Two boys elected as leaders of Woodvale Secondary College!!

Two boys elected as leaders of Woodvale Secondary College!!

I have no doubt that social media will go into over drive about the gender based decision, electing two males as leaders of a co-educational school. I know that people working in the corporate world will throw in stats about the male dominated leadership appointments and how this just reinforces the male dominant corporate world. I know that some cynics will question the merit of the selection of these two male leaders. But for someone like me who works in schools on a regular basis this news is exciting and fantastic.

Firstly, a school having two young men elected on merit to lead their co-educational school isn’t shocking news as some news sources have reported it. I believe that a lot of staff in schools would be thrilled with this news. In many schools good young men have to be convinced to apply for a leadership position let alone to be head prefect. Being a male school leader in a secondary school almost goes against the norm in my experiences. So when you find a pair of males willing to step up and take on the norms of their generation then this should be celebrated, not promoted as ‘school shock’.

This is not a gender issue for me. I have two schools I work with that have two females as school leaders at co-educational schools. Anecdotally I know of several others that have female led student leadership teams. In the last 5 years this is the first time I have heard of a male led student leadership team at a co-educational secondary school. Gender isn’t important in leadership, so lets not let the media turn this into a gender leadership issue. I feel this is a positive ‘boys in education’ issue.

So why is this great news for 4 the TEAM?

* The boys were elected on merit.

For years I have discussed with senior school leaders how teachers can foster leadership qualities in boys that are still developing physically, socially, spiritually and emotionally. The research tells us that the male brain develops slower than the female brain. Therefore, in many meetings I have heard that boys don’t have the maturity of the girls so they shouldn’t be compared to girls. In some meetings I have listened to staff talk about dumbing down leadership responsibilities to cater for the less mature boys just to give them opportunities. It is fantastic to hear that these boys stepped up to the selection criteria and were elected because they were the best 2 candidates.

* Strong male role models in a school

I read lots about how society needs young male role models in our community. I read that we need this young male generation to step up and be accountable. So we get 2 boys do that, the school rewards them on their efforts, and then the media promotes it as “School Shock!!” The title should read “Perth school elects two strong young male role models for their school community”.

My last article discussed the growing trend of young males hunting in packs for the wrong reasons. We now get an opportunity to promote the positive aspect of young males and the media sells it as a gender issue!! I know as a father with a young boy in primary school I want him to look up to the older boys in his school. I want him to look to them for clarification of the values I am teaching him at home. Yes one male head prefect is good but having two is great news for me as a parent of a young boy who only has 2 male teachers in his whole primary school. I want him to have positive young role models in his community. We need more of them. Let’s celebrate this.

* Males learning to be leaders

Schools need more young males wanting to be leaders in schools. In all of the staff training sessions a discussion ensues about the low participation rates of boys in leadership positions. Discussions about strategies to try and recruit males into leadership positions take over the session. This story gives teachers some hope.

To give you a better appreciation I have only 1 school I work with that would have a 50/50 split of male to female students on the Year 12 student leadership team. This same school also has year 7-11 leaders and the ratio blows out significantly in favour of female participation outside this year group. The other 10-12 schools show similar numbers. As a comparison another year 12 leadership team has only 5 male leaders compared to 20 female leaders. As a generalisation I would say most secondary schools are working on a 1 male to 2 female split, some would be as low as 1 male to 4 female. The question should be how did Woodvale get two young men to go against the trends I am seeing in other co-educational schools?

Such is the desire in schools to get good young men to consider leadership and be motivated to become a leader, that 4 the TEAM is considering running a boys only leadership conference. This type of story about Woodvale Secondary College just adds more notion to the fact, that in the right environment young men can step up and be accountable in our community. Society is demanding that young boys grow up and become valued members of our community. Well done to these two young men for going against societies trends and well done to Woodvale for making a decision based on merit.

