SAY ‘THANK YOU’ AND MEAN IT

Saying ‘thank you’ and meaning it in this day and age has become a sad rarity. When I first commenced teaching in the 1970’s and in the years that followed, appreciation was common. This helped teachers feel good about what they were doing.

Don’t get me wrong. There was counselling, sometimes pointed, for mistakes and things that could have been better done. However, thanks given helped people keep a balance and perspective on what they were doing.

In our modern times, thanks is a lot scarcer. It seems that calls to accountable I litany are fare more common than used to be the cases. It is small wonder that teaching to many becomes a burden and they opt out.

System and school leaders need to take stock and consider returning to being people who show their appreciation for jobs done well. That extends to teachers in classrooms recognising student efforts and appreciating pupils.

PUBLIC EDUCATION IS GOOD EDUCATION

PUBLIC EDUCATION IS GOOD EDUCATION

Forty plus years in public education absolutely convinces me of the fact that within public schools there is plenty of cream, rich cream, in terms of positive student outcomes. The majority of students are very decent and committed young people. It is sad that the minority who are otherwise inclined, colour perceptions held for all young people.

The put downs plonked on government schools is so unfortunate.

A counter measure should be that public schools take wevery possible opportunity to publicise positive programs and quality outcomes. Private schools and systems are masters of marketing. Public education should be similiarly portrayed. For some reason, government school principals and school councils are slow to realise the power of good publicity. This is something that needs to change.

SERVICE SHOULD BE RECOGNISED

Although written with the Northern Territory in mind, teachers and school support staff everywhere should be recognised and intrinsically appreciated for their contribution to the profession.
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SERVICE SHOULD BE RECOGNISED

The Department of Education and the Northern Territory Government tend to take service somewhat for granted. I believe that it is important for teachers and school support staff to be recognised for their service.

Interestingly, those working for the Northern Territory Police, Fire , Emergency Services, and some sections of the Health Department are recognised and appreciated with service awards. That generally doesn’t happen for educators.

I have been told that a service recognition system would be too hard to organise because of the number of teachers and support staff working in NT Government Schools. A simple database maintained by the Education Department’s Human Relations Section could be set up to record details about staff service. As particular time anniversaries come up, a simple prompt could alert the system manager to the service anniversary. The level of recognition offered should align with the number of years of completed service.The system would be maintained if staff transferred from one school to another, because of its central administration.

It should be relatively straightforward for schools to be linked with our department through an application that would recognise service. That recognition if in the school’s system, could easily transfer onto the department’s main frame.

There is a popular belief that teachers and those working in schools come and go with unfortunate regularity. Many believe that educators have only short term commitments to their school roles. From the 1970’s through to the 1990’s many came for no more than two or three years before heading back to southern states. However, this has changed and people are now coming for much longer periods. Many are making the Territory their permanent home. People deserve recognition and appreciation for long term professional commitment.

In the past

A number of years ago the Department of Education began developing a program to recognise years of service. The plan was to acknowledge those who had given ten years of service, with further recognition to be forthcoming at five yearly intervals. However, with staff turnover and the succession of people operating at the highest levels within our Department, this determination seems to have lapsed. Changes of government may have played a part in these plans being shelved.

Some consider that this level of appreciation is not very important. That is just not true.

Service recognition needs to be revisited. It is not good enough for teachers and education support personnel to remain unrecognised and unappreciated after years of devotion to their profession. This is a matter that needs urgent attention.

CELEBRATING STUDENTS

While this entry relates to the Northern Territory and Board of Srtudies recognition of students who have done well, similar ceremonies take place elsewhere … Or should do.

We are quick to point out areas of challenge while often reluctant to celebrate student success. This paper is about rejoicing.
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BOARD CELEBRATES TERRITORY STUDENTS

In February every year the Northern Territory Board of Studies recognises the accomplishments of Year 12 NT Students, along with several stand-out primary and middle school children . This year’s celebration was held in two stages. On February 4, a ceremony was held in Alice Springs for students attending schools in the Southern Region. Last Friday the Top End celebration was held in the main hall of Parliament House. Students from Darwin, Palmerston, Katherine, the rural area and throughout Arnhem Land were honoured.

The Board’s Chair Mr Ralph Wiese was Master of Ceremonies.

Students were recognised for academic subject excellence. Awards for vocational educational studies acknowledged the universality of education and preparation of young people to enter into a wide facet of occupations in the years ahead. Both private and government school students were applauded for their 2015 results.

Each recipient received a certificate and monetary reward. The top 20 Northern Territory Certificate of Education students were also presented with trophies to recognise their hard work, dedication and commitment.

