An Interview with a Headmaster

The MAGS Blog Club spluttered into existence three years ago. It was conceived as a modern revamp of journal writing by two of our English teachers, Kate Todd and Carissa Calvert. While Miss Calvert had been a blogger herself in the past, it was new territory for Ms Todd.  

A small group of dedicated students meet once a week to discuss new story ideas for the blog and check on each other’s progress. There is always a lot going on at a big school like MAGS, and the challenge for our bloggers is trying to juggle coverage of all the key events, while managing their busy academic workload.

The biggest thing our bloggers knew they had to cover at the start of this year, was the arrival of brand new headmaster to the school. Our request for an interview was granted and three brave students waited outside Mr Drumm’s office with a list of questions…

ROSA HENDERSON:
Mount Albert Grammar’s new headmaster has a very flash office. 

That’s the first thing I noticed when I walked through shiny glass doors, up to the polished reception desk, and sat down on soft leather chairs. My fellow blog clubbers sat nervously beside me. Amidst all this shiny professionalism, we felt decidedly un-shiny. In fact, we were bedraggled from the rain outside, as we shook soggy sandaled feet, our damp jumpers smelt like wet dog. 

We all silently reread our questions. I repeated over and over under my breath, “As new headmaster, what are your plans for the school this year?” …, “If you could tell the MAGS community one thing about yourself, what would it be?” And perhaps most importantly, “Do you like dogs?” Just as I started to shiver in the air conditioning, a large, wooden door creaked open. It’s fair to say, we were all just a little bit … afraid. 

How wrong we were. As soon as Mr Drumm stepped out, his friendly smile and firm handshake put us immediately at ease. Before we had even stood up, our new headmaster wanted to make sure he got our names right. He welcomed us into his office, and encouraged us to take a comfortable seat under the window, rather than on the other side of his imposing desk. 

The first thing he wanted to know was about the blog club. While I had thought I’d be afraid to be in the same room as a principal, I felt quite comfortable sitting next to him. Leaning forward, Mr Drumm emphasised how important he thought technology was in expanding opportunities for student communication and learning. He expressed his sincere enthusiasm towards our student blog, recognising it as a vital form of communication for students in a digital age. 

Mr Drumm’s face lit up when explaining what had made the biggest impression on him since coming to MAGS, “The students, without a doubt,” he replied. “There is a hugely welcoming culture here, which reflects a real pride in the school.” He elaborated further, claiming that every new student he meets, greets him warmly and welcomes him to his new school. “Students are the guardians of culture in a school,” he claimed. 

Another element of MAGS life that has made a good impression on Mr Drumm has been our impressive academic, cultural and sporting success, which he referred to as “unparalleled” in New Zealand. 

Although the school is, “in a very good place at the moment,” and he believes it to be number one, Mr Drumm seems like the sort of person who is always looking for improvement. He spoke of a vision he shares with MAGS students and parents for continued expansion - adding to the success of the school, because, “if you don’t do that, you stand still.” 

The idea of community, and this vision for success, seem to be central to Mr Drumm’s philosophy when it comes to running his new school. “Serving its community is the core purpose of the school,” he claimed, going on to emphasise that while teachers and other adults may try their best, and regardless of any flash sports stadiums, pools, or arts facilities, at the end of the day, the success of a great school is down to its students. 

In terms of advice for his students, year 9 in particular, Mr Drumm encourages you to get involved and build relationships outside of the classroom. He imagines that much like his feelings when starting here, they will feel a sense of excitement with an anxious edge. 

“We’re all a bit nervous, but that means it matters. It’s important to recognise the transition between intermediate and secondary school isn’t always easy, but there are really great ways to get involved here at MAGS.” 
Whether it’s with sport, culture or service, Mr Drumm emphasised that by working hard and building strong relationships with other kids and teaching staff, students are sure to feel welcome. After all, “If we build relationships and get involved in these areas, we can fly in the classroom too.” 

As for the seniors, our year 13s, Mr Drumm encourages them to make the most of every opportunity this year because the time will go quickly. He seemed very aware of the role models our seniors can be. “Their leadership generates followers.” He expressed his desire for them to, “leave no stone unturned” before they leave high school, but also to find a balance between serving the school, and serving themselves in preparation for their next step in life. 