I suggest the article title be reviewed from this

School Picks Two Head Boys

Woodvale Secondary College says no girls were up to the job

Perth School under fire for choosing two head boys

To this

School Selects New Head Prefects

Woodvale Secondary College says yes to two strong male role models

Perth school being asked how they did a great job with two boys willing to step up and be leaders in their community?

Boys and their choices

Disturbing Boy Behaviour – Steve Biddulph & Maggie Dent

I am hopeful that many of you have already seen this article which is across most social media forums. I know more highly educated and respected people such as Maggie Dent and Steve Biddulph have already commented on this. However, I felt it was important to address the issue with the work that I do in schools and in particular with an all boys camp coming up this weekend.


While I am horrified by the nature and malice of this story, I am unfortunately not surprised. What is scary is that I have two young girls approaching this age and a young boy just a few years away also. I know this will be a conversation over the dinner table and probably not just once over the next ten years!!!


Why am I not surprised? Well in my experiences, which is a small sample size in Western Australia, I have noticed a distinct increase in pack like behavior in the young men I teach and work with. This is a generalisation, but in my exchanges with boys in pack situations there has been a deterioration in boys behaviour.


The attitude of ‘doing things to impress your mates’ hasn’t really changed over time but the risk level of the behavior and the direct challenge to authority has. In schools I have seen groups of 6-8 male students stand around teachers who are addressing inappropriate behaviours and challenge them, even when told to disperse. In a class the other day I witnessed a boy stand up and challenge a teacher across the room who was addressing his friends inappropriate class room behaviour, openly showing no respect for authority.


There seems to be a shift in the boys interpretation of what is respectful and appropriate behavior. This same attitude also exists with some of the good kids unfortunately. In my leadership business I come across many good young men. When I talk about their personal goals and aspirations in leadership the majority of the time they put these on hold for two reasons. Firstly, being a leader is seen as sucking up to the authority of the school, this goes against the mates mentality, the us vs them type thing. Secondly, they don’t want the responsibility of having to do the right thing all the time, even they know this is important.


I recall a conversation with one boy about his potential to be Head Boy. The staff at the school had pointed me in his direction at the camp and I had watched him work through the activities set. He could have made a difference in the school and led. His response “Nah, too much hard work, plus I couldn’t then go out with my mates on the weekend cause when I do the wrong thing I will get into trouble?”. Some might say well he wasn’t right for Head Boy, he hasn’t got his head on right. You should have watched him then spend the next 30mins with the special education boy walking him through the next team building activity. He had the values, he know right from wrong, he had the skills, he just didn’t want to take the risk to challenge the norms his mates had placed on him.


So yeah I am not surprised by this news. Yes I am disgusted and shattered as an educator. I am scared as a parent of young kids, especially my girls. But I am hopeful that we can make some changes and get these young men to accept this is not appropriate. If boys are going to hunt in packs lets at least get the attitude right. There are examples out there, hopefully this video gives you some hope.

Boys doing the right thing – Olivet High School.


Leadership, Pet Rocks and 3 Children

Well I arrived back safely from my family holiday to the USA. A family of 5 living together for 76 days, moving from one small hotel to another every 3-4 days, while spending countless hours driving cross country. Sounds like a great recipe for teaching life lessons, but also disaster!!! We all got some valuable practice in listening, communicating and negotiation skills. The daily requirement to compromise and resolve conflict peacefully will hopefully benefit my children for many years to come, or not!! Seriously though there were so many highlights, and I do wish to share one that I feel will help us with leadership philosophy in schools.


It involved my three children completing an activity over three days in Yosemite National Park in California. My children loved to collect rocks while out on hikes. It was something my son and I would do when walking. We would then try to skim the rocks across the next body of water we found. Well on this day the kids decided to keep the rocks and take them back to camp.


On arriving back at camp I watched all three children work for over an hour separating the rocks into groups, and collect other rocks lying around the campgrounds. I watched my eldest daughter direct and organize, as she normally does, her two younger siblings. I watched my son happily collect rocks and follow orders. I watched my youngest daughter have her creative input and sort the rocks into different groups. It was harmonious play, no fighting, simple negotiations, each had a role and they accepted it. My wife and I started to become intrigued.


