Congratulations on your appointment! It’s been a couple of months now hasn’t it?
Yes, it has, since March.
Are you settling in? I suppose it wasn’t too much of a change because you were already working there.
Yes, I think it’s not so much getting used to the school, more coming to grips with the new job and the sheer enormity of it, really. It’s quite different to being a DP.
Do you still get to do any teaching?
I’ve got one period a week. I had to give up one class.
You’re in an interesting position, being the first female head of a boys’ school in Auckland. How does it feel to know that you’re the first to do it at this particular school?
To be honest, when I was appointed, that never affected [me], it was just being the person chosen or appointed to the position. So, I never thought of myself as a female being in charge of a boys’ school - it was just me being in charge of a boys’ school. Gender never played a part in it, in terms of my thinking anyway.
What are you hoping to do now, to make your mark – is that something you’re thinking about?
I think every principal wants to leave a legacy. I would hope that when I retire or when I leave the job that I have left Kelston Boys in a much better place than when I found it. Basically, that we are achieving academically, that we are achieving on the sporting field, we’re achieving culturally and that our boys, the boys that we produce, are exemplary young men. For me, it’s being out there and being seen as having done all that and made the lives of our boys a lot richer.
You’ve been at Kelston for a long time now. What motivates you to stay there?
The boys. I absolutely love them, they’re like my sons. I personally have two daughters at home, so it’s nice to actually be in the midst of a male [environment] … they’re just different. And I think what it is, what has kept me here all this time, is the fact that I know I’m making a lot of difference to their lives. Not everyone has a privileged upbringing and if I added value to their lives I think I’ve done a good job. It’s also the fact that the people that I work with are collegial, it’s a really whānau environment where I work. And ... you can feel the sense of family when you’re actually at Kelston Boys High School, when you work here. It’s quite hard to leave, it gets under your skin.
Some of the comments I’ve seen from other principals are that once upon a time it would’ve been really unusual to see a woman lead a boys’ school. What do you think has changed in the industry to now allow you to get here?
I think it’s developing that understanding that it’s actually the best person for the job, and not necessarily whether its male or female. I have to say that our board was very open to choosing the best person for the job, so it was more a case of who they found – it was whoever they found to be the one that would inspire the boys most, and the staff most, and also the one who’s going to lead the school forward so I don’t think gender was something that affected [it]. It’s not something that they thought about, whether it should be a male or female, it’s just the best person for the job.
Do you think there’s a difference in the leadership styles between males and females?
Yes! Most definitely, different approaches. I think it’s just the way you communicate with people [that] can be different. I’m just basing it on people I’ve worked with, and I would definitely do things differently to how the males have done it. The things that we see, and the things that we do can differ, but ultimately I think we all want the same end goal, so different approaches but same motivation.
More generally, do you think there's a glass ceiling holding back female teachers who aspire to be principals?
Personally, I don’t think it is a glass ceiling, I think it is more females holding themselves back. We are not the best sellers of our skills. We are not the best advocates for our own strengths, and I think that in itself holds us back. For my school, I haven’t actually noticed that glass ceiling in the last few years, however I can’t say whether that happens in other schools or not.
Did you ever experience that yourself?
Yes, I mean, you go into something and think, ‘Oh, I don’t think I can actually do it because I haven’t developed the skills for it’, rather than say ‘OK, I’m going to go into it and develop the skills while I’m doing it’. I think for me, at one point I would say I needed that skillset first before I would attempt it, whereas the more I do, the more I’m in leadership, I tend to then go, ‘I’m in it, let’s learn the skills as we go along, and develop it’. And I think that’s how males think – they’ll go into it regardless of whether they really have that skillset 100 per cent but it doesn’t matter to them as much.
Female principal numbers have now overtaken males in New Zealand. How has it got to this point?
Teaching in itself is predominately female, so I think it has come to a point where really, the females are just finding their own voice and realising that they can do it, that there’s really nothing that should hold them back. [It's} maybe putting themselves forward a bit more, the newfound confidence in themselves. Maybe the number of male teachers has dwindled. But I think definitely there’s an increased confidence in our own ability and I think that’s what’s brought it to the fore.
Are there any programs that you know of that foster the development of female leaders in schools?
I’m thinking, only from when my daughters were at school, that there were often programs which talked about empowerment, about girls being able to do anything and I think those kinds of feelings and those kinds of programs [are] actually building the sense of, ‘we can actually do anything’, and now that we’ve got perhaps more female principals, that’s come to fruition. I think it’s just a combination of a lot of different things.
In your opinion, what makes a good principal?
Someone who’s definitely got students at heart. Someone who’s got their staff at heart, and someone who will always strive to do the best for their school. That is what I perceive, if I were to define myself in a few years’ time, how would I define Adeline as a good principal, that would be what I would hope that I’ve achieved - that I’ve created an environment at the school where my students are succeeding, excelling and really happy to be at school, that my staff are very happy to be teaching the kids that we have. I think it’s overall that holistic success.
What do you want to be remembered for?
That Mrs Blair did the best for us, and that she made us into a very successful school with successful students and staff. Ultimately that’s what I want them to be, I want them to be successful – it can be academically, it can be on the sporting field, I just want them to be really successful and be proud of what they have achieved.