THOUGHTS ABOUT COVID-19

ON THE CORONAVIRUS

With the news conferences, cyberspace messages, news bulletins, and updates that seem to be happening every 10 minutes, it is hard to sort fact from myth when it comes to the coronavirus.

The medical profession is obviously not sure of itself in relation to the virus. The development of a vaccine is still very much in its infancy. Researchers however deserve bouquets for what they doing and how quickly they have moved since starting from scratch just a few short weeks ago.

In medical terms the confusion in part hangs around messages and counter messages. There is a concern that they contradict each other. For instance, I’ve read that people immunised against pneumonia have no guarantee that this immunisation will help in any way to avoid the impacts of the virus. However, advice from medical offices is for people to make sure they have the flu injection, particularly as we come into the cooler months of the year. There needs to be some sort of rationalisation or explanation to show the conjunction between these comments.

Panic buying of goods is not going to help. Panic buying only serves for a short-term purpose and this virus is about us being in for the long term haul.

Bats have a lot to answer for when it comes to this particular virus for its genesis seems to be with them. They have been responsible for a whole raft of viruses including SARS, bird flu, swine flu, the Hendra and Ebola viruses.

Hendra and Ebola aside, the starting point for viral outbreak and spread seems to be China. The coronavirus (COVIG 19) is just the latest to have its start-up pin-pointed to China. The country might be big on the front of economic development but seems to be caught short in awareness and apprehension of major disease outbreaks.

This virus (as was the case with Ebola) was offered early stimulation through the eating habits of humans.

MANAGEMENT AND CONTROL

COVIG 19 has a mind of its own. However, its spread is surely helped through the lack of ‘first base’ management by some countries into which it has spread. Iran is a case in point but the management in some other countries is questionable. Certainly it has well and truly jumped containment lines in South Korea, Iran and Italy.

The ‘Australian’ touched on a real issue when it ran an online story suggesting that selfishness of those who should be in self imposed quarantine for fourteen days. The story suggested that the unwillingness of people to commit 100% to this requirement was opening the door to the infection of others. The ‘I’ and ‘me’ belief in self entitlement puts the greater needs of society at risk if individuals fail to meet self isolation and social distancing requirements.

It is the personal entitlement syndrome that has lead to selfish hoarding of some goods and as evidenced by fights in supermarkets.

This same selfishness may lead some who should be self quarantining to ignore this isolation requirement. The upshot could have disastrous consequences for the unwary.

STOCK MARKET

Profiting through short selling from the hard earned of others is a greedy and selfish sin. Short selling should be legislated against and its practice should be criminialised. Short sellers are holding the government and our very core of existence to ransom. Their avarice and greed are determinants of the present stock market trembling.

CONCENTRIC LEADERSHIP

Concentric management: a team approach to educational leadership

Much is written and said about leadership. Of all subjects, writings (and sayings) about this subject are probably more prolific than about any other. A sub-set of leading in general terms is the specific comment directed toward leadership within the educational domain.

School leaders are offered more in terms of oral and written comment than most. To pick and choose and to digest between models that are promoted as being superior to others is almost a full-time occupation. In fact, it is possible to become so involved in the naval gazing that can go with leadership consideration, that one can forgets to lead!

While theoretical considerations and the underpinnings of leadership models are important, to overlook the practicalities of leadership makes for very poor application. It is leadership in practice that makes the leader a leader, because that is what others see in outcome terms.

When considering leadership, matters of methodology and style come into play. Leadership models and types offered by proponents of the technology run to myriad proportion. It seems there is a style available for all occasions, alternatives than can be shaped to meet the needs of all situations. Again, it can come to a point of leaders being so busy considering leadership that they fail to lead.

Over time, and down the years since Samuel Taylor began the formal processes of writing about leadership typology (in the modern era), it seems that the key focus has been on hierarchal constructs. There have been variations within that model, with distance either maximised or minimised in terms of member identification within the leadership group.

Embracing the pyramid: hierarchical leadership

Hierarchical leadership is perhaps the most common, in wrapping around leadership modelling. In total hierarchical terms, there is the leader who sits atop the organisation in splendid isolation from everyone else. Such a leader is typically an autocrat’s autocrat – an out and out dictator! Leaders of this ilk may be where they are in part because of charisma, but more often because of singular, bloody-minded jackbootedness.