Once all the rocks were sorted my youngest daughter came over and asked for a marker pen, something to write on the rocks with. We were informed they were making pet rocks. Me, being the “Rule Following Dad”, thought this wasn’t a great idea as writing on rocks in National Parks goes against the environmental philosophy of ‘leave no trace’ (good old phys ed teachers!!). However ‘Creative Mum’ had already walked inside and found the white board markers and handed them over.


For another 30mins all three continued to work together and communicate without incident, decorating all the rocks. Only two pens and three children, “why hadn’t a fight broken out?” Something was wrong. They were sharing pens and ideas. They were helping one another. They were laughing and having fun. They occasionally sought out help from their parents, mum helped and dad questioned!!


After nearly two hours they walked over to present some of their works of art. It was amazing. They had mums, dads, babies, rocks of different colour, rocks with different features. I was truly impressed and quite proud of what they had done. Thank goodness mum had just let them go and create. All three had smiles from ear to ear and you could see the enthusiasm on their faces.


The next day after our hike and more rock collecting we arrived back at camp and immediately they started playing with the rocks. Again 30mins of cooperative play!! Then our eldest informed us they wanted to sell the rocks to the other campers!!! “Rule Following Dad” kicked in again explaining how intrusive this would be to the other campers, “Creative Mum” went and got paper and pens for signs. After 10mins of talking with each other they decided that selling the rocks would not be good as some campers wouldn’t like this, but giving them away was fine. It would allow them to go and meet other campers, be friendly and kind.


I then watched for the next 30mins as they hand delivering pet rocks to approx. 15 camp sites. Surprisingly, it was my youngest who stepped up, she took on the leadership role. She is normally the shy one, but she lead her two older siblings around, even the oldest daughter who normally wants to be in charge of everything, let her take on this role without incident. By now I was questioning if my kids had been lost on a hike and I had picked up someone elses’.


They received a mixture of responses. Some told them to go away, one even quite rudely, (lesson in resilience) others rewarded them with chocolate and one even gave them money. They experienced a sense of fulfillment and excitement as after every couple of sites they would run back to us and provide a summary of the interaction they had just had. They had set a goal, got together and planned it out, put the plan into action and now they were seeing how rewarding it could be. It was their plan, not “Rule Following Dad’s” plan. They had taken ownership, they watched their vision unfold.


The true reward however was seen the next day when before we had prepared for the morning hike two children from another camp site arrived to play with our kids pet rocks. The five of them played cooperatively for an hour before we left. When we arrived back that afternoon another two families joined in within 48 hours there were 4 different families playing pet rocks at the camp site with us. My three kids had just brought people together with one simple activity. Sometimes leadership can be seen in very simple aspects of life.


So, over the space of 48 hours my three kids had demonstrated to me that my leadership philosophy and the team philosophy I have developed is not rocket science. It is fundamentally what most of us know. If the students we work with are motivated and passionate about something then they will achieve great things. Over the last 10 years, I have sat in many pastoral care meetings discussing student leadership structures and inevitably most conversations ended with well “what jobs are we going to give them”, “if they don’t have jobs they shouldn’t have a badge”, and “well they have a badge make them work”.


Well, I didn’t give me kids a job to make pet rocks. I didn’t tell them to deliver them to other families and I didn’t ask the other kids to come and play. It happened because my three kids made it happen. They had the opportunity to be creative (thanks to mum largely). In schools we are sometimes conformed to the standards of getting things right rather than letting students experiment and learn. I remember listening to Maggie Dent one day at a presentation and she highlighted that some of the most important learning her boys had happened in the backyard sand pit, where the boys set the rules.


At schools do we stifle creativity too much, in the name of getting the event right? Do our years of teaching experience sometimes make us too overzealous in helping the student try and achieve their goal? Is the end product more important than the process? When running a cake stall does the school put more emphasis on making money under teacher direction or are the students to do it their way even though they might make a loss?


