Mottos can reveal a lot about any organisation. Allow me to share two.

My teachers training college had as its motto ‘Non Nobis Solum’, translating as ‘Not for ourselves alone’. This to me was an expression of teaching’s aim. We are there for others. For me as a student teacher and then as a new teacher going forward, it was a pointer about the perspective I would do well to embrace.

My last school as principal was at Leanyer in Darwin’s Northern Suburbs. Our motto, born in 1992, my first year of twenty in that place, grew from a need to express an ambition that needed reinforcement at that time. ‘Together as One’ became our motto. It’s application and remembrance did a lot to draw us together in oneness and unity of educational purpose.

It might sound simplistic, but mottos are important as statements underlining school organisation and ethos.


Thoughts to share.


Doing more with less

Generally speaking, budget stringencies are asking school principals and educational leaders to be like Moses in ancient times. Moses asked Pharaoh for more building supplies so Israelites (system slaves) could go on building good homes and Egyptian infrastructrure. Pharaoh got cross and told Moses to go away. Supplies were cut off. The Israelites had to scrounge, using their wits to come up with construction materials. Similiarly, educators and principals are challenged to do more with less – just like Moses.

Schools and child care

We need to change the thinking paradigm of those who believe the prime purpose of schools to be that of providing child care. The fact that schools are often defined as placeswere cghildfren go to be brought up, being like unto second homes with teachers pseudo parents is a sad indictment on modern life. Often it seems, parents give birth and hand over their children for almlost total institutionalised upbringing.

The Best Leadership

Ascribed leadership is assigned to the position and is a power many choose to use. My preference was for aquired leadership, leadership based on respect earned through the appreciation bestowed by others. 


I believe the most essential quality to be earned, as a student or as a teacher, is that of RESPECT. Respect has to be earned, for it is a recognition of decency that accrues because of genuine care.

The fragility of youth

We need to realise how fragile and concerned about the future young people are, doing our best as educators to build confidence and a sense of the positive into their thinking and belief patterns.

Hierarchial organisation

Hierarchal organisation is a worry. It stacks people in terms of importance within a pyramidical structure, from less to more important. My preference is concentric management, with one plane for all.

Too old to teach

If people have to work until they are 70, then I pity poor teachers, whose resilience and bounce back capacity reduces with each year of chronological enhancement. There is an age at which teaching becomes too hard. Being a principal or school leader at an older age is much easier and less demanding that requirements of 100% full on teaching of children in classrooms.

Granted, there are exceptions to this rule. However with special students increasing in number (percentage-wise) and behaviour management becoming the number one classroom issue, this concern is true for the majority of those in our classrooms.

Where are the parents?

Educators seem to be more than willing to put their collective hand in the air, volunteering to correct more and more of the ills and challenges confronting society.  Part of this is our seeming willingness to volunteer the bringing up of children and young people in the ways they should go.  If anything is wrong, if things need correcting, the repair and renovating role is placed squarely on the shoulders of schools and teachers.

This begs the question of where do parents fit.  It seems that more and more children get born, to be committed to child-care agencies then schools to manage and look after their total upbringing.  If things go wrong, no responsibility attaches to parents.  It is all down to schools and teachers.

Before school care, preschool, school, after school hours  care, holiday care … Where does itv end and how much time do parents give to the primary care of their children.  Don’t forget the baby sitters and child minders parents employ after hours so they can go out and socialise.

Parents have to work and I understand economic imperatives.  However, there is a question of balance.  It should be behoved upon parents to remember and fulfil their primary care responsibilities toward their children.


Be Positive when Assessing

When evaluating or assessing students, be personable. Offer commendations along with recommendations. Be encouraging and avoid put downs. Offer advice on major needs in private to avoid embarrassment.


The Ideas Mill: Accept Substance and Disgard Dross

Our profession – education – has more people clamouring to contribute their ideas about trends, directions and priorities than any other. Welcome substantive thought but avoid dross and razzmatazz.

Mission Statement

My Mission Statement is ‘to fulful and be fulfilled in organisational mode, family, work, recreation; to acquit my responsibilities with integrity; to work with a smile in my heart.’ What’s your’s?
Some things should be everlasting in intention and changed only to meet significantly altered situations. Mine, created after a meaningful leadership inservice in 1983, remains with me to this day. My statement is for substance and not for show. Sure, I share it but I try to live it. ‘Fashion’ in education has not been part of my practice. I have my mission statement on the reverse of my business card and it attached as a footnote to my emails. If my mission statement can influence or focus others, then that is a good thing. (I too, am influenced by those with whom I speak and about whom I read.) I commmend mission statements for the focus they offer.


