CHILDREN NEED CONFIDENCE AND REASSURANCE

A prime focus of education is planning towards meeting the future needs of children. Preparing children and young people to become tomorrow’s adults and leaders is a key educational commission. This should be a shared responsibility involving parents on the home front and teachers in our schools. Taking advantage of learning opportunities is also a responsibility resting on the shoulders of students. Parents and teachers offer development and educational opportunities for children but cannot do the learning for them.

In a world of educational pressures and global confusion, it is important to be careful and responsible in planning learning opportunities. Part of this is to offer a stable and understandable environment. The opportunity to ‘grow through play’ and the way in which children learn to understand the wider world are both important.

Play

The importance of play and social interaction children have with each other is sometimes discounted. Abundant research confirms that children learn about the world through play. This along with other stimuli supports their social, emotional and moral/spiritual growth. Young people can be and often are exposed to the pressures of academics too early in life. Making haste slowly and ensuring these other elements are taken into account, supports the stable development of young people. Pressuring children academically might produce ‘high fliers’. However, confidence and maturity come from socialising and play, without which children can be left in isolation. Playing together is one way children begin to understand one another and the world into which they are growing.

Unease

In these troubled times children’s self confidence needs to be supported by parents and teachers. Distressing events, particularly terrorist attacks, climatic catastrophes and other disasters have an unsettling effect on everyone. This is particularly the case for children who can and do become distressed by such events. Trying to shield young people from these events or attempting to brush them off, will only heighten their anxieties. Awareness of terrifying events creates distress which “… may be shown in all sorts of ways. This can include aches and pains, sleeplessness, nightmares, bed wetting, becoming … snappy or withdrawn or not wanting to be separated from their parents.” (Parry and Oldfield, ‘How to talk to children about terrorism’ The Conversation, 27/5/17)

Children need the confidence and understanding that grows from play and they need reassurance about the good things in a world into which they are growing. It’s up to adults to see that both these needs are met.

MEDIA INFLUENCES YOUTH

From time to time the issue of media influence on shaping the values of young people comes up for discussion.

It is often asserted that what young people see, hear and experience has no influence on the shaping of their attitudes and values. People are scoffed at if they suggest otherwise. Researchers and others connected with empirical study assert that young people know that games are for amusement. Therefore, playing these games will have no impact upon their lives.

I believe that to be totally wrong. Many young people immerse themselves for hours on end, day after day, week after week in playing these games. Common sense suggests this has to impact on their thinking and attitudes.

Young people may become so totally absorbed in this “escape from reality“ that it becomes their reality.

While some of these amusements are quite benign, many of the more popular ones are about murder, massacre, slaughter, and macabre behaviours. It stands to reason that young people (and those who are not so young) who become totally immersed in these activities will be influenced by their addiction.

The fact that so many young people these days are “I“ and “me” people who do not think about others, may well be a result of exposure to online gaming. Lack of manners, slack, disrespectful speech, the inability to focus on real life tasks in school and elsewhere, disinclination toward real life activities all point toward cyberspace influence. The key characters in online games generally behave in a way that promotes heroism through bullying, harassment and other negative behaviour. Can we wonder at this bravado and these attitudes rubbing off on the impressionable minds of youthful gamers?

Common sense suggests that the antisocial behaviour of many young people has its genesis in their indulgent online activities. When cyberspace completely absorbs the minds and the attention of users, something has to give!

One of the most recent games is “fortnite”, which focuses on extremely negative social behaviour. Game changes and modifications always seem to focus on negatives, rather than social decency.

I believe it imperative for parents to be aware of the online games their children are playing. They would be wise to monitor the classification of these activities and the length of time spent in online indulgence.

Without doubt, the games children play impacts on their thinking, attitudes and behaviour. That can have negative consequences. It may result in them making poor decisions that impact upon their lives and their futures.

DISCIPLINE IS A KEY ISSUE

Corporal punishment has been outlawed in NT schools for close to two decades. Around the turn of the century, principals in Government Schools were notified that corporal punishment was no longer to be administered. Prior to that time and as far back as the 1970’s, the use of the cane was allowed within strict regulatory parameters.

