Makoura College head a man of words

By Nathan Crombie nathan.crombie@age.co.nz -
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Makoura College principal Paul Green took up the reins at the Masterton school nine weeks ago. PHOTO/NATHAN CROMBIE
Makoura College principal Paul Green took up the reins at the Masterton school nine weeks ago. PHOTO/NATHAN CROMBIE

New Makoura College principal Paul Green has a regard for words that often moves him to poetry and a respect for community that embraces the people, young and old, who populate his world.

The 58-year-old Birmingham native and Reading University graduate has been in education since his first child was born in October 1983, on the same day he began training as a teacher.

He had previously spent time working as a nurse aide, a renovator and a teacher of English as a second language, he said, and decided teaching was a more stable career option.

"Renovation wasn't really reliable I'd decided but it's become a real haven for me now. You know, a typical day as a teacher is words and people and can be an onslaught; a barrage. I do like words and people, but I treasure the sense of being alone with the tools and the timber and the challenge."

Mr Green took up the helm at Makoura College nine weeks ago after shifting from Auckland, and a post as deputy principal at James Cook High School, with partner Patricia Evans, who is head of science at Chanel College.

He is a hobbyist film-maker who also crafts his own poems -- breaking into a spontaneous recital and tempering the interview with verse -- and had before today auditioned for a slam poetry contest in the City of Sails. His partner too, pens her own lilts and lines, he said.

"We've been to a reading in Carterton at a bookshop there, so there are little pockets where people are interested in poems. I think reading's fine but there's something more about someone who says 'here I am' and recites their poem."

The seasoned triathlete prized the outdoor opportunities Wairarapa offered and the "beyond-the-hill possibilities of ocean, harbour, city or mountains". He had five years earlier tripped through Masterton, stopping for coffee and "about 30 minutes in a carpark outside Queen Elizabeth Park on a rainy day".

"The coffee was good and when the job came up, I thought 'oh yeah Masterton'."

His experience of the district and its people had since widened considerably, he said, and he had quickly settled and synchronised with the pace of provincial life.

"I am enjoying the ambience and tempo and, most notably, the warmth of the people in Masterton. There's a sense of capacity and industriousness alongside composure and keeping things in perspective," Mr Green said.

He had taken up the reins of a school at Makoura College that had been well led and was "ticking along nicely".

"That's a strong foundation from which to move forward. The staff have a very evident sense of purpose and a strong collective appetite for improvement. There is plenty of respect -- for the students, for each other and for the teaching and learning processes.

Mr Green said he was most enjoying the smaller size of the school, which means that each student is "more visible".

"Young people here have more of a presence than in a large school, more opportunity to establish and develop themselves. There are fewer slipping under the radar or footloose on the perimeter."

During his tenure, the school had broadened its curricular opportunities, including classes like radio journalism and senior Maori performing arts, he said.

"There's a sense the board want to boost options and choices. It's good, and one of the strong feelings here is that sense of individuality they want to promote."

He said teachers and students alike needed to keep challenging themselves despite the difficulties involved.

"It's that regeneration, that capacity to keep finding things to keep your momentum going," he said.

"I feel that if you've got that willingness to keep learning and keep pushing yourself, you're always going to find something new, even if you're in the same job, or at the same school."

Mr Green said he had worked at five schools in Auckland since emigrating from Britain, moving through a range of deciles including two decile 10, a decile 6 and two decile 1 schools.

James Cook High School was a decile 1 school with a roll of about 1200 that comprised 600 Maori and 500 Pasifika students, and community and culture was central to classroom success. Similar links were vital for Makoura College as well, he said.

"We would benefit from exploring more fully the connectedness we might reach within and between the school and wider community.

"In this respect, we have a lot to learn from te ao Maori. I think it's increasingly apparent that we can learn much from Maori approaches to comunity decision-making and respect for relationships and the environment."

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