The Critical Friend

Facilitating change and wellbeing in school communities

Helen Butler et al

ACER Press

ISBN 9781742860084

RR $29.95 

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Helen Butler and her seven co-authors, Andrea Krelle, Ian Seal, Lea Trafford, Dr Sarah Drew, John Hargreaves, Dr Ruth Walter and Prof Lyndall Bond have, together, produced a practical tool for educators challenged by the need to change the way their institution functions.

Drawing on the findings of three school-based research initiatives, the book defines the role of the Critical Friend in facilitating change and demonstrates a range of frameworks and applications for practice. 

The three research initiatives informing this work are: the Gatehouse Project (conducted in 26 Victoria secondary schools between 1996 and 2011), beyondblue Schools Research Initiative (conducted over three years from 2002 to 2005 in 50 secondary schools in Victoria, South Australia and Queensland) and the Adolescent Health and Social Environment Program.

The activities, tips and tools that are provided in this book have been developed over many years of work at the Centre for Adolescent Health, Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. They offer ready templates for adaptation to all school contexts across diverse demographics. The authors explain and explore the many dimensions of the Critical Friend, and share strategies designed to actively engage school communities in the process of change.


Challenging Change

Behaviour Challenges
for Life

Tan Curtis

Jane Curry Publishing

ISBN 9780980721287

RR $29.95

The publisher’s blurb for Challenging Change states” ‘Who will benefit from reading? People with children with challenging behaviour; Adults with challenging behaviour; Partners of people with challenging behaviour; Clinical practitioners, medical and care professionals; Individuals wanting self-help support; and Motivational book readers. So educators are not listed but may find it a useful read anyway.

The Author, Tan Curtis, is the founding director and behaviour specialist at FABIC, a Queensland-based behaviour specialist centre. She says that before one tries to change their own behaviour or modify the behaviour of someone else, one must identify the reasons why are they are behaving in a particular way.

“Once we are able to clearly see and understand our behaviour, we can then design and develop strategies to bring about long-term behavioural changes,” Tan says.

She defines behaviours as being in one of five levels, with Level 5 including naughtiness, rebellion, defiance, disobedience, tantrums and the like. At the other end of the scale Level 1 behaviours are when the situation suits the individual’s needs, where there are minimal challenges and a high degree of being in control is felt. Levels 2, 3 and 4 behaviours are warning signs to say: ‘Help! I’m finding something difficult and I don’t know how to change this difficult situation appropriately… help please!’

The book is heavy on dot point lists, charts, tables and ‘remembers’ so one wonders how many self-help book enthusiasts will persevere to the last of its 207 pages. On the other hand, people making a serious attempt at dealing with a difficult child, teen or adult may find it a useful.

For Those Who Teach 

Phil Ridden

ACER Press 2011

ISBN 9781742860176

RR $24.95
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Author Paul Ridden argues that there are many things over which teachers have little control and which are difficult to change – but teachers can change how they view the challenges they face, and how they deal with them.

He has drawn on his 19 years’ experience as Head of the Primary School at St Stephen’s School in Western Australia to write a book that, in an introduction and nine chapters, discusses teachers’ attitudes to: context, change, the call of teaching, curriculum, caring, community, collaboration, challenges and coping. In each chapter, he first defines and discusses the issue, then under a ‘Reflect’ sub-heading poses questions to ponder on and concludes with a ‘What’s your attitude?’ question and answer challenge.

As a self-help for teachers facing the challenges, wear and tear of school life, this is a useful and readable effort.

The Power of Many 

Building sustainable collective leadership in schools

Patrick Duignan and Helen Cannon

ACER Press 2011

ISBN 9781742860138

RR $34.94
(ACER shop online)

In an era where younger teachers feel that they are entitled to a reasonable work-life balance, and may not view the stresses and strains of the principal’s role as a lifestyle that they necessarily want to lead, schools are faced with the challenge of finding ways to better share the leader’s workload.

Patrick Duignan and Helen Cannon argue the case for a more inclusive, collaborative and distributed leadership within schools. They offer a series of alternative models and gather views from existing principals and assistant principals to demonstrate what might be possible and what might work better than the model followed today. 

The authors emphasise how a new paradigm must work to not only retain those already in the job, but also encourage potential candidates to apply for the job. Practical guidelines are proposed that offer sustainable leadership solutions and promote schools as ‘communities of learning’.