I have sat at student leader interviews and listened to creative students ideas that have never come to fruition. Yes some were too far fetched, but others sounded like they could make a difference. The students lost their creative energy as they battled through the year doing the mundane tasks of running canteens, reading notices in homerooms, writing out prayer rosters. If that is what student leadership is about no wonder why in year 9 and 10 students don’t apply for leadership positions. Student leadership should be about creating a vision and then being giving the opportunity to work towards their vision.


If we allow students to create their own jobs, they will earn their badge. Yes this is risky, but if you get the opportunity to read anything about leadership in business or sport in todays climate it is about providing this generation with the opportunity to take risks. This is what they want. People don’t learn from doing safe things, they don’t grow, they don’t learn. This is not what student leadership should be about.

Damian Martin taught me…

I appreciate that this is only the fourth blog I have written and it will be the third with a basketball focus but after watching the Perth Wildcats win the NBL championship on Sunday it was hard not to. It was an amazing team effort from a wonderful organisation that have set the standard for success in basketball in Australia, with 7 championships and 30 straight years in the playoffs.


However this blog is not about the team but it’s captain. The reaction of the 13,000 people at the Perth Arena chanting “MVP, MVP, MVP, MVP” when Damian Martin was announced as the Finals MVP for 2016, told me I had to write something. In writing this I know that Damian would be disappointed that I am singling him out. He prides himself on a team first mentality and sacrifices his own needs so that the team is successful. But, when 13,000 chant your name in hope of you winning an individual award you may get a feeling that you are doing something right not only as a player, but also as a person.


I unfortunately only know Damian through friends and people in basketball. However, I like many who watch the Wildcats, admire how he plays the game, and I feel that this young man deserves this write up. Listening to how friends speak about him he is a person of great character and strong personal values. This is what Damian taught me about leadership over the last few days.


Leaders must earn respect.

  • The crowd showed this at the end of the game when he was subbed out. The noise went up another level when he walked off court and in true Damo fashion he acknowledged this by waving to the people. This was again seen at Forrest Place on Monday, where the largest cheer was saved for him.
  • His team mates love him. The embraces at the end of the game showed this. Their reaction when he won the MVP award showed this. The way they speak about him when you ask what drives the team shows this.
  • Shane Heal even said “you have to respect Damien Martin for the way he plays and what he stands for” – this may have been the biggest compliment.


Leaders must be humble.

  • Immediately after the game his first response was how great the crowd and the city of Perth is. His second response highlighted that the New Zealand Breakers is an amazing organisation. Yes all well trained media responses you might say but still he addressed this first and gave them all credit.
  • His third answer about what makes him so good turned into the following
    • “Everyone has role in a team, mine is defense. Everyone here embraces their role. That is the reason we won today. Each of us do what we are capable of for the team, so we win.”


Leaders should be selfless.

  • In the press conference after the game he said the following about winning the MVP award.
    • “I am grateful that my name was called but in saying that I would’ve been just as happy if Jermaine, Nate, Matty, whoever it was had their name called.”
  • After the game he highlighted that it was everyone in the team who contributed and that no one dominated, it was a collective group performance and that’s what won the championship.


Leaders need to be people of great character.

  • After the game he highlighted how the team recruited amazing people, not players and that is why the Wildcats were so successful.
  • He acknowledged that some of the players in the team would be superstars in any other team in the league but have sacrificed this position to play in this team, to try and win the championship.
  • He thanked all players 1-12 and even the development players who come to training each day for being people of good character in his after game speech.


Damian Martin is a role model.

  • Again this was most evident awaiting the announcement of MVP as social media went into hyper drive with messages asking that Damian Martin be rewarded because of his play and because of the person he is. This has continued to be evident on social media over the last few days with comments, videos, tags etc. about how happy people are that a great guy has been acknowledged.
  • Then there is the highest compliment of all. My son today had news at school, which of course was highlighting the Wildcats victory. When I passed him his Beal singlet to wear it was met with a pause, and then he turned and asked his sister if he could borrow her ‘Marto’ one instead (sorry Jermaine).