It is true to say that discipline applied to students was quite harsh in both verbal and physical terms. With the passing of years, anachronistic practices have been streamlined and modified. Behaviour management strategies based on understanding students have been developed and implemented. All schools have behaviour management policies which are included within their improvement action plans. Principles of natural justice underpin these policies. They are ahead of the present Education Act, which when modified will catch up with discipline practices in place within our schools.

Boot On Other Foot

We have moved a long way from the old, historical methods of discipline. Every effort is made to offer safe, secure learning environments to students. The idea for discipline is that it should positively uphold and reinforce 2021 school values.

A key and sinister shift however, is not how discipline impacts upon students but how the softly, softly approach can and does backfire on schools and staff members. This is particularly the case within the public school sector. Student aberrance, deliberate defiance and antisocial conduct raises difficult, sometimes intolerable situations for school staff, along with silent, suffering student majorities. As disciplinary options for principals and their teams have ‘softened’ it seems there has been an escalation in the unacceptable behavioural attitudes of some students. Teachers and other students have to suffer the indignities these behaviours unload on classes and schools.

Nicely worded, affirmative and embracing behaviour management policies, in practical terms, have little impact or influence on this hardline student core. The system appears to have little capacity to deal with manifestly unacceptable conduct, meaning that schools suffer. At the classroom level, about the only countering device and control measure available to teachers are their tongues. In many cases, verbal remonstration has little impact on correcting student behaviour. Principals and school leadership teams are similarly constrained.

Offering engaging educational alternatives within purpose built units for disruptive students has been tried and can make a difference. However, there are far more students needing this support than places available to meet school and system needs.

Stress Issues

Student discipline is an area increasingly impacting on health and well-being issues for school staff. A health and well-being survey conducted by the Monash University in 2013 identified student violence and bullying as a key stressor for school leaders (Summary Report pp 7,8). The number of teachers taking long term sickness and stress leave has escalated in the last decade and is largely attributed to student behaviour. Recently a Victorian teacher was awarded $1.3m as compensation for a career disrupted and ruined by student behaviour. According to rumour, this settlement has other educators, who have similarly suffered, considering litigation. ‘Discipline’ is a two-way street, and teachers are increasingly on the receiving end.

HEAD LICE AN ETERNAL SCOURGE

Invasion by head-lice is a perennial problem for children at school, with re-infection occurring regularly. There is a significant cost for the purchase of products used in treatment. That is particularly the case where two, three or more children in each family have to be treated every time an infestation breaks out.

Until the 1980s, the impact of headlice was felt less than is now the case. Community health sisters used to come into schools, inspect heads for infestation and treat infected children. However, that practice was discontinued because the powers that be decided the head-lice issue was a “social” rather than a “medical” problem. The onus for treatment came back onto schools and parents.

Teachers and administrative staff used to check children if head-lice were suspected, notifying parents of the need for treatment. In more recent years it has been deemed inappropriate for school staff members to touch the heads of children and inspect for lice. In part that was to avoid embarrassing children. It was also felt that physical inspection of heads could be deemed a form of assault.

If head-lice are suspected, staff telephone parents, asking that children be taken home and treated, before returning to school. This may mean time off work for parents and lost learning time for children.

Head-lice continue to be the number one scourge for schools and students. It takes the inattention of only one family represented in a class of children to cause an breakout affecting them all. Schools urge parents regularly inspect children’s heads for lice or eggs, carrying out treatment if necessary. The problem however continues to manifest itself within our schools.

Illness

In a similar manner, health problems affecting one or two children can have an impact upon whole school classes. During the cold and flu season classes are quite often decimated because of children who are sick and away. Teachers are also susceptible and many become quite ill. The non-treatment or non-exclusion of one or two children in the first instance can have serious health impacts upon whole school communities.

The Demands Of Work

Parental work commitments can mean unwell children are sent to school, even though they may spend the day in the sick bay. It is not uncommon for primary school sickbays to resemble a scene from crowded house! Support staff (when signed parental permissions forms are completed) can administer prescribed medication. They also handle reluctant parental responses when ringing and requesting sick children be picked up from school.

A good deal of the contagion that spreads through school classes happens because children in poor health are at school and spreading infection.

