Too close to be good

Sometimes people are so emotionally close to situations they are needing to manage, test they do a far poorer and less effective at their job. Emotional closeness can be a killer. Dispassionate or empathetic rather than sympathetic care can be superior.

It is easy for a caring person to become disoriented and bushed. They are so close to the person needing care, they can’t see the wood for the trees.




My first appointment as a teacher was to Warburton Ranges in 1970. My wife and I were there for 12 months. We returned in 1974 with three children, the youngest only six weeks of age. From July 1975 until December 1982, we taught (and I was Principal for most of this time) at Numbulwar and Angurugu in the NT. During those years, we always felt safe. Our home was not overly secured. Our children were safe and free from threat within all three communities. We were criticised by family and boy some professional superordinates who felt we were doing our children much harm by being on those places. I like to think we made a positive difference during our years of tenure. Our three children grew up to become professionals in the areas of science/teaching (daughter) while our two sons are qualified engineers. So much for their deprivation. That said, I would not countenance remote community service these days as things have changed. Safety and well-being are history. How sad it is that this deterioration has taken place.

Being an old one

I am a 76 year old boomer. My Father taught me save, not to spend what I did not have. That lesson was one I followed all my working like. Fortunately, I was introduced to superannuation during my working years and am thankful every day for the blessings it brought. I do not accept that I am privileged by the system and should be envied. What I have, I earned. I did not go over the top with socialisation, spending on alcohol and substances nor taking extravagant holidays on borrowed money. A house mortgage was our only borrowed money and that got paid of as quickly as we could manage. You guessed it, I hate debt with a passion. Every day I thank my Father for teaching me the wisdom of saving and for going without until I could afford to pay for what I wanted and needed.

Teacher Training needs to be refocused

The Australian’s editorial (‘Time to get real about teaching’ 6/5) paints an expectational picture of change to teacher training methodologies that, as the editorial states. may not come pass post election, when promises often remain unfulfilled. As the editorial intimates, entry into universities has too often been allowed simply to generate dollars from students and government subsidies.

Literacy and numeracy competence for those contemplating a teaching career should be an absolute prerequisite entry into any training program. There should be no need to contemplate catch up teaching of essential literacy and numeracy skills.

The issue of illiteracy and innumeracy as barriers to be surmounted by those in training to be teachers is not new. Over three decades ago, a senior lecturer in education at LaTrobe University who was visiting said to me, “We used to teach trainee teachers to teach. Now we have to teach them (the basics of literacy and numeracy) and having donor that, teach them to teach.” Since then, the erosion of teacher capacity has reduced further. It IS time to get real about teaching but I am not holding my breath about that necessity becoming a realiity.

Reflections of a well trained teacher

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

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

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

Food Police destroy school canteens

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

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

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

But the food police are happy.

NO respect for social institutions

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

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

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

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

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

Talents are Variable and Individual

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

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

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


Thank you

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

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

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

Australian Education into Decline

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

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

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