In his end of year message, Wellington High School Principal, Dominic Killalea reflects on school traditions and the importance of building an evolving, caring, community-based school:
“…I was having a chat with one of our teachers and a parent about tradition. The point being made seemed to be that Wellington High School doesn’t really stand for tradition. And it’s true that we don’t sell that part of ourselves so explicitly yet we are a part of an ever-evolving institution that has been around for 132 years. I think sometimes we associate tradition with conservatism and that becomes a strong selling point for some schools because it protects a sense that things were better in the old days and if we only adhered to what we used to believe in then we’d be better off.
“I don’t believe that and I don’t believe this school has ever stood for that sense of tradition but there is rich tradition in ideas, and ideas have been a strong part of our school throughout its history.
“We have always been a school that has listened to the needs of the community and acted accordingly. This is why we were once a technical college and why we led the free secondary education movement in the early 1900s. This is also why we were the first school in the country to identify career planning as important and therefore appoint a careers advisor in the 1920s. This is why after World War II, in a period of intense rebuilding of the economy, we supported almost 3000 students until we split to become a polytechnic, an evening institute and a high school in the early 1960s. This is why we were the first school to have a bilingual unit in the 1970s and this is why we were one of the first schools in the country to introduce Bring Your Own Device in 2010. Finally, this is why we are coeducational, why we wear no uniform, and why we have a special needs unit and put as a priority supporting all of our learners with as much intensive support as we can give them. Our tradition is founded in assessing what our community needs us to do and then acting appropriately.
Reflecting on the importance of being inclusive and understanding, Killalea goes on,
“In this vein, this year at year 9, almost all of our students studied 2 languages, as well as English. Te Reo Māori was compulsory and students all chose another language to study from Chinese, Japanese and Spanish. As well as learning these languages, students had cultural experiences which have allowed them to learn a bit more about others and how they live. This is a part of building empathy, that ability to understand and share the feelings of one another. I also note that more than half of our current year 9 have chosen to continue to study a language next year. Of this language study, the most popular choice is Te Reo Māori. If this school is a microcosm of our larger society then those decisions are helping us build a better future where, because we understand each other better, we are more likely to be caring and compassionate towards each other.”
“Building a more reflective, flexible school that proactively works to grow a society of caring, compassionate and empathetic humans sounds like a tradition worth keeping.
Well said Dominic.
Meri Kirihimete, Dianne