Mr. Stradwick Interview

Mr. Stradwick made an effort to know our names, a nice start, avoiding the usual awkwardness that sometimes floats through first conversations. His office was tall but small and managed to have very even, clean lighting, from its windows even without natural light. We seated around his round table, like knights, but with paper, pens, and a recording app rather than swords. He was instantly welcoming and relaxed making the start of our round of questions confined to twenty minutes seem spacious rather than tense. “I’ve been watching for an opportunity to work here. It’s my old school, so I am an old boy from 1993. And Mount Albert is something special for me, I live in Mt Albert, my children go to school in Mount albert, so it just makes sense to be part of the community.”

Prior to working at MAGS he did a lot of different jobs at lots of different schools. He helped open a new school, taught at a challenging school is another part of Auckland, and before that, most interesting of all – he worked for 5 years in New Deli India, running a small American International school. “That was exciting. I took my kiwi wife over with my one year old kid, and we had 2 more kids over there. They grew up in India, but they’re kiwis.“ They came back in 2015.  

“I like listening to people and hearing where they’re at. And finding connections between their dreams, desires and the needs of other people. Part of my role is to work with student wellbeing and students’ sense of belonging at MAGS. I’m… working alongside the guidance and the deans to make sure every single student feels welcomed and slots into MAGS … I want it to feel like it’s one big whanau...”

At his previous jobs, he has taught Art History, History, Geography, Social Studies, Economics, and English. But his favorite subject to teach art history, reasoning that he’s a visual learning “with art you’re taking a snapshot; art reflects life, life doesn’t reflect art. So, when artist and photographers, they do all this work, it’s their interpretation of what life is like… it’s much easier to communicate through a picture. A picture tells 1000 words.“

When I was at MAGS one of the art history teachers got us to teach.<It could have been lazy teaching I don’t know. so when I [taught] the other students said it was better than the teacher - And it kind of encouraged me and that’s when I started thinking about becoming a teacher….I could convey ideas to others and they could get it quite quickly… the art of communication?” He mused.

When asked about how the school had changed since his schooling years he talked about how the culture of student life has changed.

“…When it was a boys’ only school, there were certain areas of the school where you would not necessary hang out at because it could be a little bit rough”

He remarks how now “there is a hive of excitement about learning.” “And the arts are huge here as well, arts weren’t as big [back then], there was music and as school production but that was it…The four pillars are quite clear here at MAGS. And I’m excited to see how much service there is and ‘looking outwards’. MAGS kids have empathy. That’s amazing. You can see even just with Relay for Life -  they raised over $90,000. Students care about each other. They care about this world. Back then I cared about being in line at the tuck shop line and whether I was going to get my steak and cheese pie. At lot has changed and I’m putting the past into just silly stories.” He laughs. “But the culture is (now) very welcoming and inclusive….”

On some of his proudest achievements: “Last year I helped launch a new school from scratch. … we had to engage the community, we had to talk to the local Iwi, we had to create a story. it’s hard creating a school from nothing - you’ve got no history. You’ve got to create a uniform, logo and co-create school values and we had to get to know the community. We were a very successful startup school and the government wanted other schools to come see what we were doing.” The school in question is Ormiston Junior College. “It’s kind of a ‘crazy’ school with no real timetable. Students did authentic project-based learning.”

He says the thing that excites him the most about the world is the young people and what passions they bring to the world. “That’s why I think investing in young kids is the greatest thing you could ever do. Investing in the lives of young people who are hopefully going to grow up well and do great things.” He also notes he doesn’t get excited by the newest technology but rather by what people can do with it.”

“I’ve got year 11’s as my cohort [this year], and I’m excited about those 600 learners achieving level one NCEA by the end of the year. And we’ve got a one-hundred percent pass rate goal. Some people say it’s unrealistic but it’s our goal. I work with the prefects here as well, so the prefect students are my... team that I’m coaching.”

From there we moved onto some somewhat lighter questions - touching on his taste in books or films “I like Russian Short stories of hardship, and because I’m a history major I like anything to do with (I’m quite Euro-centric unfortunately, people might say that’s not very good) but European history is something I follow, so I read around those things. Old classics like the Grapes of Wrath or stories like Animal Farm where it’s obviously an analogy about Stalinist Russia. I like foreign films…” though he acknowledges that it may sound a bit cliché. “Because they don’t always have happy endings. They don’t always have everything working out in the end. life is closer to that. I like journey stories, stories of perseverance and camaraderie – people like Scott making it to the Antarctic…. documentaries on people who have never given up.”

Yes, he is a sports fan. He still plays social football and likes watching the Black Caps win – even though sometimes he thinks they won’t. “I’m not that loyal.” He grins.

“We’ve always been a cat family. I like that cats are low maintenance. Dogs demand too much and I’ve already got three puppies in terms of my children. I’ve got 3 boys, 5, 7 and 9, they all go to Gladstone Primary School. They’re all hilarious and funny and messy and want food every five seconds and the house needs to be cleaned every five seconds and in the middle of the night I painfully stand on Lego.” Everyone in the room screws up their faces, we know how that feels. His wife is an ex-lawyer turned teacher, now working at St. Peter’s College.

As the interview wraps up we hit him with some quick-fire questions. His go to food? Curry. Something somebody wouldn’t expect about him? He can sing and play the bass guitar. The best lesson he learned from his time at school? Have a good range of friends.

What is his favorite line in the school song? He goes over the lyrics in his head before rather aptly saying “Through hardship to glory.” A quote which seems to rather well sum up what Mr. Stradwick has told us about himself today and what values he tries to embody and hold dear.  

Our bloggers meeting Mr. Stradwick.
From the right - Nicholas Shillito, Ella Vuetilovoni, Elka Aitchison, and Harriet Neraat.

We thank him for his time and he thanks us as well, by our names – the good gesture pays off.


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