After a term at the helm of Weston School, Deidre Senior chats to Oamaru Mail reporter Gus Patterson about how she is settling in and what she wants to achieve as principal.
Q Where were you before Weston School?
I was principal at Waitaki Valley School for just over four years, and prior to that I was deputy principal at Oamaru Intermediate for seven years.
Q What appealed to you about Weston School?
It has always had a reputation as a school with a very strong community around it. I truly believe the saying “It takes a village to raise a child” and Weston has a strong village, both within it and around it. Everyone wants the school to be the best it can be.
I also love the size of Weston School – we have 253 students. It is a size where you can still know every child by name, but it is big enough to have a variety of staff who can throw their energy into areas of specialty and interest. In smaller schools the same people are the coaches, the choir conductors, the sports organisers .. schools of this size mean we can share the load a bit more, and provide a wider variety of opportunities.
Q What are your goals as principal?
I want to be the best principal I can be, who best meets the needs of our school and pupils. While the goal is simple, the task is obviously quite complex. It requires me to ensure I am getting that balance of listening to the community, my staff and, of course, the pupils – to ensure that Weston is a school that everyone is proud to be associated with, and best meets everyone’s needs.
Q How has education changed since you were a school pupil?
It has changed on so many levels – in regards to what the children experience, and also in regards to the expectations on teachers. Children’s lives are so much more complex now, and technology and family dynamics play a significant part in that. The classroom is much more learner-centric than it was in my day. There are so many more opportunities for children to develop a wider range of skills and capabilities, not just working through a textbook like we used to. It creates a much more exciting learning environment, and one that I would hope is now more relevant to our children – both now and for their futures.
Q Who was your favourite teacher – and why?
I attended a small rural school and so only had two teachers in my first five years of schooling and they were both fantastic. Mrs Beale was fun and had a great classroom with lots of things to play with, and then Mrs Keast made sure that we were being challenged and rising to these challenges. I guess both of these principles are still important in schooling today.
I do also have a strong memory of Mr Hughes, the principal and my year 6 and 7 teacher, who would play his guitar and smoke his pipe while we all sang in the classroom with him. You wouldn’t get away with that these days!
Q What is something about teaching in 2019 that the community might not realise?
I think our collective agreement campaign over the past 12 months has probably opened up a greater understanding of teaching and the demands of it. In the last three weeks of last term we had 17 different agencies in our school to support various pupils. This indicates the increasingly complex needs of children, but it also creates other demands outside of the usual “business as usual” of teaching the curriculum for teachers.
At the end of the day, we do this because we know we are making a difference, and because we enjoy working with children. Teaching is too demanding a profession for you not to believe in yourself or what you are doing.