This leadership style is typified within various republics and totalitarian governments. That level and degree of hierarchical leadership, fortunately, does not pervade within education. It is however, all too apparent within countries whose populaces are tortured by such leaders.

Lone leadership is somewhat of a rarity. Much more common – and perhaps the most pervasive of all leadership models is that of shared hierarchy, with leadership layers going from top management echelons to middle then to lower level management. Accountabilities are generally upward toward the pyramid pinnacle, with accountability requirements generally being directed downward.

Below the levels of the pyramid containing the leadership group (who may or may not be a team) are positioned the workers, those within the organisation who make up its base. In other words, they are the foundation upon which the pyramid rests. This is a model of dependence and reliance, but may be one that minimalises respect and trust. It all depends on the linkages that exist between people within the organisation.

A fallacy of the pyramid is that those atop the structure (even those only half-way up as they look down) is that self-righteousness, self-importance and a sense of inflated personal self-worth can take over. Those within the leadership domain separate from those they are supposedly supporting through leadership and grow away from the team. Those they lead, in turn, come to look upon them with disparagement and with a lack of respect for them in the positions they occupy. Rather than working together, the group tends to pull apart. In organisations where the fabric is rent, the centre fails to hold, with hollowness replacing wholesomeness.

This is not fanciful discourse but an indicator of what can happen if those within primarily use the organisation for the sake of personal and individualised gain. Successful people organisations – and schools are critical people developers – work best if those within focus on togetherness and sharing. That can happen better if traditional hierarchical structures are restructured, flattened and shaped to reflect a concentric leadership approach.

Concentric leadership

Concentric leadership discounts hierarchy by flattening the pyramid. The leader remains the leader, those within the leadership structure occupy their positions, but all become part of the structure in terms of equality that cannot exist within the separation imposed by traditional hierarchy.

From above, a concentric organisation is best represented as a circle. In the middle of the circle, symbolising the cohort of souls that make up that place is a series of dots, representing the leadership group. That group are set ‘one apart’ from the majority but are in no way magnified or accentuated in the way traditional organisations describe and transcribe leadership. The majority of those within the organisation are signified as boundary riders who stand side by side to make up the organisational circle.

Mathematically speaking, a ‘circle is a series of dots. Symbolically speaking, each dot represents a member of the group standing side by side (left and right hand) with peers. That is a ‘bird’s eye’ view of a concentrically lead institution.

From the side and applying the principal of a circle being represented by a series of dots, a concentrically configured organisation is seen as shown below. In a school like mine, the biggest dot represents the principal, flanked by two assistant principals and two senior teachers.

Mathematically speaking, a ‘circle is a series of dots’. Symbolically speaking, each dot represents a member of the group standing side by side (left and right hand) with peers. That is a ‘bird’s eye’ view of a concentrically lead institution.

From the side and applying the principal of a circle being represented by a series of dots, a concentrically configured organisation is seen as shown below. In a school like mine, the biggest dot represents the principal, flanked by two assistant principals and two senior teachers.

Everyone else within the school community stands on the same plane and at the same level as the leadership group. Such an organisation is one priding itself on offering equality of recognition, with everyone being on the same plain. This model does not identify people on the basis of subordinates looking up and superordinates looking down. Everyone looks at each other is terms of simple sideways or ‘across the circle’ eye movement. Concentric leadership in principle and practice is designed to promote feelings of equality and togetherness in a way that would be frowned upon by traditional hierarchal adherents.

Respect-based leadership

My purpose in writing this piece is not to uphold one leadership style in a way that denigrates other models. It is rather an attempt to outline an approach which, if right for an organisation and if practised, can work to bring a group together in a way that releases powerful and positive organisational synergy.

In all situations and regardless of model, leadership is either ‘ascribed’ or ‘acquired’.

Ascribed leadership is the authority vested in a position by its creators and recognised by its holder(s). It is a power based leadership with expectations ‘commanded’ by superordinates. If the position holder doesn’t comply with expectations held of the position by those above, tenure can be short. An ‘upside’ from the viewpoint of the occupier can be that the incumbency offers the occupier a chance to wield power.

Sometimes that authority can be applied indiscriminately, but usually in the knowledge that the position holder will be protected from subordinate reaction by superordinate protection. A lot of middle level managers relish the power and authority vested in such positions.

