WHO, WHAT, HOW, WHEN and WHERE. Past student – where to now?

I graduated from teacher’s college in 1969, and commenced my teaching career in January 1970. From then until January 2012, I remained involved in full time educational commitment. Since retiring in January 2012, I have remained involved in education in different capacities. I retain affiliation with NT. Education through membership of several key groups and do some casual work at our university.

One of the nice things about a career is the fact that over the years, one can without trying remain in contact with an understanding of students from the past and their progress in life’s world.

Most of my years were as a School Principal. I have been Principal to many students who have done well in life and to hear about them and their progress from time to time is great within itself.

It hasn’t all been joy. Some have gone off the rails and finished up in detention for both minor and sadly, major offences. An almost sinister part of that is the fact that I knew this would be the way things might end for them. One gets to understand futurist indicators that are present in the lives of developing children and from very young ages. Sadly, that is the way it can be.

The joy bits and the celebrations of those who are on the positive side of the ledge remain. This year I have determined to keep a note of all feedback I receive from past students or their parents, about their progress pathways in life. I am using an A4 diary which has a month to each page as an opening to make notations. I thought that appreciating the lives of those who are coming behind might make for joyful recall.

I am suggesting this as an idea that might appeal to others.

REJOICE IN THE YEAR THAT HAS BEEN

I wanted to wish everyone connected with WordPress and who have shared my blog all the very best for Christmas and the New Year.

On January 1 each year, for many years, I have anticipated the months ahead and considered how far we had to go until year’s end. Suddenly we are looking back on the year that has been, and looking toward the next.

Thank you for the professional time we have shared during the year. Thank you too, for taking the time to read my blog.The beauty of ‘WordPress’ is the 24/7 connection it offers. I am often sitting and talking, watching TV with one eye, or listening to the radio when engaging with material that finds a home on my blog.

I hope this hear has been one of success and fulfilment. And I hope the goals you set for 2016 will be satisfied.

All the very best.

Henry Gray

THE EVERLASTINGLESS OF EDUCATION

A PERSONAL REFLECTION

The older you become as a teacher, the more experience you gain. However, the older you get, the greater is the strain on resilience or ‘bouce back’ capacity. As a long time school principal in primary schools, I used to keep an eye on teachers and if necessary, counsel with those who were genuinely flagging, about career options.

I retired from full time principalship one month shy of my 66th birthday, for two key reasons. One was that the physical engagement I enjoyed as a classroom visitor and teacher was being pushed by administrative requirements threatening to shackle me to the desk in my office. The second was the fact that our systrem was inexorably grasping at data and outcomes measurment to the detriment of holistic educartion and the development of chiildren as people.

I retain a deep and primary interest in education as a reader, writer, mentor, coach and as a contributor to educational journals. My connection through ‘Linked In’ is part of that evolution. I write a weekly newspaper column about educational matters and have a blog at henrygrayblog.com

It is important that we give back to education because of the opportunities that have come our way.

SCHOOL ATMOSPHERE – PRECIOUS BUT FRAGILE

SCHOOL ATMOSPHERE – PRECIOUS BUT FRAGILE

Educational organisation within schools is many things to many people. Principals and school leadership teams are motivated and inspired by many different stimuli. The elements and influences which press upon schools are poured into a metaphoric funnel above each place of teaching and learning. Community, hierarchial and government clamor rain caqn come down like the cascade from the end of the funnel onto schools in almost waterfall proportions.

While Principals and leadership groups are able to take, analyse, synthesise and consider the way in which the school can and should accommodate demands from without,  it is easy for a sense of proportion and a perspective on reality to become lost. The flood of seemingly insatiable demands heaped on schools can result in destabilisation and disequilibrium.

This is especially the case in situations where Principals and leadership teams feel that everything demanded of the school by the system (and of the system in turn by Government) has to be acceded and put into practice.  These reactions, best described as knee jerk, cause an inner disquiet within staff who are often reluctant to change without justification, but are pressured to make and justify those changes anyway.