Patrick Drumm has been an educator for most of his working life. Although he admits to having worked the typical resume of student jobs a long time ago, such as cleaning and flipping burgers to fund himself through university; teaching has always been a passion. One that he is clearly proud to have fulfilled. Since the early 1990s, he has seen changes in the role of the wider community within schooling and a greater partnership between schools and their families. He spoke fondly of “Tomorrow’s Schools,” a program he claims hugely improved the education system. 
Mr Drumm hopes that he and the leadership team here at MAGS are viewed as trustworthy and respectful of the parents who have entrusted him with their children. He wants to be seen as accessible and most importantly he hopes people will realise he is on the same page as them - sharing the same goals as the wider MAGS community. Most of all, Mr Drumm emphasised how incredibly lucky he feels to be at a school like MAGS. “You are the best generation ever,” he states. There is clearly a lot of admiration and respect for our student body. 

As an educator, Mr Drumm feels lucky to be able to work with young people. He calls it, “a real privilege, as you get to see them grow and change.” He admitted he has a vested interest in education, having three children of his own. As all parents he takes pride in his children’s growth and success, but seeks to apply this same attitude to the school’s ever growing student body. Patrick Drumm wants to make sure that every child at MAGS has access to opportunities for success and leaves having had a great learning experience.

One subject that really makes our headmaster’s eyes light up is his family. He spoke warmly of his wife and three children. It seems clear that his own experience of the complex, challenging and joyful life of a family has given him a connection with all parents. He’s been there and he knows how important all children are to their parents. When asked of his proudest achievement, Mr Drumm smiled and said straight away, “my family.” When pushed on this subject, he added that he felt proud of his sporting achievements in rugby, as a player and referee. He modestly shrugged this success off though, and said of running a marathon - “once is enough!” Of course, he was also very proud of landing this job at MAGS! It is clear that our headmaster approaches everything he does with confidence and enthusiasm. His challenge right now is learning lots of new names and systems. I’ve seen him at the school gate and at various sports practices – getting to know his new staff, students and parents.

I felt a bit cheeky asking, but it turns out that Patrick Drumm, the schoolboy never got sent to the principal’s office, except perhaps to give a sport’s report. He calls his younger self a reasonably diligent student, but certainly not one who was perfect. “Don’t make me out to be someone I’m not.” His role models as a child were who inspired him to pursue his career in teaching. Having a family of successful educators inspired him. Their support, as well as getting into coaching at school, gave him insight into the “incredibly rewarding” world of teaching.

In his spare time, Mr Drumm likes to read biographies of successful New Zealanders, including successful sports people. He enjoys the “pearls of wisdom” that can be gained from their successes. However, he does admit to having “a bit of a weakness” for dystopian fiction, like The Hunger Games. Adolescent literature has been important as it enables him to read alongside his children, especially his son. Although “reading has become almost counter-cultural these days,” due to the extensive use of technology among teenagers, “it’s such an important skill and allows us to understand the world.” Mr Drumm believes it’s important to get young people thinking about the deeper issues that can be explored in literature, especially in an age where “the next txt is just a few minutes away.” He believes that reading shouldn’t just be a hobby, but a “core practice” as it encourages critical thinking. And in terms of TV shows, he’s not a fan of reality television, and instead prefers the History Channel, a good drama, or the Native Affairs show on Maori TV, stating “it’s the last of the in-depth investigative journalism that our democracy needs.” Quality reporting is being lost from television these days because “no-one wants to watch 60 Minutes for sixty minutes any more.”

If there is one last thing Mr Drumm would like to tell the MAGS community, it would be how much he really does care about his new role and the school itself. He feels very privileged to be part of “something special here at Mount Albert, from the partnership approach with parents, to the power of the community. That’s what really gets me out of bed in the morning”. 

I think we’ve learned that Patrick Drumm’s personality is impressive in a different way to his splendid office - from his keen emphasis on culture and community, to his light-hearted comment of, “don’t build me up to be something I’m not.” 

Behind that huge, wooden door is a genuine person with a genuine passion for the success of each and every one of us in the school. 

And perhaps the most important thing that I learned about Mr Drumm - he loves dogs! 



NICK SHILLITO:

The task of interviewing a principal is no cakewalk. The concept, of course, is terrifying, but as soon as we entered the office of our new headmaster, Mr Drumm, he instantly put us at ease. Who is us? Three members of MAGS Blog club, Rosa, Ella & Nick (that’s me.) He was welcoming and friendly and not at all like the cliché of everybody’s intimidating headmaster.

Patrick Drumm is not the first of his family to work in schooling or to be at Mount Albert Grammar; in fact, his grandfather was one of the very first students here at MAGS. When his grandad, Reginald Harropwas attending (the then,) Auckland Grammar in 1922, he was one of many students taken into the hall and told that they would be attending a new school that was separating from Grammar. He would have to bike a short extra distance to get to the new school. And so our school’s auspicious story began. Mr Harrop was even a prefect and if you look hard you can find his name in gold on the hall wall. 