Ascribed leadership authority is a perfect fit for the hierarchal model, where positions are (or can be) filled by those supplicating upward while operating quite intransigently in a downward direction. Ascribed authority is popular among those who want to get on, because it can offer guarantee of upward mobility by key decision-makers if the job is done to expectation at the level of occupancy.

Acquired authority is earned on the basis of perceptions held for leaders by those around him or her within the organisation. It grows from perceptions held of leaders that are respect based. Such authority is not conferred but is earned by way of the recognition that is shown to members of leadership teams by those being lead. Without doubt, it is the harder but more meaningful and everlasting of the two authority types that are in play.

The two can be conflictive. Respect is not necessarily earned by those leaders who play the power game, through adhering strictly to the demands and expectations of the position which come from above.

Neither is the leader who earns subordinate and peer respect necessarily highly regarded by those above, for the perceptions attaching to acquiring respect based recognition may infer a certain weakness in the character of such leaders as seen by superordinates. They may believe that respect has been offered because the leader is compromising, vacillating or too giving. Such a perception might threaten the ‘management on the basis of tight ship’ principle.

Trust, accountability and concentric leadership

Concentric leadership is not a model that will work well in distrustful situations. It may be that those at top leadership levels do not trust a leader further down the organisation, who advocates concentric practice because he or she may be seen to be less authoritative than desirable. There are also concerns that leaders who consult and fully engage with others in the organisation are weak, in not being able to make up their minds without considering the opinions of others. There is also suspicion that such consultation will be responded to in a selfish and narrow manner by those who are asked opinions by the leadership team.

There can be issues that arise from within organisations where a desire by leaders to be concentric, is signalled. Those within the structure may suspect that statements of intent are empty rhetoric, words without meaning. To sell the concept of concentrism, leaders must act and ‘live’ within a way that encourages trustful responses. This is perhaps best helped if leaders are available to their teams, avoiding being seen as remote or aloof.

Concentric leadership is in my opinion, anathema to the principle of ascribed management but sits comfortably in a context of acquired leadership. If leaders are on the same plane and operate at the same level as all within the organisation, then trust has to be a quality in place. By the same token, the leadership team does have an organisational accountability setting them a little part from others within the team. That context is shown by the elevation and the magnification of the dots, central to the linear structure as indicated in my first diagram.

There should be and there will be an identification of the concentrically positioned leadership group by those outside the organisation, meaning that the prime focus of accountability will be honed in from above, to where it belongs. There will also be an appreciation by those within, that the leadership team has a job to do. With everyone operating on the same level, communication should be enhanced because those within the organisation don’t have to crane their necks in ‘looking up’ to the leadership group.

Rather the ‘looking up’ is inward and soulful being based on the respect and trust that developed within a group in which everyone is on the same plane. True concentric leadership gives a new and positive meaning to the concept of the ‘level playing field’.

Quality leadership: never utopian but constantly striving

No organisation anywhere can boast leadership panacea, because organisational equilibrium constantly changes. However, in striving for the best that can happen within an organisation, I strongly commend an approach that takes concentric leadership into account. The advantages are there, provided that trust is a quality that exists and which can be factored in to strengthen through concentric practice.

While concentrism may fly in the face of the hierarchically inclined, it can be promoted and shown as building a character and strength that is positive and enhancing. In a school context, the trust and respect growing from such an approach adds hugely to internalised values. Vesting confidence in such a model is helpful to the macro-organisation in achieving its goals because of the micro-satisfaction of its parts. Happy and well functioning school units mean that DEET Corporate is enhanced.

If those within schools are happy, satisfied and achieve organisation balance that in turn is good for the superstructure that is our Department of Employment, Education and Training. If the system is going to build and develop, then the genesis of positivism has to come from its foundations. Schools are the foundation on which DEET is built. Concentric leadership may well influence, in a positive way, ‘from the ground up’. If that happens, with an enhancement of trustfulness upon which the model is predicated, then all augurs well for future system developments.

Be warned, however! There are those to whom such a model is anathema, because the one thing they don’t want is for their positional power and ascribed authority to be wilted.

Concentric leadership is for those who believe in collectivity and togetherness. It can be organisationally fulfilling because it satisfies all those within, who have genuine stake and interest in the school or situation they are leading. It will never suit those whose aim is to pontificate, dictate and lead by command from the great heights of hierarchal pyramids.