In metaphoric terms, schools that comply with demands so made, remind me of a frog hopping from lilly pad to lilly pad on a pond’s surface. Sooner or later the frog will miss in its parabolic leap from one pad to the next and do a dunk into the water.  I believe we need, like a duck, to do a lot more deep diving to ascertain what rich life there is at the bottom of the pond.  Too often we are urged and in turn urge our teachers, to skim the surface of learning without exploring issues with children and students.

Beneath the educational top soil, there are rich substrata of understandings that need to be explored. Too often that depth learning is overlooked.  Educators know that depth learning is disregarded  because of the imperative that we drive on, moving rapidly from one initiative to the next.

This approach is one that does little to positively enhance the way those working within schools feel about what they are doing.  They become ‘focussed on worry’ and internalise feelings of discomfit about what and how they are doing.  They can feel both disenfranchised and destabilised. They wonder whether they are valued and appreciated. While they may not talk about feelings of insecurrity in an ‘out there and to everyone’ way, their expressions of concern and disquiet are certainly expressed to trusted colleagues in an ‘under the table’ manner.

Teachers may maintain a brave face to what they are doing, but beneath the surface suffer from self doubt.  This leads to them becoming professionals who overly naval gaze, generally in a very self critical manner.  Teachers can and often do become professions who feel there is little about which to self-congratulate and rejoice.

Establishing Priorities and Building toward Positive Atmosphere

In this context and against this background it is essential that empathetic school principals and leadership teams offer reassurance and build confidence within their teaching and support staff cohorts. They need to help staff understand that ‘frog hopping’ is not essential and that ‘deep diving’ into learning, whereby children and students are offered  the opportunity of holistic development is encouraged.

If this is to happen, Principals need to take account of two very important considerations.

* They need to act in a way that deflects as much downward pressure as possible away from staff.  They need, as I have previously written (   ) to be like umbrellas, open to diffuse the torrent of government and systemic expectatiion, keeping change within reasonable boundaries.  This will ensure that schools, students and staff are not overwhelmed by cascading waterfalls of macro-expectation. Principals and leadership groups need to maintain as much balance  as possible within their schools.  In spite of what system leaders may say, random acceptance and blind attempts at implementing every initiative will lead to confusion st school level.

Principals have to have the courage to say ‘no’ to changes which come at them giddyingly and often in a poorly considered manner.

* The second critically important consideration, largely dependent upon the ability of school Principals and leadership groups to be selective in terms of their acceptance of change invitation,  is that of school tone, harmony and atmosphere.

The way a school feels is  intangible. It cannot be bought as a material resource.  Neither can it be lassoed, harnessed or tied down.  The ‘feel’ of a school is an intangible and generates from within. It develops as a consequence of feeling generated among those within the organisation.

I often feel that the atmosphere of a school, which grows from the tone and harmony within, is best expressed as a weather may which superimposes on that school.  When Principal at Leanyer School I had a rather clever member of my staff take an aerial photograph of ‘our place’ and photoshop a weather map over our campus.  This I kept close for it was necessary for me to appreciate the ‘highs’ within our school.  I also needed to take account of the ‘lows’, being aware of the fact we needed to make sure they were swiftly moving and not permanently affective of the people within our borders.

Learning about Atmosphere

My awareness of atmosphere did not come about by accident. In 1994 while at Leanyer, I was asked to act as our region’s Superintendent for a period of six months. At that time Leanyer was somewhat struggling when it came to material resources and that was a worry. Other schools seemed to have a lot more in material terms. Although not jealous, an inner aspiration was to be like better resourced schools.

During my tenure in the acting position. I visited each of our region’s schools, some on more than one occasion. I made contact with Principals and took every opportunity to go into classrooms meeting and talking with children and teachers. I also visited Leanyer School but as an ‘outsider’ not as someone presuming ‘insider awareness’. (I wasn’t there; someone else was acting as Principal and I needed to accord leadership space and respect).

