Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Respected principal bows out - a great Irish farewell

Winchester School. Part of a mural in the 'new' library
I have just returned from attending a farewell for Winchester School long serving principal Dan Murphy.

I had intended to write an article about MLEs ( Modern School Environments)  but thought the better of it and thought my visit to Winchester far more fum - you can have too much of saving
Dan in his Irish rugby jersey and cap
the world through kids staring at screens. And I just love colourful room environments that celebrate student thinking and creativity across the curriculum visually

 To me the school environment , both inside and out, is the major 'message system' of a school.

Dan is proud of his Irish heritage so today green was the theme across the school.

The night before had been Dan's BOT and invited guest farewell and a good time was had by all. The hall was suitably decorated and a feature, for me ( being an ex art adviser), were the portraits of Dan by the students. Art is a special way of thinking and the student's interpretation illustrate the diversity of impressions of Dan. There were, of course, the speeches which covered what a special person Dan is. A song composed by a couple of ex staff member added humour to the mix.
One the murals

Dan , throwing away his prepared speech, replied with candor and honesty.

 He surprised me by asking me to join him at the microphone and somewhat embarrassment me by telling the audience how I had helped him over the years develop his philosophy.  Mark Twain once said he could live fora month on one compliment so I think I might last a few more years yet. Dan mentioned that we first met in 1961 when he was an eight year old at Meremere school inland from Hawera and I was a school adviser. I was 20 at the time!

The next morning Dan featured on the front page of the local paper and included in the group of students was his granddaughter (three grandchildren attend the school). On arrival at school Dan had to fight his way through an office full of green balloons.
Front age news. Pick his granddaughter.

Quality  work
The  newspaper article echoed the thoughts Dan had shared at the BOT farewell.  Dan said that it was always his intention to retire a little early so he could involve himself in some new experiences. 

Honest to the end Dan said being a principal was a hard job and that felt that it was time  for someone new to be appointed to add to the momentum that had been established by the school.

Pop corn science
Education, he continued, is in the midst of a system change involving the establishment of communities of schools and he had decided that this was not for him saying he was not afraid of changes but this was one change he did want to embrace.

Dan had been a  Massey University School of Education maths adviser and had instigated an innovative maths programme which had made a real difference  at the school.

The article also expressed Dan's belief that education should be based around the 'big picture of holistic contextual learning rather than with assessment - with assessment it is the tail that wags the
Quality work a school theme
dog'. The reporter wrote that Dan's wider   legacy  could be seen in the beautifully framed examples of children's art collected over the decades.

I  had a lovely walk around the school  and admired all the colorful creativity on view - maths , art,  language, science, and social studies studies. Term one is not the best time to visit a school.It is better in Term 4 when a ranger of skills have been established but non the less there was plenty to see. And all students and teachers were dressed in green and class activities featured a green theme. I am sure it will be a long remembered occasion for all.

Hens, rabbits and guinea pigs.
I left before lunch and on the way out admired the free range bantam hens and guinea pigs in cages and the extensive garden area.

This is what a primary school should be , full of rich learning experiences. Education has to more than faith in computers.
Some visual science 

Dan retires to a small farmlet on the edge of the city returning to the farming background he experienced at Meremere all those years ago. He has established a small 'herd' of heritage Irish Dexter  cattle  and a flock of equally special sheep. This, along side his heritage fruit trees, vegetable garden , green house and hens, should keep him busy.

Dan's phrases
You have been  quiet, caring and determined revolutionary a person who believes strongly on educationally sound ideas - ideas often in opposition to the simplistic solutions imposed on schools by politicians.

A new life begins Dan and you can rest assured you are one principal who really made a difference  which reached far beyond Winchester School.
Dan and the team of teacher aides

An earlier blog from Dan 'A respected principal speaks out' - good maths links.


Anonymous said...

Just loved reading about Winchester School. Seems like a great place for students what with the animals and the engaging class programs. Dan seems like a great principal.

Anonymous said...

I remember Dan as an excellent maths adviser who helped us develop hands on maths programs.
Thanks Dan.
Shame we no longer have such innovative advisers.

Anonymous said...

I had the privilege of working with Dan while he was an adviser in Taranaki. In 2014 our school visited Winchester School to the view the innovative ideas that he used at his school. Our staff were inspired and as a result of that visit better teachers. I wish Dan the best in his retirement and thank him for his contributions to the profession.

Bruce said...

Thanks Anon

I will pass your comment onto Dan. I am sure he will appreciate your thoughts