NEEDS WITHIN TERTIARY EDUCATION

Bring back learning on campus learning and proper classes.

Keep an attendance roll for both campus and online students.

Regard students as people not mere cash cows.

Up the ante on student responsibility and accountability.

Fully assess tutorials and ongoing commitment by students during the period of their course enrolment.

Have a regard for the conventions when it comes to formal assignment presentation.

Require all online students to meet their tutorial and connection obligations.

If students earn failing grades, fail them.

Mark student submissions properly, not cursorily.

If a lecturer, focus more on teaching and less on research and personal study.

Have a proper regard for the language and communications needs of overseas students.

Visit students undertaking teaching practice in schools. Sit in on some of their lessons and assess them.

Recognise educational development and history.

If students are failing teaching practices, support them but do not overlook their failures.

If a lecturer, be a role model when presenting to students.

If an assessor, ensure that those in practice situations fully accept their responsibilities.

Value and comment on qualities of student presentation, diction and generals deportment.

Offer stimulating lectures.

Develop focussed tutorial sessions.

Encourage dialogue between students and be a communicator who offers meaningful engagement.

Treat students as equals in conversation and engagement.

Earn the respect of students and insist on this respect being offered.

Ensure courses you offer are valuable and not in any way diminished toward ‘Mickey Mouse’ status.

POINTS TO PONDER

POINTS TO PONDER

Examples of coronavirus responsibility – an education

A tourist arriving in Darwin from Sydney went shopping in Woolworths Darwin for a brief period before becoming unwell. He immediately confined himself to his hotel room and called the authorities. He is now in the care of the Royal Darwin Hospital having tested positive for COVIG 19.

This man has been far more thoughtful and responsible than the myriad of Chinese students returning to Australia from overseas and who have ostensively been in isolation in a third country in order to qualify to return to Australia. Their ‘isolation’ has been about social fraternisation and having a jolly good time: Isolation and self-quarantining be damned!

All pretence – and three of our our universities are stupid enough to be promising thousands of dollars to help offset their costs and inconvenience while in their mode of self isolation. And as an aside, isn’t it interesting just how much our universities are beholden to overseas students for the income they generate into university coffers.

And our group from the ‘Diamond Princess’

Some of the 160 plus who were brought to Australia and housed in the ex-Inpex workers village have been appreciative. But many have winged, whined and complained. Talk about lack of appreciation and gratefulness. They are the ones who got themselves into their predicament and should thank the Australian Government and Qantas for bailing them out.

They even petitioned the NT Department of Health who have overseen their program for the supply of alcohol. That was denied because it was felt that alcohol loosens inhibitions and could have put imbibers into a position of compromising the security that needed to attach to quarantine procedures.

AS TEACHERS, WE MISS THE BOAT WITH CHILDREN BY NOT SINGING

Singing is one of those things children love doing. It is also something many teachers feel concerned about, when it comes to personal vocalising adventure. For some reason or other, many teachers are reluctant to engage in signing with children at classroom level. In many schools these days, music programs are vested in singing and instrumental teachers. The domain is one into which classroom teachers, even those of early childhood children, too rarely venture. That may be because of self-consciousness, embarrassment or because they genuinely believe they have no musical talent.

Singing is something I enjoyed with children in many different school settings, in grades at all levels and in all kinds of schools.

I don’t profess to be an expert in musical terms, but enjoyment should be the key to singing. Holding a tune helps, but for most if that does not come naturally, it can be cultivated.

Having fun with singing helps. Singing for enjoyment ought to be considered, especially as singing is confidence building for children. I believe that to sing can also build teacher confidence. The exercise is one that promotes vocal projection, facial expression, and correct word usage. Listening skills are enhanced because singers have to listen out for each other.

Some of the songs I taught children years ago, they still remember years later and as adults. I have had that feedback. Children I know from more recent years remind SS me of songs taught.

Memory building

Without doubt, learning the lyrics and music that goes with singing, helps when it comes to memory building. Songs stay with people for years, sometimes a lifetime, after the learning. The stimulation of memory is important because the ability to memorise is one of the characteristics with which we have been blessed.

Part of the appeal to memory is that of challenging children to learn the rudiments of the song as quickly as possible. When I was a primary school student back in the 1950’s, we used to have singing lessons to our schools broadcast over the radio. Lessons were weekly for 30 or 45 minutes. Once the song we were learning was introduced, the singing teacher would drag the learning out over several weeks. We poor children would back up phrase by phrase, line by line and verse by verse for what seemed an eternity. The enjoyment of singing became entangled within this torturous learning process. When teaching singing, be smart about methodology.