Notification

A growing amount of administrative time is spent in notifying parents about health issues. Letters from schools to parents about head lice are sent home with monotonous regularity. With a growing percentage of parents declining immunisation for children, notification about measles, whooping cough, chicken pox, new strains of flu and other outbreaks have to be made.

Student health and well-being matters are major school issues.

EDUCATIONAL POINTS TO PONDER

The private sector of NT education is well supported and blessed by some excellent schools which compliment public education. Both Haileybury Rendall and Essington Schools set extremely high standards that all Territory schools, both private and public are challenged to meet. This healthy competition helps teachers and students toward educational excellence.

We need the mix.

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All the very best for the 2021 academic year to all students, parents, teachers and school support staff as they head back to our schools this week. May the year be one of success abd celebration for all those connected with education throughout the NT. Nothing is more vital than the educational readiness and character preparation of our young people, who will become our leaders and decision

makers in tomorrow’s world.

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The placement of permanent, electronically controlled signage that reminds motorists to slow down in school zones is to be applauded. Drivers can be easily distracted. These signs will reduce the driving (and pedestrian) risks that can so easily occur. It is to be hoped these signs are put in place to support road safety for all urban schools.

GLAD THAT ANDREWS HAS BEEN DISENDORSED

There is a considerable ruing among senior liberals because Kevin Andrews has lost preselection in the Victorian seat of Menzies for the next federal election (‘The Australian 1/2/2021). Self evaluating, Andrews says his “… commitment has always been to the people of Menzies and the people of Australia …”.

Mr Andrews commitment was certainly not toward Northern Territorians, nor was he respectful of decisions made by the NT Legislative Assembly. He was the prime mover behind a bill presented to the Federal Parliament in 1997, which rescinded the Right to Die Bill passed into Territory law by the NT Legislative Assembly in 1996.

Since then, the majority of Australian states have enacted or are in the process of debating similar legislation. The NT, which had been a frontrunner on the issue, was effectively sidelined by the Kevin Andrews/Tony Burke sponsored rescinding legislation. As a territorian since 1975 and as a man now weeks short of his 75th birthday, I will never ever forgive Mr Andrews (nor Mr Burke) for what they did in diminishing the NT through their sponsorship of this action against the Northern Territory and its people

THE FOUR DEPENDENCIES OF LIFE IN 2021

They talk about ‘the big four’ in banking parlance. There were the four friends of Bremen who thwarted the robbers and the “oarsome foursome” who were among the best of Australian Olympic rowers.

In modern times, we have the four pillars of modern society, elements of life and living without which communities seem to wither.

They are:

Alcohol

Tourism

Take away food

Entertainment.

Take away these four ingredients of modern times and people cannot cope. Without these supports they are hopeless and helpless.

People cannot survive without alcohol, seemingly the more the better because of dependence.

People cannot stay home, wanting to be unceasing movers and travellers. If travelling embargoes limit particular areas, they take on increasing appeal.

Cooking and food preparation are beyond the skills and abilities of most people. Huge amounts are spent on food prepared other than in the home; without this service, people would starve to death.

Entertainment to enable escape from real life is an absolute must.

This all begs the $64 question. Who are we and what have we become?

BIG CHANGE, SMALL CHANGE

Is there really anywhere left to go with changes to leadership band management of organisations? Over time, there have been big changes in organisational operation. There have been countless management theories, many leading from the consideration of institutional happenings where people were an adjunct to outcomes, to a point where prime consideration is much more toward people providing the service.

With the passing of grime, change continues but the dimension of refocus is ever more minuscule because big changes have been completed. They realm of management and leadership change is more about tweaking than major paradigm shifts. Change has gone from macro, to minuscule to micro.

I suspect that a great deal of movement taking place within organisations is more about changing the name of the practice, rather than changing the practice itself. That’s a case of the same function with a different title.

Titular change really means little, other than the same function being covered by a different naming blanket. Mind you, that allows for someone coming up with the new name on the particular theory, to stalk about it with newfound authority. Multi experts finish up laying claim to what is more or less the same operational thesis.

Fun for all and experts in abundance.