The most critically important thing I learned during my time as Superintendent, was appreciation of organisational atmosphere. No matter how good schools looked, no matter how many material resources they held – if they did not ‘feel’ good, they were lacking quite decidedly.

Part of my learning was predicated by appreciation of Leanyer ‘from the outside in’. Having been Principal for two full years at the school before temporary promotion, I was used to viewing the school from the inside out. Opportunity to look at the school from a different perspective along with comparative opportunity, helped me appreciate the blessing and joy abounding within the school.  It felt good! The atmosphere within was second no none!!

Organisational atmosphere is both precious and fragile. There is no guarantee that this intrinsic quality will remain constant.  The way people within schools act and interact changes regularly.

Atmospheric Challenge

Within schools are three key groups of people – students, staff and parents. Watching overall is the wider community. Change of personnel and client is common with the arrival and departure of children and staff. Systemic demands and government priorities are hardly constant.  This opens schools up as being organisations in a constant state of flux. Just as weather patters change, so too, do pervading atmospherics within schools. Those feeling on a positive ‘high’ today,  may find that feeling of well-being eroded by something that unfolds tomorrow.  Contrawise, circumstances causing feelings of despondency (‘low’ points) can be changed by circumstances, becoming ‘highs’.

It is up to Principals and leadership teams to ensure that positive atmosphere, precious yet fragile is built and maintained.  It is easy to lose the feeling of positivism so necessary if an organisation is to grow and thrive on the basis of its human spirit.

I learned a long time ago about the importance of atmosphere and recommend to readers that we all always work to build the spirit within our schools.

Henry Gray

WALK AWAY OR GIVE BACK

It worries me greatly that too many educators, especially school leaders, seemingly can’t wait until the day they retire. Cometh the day, they throw their hands into the air, figuratively or literally shout “hooray” and rush away, never to look back on what they have left.  They are just so glad that a career which  many have become burdensome, is behind them.

That to me is so sad.  How awful it must be for those who are soured to the extent of wanting distance between themselves and the years committed to the educational profession.

There have been challenging, indeed harrowing times for me during 40 plus years of service to education. Thankfully there have been great times and many celebrations to savour. In retirement I am glad to have give back opportunities to a profession that has offered me so much.  In my post career thinking, I set the bad times to one side and remember the many satisfiers that came my way.

Others have helped me; now it is my turn to support others by sharing  as those others shared their experiences with me. It is great to be in a give back period.

WITH THE PASSING OF TIME – A RETIRED PRINCIPAL’S REFLECTION

WITH THE PASSING OF TIME – A retired principal’s reflection

Once upon a time a principal reflected on what was (2010) what have been (1970) and what had happened between times. A little voice in his head told him to think as much as possible about “balance”, “pros” and “cons”, “challenge” and “celebration”. Determined to toward even-handedness he began to reflect on the four decades of his educational experience.

He thought about the waves of systemic leadership that had rolled over the system. There was the “Moresby mafia” followed at intervals by domination from other States, Territories and arrivals from overseas destinations. More recently (2009) the ‘Queensland Cowboys’ had succeeded the Western Australia ‘Sandgropers’ as system leaders. The Northern Territory were certainly hybrid.

He thought about Jim Eedle the Northern Territory’s first Secretary for Education after the NT Government took portfolio carriage for education. Eedle said (Katherine, March 1978), “schools for children” and “Structure should support function.” He thought how structure had now assumed skyscraper proportions with the children somehow in the shadowsHe thought about the back of many children were children who seemed to lack the first hand care and nurture a parent should offer. It seemed this was less forthcoming with the passing of years. Increasingly, schools were asked (indeed required) to take on primary matters of bringing. He wondered and was sad that ‘loco parentis’ was now so mainstream.

He worried that with the passing of years, a preponderance of weighty issues had grown into school curriculum requirements. Lots has been added and little dropped. He wondered how teachers could cope and was concerned the children would be overburdened and staff become disillusioned. The educational pathway seemed increasingly cluttered and overgrown.

