An Interview with the Principal

01 Dec An Interview with the Principal

When your main experiences of our Principal are watching him speak from afar, it is easy as students to feel a disconnect with Mr Williams. He feels this too, joking “I’m sure some of the year nines wonder who that gray haired guy walking around the school is.” As far as we are concerned, he does a damn good job of keeping our school running. The last few years have been a testament to that. However, it’s not often we hear about who our Principal is when you strip that title away. What music does he like? Who are his inspirations? What happens behind the scenes? I was offered the opportunity to chat with Mr Williams and learn a bit more about him.

I believe you can tell a lot about a person from the music they listen to. Mr Williams describes his taste as “old school” rock and pop. He gets his rock music from the likes of Supertramp and The Rolling Stones. For a bit of pop, he turns to Elton John. ABBA was even admitted to be a guilty pleasure of his. “I wasn’t really an ABBA fan back in the day, but it’s actually really catchy and fun.” I can’t tell what this collection of artists says about him. I’ll leave you to decide.

When it comes to hobbies, Mr Williams joked that he doesn’t have the time. His spare time is mostly spent with his grandchildren. However, when he does get some time to himself, he describes it as active relaxing. Paddleboarding is an activity he picked up a few years back, otherwise working with his hands is the go to. “I like DIY projects – building things and fixing things. Its good because its very different to sitting at the desk.” It seems that Mr Williams’ career skills in problem solving carry into every aspect of his life.

One thing we all carry with us in life is our inspirations. I’m sure most people know their answer to the question – “If you could have dinner with any three people (dead or alive), who would it be?” Mr Williams is no different. His three seats would go to Barack Obama, Professor Russel Bishop and Ernest Rutherford. Einstein was considered for the list, but didn’t quite make top three. “I think he would be far too bright for me.” It’s clear through his final picks where Mr Williams’ values lie. A strong leader is seen in Barack Obama. Professor Russel Bishop is an inspiration in the educational field. Lastly, this list wouldn’t be complete without a physicist thrown in the mix. Clearly our Principal’s passion for the subject he once taught will never die.

Mr Williams considers Rutherford one of his major inspirations in life, not only for his influence in the world of physics but also for his approach to thinking. “Rutherford had this one saying – ‘Any good law in science should be simple enough to explain to your bar maid’. He wasn’t being derogatory to bar maids, rather he was saying that when an idea gets too complex maybe you have it wrong. It should be simpler.” Mr William’s applies this mantra in every area of his work.

Though he thought he couldn’t hold a conversation with Einstein, this is also someone Mr Williams considers an inspiration. Specifically, it is Einstein’s approach to problem solving that resonates, expressed in his famous quote “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I would spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” This is another mantra that Mr Williams applies to his life and work. “I often tell my team that if we rush into solving a problem because we want that problem solved, we won’t really understand the problem at all.”

The other place he looks to for inspiration is his students. “Some of the students I’ve known have been my biggest inspirations. When I got to know their challenges, I was in awe of what they had achieved.” We can strip away Mr Williams’ title and learn more about him, but in reality being our Principal is a massive part of who he is. His pride in Pakuranga College, primarily its students, is what came through the clearest during our talk. “I hope students know that I am their biggest advocate.” Mr Williams truly believes that our generation will change the world. His goal is to empower us to get out there and do it.

Part of this empowerment is placing a focus on mental health, which Mr Williams ensures our school is endeavoring to do. “We know that mental health, stress and the pressure of the modern world are all major issues for our young people. We can keep burying our head in the sand, or we can do more work around it.” Youth are in need of mental health support now more than ever. It’s reassuring to see that this is something Pakuranga College both acknowledges and is trying to improve on. 

After having such a tough run of it these last few years, many of us are left feeling discouraged. We are approaching the start of 2023 with a whole lot of uncertainty. When I asked Mr Williams for his best piece of advice to take into the new year, he said to look for the silver linings. “There are opportunities and great things everywhere you look. You can either see the glass half full or the glass half empty.” There is no denying that life can get hard. Sometimes this can feel really overwhelming. However, even when everything seems out of control, you can always control your mindset. Mr Williams believes that looking for the good will make you feel good.

He had one other thing to add – “There is a lot I wish I knew in high school, but I mostly wish I had a concept of what careers were available to me.” Mr Williams grew up in a rural school. No one he knew had ever gone to university, including his family. He admits he would probably still have a career in education, but he still wished he knew more about what options were out there. As our Principal, Mr Williams carries this with him in an effort to ensure that Pakuranga College students know all about the world of opportunities within their arm’s reach. 

“Principal” is a powerful and sometimes intimidating word. If you dont really know someone, it can be easy to focus on their proper and professional exterior. We see Mr Williams as an exceptional leader for Pakuranga College. However, he’s also a Supertramp fan who enjoys the occasional paddleboard and very much loves his grandchildren. When you break the barrier between Principal and student, you’ll be reminded that he is just another person. Looking at Mr Williams from this angle, I’m sure you’ll find much more in common.

Holly Rowsell – Year 13

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