Driven by passion for connection and filled with a pool of wise insights, Mrs. Bass offers a freshly personal view to her role as House Leader of Snell.

How does it feel becoming a house leader after so many years working at Macleans?

I feel very blessed to have this position. It was important that when Mr. Bannister left, there was someone who took that position who knew the students. It would’ve been harder if they were coming in from outside the school, and for me it felt like it was just the right timing for both the school and the students. And for me? It feels good.

Was it something you were waiting for?

As you know, I have been a deputy house leader for quite some time now. It was my decision. I could’ve gone to another house and applied to be house leader there or I could’ve left the school and done something somewhere else. But it was always my conscious decision to stay, because this place is so significant to me. The house leaders I’ve worked with have all been amazing: we work as a team, and they’ve allowed me to be part of the process. We’ve developed good partnerships and friendships, and we work really well together. So yes, it’s been a great journey. My empowerment has been the fact that it’s been my choices.

Is there anything about the house that you believe has fundamentally changed over the course of your time at Macleans? If so, what is it and why?

I don’t think so. I think the school—the whanau is such an important part of the school, it’s the foundation, the cornerstone, it’s what sets us apart, it is hugely crucial to why this school has so many students—it’s got a real personal touch and a sense of belonging. No matter who the house leader is, that culture is a similar thread in our house. All of the house leaders bring a different personality, but fundamentally, I don’t think there are changes. Mr Saunders brought in this lovely Maori perspective but again, did we change? No, I think we’ve actually stayed very true to who we are, and where we started.

How do you define who we are?

I found this the other day: when Mr Saunders was here, he put together a survey and he looked for both the students’ voice and for the staff’s voice. And he looked for what Snell is: “Who are we? Who is Macleans College?” Our vision statement kind of adds it all in layers: “Students in Snell house will endeavour to be active students in Macleans College, demonstrate their manaakitanga through respect, care and support for other students.” This is absolutely who we are. We are family, and family is incredibly important. For me, the overriding concept is family, a sense of belonging, a sense of looking after each other and caring for each other.

Have you worked anywhere before Macleans?

Yes, when I first started teaching as a twenty-year-old—I started down in James Cook High School—It was the only other school I taught at—in Manurewa. I taught there for about 10 years, before I had a family and we moved in here.

Why have you chosen to stay at Macleans, more specifically Snell house, for so long?

There’s a couple of reasons. There’s one very practical reason, and that’s that I live very close to the school. The other? I love this area—Howick and Bucklands Beach. It is my heart: we chose to live here, we chose to bring up our children in this area, so I have a real sense of community. I love this place and this school. The fact that it’s a huge school but we know you are noticed. I just love the personal care and the culture, the high expectations, the high standards, the sense of wanting to get the best out of students, students wanting to get the best out of what they’re doing: It’s just the whole package deal! I’m happy here. It’s a place that I feel very connected with—it’s in my bones.

If you weren’t a teacher at Macleans, what would you be doing instead?

I wouldn’t really want to teach anywhere else, because—why move? My aspirations have never been to be a deputy principal or a principal of a school, mainly because I like the connection with the students as opposed to administration. Because this, even, has half and half—paperwork, making sure things are done right so this runs smoothly. But this connection with the students has always been my heart—I love the classroom, I love the teaching, I love that sense of being, I love teaching kids.

What else would I do? The other things I thought of before I went teaching was—and you’re going to laugh—a forestry worker. When I was young I skied a lot, and I did a lot of climbing. I also spent a lot of time down in the volcanic plateau, so I was kind of this hunting-outdoor-bush type of person and I wanted to be a forestry worker. Physiotherapy was another one that I decided to look at, but then I decided to go teaching.

Where did English fit into your teaching career?

I actually did a double degree in Geography and English. At James Cook, I probably taught more of the geography and social studies because in that time there weren’t a lot of English jobs. I did a mix—but I was mainly in the Geography department, so it was more Geography than English. When I started teaching here and was a reliever, I did a lot of long-term relieving, and here was the last place I did some long-term relieving; I was here for a term. They asked me if I’d do a full-time position, and that’s when I said yes because… I’ve come home.

So it was really just, what was the demand? I enjoyed teaching both. When I was relieving I enjoyed teaching; if I had a Japanese class I’d just kind of look at it and go, “I can teach this!” It’s just all about confidence and what you say, and looking like you actually know what you’re talking about.

Do you have any specific words of wisdom to leave for your students?

I think the most important thing is to make the most of the opportunities that you have here. That this is a place that you can try new things, get involved in things; just find out who you are. And to allow yourself to grow into the person that you are, rather than the person that other people want you to be. To take these five years and try things out, so that when you leave, you’ve got your bags packed with all of the stuff that you need to go and do what you really want to do. So that you’ve got everything you need academically, and also personally, to be able to go, “Yup! I’m ready. I’m ready to get out there and I’m ready to start my next journey.” That would be it.

Interview conducted by Andrew Zeng and Annika Lee. Transcript, with refinements for concision and clarity, published on 15/09/2020. Header image supplied by The Collegian.

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