Mike Turner reckons there is no better place to start his principalship than where he is heading. He will start as Duntroon School principal at the beginning of term 4 and is “stoked” to be embarking on a new phase of his career. Reporter Daniel Birchfield sat down with the current Pembroke School deputy principal.
Q What appeals to you about teaching and how did you get into it in the first place?
It sounds a bit cliched, but making a difference. I worked with young people when I was at high school, doing a bit of sports coaching and stuff. I think it’s about having an impact on their lives and it’s one of those things where you can see the positive impact that you have. It was a natural progression from that to teaching.
Q Why did you decide to apply for the top job at Duntroon School?
The time was right for a move for me. I’ve been a deputy principal for 12 years, so it was about time to change careers and look for a new challenge. With that school, it was a bit of a no-brainer, really. It’s got great staff, great kids, a great supportive community. So I had to give it a crack. It’s all worked out perfectly.
Q What appeals to you about the school?
Obviously the kids and the staff, and it’s a desirable school . it’s a good-size roll as a principal to get into. It’s a good starting point.
Q How long have you been at Pembroke School and what have some of the highlights been?
I’ve been here for about 12 years. I’ll miss heaps about this school. I’ve worked with heaps of kids and exceptional staff over the years. One of the highlights for me is working here and my own kids going here. I’ve gone through with them, so I’m lucky in that respect. I think it’s a real privilege.
Q What are some of the differences you see between the two schools?
Essentially, the kids that come to this school each day come to school with different life experiences to what the kids up in the Waitaki Valley come to school with. That’s the biggest thing.
Q Do you plan on relocating to the Duntroon area?
No. I love Oamaru, so we’ll stay here. It’s 25 minutes each way, so it’s good thinking and planning time. I think if you’re doing it every day, you just get used to it.
Q What short-term goals have you set yourself?
For me it’s about forming relationships with those kids, with their families and with the staff. That’s key. They need to get to know me and I need to get to know them. The school is in such a good place that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Time will tell .. wherever I can add value I will try to.
Q How would you describe your teaching style?
I’m pretty relaxed. Not too much rattles me. But I’m quite reflective in my own practice and I like to think that I am constantly looking at how I can improve and do the best for those kids.
Q What is the biggest change in education you’ve seen over the years?
The biggest would be technology and access to technology. There are not many jobs now where you are not required to be in front of a laptop or iPad, or have a mobile phone in your pocket. We need to give kids the opportunity to learn how to use those really effectively and safely – you have got to get them up to speed to do that. The new digital curriculum that’s coming is supposed to be implemented by 2020, but I’m not sure all schools are ready to do that. That’s a big change to the curriculum.
Q What kind of principal do you strive to be?
I always feel like it’s important to be approachable, from the kids right up to the board. You have to be a person they can come up and talk to. If you are doing your very best to improve outcomes for kids then you are winning .. you have to do your very best for every kid that walks in that gate.