The value of a principal – and of a school – is not a matter of accounting
Craig Taylor was led to believe that the students of Aurora CollegeWe would be friendly, curious and full of character.
Just days into his role, walking around campus, he was able to assess this for himself.
“Hey, how are you? »
“What are you doing this week end?”
“What is your net worth? »
The incisive boy who asked that third question didn’t get the answer in numbers. Just a small overview of the modest expectations of a public service educator.
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Stepping into his new role after the retirement of Robyn Hickman, Taylor worried about the reaction he would have to presenting himself as a Northern Islander with no direct connection to the school or his community.
The answer was reassuring and more.
“Southern hospitality really exists,” he says.
The real estate agent picked him up with his wife Michelle at the airport. When they moved into their house, the next door neighbor brought them scones. Then lunch.
For his first introductory visit to the school, he decided to walk from the city center.
It happened to be Matariki’s Friday weekend.
If you can’t remember the weather that day, you may have deleted the memory.
“I thought it might allow me to walk around the community to start getting a feel for it.”
The sensation he had was that of sliding on the ice at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
The next day he drove.
The advice from her new employers was sound: just be yourself.
And who is it? Well, Taylor grew up in Whangamatā on the Coromandel Peninsula, a coastal upbringing that instilled in him a love of water – the sea, surfing, and especially fishing and diving.
“It was a pretty sleepy city until the summer, then the masses would come and you would have a bit of fun with the influx of Aucklanders. This would go from a town of around 3,000 to over 20,000 – all bachs filled.
He studied at the Auckland University of Technology, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in marine and environmental sciences, and also became a diving instructor.
An initial interest in aquaculture as a career of choice coincided, awkwardly, with a government-imposed moratorium. A friend encouraged him to teach; and it was him hooked.
He did his graduate degree at Palmerston North, teaching since 2004 at his former school in Whangamatā, then Hillcrest High School in Hamilton, then at Matamata College, where he had been vice-principal since March 2020.
Although he quickly recognizes that he still has a lot to learn about Aurora and the community around it, Taylor was struck from the start by the inclusive and supportive nature of the school.
These are not easy times for students, families or communities and the new principal quickly understood the burdens that some of his students carry.
Like working evenings and nights to earn money to help support their families.
He frowns at the thought. But the encouragement is not lacking. Wherever he looks with his newcomer perspective, he sees real signs of resilience from students and staff who are passionate about the good they can do.
Children should be children, he said. The school has a free sports policy and service academy – a disciplined, military-style program that provides students with the opportunity to learn life skills in leadership, respect, problem solving, relationship building. goals, self-discipline and teamwork. On the day we speak, these academy students are marching towards Bluff, while his 8th graders are at Deep Cove.
We easily see things like character building and fair enough. But Taylor takes the opportunity to add that so can the missteps youngsters will so often make.
He is an ardent defender of second chances. Have the chance to rectify and learn from the results of a misstep. This too is part of learning resilience.
The pressures on his students are not just socio-economic, nor can they simply be brought to bear on Covid-related insecurities, he says.
The need for a healthy balance for young people living with the potentially relentless pressures of social media looms large in her thinking.
Aurora is a growing school. For a while there his roll was down to around 300, but the recovery was up to around 545 “and I believe we’re pushing maybe close to 600 next year.”
Outside of work, he has a list of places to visit. Southland and southern Fiordland are part of the country he has to get to know. Always a keen scuba diver, he looks forward to diving these southern coastal waters.
He once told Michelle that they should cage dive among the great whites off Stewart Island.
“She asked me if I had taken out a life insurance policy on her.”
We’ll assume the answer was no and recent questions about his net worth weren’t a factor in his thinking.
But Craig Taylor is still thinking about the question of this young man.
“I hope one day I can ask him what his net worth is, and he will knock me down,” he decides. “More than likely it will be more than mine.”