Principal’s first year a cultural experience
Juggling cultures such as Pakeha, Filipino and Samoan has allowed Mary-Angela Tombs to marry her first year as a principal with her post-graduate study.
Mrs Tombs (right), principal of St Teresa’s School in Karori, has included cultural responsiveness in her education studies.
“Our push has been to look for ways where we can give children confidence in their own cultural beliefs, values, customs, and rituals so we’re not having to put everybody into a box,” she says.
She acknowledges the difference in cultures within the school – Europeans focus more on individual achievement, Filipino’s on bettering the family, and Samoan’s on bettering the community.
The school challenges itself to think about the impact certain rules have on the cultural values of the students.
“If we’re saying that the senior children can only play in the senior playground and not in the junior playground, how does that impact on their belief about supporting one another,” she says.
She uses as an example of Samoan and Tongan students leading assembly as a group.
The Year 7 students performed a Sasa and greeted peers in their own language.
“We’re a really culturally exciting place to be,” says Mrs Tombs.
In addition to cultural responsiveness, a newly developed leadership programme gives opportunities to Year 8 students to foster leadership qualities.
Working with community role models gives the students the opportunity to experience leadership in Wellington and then put that into action at the school.
Reflecting on the past year, Mrs Tombs says the school has always been a welcoming place with a high-quality learning programme.
“I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s been a daily joy, and a daily challenge,” she says reflecting on her first year.
Coming from a deputy principal job at a school in Blenheim, she says she was prepared for her step up into the role of principal, with the biggest challenges being only administrative duties.
“The teaching and learning, and leading a team, ensuring that the children were being provided with a high-quality learning environment, I was familiar with that,” she says.