the modelling they do through their own personal example and conduct. Students being young look to and emulate teachers and others. An example of this is the children often tell the parents that particular viewpoint is right because it is what the teacher thinks, therefor it must be right.

Without being prescriptive in anyway, I believe that modelling extends to include the following:

. Dress standards

. Speech patterns and modelling – setting a bright example free speech and vocalisation.

. Punctuality

. Showing respect.

. Handwriting, including in students books and on whiteboards.

. Correct spelling and accuracy in word usage.

This list could go on, but I’m sure you get the drift. Teachers deal with the development of people. It’s as we do and how we are that is so important to those we teach and shape toward being the adults of tomorrow.

BUILD YOUR CV

Building a curriculum vitae is a professional necessity that is too often overlooked. People tend to think ‘why bother’ or ‘I’ll remember’ when it comes to things they should be recording. Memory fades and with it the capacity to recall things that can help with job and promotion applications.

I would suggest considering buying an expanding file. Label each opening with one of the graduate standards suggested by AITSL. It would be wise to label them in order of the way the graduates standards are listed in documentation. Then as evidence of meeting graduate standards is provided, place a note about that in the relevant section of the file. Also include evidence confirming your meeting of those standards. Samples of student work from time to time may help, particularly if they verify teaching strategies and efforts. In addition it can be handy to keep a notebook into which you add jottings from time to time, for transfer to your CV.

Make sure you unload those jottings into the file possibly expanding them into a more detailed format before so doing.

As time goes on upgrade your file to consider standards for teachers gaining new understandings, proficiencies and experience. In that way your folder is of evidence is always up to date.

Make sure that as you update your expanded folder, to take out those things that are no longer relevant. They become secondary (aged) rather than primary (recent) evidence. When cleaning out the file my suggestion would be that rather than destroying documentation removed, you store it in some secondary way to be called on if necessary.

Photographic evidence confirming what you have done can be useful. With iPads and iPhones, taking supporting photographs becomes easy. My suggestion would be that you either print these photographs and add them to the folder or alternatively that you start an index on the device into which photographs can be added.

From time to time colleagues and superordinates, even parents might offer you written recommendations or references. Keeping these and adding them to your CV is important because those statements substantiate and validate what you have to say about yourself.

Developing sound methodology in relation to compiling evidence for CV purposes is a very good habit to establish and maintain.

SPELLING : NECESSARY OR SUPERFLUOUS?

There are some who say that attention the spelling is old hat and the discipline of being able to spell accurately and correctly is really not necessary anymore.

In an age of computer technology, they argue that the computer, iPads and similar gadgets provide students with correct spelling options through “spellcheck” and other text refining devices. Therefore it is not necessary to know how to spell words by heart any longer.

Others argue that in terms of priority spelling is a basic that no longer needs to be taught. There are other teaching and learning priorities.

Maybe “experts” believe that spelling skills will be acquired by osmosis. Some people genuinely believe that spelling accuracy isn’t important because corrections for both spelling and grammar can be provided by checks built into attachments for word documents and others. My personal belief is that’s the lazy way out.

I once had a teacher say to me “I don’t teach spelling because I don’t like it.” Teaching basics is apparently boring and quite stifling for some people.

This overlooks the fact that teaching important basic understanding this is repetitious and not all learning is tinsel and glitter. However, there is a way of engaging children with spelling that makes it quite exciting and looked forward to. There are numerous spelling games available that can be adapted for classroom use. These can be developed to support and reinforce graduated learning, extending the spelling program is being followed.

Spelling and word appreciation games up also available and this is one area where computer or iPad use can be reinforcing. My contention however is that spelling is an area that requires basic teaching. It can’t all be left to children working on devices and acquiring the understanding they need without teaching going into the program.

An example of one game I used with spelling was to ask children to within their minds to configure words broken into syllables attached to a piece of elastic. There is the word. As your stretch the elastic with in your mind’s eye the word broke into syllables. The study of the syllables enabled you to follow the patterning of the word. When the word had been “examined” by the stretch method the elastic was relaxed the word came back together and was spelled

I believe we neglect spelling at our peril and to the eternal loss of students.

VOCATIONAL TRAINING OFTEN DISCOUNTED

In recent months, a new realisation seems to be growing on those who are involved with educational decision making and the setting of priorities for students.

It appears to be dawning upon us all, that there is more to education than university degrees and occupations based solely upon pure academics.

That should be reassuring for those completing secondary school who are concerned that high level academic qualifications are prerequisite to every occupation in life.

So much is made of university qualifications, including batchelor and masters level degrees along with PhD’s, that little else seems to count. That is far from being the case. There are a myriad of excellent occupational opportunities available, requiring practical skills outside the scope of degree qualifications.

The pity is that more is not being made known about TAFE, VET and trades when young people are considering their career options. The thrust is toward the need for upcoming tertiary age students to only consider academically focused degree courses.

Tim Pitman and Gavin Moodie, writing for ‘The Conversation’ (Supporting part time and online learners is the key to reducing university drop-out rates) revealed that the first year university drop out average for Australia across all universities is under 15%. For the NT, that attrition rate is just above 26%. This means that one in every four students has cause to re-think tertiary studies.

There are many reasons for study discontinuity and one might well be a realisation that full blown degree study is not the best option. Re-thinking career options is obviously part of this double take. It might also be that study costs and the burden of an upcoming HECS debt weigh on the conscience of students. Withdrawal from courses by March 31 in the year of enrolment, means that HECS debts are avoided.

The need for a re-think can leave students in a state of insecurity about what to do occupationally.

An option that might be considered is promoting to students the array of work opportunities available through trades training and related areas of occupational study.

Our territory is desperately short of qualified people. Part of this is due to a misplaced belief that trades and apprentice based training leads to second class jobs. That is far from where being the case. Thriving communities need occupational balance and at the moment this is an area of distinct shortfall in the NT.

I