Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Oh Oh Oh, I'm on fire (Bruce Springsteen)

Tonight and forever (You may say I'm a dreamer - Chapter 6, part 5)

Destiny was working for me in the mid to late eighties. It was the best of times.

Pretty sure this was taken in the Te Kanawa courtyard 1988
Big changes were the norm in those years as both Adam Lennon Purdy (1986) and Samantha Mary Purdy (1989) joined Keegan, Jacky and me in the Purdy household (more of this coming in the Family Man chapter).

3PY of 1986 - Everyone a star!

From 1986 to 1990 I was wildly happy at Macleans College, working with and for some truly exceptional people.

First and foremost, there was Colin Prentice. An exceptional human being and a charismatic Principal. Period. 

As Seth Godin says, "Sometimes, if we're lucky, we get to glimpse those ripples as we stand at the crossroads." During my Macleans years I was privileged to experience Colin's helping hand and to travel on the back of one of those ripples. Colin moved many people forward. I'm lucky to be counted among them.  

We were still in contact up to a few days before his death in 2014. Uncannily, his time on earth deeply touched everyone he came into contact with. We all loved him.

In 1985 he interviewed me for a teaching position at his newish school in the eastern suburbs of Auckland (1980 was its first year), and subsequently Jacky, Keegan and I moved up to Auckland in time to start the 1986 school year.

The school yearbook's staff notes welcomed me with: Miss C L Jensen and Mr W N Purdy...both arrived from different New Plymouth schools to teach English in a variety of coloured clothing.

Hey - it was the eighties and Jacky had taken over my wardrobe. Out with frumpy seventies gear - in came skinny ties, fluro jerseys, bright shirts/socks/shoes and trendy bomber jackets.

Inside T14 with media studies
And so started four incredibly rich years under Colin's leadership. With preternatural brilliance, he knew exactly how to inspire his staff and get the best out of us. Although his standards were high, they were not impossible, and he made it a pleasurable journey to attain them. His decision to leave Macleans was a prime motivation for me to seek promotion elsewhere.

Twice, I broke down in his presence (the only times I have lost it with Principals). Both times he consoled me and we moved on. The first was an angry meeting that, he agreed, we both handled badly. I was upset about a way another teacher had handled an incident and didn't hold back when in Colin's office. 

The second was during a seventh form camp in 1988 when I felt wretched. I believed I'd let a student down by insisting she participate in a staff organised pillow fight (organised by Colin actually). Donna Denize didn't want to but I insisted and she ended up with a dislocated shoulder injury. He was understanding and helped me realise how to learn from these moments. When he asked if I wanted to pray with him I felt honoured and by the end, repaired.

With Kylie and Robin
I cannot imagine repeating those scenes with anyone other than Colin. God bless you C.J.

Whenever the subject of old schools comes up I find myself being quite enigmatic in my Macleans' comments. Summing up the Macleans experience to skeptical outsiders is quite difficult.

Picture a combination of unique geographical location (looking over Eastern Beach out to sea), a staff all working in one direction towards a common goal, a staff refusing to take second best, students expecting the best from their teachers and themselves, and a strong sense of whanau (Te Kanawa was my House).

Similarly, it's tough to pick out my highlights from those four years. There are an incredible amount. 

Kylie and Jody in T14
Here's a list, by no means comprehensive: my car pool buddy for all of that time - Graeme Sterne; runathons, including when standards slipped and Colin called for a repeat - as we ran a rainbow appeared above us - remarkable; my prefab classroom - T14; Te Kanawa House meetings and the Taniwha; all my classes - especially media studies in 1988; 3PY of 1986 containing some of the sharpest, wittiest, brightest minds I've ever come across; Sue Miller as leader of Te Kanawa and our 1986 Form 3 camp; students like Nathan Bradley, Jeanette Harnish, Denene Martin, Catherine Day (whose goodbye note still really humbles me), Tania Pocock, Simon Milton, Lance Dunn, Grant Bodle, Jodie Doherty, Anna Giles, Angeline Allright and so many more; ANZAC services; sports days; assemblies in the gym; Colin's farewell and The Rose sung by the prefects; the staff like Kent Fenneman, Pete Garelja, Steve Lewis and Margaret Methven; Colin's notes on yellow pad paper on a Monday morning...and on and on it goes.

Jody, Julie and Kylie
It was an altogether marvellous, wonderful, stimulating time.  

When it came time to leave in 1990 it was a tough tough thing to do. I had started loving the school too much, there was no clear promotion pathway, Colin had gone to Mt Roskill Grammar, and my dad had remarried and being in Auckland wasn't so important any more. It felt like the time was right.

Tell all your buddies - the one to take is media studies!
Apart from leaving Te Kanawa, it was a big wrench to leave my little sister behind. Jeanette Thomas is now a household name in NZ - radio and TV have become very successful homes for Jeanette.

With Jeanette and Samantha
Back then she was Jynette Harnish (styled after her idol Johnny Farnham). As well as being my student she had become a friend and I had somehow become her big brother. The Harnishes and the Purdy families had become close over the four years. Jacky and I even shared our Christmas dinner with her one year.

Teaching her was easy and being a friend was easy too.

But then we had to go and I will always remember her face when our loaded up van left Macleans, outside the gym. 

She now has a beautiful family, and a successful career, but I'll always remember that farewell day and waving her goodbye.

Love and peace - Wozza

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