By Mick Jensen
Retiring Allenton School principal Graham Smith has enjoyed a career in education spanning 40 years, with 35 years of those years as a school principal.
Now approaching 62, a change of lifestyle beckons for Mr Smith, whose school career has been largely spent in Mid Canterbury.
He spent 10 years at Hinds School from 1990, 12 years as principal of Methven Primary and is now into his seventh year at Allenton, a role he finishes at the end of this term.
Graham Smith’s first principal role was at the two-teacher Franz Josef School before stints at schools at Otira, Morven, the Chatham Islands, Okains Bay and the now-closed Jacobs River School.
He has been a sole charge principal at three schools and “loved” that experience.
“In a small community you need to really work with school families.
“I also learnt to do a number of practical tasks around the place because ‘you just need to get it done’ for the good of the school.”
Mr Smith said his wife Sue, a fellow teacher with infant school experience, had offered useful advice in those days because his students ranged in age from five to 13.
His move to Mid Canterbury had come about, in part, because she “was a local girl”.
Dairying was just starting to expand when he began at Hinds School and his workload there was 70 per cent teaching.
He had also supported that school’s bid to act as the custodian for the technology centre on McLean Street, which Ashburton Intermediate was looking to close.
Mr Smith said his time at Methven had also been very positive and included the introduction of school technology, but also a daily commute from his home in Ashburton.
He had walked to work each day since moving to Allenton School and continued to be on playground and bus duty rosters “because it remained important to have those regular conversations with the children”.
During his time at Allenton School he had split the school into three syndicates, Years 1-2, Years 3-4 and Years 5-6, and had established composite classes for the latter two age groups “to better prepare students”.
There was a broader cultural mix at the school these days, more student self management, a positive reward system and the school offered “an inclusive rather than exclusive” approach to education, he said.
Mr Smith said he had made the decision to retire two years ago and was sad to be departing.
“I’m proud of the teachers, love the way children are mostly respectful and look out for each other, but I won’t miss the politics and bureaucracy in education.”
He has travel, more time for skiing at Mt Hutt and also a stint of teacher relieving on his future schedule.
A saying that has stood the test of time with Mr Smith over many years reads: ‘They will forget what you say. They will forget what you do. But they will never forget how you made them feel’.