The most outstanding NT Certificate of Education Student, Lauren Northcote, attended Darwin High. She has earned a full scholarship to the Bond University (Queensland) for double degree tertiary studies.

A feature of 2015 was that 13 of the 20 top NTCE students were educated in the public school system. Nine were from Darwin High, two from Casuarina Senior College and two from Katherine High School. Three of the top 20 students attended Essington and one the Good Shepherd Lutheran College. In 2014, 19 of the top 20 students came from the government sector.

Monetary rewards earned by students are sponsored by business, a number of professional associations, Charles Darwin University and the Department of Education. Many thousands of prize dollars are awarded to assist students with tertiary study or occupational training.

Special Awards

A highlight was the conferral of the Administrators Medal. Two medals, one for a primary and one for a junior secondary student recognise academic accomplishment, behavioural excellence and the modelling of citizenship qualities. Olivia Anderson (Larrakeyah Primary) and Morgan Gurry (Darwin Middle) were recipients of medals awarded by our Administrator the Hon John Hardy.

Three awards named in their honour were presented in recognition of outstanding Territory educators taken before their time. Sally Bruyn (Year 6 science Award) Vic Czernezkyj (Mathematics excellence) and Karmi Sceney (Indigenous excellence and Leadership urban and remote schools). Alice Campbell (Alawa Primary), Leonard Ong (Essington), Kyana Hubbard (Casuarina Senior) and Daniel Bromot (Kormilda) were the award recipients.

Along with 2015 awardees, 1338 other students successfully completed their year 12 studies. Many are opting to complete their tertiary education at Charles Darwin University. Our university is continuing to gain status, recognition and respect.

The celebrations confirmed that many of our upcoming generation will be key contributors to the Territory’s future. That future is in good hands.

APPRECIATE YOUR TEAM

The principles and processes of collaboration are important to development in the field of education. What I have always abhorred is the fact that gurus seem to piggyback on the work of their research teams in away that allows them to takers the sole glory for positions that establish and findings that are reached. They are offered ‘single surname adulation’ for work that quite obviously has been done by others.

My background is in education. It seems that many noteworthy leaders do not really have thev times to do they work about which they are espousing because they are too busy running around the world talking and taking conference calls, to actually do the work they are upholding.

Certainly they have teams back at base (one or another institute or university) who are working on their behalf. These gurus are in essence the public face of research teams. Yet they speak and present in a way that suggests they are solely responsible for creating the theories and authoring the positions they espouse. That is just not right.

Those working behind thec scenes and well away from the microphone need to be acknowledged and appreciated for their contribution to research process and findings.

PRINCIPALS SHOULD REMEMBER TO APPRECIATE

Principals and school leaders have heavy responsibilities. One of the things they should never forget is to give credit whatever credit is due. Acknowledging the successes of staff and students should be part of this recognition. Too often, giving thanks and attributing successes to staff and congratulations to students for outcomes, can be overlooked because of work pressures.

Part of ‘smelling the roses’ for school leaders should be taking the time to look for the joy in education. The lightening of mood reflected by principals when this happens, helps build positive feelings within their schools. Staff and students like nothing better than to be appreciated. Intrinsic recognition form their leaders is returned tenfold in terms of ongoing effort that grows from them feeling good about positive recognition.

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.

‘THANKS’ MEANS SO MUCH

Today I received a letter of thanks from the CEO of our Department of Education for a contribution made toward the shaping of our revamped Education Act in the NT. He is the type of person who acknowledges and appreciates the efforts of others. He would have taken the time to have letters prepared and personally signed to all contributors.

Received this letter made me feel intrinsically appreciated. It also reminded me of the fact that receiving expressions of thanks these days is far more rare than was once the case. It is so easy to brickbat people but bouquets are offered far more infrequently.

Returning to the practice of a ‘culture of appreciation’ would do a great deal to lift feelings of well-being and morale. Feelings of happiness and satisfaction are often in short supply. Re-building will lift organisations, in our case schools, and those within.

BLESSINGS

I hope educators all over the world are able to take time to reflect upon the positives that have been part of the 2015 school year. Too often we consider the challenges we confront, to trhe extent of pushing accomplishments into the background of our thinking.

We should not ignore challenges but neither shoiuld be overlook successes. To focus on the first without acknowledging the second, turns our profession into one of struggling, day-by-day, along an almost impossible pathway.

Balance is important. Let us celebrate individually and collectively as educators in the year that has been. Let us also embrace students and communities into those celebrations. We all deserve to leave the year with a good taste in our mouths and a good feeling in our souls.

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.