He was concerned that written reports were no longer short, succinct, explicit and individualised. Rather they were long on hyperbole being stereotyped, jargon riddled statements. They had become increasingly wordy but in essence said less and less. Notwithstanding the huge amount of teacher effort devoted to their preparation, he felt they really said meant very little to parents.

He worried that with the passing of time, children had become more self-centred. “I” and “my” were pronouns and possessives that underpinned their belief and value systems. He yearned for those times past when, it seemed, children were well mannered and cared for others. “Yes please”, “thank you”, “excuse me” and “may I” were fast disappearing epithets. That he felt underpinned a loss of character.

He wondered where safety and security for children had gone. In the 1970s and 1980s children could play outdoors in what was a safe, secure environment. Come 2012 and parents no longer felt the children were safe. Threat for young people was felt from cyberspace to the street. There was a feeling that children needed to be cocooned and cosseted – but not by parents. As primary caregivers they were too busy at work to offer personal nurture.’Minding’ at Outside School Hours Care centres was the in thing.

He wondered whether, in an enlightened age, children feel ‘used’ when their schooling futures were discussed in a way that likened them to pawns on a chessboard. He also wondered whether children appreciated being ‘objects’ for limited academic testing (Four May Days each year). Did they feel that overall and holistic educational needs were regarded as important by Federal Politicians setting State and Territory educational agendas?

He wondered about modern communications. Were the children of the 1970’s not better speakers and listeners because face to face communication was alive and practised? ‘Facebook’, ‘Twitter’, texting and the new ICT tools of the twenty-first century reduced the need to gain and have confidence in speech and speaking (including listening). He was concerned that literacy skills were going out the door. What would happen to thinking!

He wondered about the wisdom of straying too far from the scriptural adage,”spare the rod and spoil the child”. While responses to poor behaviour ought not to be barbaric, was not accomodation in 2012 on what was totally unacceptable in 1970, simply encouraging children and young people to push the envelope? Were not the elders abrogating their upbringing responsibilities and being ostrich like?

He was sad that keys, security, guard dogs, dead latches, CCTV cameras, high fences, barbed wire, crimsafe mesh, sensor security systems and floodlights had become the order of installation. It seemed that in 1970, nights were for sleeping. Forty years later, nocturnal malevolence seemed to prevail. He wondered where ‘Where Willie Winkie’ had gone.

He wondered about gender equality. In the 1970’s children deferred to adults on public transport, when going through doors and joining queues. Similarly, men deferred to ladies, the young to the old.
No more!
He wondered why it was that in 2012, chivalry was dead!

He was concerned about ‘pace’. In the 1970’s things moved more slowly. There seemed to be less to do, yet key tasks were completed. There was a simple serenity about the way things were done. Time off work WAS time off work.

He pondered tranquility. Inner peace had been enhanced by the separation of priorities. Family, work and recreation had occupied degrees of importance in that order. Come 2012, it seemed that the imperative of ‘work, work and work until you drop’ had pushed family and recreational pursuits onto the back-burner. Was that not poor prioritisation?
Did the ‘new way’ promote happiness and inner peace?

He wondered about the future. As a young educator in 1970 he had looked to the future with confidence and rosy anticipation. Come 2012 and looking back he wondered why system realities had sullied his vision.

Once upon a time a principal reflected on what was (2010) what have been (1970) and what had happened between times. A little voice in his head told him to think as much as possible about “balance”, “pros” and “cons”, “challenge” and “celebration”. Determined to toward even-handedness he began to reflect on the four decades of his educational experience.

He thought about the waves of systemic leadership that had rolled over the system. There was the “Moresby mafia” followed at intervals by domination from other States, Territories and arrivals from overseas destinations. More recently (2009) the ‘Queensland Cowboys’ had succeeded the Western Australia ‘Sandgropers’ as system leaders. The Northern Territory were certainly hybrid.