More on the teaching and scholastic side: two of Mr Drumm’s uncles, who he cites as his biggest inspirations, Peter Goddard and Dave Harrop, were also both teachers. They were also both headmasters and one of them even worked here at MAGS for a time. 

“Without a doubt,” he said, “the thing that has made the biggest impression since starting at MAGS, is the students.” Mr Drumm went on to glowingly describe us as the guardians of the school and its proud culture. As well as this, he is especially proud of the unparalleled success of MAGS students nationwide, in both academic and sporting events.

While there have a been a lot of changes in education since our headmaster began teaching, he believes the biggest shift is the active inclusion of parents and students within schooling. They have been given a strong voice in the way schools are run, and in Mr Drumm’s opinion, this has majorly improved the education experience for everyone, making it a more effective and positive environment for all parties involved. This is something he wants to maximise in his time as headmaster here, working with a new generation of students – helping us all to reach and expand our unique potential. 

This brings me to his advice for students in their final year. “They should seize every opportunity they can. They shouldn’t just focus on being outstanding at school, but also strive to achieve their own personal goals. This school has such a lot to offer and they should grab it with both hands.” Wise words.

It seems that teaching has always been a passion for Patrick Drumm. Though he worked the occasional odd job and was side-tracked for a while, teaching was always there.  One thing is very clear though, without the influence and support of his family he wouldn’t be where he is today. And it is this that sits side by side with his pride in his educational achievements. His proudest personal achievement, apart from (obviously) his wonderful family, is becoming headmaster of Mount Albert Grammar School. He has also run a marathon. And while he is proud he did it - one is definitely enough!

How would our new head like to be viewed by the wider MAGS community? 
“Don’t make me out to be someone I’m not. I’m certainly not perfect.” Perfect or not, young Patrick never got sent to the headmaster’s office when he was a kid. These days he strives to be the best he can be. He believes he is trustworthy and honest. Mr Drumm’s goal is to work hand in hand with the families and students of his new school. He says he is very excited to be here, even though he is the new kid on the block. Apparently the concept of being a headmaster, with all its pressure and responsibilities, is not as nerve-racking as you might think. 

Patrick Drumm is married to his wife Anna and they have 3 children. Their oldest daughter, Jessica, has just started at Victoria University – while his two other children attend St Marys and St Peters. The family live surprisingly close to the school. If he ever has a sick day, I’m sure Mr Drumm will hear the school bell from his bedroom. 

Our new headmaster is a reader. In his spare time likes biographies, particularly those on famous New Zealanders. “They contain pearls of wisdom,” he states. He also reads a lot of dystopian fiction because he enjoys reading alongside his children. He promotes their reading at home and knows it encourages improved writing. Mr Drumm admits enjoying good investigative journalism, though he believes it is generally lacking in quality nowadays. 

ELLA BRISLEN:

Mr Patrick Drumm sat comfortably at the semi-circle of chairs that we all sat at. 
He casually leaned back and made friendly eye contact when addressing us once we’d taken our seats. He wore MAGS colours in his suit and tie and had neatly polished shoes. 
When asked question about his personal life, Mr Drumm used examples of his family and social life and talked about his most important role, of parent to his three children. He discussed his personal goals and experiences of being a parent himself. He talked about his family and told us about some of his experiences being a parent. He also discussed living so close to the school – literally living with the MAGS community. 

His main goals for the school are primarily all about the students - our wellbeing and success, plus the importance of good honest communication with the MAGS community and parents.  

Mr Drumm also talked about the Blog Club and gave a positive vibe for the club because we are all about reaching the whole school using new modes of communication. He said he saw a strong future for the blog and wished us all the best for our futures endeavours. 

When Mr Drumm was asked about his grandfather being one of the first students at MAGS, he discussed how his grandad had gone to school one day and got told that he had been selected to switch over to a new highschool. That’s way back when our school was all boys and it made a split from Auckland Boys Grammar. Mr Drumm pointed out that a lot has happened since then.

I really enjoyed being able to meet our new headmaster. I felt quite honoured actually, even though I was quite scared at the start. He seemed like a very nice man. He made us feel welcome in his office and was an easy interview subject. I was thrilled that my idea to interview him was fulfilled. I really hope that everyone who reads our interview enjoys finding out more about our new headmaster, Mr Patrick Drumm.



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