Thursday, December 29, 2016

When I look to the sky something tells me you're here with me, and you make everything alright (Train)

Rambling Man (You may say I'm a dreamer - Chapter 10 part 7)

The local paper announces my arrival! Drum roll, please!

Three years at Stratford High School as Principal (2007 to 2009) can be summed up thus:

First year  

That first year was exciting and fun and a process of continual challenge and discovery. After commuting from New Plymouth for the first term (staying at father-in-law, Brian's place), we bought a great property just out of Stratford on Pembroke Road with 6 paddocks for the horses and sheep. 

The views of Mount Taranaki and across to Ruapehu etc in the far distance were amazing!

It was an old slightly run down cottage, surrounded by trees and gardens that we would steadily improve over three years. The property was very pretty underneath the surface - we are good at seeing potential in a place and chipping away at things. Great neighbours too - Barry Smith on one side and Eric and Jeanette Darrow in front.

Barry was huge for us in helping up with farming things, and Eric procured an old 1920's Massey-Ferguson tractor for me to use. He fixed it up, as in built it, for $600 and I still have it, ten years later.

I met some wonderful people at SHS, some of whom remain good friends, among them - fellow Principals Graeme McFadyen, Paul Ryan, Mark Bowden, my Board chairs Raewyn Rooney and Pete Theron, some students who have gone on to great things and my wonderful colleagues Diane Lithgow and Susie Terry.

As for the family: Keegan had moved to Auckland, Adam was at Waikato University; Samantha started her final year doing NCEA Level 3 at New Plymouth Girls' High School - busing in to Nu Plimf each day, as did Jade who was starting NCEA Level 1. 

Samantha lasted the year at NPGHS. Jade lasted two hours. 

She rang me at school, sobbing, very unhappy, being at an all girls' school was not for her. She wanted to come to my school. I was reluctant. The memory of Keegan's disastrous experience was very fresh. But so was the idea that I now needed to let the kids decide where they wanted to go to school. 

So she did, and it didn't go well.

Some of the staff, and some of the students resented her and, by the third year, made her life difficult. Being Principal in these circumstances was tricky. Suffice to say, there are many things I'd do differently - I should have fought her corner more, but hindsight isn't much help is it.

Second year 

Chalk this one up as the best of the three years!

The theme was all about making positive changes in the school. These involved planning for new buildings, a new paint scheme, new positive behaviour modification structures, new teacher appraisal scheme, new relationships with the Ministry of Education, new targets to improve achievement.

Now knowing a little more about myself and others was helpful in my second year. 

What had I learnt? Being Principal is a lonely job, some people hold deep grudges that affect their behaviour, and I certainly learnt who I could rely on and trust. I lent heavily on my fellow Principals.

Really, only other Principals know what it's like. It is a job with high rewards but there is a price to pay.

Over the first two years, I was doing the first time Principals' programme and had Mark Bowden as a mentor.  It was a rich time for learning. This and SPANZ conferences were great professional development for me. 

Samantha had moved down to Wellington at the start of the year to start studying at Victoria University. We drove her down and set her up in the hostel. 

How devastated I felt leaving her behind       completely blindsided me. Jacky had to drive us back to Taranaki - I was an emotional mess!

When I got back home I went into her empty room and felt that familiar ache in my stomach.

Third year 

Unfortunately, in my third year, my focus shifted for two reasons. 

Some of my Principal buddies started leaving Taranaki for jobs in the Middle East. After Lyall French-Wright left NPBHS, Angela Gattung left Inglewood, and Graeme McFadyen left Spotswood College; I started getting itchy feet. 

With my final bunch of prefects
Then in August the horrible happened. My sister-in-law rang me at school. I knew it was bad news, it remains the only time she's ever rung me at work. Ross couldn't talk to me, he was too upset. Our dad had had a severe stroke and was in North Shore Hospital.

From then onwards, my weekends were spent driving up to Auckland to see him and my focus shifted from school mode to family mode.

Selfie years began
When he passed away in September I knew I had to get away. Away from New Zealand and away from being Principal.

I accepted a contract from Cognition Education to go to Qatar to join an educational consultancy team delivering professional development to Qatari school leaders. 

When accepting the job late in November 2009 they asked me if I could get to Doha in a week!!

I said, erm, no. I couldn't. But I could be there in two!

So we packed up our belongings, put them into storage, said goodbye to Stratford High School at my third prizegiving, rented the house out, and flew to Doha, with Jade, who had finished her Level 3 NCEA and was waiting for University to start in February of the next year.

She wasn't very happy about that but we felt it was the right move at the time. Hindsight...did I mention hindsight? 

Love and peace - Wozza

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. I hope Eoghan and i will be as adventurous as you in our careers. Something I admire about you. ALI.