Principal ready for ‘wonderful new challenge’

Principal ready for ‘wonderful new challenge’
On 1 January 2018, Terrie Jones will take on her new role as head of the prestigious St Michael’s Grammar School, located in St Kilda, Victoria.

Jones replaces Simon Gipson, who finishes as Head of the school at the end of this year after more than 18 years of dedicated service.

Jones has been at the forefront of education for more than 20 years and has spent the last six years at Ravenswood School for Girls (Gordon, NSW), most recently as the deputy principal and Head of Learning Innovation.

Below, The Educator speaks to Jones about her educational journey thus far, and the kind of leadership she intends to bring to the school.

TE: Why did you feel that St Michael’s Grammar School was the ‘right fit’ for you?

When you visit St Michael’s Grammar School, it becomes apparent that the School’s four values of Dignity, Respect, Care and Compassion are not just words, they are lived and experienced by the students, staff and parents of the School. Embodied in the daily interactions in the classroom, staffroom and playground, these core values strongly align with my personal value set. I see the inclusive culture of St Michael’s as one of its greatest strengths. People I have met in Melbourne have told me about St Michael’s reputation for embracing diversity and respecting the dignity of all who enter the gates.

It must be said that leading a co-educational school will be a wonderful new challenge for me. Recent cultural shifts have underscored that instead of being at risk of irrelevance, schools have an urgent and increasingly important role to play in the creation, maintenance and growth of civil society. Effective co-education provides vital opportunities for students of all genders to learn to live and work together in an atmosphere of mutual respect that is conducive to an enhanced understanding of the value of a diversity of perspectives.

TE: Your educational philosophy has been developed through teaching in different states in Australia and the UK, as well as working with academics in the US. What were some of the most significant take-aways from these experiences for you as a principal?

The key take-away has been that there is always something to learn and that in a globalised world there is no place for insularity. Checking our biases and our ingrained habits is a daily requirement when striving for improvement. No country in the world has the educational enterprise exactly right because it is a human enterprise.

There is no one best way to teach, to learn, to care or to organise ourselves, but there are a lot of wonderful and research-informed ways to do all of these things, and looking beyond our most immediate experience is a rigorous way to test our thinking and ideas.

TE: How would you describe the culture of leadership you intend to bring to St Michael’s Grammar School?

St Michael’s has a strong and inclusive culture and I intend to create the optimum conditions for the learning and growth of students, staff and our community by attending to this solid foundation of trust and collaborative endeavour. As I envisage it, educational leadership is replete with valuable opportunities to promote and foster active learning partnerships between students and teachers, in the pursuit of shared goals. The skill of posing questions, to oneself, colleagues and society, is paramount for community learning.

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