One of the big challenges of being a successful leader is knowing who you are and what you stand for. In watching the media and Wildcats celebrations over the past few days it is clear that Damian Martin knows what matters. He is a leader of the highest quality, with great character and an amazing ability to get the most out of his own potential. I want to promote one of the good guys in sport who doesn’t get enough recognition because Damian doesn’t seek it, but he sure does deserve it.

Well done Damian and the Perth Wildcats.

Lead people, not tasks.

Sport has played a massive part in my life. There are photos of me learning to walk with a hockey stick in my hand and a ball at my feet. I am passionate about learning life skills and leadership skills through participating in sport. So, watching the poor ethical judgment by leaders at the Essendon football club, along with the lack of ownership of their actions by individuals at the club, during the dietary supplement program, questions the morality of leaders in sport. Add to this examples of self centred behaviours in cricket, such as the record seeking junior Indian coach who allowed a batsman to score 1000 runs after dismissing the opposition for 31, and you understand how the lessons learned in sport are sometimes detrimental to the development of good personal values.


So I wanted to highlight a positive lesson from someone in sport I have learnt from for many years now. His philosophy is discussed in some of my leadership sessions. Coach Brad Stevens is a professional basketball coach in the USA. He has coached at the highest College level (NCAA Division 1) and is now the coach of one of the most famous NBA franchises in basketball history, the Boston Celtics. An article popped up on my facebook over the holidays about Coach Stevens and his behavior towards a past player who was in the final stages of cancer.


The article (Coach Stevens) very succinctly states that Coach Stevens missed coaching an NBA game to go and visit Andrew Smith, a past college player, in hospital. Andrew was in the final stages in his battle with cancer and Coach Stevens travelled across the country to say good-bye in person. In the highly money driven world of professional sport, especially in the USA, this behavior goes against the regular self-centred decision making and poor ethical choices one expects. The decision to leave the team, put higher priority on a person outside the team, and travel across the country to see the sick person hasn’t been applauded by the media!!! Yet this action displays the values, the morals, and the leadership that society seeks from our sporting role models.


Coach Stevens placed his personal relationship with Andrew, who was dying, ahead of everything else and said right now nothing else is as important as this person, not even the team I coach!!!

“Stevens realized being with Smith was more important than Thursday night’s game against the Bulls.”

“There are just some things in life that take priority over a game, even if you are getting paid to be with the team.”

The message from Coach Stevens is very simple and clear. The most important thing in any moment in life is the person you are dealing with. He preached this back in College and has taken this same mentality into the hyped up business of professional sport. His leadership style has always centred around working with people and placing that relationship front and centre. His selfless actions, of placing Andrew at a higher priority than his Celtics team, speak louder than any words. Great leaders have an innate ability to connect with people they lead, because they actually care about them, they sacrifice for them.


What can teachers and student leaders learn from Coach Stevens in preparation for the 2016 school year? Prioritise your relationships with others. Lead the person, not the task. This is easy to do when we are fresh and the year is starting. Coach Stevens shows us that even when life is busy, when you are right in the middle of a job and you are pushed for results, always put the relationship first. If you do this then you will have success as a leader.


This is going to be a priority for me this year. By focusing on the individual and committing to developing a stronger personal understanding of their life, hopefully I will have a more positive influence on them, which will translate into greater success for the team. I would like to challenge those students heading into Year 12 to take on this same philosophy. Shift your focus from “what will I achieve” to “what will I achieve and with who?” Don’t start the year being task driven. Start the new year getting to know each and everyone of your team. Something I have learned from sport is success is great, but when you share it with others the feeling is multiplied exponentially.


I wish the teachers and students all the very best of luck as we start the new school year.