Keep Things in Perspective 

Beware! As an educator, the more you do the more there seems to be left to do. Keep things in perspective. Always recognise your accomplishments along with ongoing and remaining challenges.
                               The ‘stage’ that classrooms  mirror

Classrooms are like stages, teachers like unto both actors and directors. How well they set teaching and learning scenarios is important. Taking their students along with them confirms their success.
                                    The calling should never sour

My hope is that no educators will ever walk away from their calling, their contribution, their giving, their work, their care for others with a bitter and cynical taste, so glad their career  is done.

Caught between Priorities

School leaders are often caught between a rock and hard place, challenged by the need to meld departmental expectaion with teacher needs.
                                            Value Atmosphere

There is nothing more fleeting nor more precious than organisational atmosphere. Tone and harmony are precious and easily lost school ingredients.
                                             Make a Difference

An aim for all educators, regardless of their position, should be a desire to inspire others. Onus is placed upon us to be people who put stock in the character development of children and students.


Don’t Downplay on the Basis of Language or Ethnicity

When developing special programs for those with specific language and ethnic needs, we must be careful not to diminish, downplay or minimise learning capacities.


An ultimate reward is when students from years past, having reached adulthood, thank you for the contribution you made in years past to their educational nurture and development.

Building Blocks of Learning

There are elements of learning that are ‘nose to the grindstone’ basics. Tables, word study, rules, formulae, spelling and handwriting are examples. Learning rudiments are important.

LOTE  Learning needs Careful Predication

We need to consider Languages other than English (LOTE) as part of our school programs. They need to be recognised, resourced and staffed. They should include cultural aspects of understanding because langauge on its own is poorly referenced in situational terms.



Maybe some universities need to place more onus of responsibility on students. Attendance optionality at lectures, tutorials or at organised online sessions is anathema. Seems that some universities are happy to extract course fees for students than cut them so much slack there is no further obligation upon those students other than the completion of assignments or attendance at exams.

I am a part time lecturer and supporter of students at the CDU. I value my role with them and I know they appreciate their engagement with me. Importantly, we know each other as people. During sessions we are on the same plane together. I also have to mark assignments. Marking work submitted by ‘invisible and unknown’ students is a lot harder than knowing those whose work you are marking. Marking rubrics go some of the way but they don’t tell markers about student character.

I worry about students who enrol internally or externally in courses, then overlook course requirements. The university makes but the students who operate this way gain very little in terms of the learning collective. My role is with education. Education involves sharing. One of the skills encouraged with pre-service teachers is that they are able to developing collaborative skills. Relationships with peers, parents and students are important. If training in isolation is encouraged, little is being done to develop the togetherness aspect of what teaching is all about.

It is good to know students whose work you are marking. When you don’t know and have never met people whose work you are marking, both they and you are at some disadvantage.
My internal groups is not huge – 12 students tops. And yes, I would be very sure that we are on the same situational plane. I work in an old fashioned but effective way with students.

I have done online work with big numbers and make it my business to establiash an e-mail data base enabling me individual or collective contact. If they want a phone conversation, students can email or message and I’ll return calls and discuss issues. I also encourage students to network each other.

Over 40 plus years I have built considerable resource material and have most of it in electronic form. These resources I share with students on request or if I think a particular issue can be supported with materials I have to hand. My indexing system gives me fairly quick access to these materials.

I always ask students to feed back on practical experience (as pre-service teachers) in terms of both celebrations and challenges. I am writing a series of vignettes (70 to date) oriented toward providing students with ideas.

I have had much feedback from students appreciating this approach.

My other point is that lectures are not lectures. Our programs follow a structure and meet course requirements but it is all done conversationally. A three hour time period, with a break at the half way mark, quickly passes.

I would never claim to be conventional but that is not the major issue.



This week i have had the opportunity to participate in an International Growth Coaching program. Conducted by Grant O’Sullivan with a group of 32 participants, it was a full on participate two day program. This segment is the first of four, leading toward coaching competence.

Although officially a retired principal I remain connected with both the NT Department of Education and the Charles Darwin University. Coaching is a domain that has always been of interest and an area practised over the years.

This program offered an excellent synthesis of theory and practice. Methodology came to life through usage. The emphasis was on practising coaching method, with coach and coachee being offered feedback on their use an interpretation of the method. “Living learning” is all about putting theory into practice learning how it works.

This program reinforced to me that one is never too old to learn and to gain new knowledge. Gaining skills in coaching will also help me to fulfil the promise of giving back to the system that has given me a great deal the years. Certainly one is never too old to learn and neveer too old to give back to the development of others.