He thought about Jim Eedle the Northern Territory’s first Secretary for Education after the NT Government took portfolio carriage for education. Eedle said (Katherine, March 1978), “schools for children” and “Structure should support function.” He thought how structure had now assumed skyscraper proportions with the children somehow in the shadows?

He thought about the back of many children were children who seemed to lack the first hand care and nurture a parent should offer. It seemed this was less forthcoming with the passing of years. Increasingly, schools were asked (indeed required) to take on primary matters of bringing. He wondered and was sad that ‘loco parentis’ was now so mainstream.

He worried that with the passing of years, a preponderance of weighty issues had grown into school curriculum requirements. Lots has been added and little dropped. He wondered how teachers could cope and was concerned the children would be overburdened and staff become disillusioned. The educational pathway seemed increasingly cluttered and overgrown.

He was concerned that written reports were no longer short, succinct, explicit and individualised. Rather they were long on hyperbole being stereotyped, jargon riddled statements. They had become increasingly wordy but in essence said less and less. Notwithstanding the huge amount of teacher effort devoted to their preparation, he felt they really said meant very little to parents.

He worried that with the passing of time, children had become more self-centred. “I” and “my” were pronouns and possessives that underpinned their belief and value systems. He yearned for those times past when, it seemed, children were well mannered and cared for others. “Yes please”, “thank you”, “excuse me” and “may I” were fast disappearing epithets. That he felt underpinned a loss of character.

He wondered where safety and security for children had gone. In the 1970s and 1980s children could play outdoors in what was a safe, secure environment. Come 2012 and parents no longer felt the children were safe. Threat for young people was felt from cyberspace to the street. There was a feeling that children needed to be cocooned and cosseted – but not by parents. As primary caregivers they were too busy at work to offer personal nurture.’Minding’ at Outside School Hours Care centres was the in thing.

He wondered whether, in an enlightened age, children feel ‘used’ when their schooling futures were discussed in a way that likened them to pawns on a chessboard. He also wondered whether children appreciated being ‘objects’ for limited academic testing (Four May Days each year). Did they feel that overall and holistic educational needs were regarded as important by Federal Politicians setting State and Territory educational agendas?

He wondered about modern communications. Were the children of the 1970’s not better speakers and listeners because face to face communication was alive and practised? ‘Facebook’, ‘Twitter’, texting and the new ICT tools of the twenty-first century reduced the need to gain and have confidence in speech and speaking (including listening). He was concerned that literacy skills were going out the door. What would happen to thinking!

He wondered about the wisdom of straying too far from the scriptural adage,”spare the rod and spoil the child”. While responses to poor behaviour ought not to be barbaric, was not accomodation in 2012 on what was totally unacceptable in 1970, simply encouraging children and young people to push the envelope? Were not the elders abrogating their upbringing responsibilities and being ostrich like?

He was sad that keys, security, guard dogs, dead latches, CCTV cameras, high fences, barbed wire, crimsafe mesh, sensor security systems and floodlights had become the order of installation. It seemed that in 1970, nights were for sleeping. Forty years later, nocturnal malevolence seemed to prevail. He wondered where ‘Where Willie Winkie’ had gone.

He wondered about gender equality. In the 1970’s children deferred to adults on public transport, when going through doors and joining queues. Similarly, men deferred to ladies, the young to the old.
No more!
He wondered why it was that in 2012, chivalry was dead!

He was concerned about ‘pace’. In the 1970’s things moved more slowly. There seemed to be less to do, yet key tasks were completed. There was a simple serenity about the way things were done. Time off work WAS time off work.

He pondered tranquility. Inner peace had been enhanced by the separation of priorities. Family, work and recreation had occupied degrees of importance in that order. Come 2012, it seemed that the imperative of ‘work, work and work until you drop’ had pushed family and recreational pursuits onto the back-burner. Was that not poor prioritisation?
Did the ‘new way’ promote happiness and inner peace?

He wondered about the future. As a young educator in 1970 he had looked to the future with confidence and rosy anticipation. Come 2012 and looking back he wondered why system realities had sullied his vision.

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