Captains Conferences 2015

  The inaugural Captains Conference was held at Corpus Christi College last week. It was attended by 39 students and 7 teachers from 10 secondary schools from the Catholic Education Office. Feedback collected from the event was very positive and we look forward to offering future events. The recommendations made by those who attended the …

The ‘We’ Philosophy

One of the four pillars that form the foundation of the 4 the TEAM philosophy, is moving from a ‘Me’ to a ‘We’ philosophy. The pillar requires students to develop an appreciation that being a senior leader within your school community is more than a resume builder. It is a responsibility to make the whole school community a better place and help other students around you grow.


Over the last month of presenting at schools, I have been encouraged by the discussions of the senior student leaders about their desire to leave a long lasting legacy at the end of their leadership term. These students have identified their wish to build a culture that can positively influence all participants both now and in the future. The leaders are showing an understanding that their role as a leader is bigger than the individual. It has been such a pleasant experience watching these students accept their roles as servants to the whole school community.


It is this desire in students to make a difference that led me to start this business. Some of the senior leaders of our schools will turn 18 during their leadership term. They will be regarded as fully functioning decision making adults in society, the right to vote, to buy alcohol, to go to prison. It is the belief of 4 the TEAM that we then need to raise our expectations of our student leaders and give them greater responsibility. Schools must provide opportunities for these senior students to earn and learn leadership skills. We should raise the importance of this role in schools and not downgrade it.


Why? Because when I work with these students they want more responsibility. They want to make a difference. They want to make their school a better place. They want to change the culture.


The media today leads us to believe that adolescents only care about ‘themselves’. After working in secondary schools for the past 14 years there is no doubt that this mentality exists. However, this is normal personal development not just seen in adolescents. We all need to focus on our own needs at one stage or another in our lives. To paint all adolescents with the same brush and label them self-centred is a mistake and one that needs to be addressed by schools. By giving the senior student leaders opportunities to lead by servicing the whole school community, hopefully this misconception can be challenged. Society refers to them as adults and we must approach them as adults and trust them by sharing some leadership responsibilities in the community.


Leadership has to be more than just a ‘badge’ and doing jobs. There are some very mature student leaders who are already acting out the ‘We’ mentality. Schools must provide opportunities for their senior leaders to flourish and grow, through leading. Students who are challenged at the ‘We’ philosophy will actually learn more about themselves and the ‘Me’, as these experiences will allow them to recognise who they really are and what they really stand for.

Action vs Leadership

Jan Stirling – Actions outweigh Leadership

Week 1 – Jan Stirling – Actions outweigh Leadership

This article provides so many different discussion points, but two of Jan’s views really stand out in relation to the philosophies at 4 the TEAM.

1) “..some people have a natural disposition to being a leader but yes leaders can be bred too!”

How much time do schools devote to their breeding program in regards to student leadership? I know as a Head of Year I relied heavily on the natural leaders in my student leadership group. They got on with the tasks efficiently, they could be trusted to get the job done. One of my frustrations was finding the time to develop those student leaders who were a little rough around the edges. They had the potential but they needed extra guidance, as Jan suggests they needed to be ‘bred’. 4 the TEAM offers a program which will address the breeding of student leaders in your school and hopefully maximize their efficiency but also enhance the behaviours of your students.

2) “..lead by always demonstrating on a daily basis actions that validate the values and standards of behaviour expected..”

In forming the 4 the TEAM philosophy I read many articles about mission statements and company vision and how these impact leadership. I will admit that when I was working in schools, in leadership positions, I pretty much was unaware of the mission statement in the College foyer or on the first page of the school diary. Not because I was oblivious to the importance of this but I believe actions speak louder than words. What I do everyday is more important that what you read on the website or on the wall. As Jan suggests, teams will only buy into the expected behaviours if the leader is putting them into their daily life, through their actions. One of the big philosophies of 4 the TEAM is based on living your leadership values and is addressed in the 4 principles of TEAM, which is the foundation of the program.