POORLY DISCIPLINED STUDENTS RETARD EDUCATION

Recent commentary has discussed shortfalls in the accomplishments of Australian students. Our students compared poorly with their Asian peers and other overseas counterparts. More money and material resources are directed towards Australian education than in many of the countries to whom we are compared, yet our results continue to be inferior.

An issue that impacts on outcomes is that of student attitude. Googling ‘student discipline’ online brings up countless reports confirming this to be the case. The latest PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) survey found that “…Australia ranked 63rd out of 68 OECD countries for classroom discipline.” (Classroom behaviour the key to future pay, Weekend Australian 19 – 20 May 2018). Dr Sue Thompson from the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) confirmed that “… the environment is challenging for teachers.” (ABC Australian Kids behaving badly in classrooms, 16.3.17)

The ABC Report by Alice Martin goes into the level and degree of student offending. “ Things you would find in a classroom: an entire class deciding to ignore the teacher in silent protest, chairs thrown, threats and overturned desks.

(Australian) Teachers came forward to tell the ABC about the biggest classroom disruptions they experienced. It did not stop there. One teacher had three Year 9 boys skip her class and smear their poo all over the school gymnasium walls, while others had been cursed with the full spectrum of profanities. The list went on…and on.”

While the level and degree of ill-disciplined behaviour varies, the issue is one that has a deleterious impact upon learning opportunities and academic outcomes.

Classroom behaviour (or misbehaviour) has a negative impact on what can be achieved. Although not talked about openly, the behaviour of many students at both primary and secondary levels, leaves a lot to be desired. Teachers spend as much, if not more time, on classroom management and discipline as they do on teaching. This is not fair on those who are keen to learn.

Classrooms and students in many of our Territory schools are not quarantined from this sad reality.

The issue is one that has its genesis in the bringing up of children. Parents as primary caregivers are responsible for the initial shaping of the values and attitudes of their offspring. Proverbs 22.6 suggests “Teach your children right from wrong and when they are grown they will still do right.” (Bible, Contemporary English Version)

If Australian students are to attain the levels achieved by their overseas counterparts, this issue needs to be recognised and corrected.

THREE IS TOO YOUNG FOR PRESCHOOL

The policy of three-year-old children attending preschool full time should fill people with concern. The notion is one of which children of very tender years, having only “just“ arrived in the world, being rushed into formal education. Colin Wicking’s cartoon (Northern Territory News 24/6/18) encapsulates the situation. Two toddlers are heading off to preschool and one says to the other “it only seems like yesterday that I was a fetus“!

If that’s the way preschool education is going, we have a grossly misaligned education system.

Educational justification for early entry into preschool is to get children academically ready for literacy and numeracy competence at increasingly younger ages. This is totally at odds with common sense. Young children need the nurture, empathy and love of parents in developing life skills. Their initial listening and speaking abilities along with the love of life should grow from family interactions.

The modern tendency of children at younger and younger ages spending more time in ‘formal’ preschool education is beyond comprehension.

In 2009 the Melbourne Declaration agreed by all education ministers stated that social, emotional and moral/spiritual development of children are essential. In years since, the need for rounded development has been largely disregarded. The focus seems to be academic competency alone. New policy suggests the sooner this education begins after birth, the better.

Parents wanting their 3-year-olds permanently in preschool is based on misplaced logic. However, costs associated with childcare are continuing to escalate and helps explain why they are plumping for the preschool option. A recent survey of parents (Our kids pushed to school too early, Sunday Territorian 24/6/18) confirms their motivation. “Aussie kids are being pushed into school early because their parents are desperate to escape the rising costs of childcare. … More than 65 per cent of parents are paying between $200 and $799 out of pocket (after government rebate) on childcare each week. … This compares to 44 per cent who pay between $1 and $199 once their child is in preschool.”

Whether children are socially, emotionally and sufficiently mature for entry into preschool, appears to be unimportant. “More than 52 per cent of parents ranked (their children) being toilet trained and feeding themselves as their lowest considerations when deciding when to send their kids to preschool.” (Op cit) While a barrage of educational reasons might be given, the primary reason is one of financial consideration.

It seems the new and innovative three year olds at preschool. is more about cheap childcare than education.