Linking

Singing can be linked with other elements of the curriculum, especially Social and Cultural Education. Attached is an example to illustrate.

Musical Appreciation

‘Linking’ similarly applies when it comes to musical appreciation. Music and instrumental appreciation is helpful when it comes to studying countries, cultures and people of the world. Musical appreciation is a strategy that helps us better understand and appreciate Indigenous Australians.

Children are asked to use their imaginations to create stories, write poems, manufacture art/craft pieces and to carry out scientific experiments. This may extend to electives studies, speech preparation and other activities. There is no reason why children, even very young children, can’t be encouraged to create and teach (under guidance) their own songs.

Singing is a great activity, one I recommend.

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Attachment: Brumby Jack

BRUMBY JACK

See the dust cloud on the plain,

Hear the sound like falling rain,

Flashing hooves and heads held high,

As the wild bush brumbies gallop by.

Chorus*

*Here comes Brumby Jack,

Bringing the horses down the track,

Hear his come as he wheels them around,

He keeps them together safe and sound.

There’s Stumpy, Billy. Silver Dan,

Pickles, Jim and Pelican,

He has a name for everyone,

And when he calls they come at a run.

Chorus

He loves his wild bush friends so well,

Many a farming man can tell,

He’ll never eat or go to bed,

Until he’s sure they’ve all been fed.

Chorus

From the mountain side to the distant plain,

Here, there and back again,

They roam the country wild and free,

‘Cause that’s the way they want to be.

Chorus

Conversation and Discussion Points – a few

*Discussion points about wild horses and why – origins.

*Location, location – where found.

* Property and farm damage.

*Use of horses and how domesticated horses could escape, breed and create brumby herds.

*’Life of a horse’.

*Persuasive argument on pro’s and cons of horse rearing, breeding, use and so on.

* Word study ; ‘wheel’, ‘roam’, ‘plain’ and so on.

_____________________________________________

NT EDUCATIONAL HISTORY IS BEING LOST

July 1 2020 will mark the 42nd anniversary of Northern Territory Self Government. It is also an anniversary for education, because education was the first portfolio taken over for local management by the Northern Territory Government. The Northern Territory has a rich educational history – but you wouldn’t know it!

It is a sad fact that our history of education in the Northern Territory is pretty “muted”. A lot has gone on over time but remembrances are diminishing as people leave, move on or become deceased. When Gary Barnes took over as Education CEO in 2009 he rued the fact that there was no history of education in the Northern Territory to which he could refer and be informed as the incoming CEO. This situation eleven years and two CEO’s later has not changed.

With that in mind, I have wondered for a long time whether or not it would be possible for a thread on “history”, with sub titles to differentiate the specific aspects of Territory Education that have happened in the past, to be built into the department’s website.

Under defining subtitles (aboriginal education, bilingual education, and so on),an annual chronology could be established so the comments on specific subjects relating to the year of happening could be included.

I have raised this in the past only to be told that the resources necessary for setting up and maintaining a program of this nature would make it uneconomic. I would counterargue that costs would be quite minimal because the program would simply be added as an element of the Education Department’s existing website.

Specifics of content might even be moderated by a volunteer or volunteers who would have specific oversight of the historical thread. I would envisage this as being done in conjunction with the Media and Marketing Section of the Education Department. Advice and assistance might well be provided by the NT Archive.

There are other ways in which this reference to our history could be extended. Oral histories by past educators is an approach that could be an element of recording our history. Another might be bylines relating to theses and dissertations, that relate to educational history and developments in the Northern Territory completed over time. Referral to these studies would be useful.

At the moment any documentation of this nature would be housed with Charles Darwin University or the Northern Territory archives. Cross referencing in a “trove” manner to these sources could be useful.

I am aware that progress is a constant and acknowledge the fact that systems and priorities have to change over time to meet needs. However not having a history of where we have come from in educational terms is to our eternal detriment.

Among other advantages, history is informing and can help in preventing a repeat of failed processes and mistakes from the past. The decisions that are being made about education should be informed. Part of that information is an awareness and appreciation of our history.

I would welcome readers consideration of this issue and look forward to comments on the subject.