School holds special place for principal

Frankton Primary School principal Judy Dixon knew she wanted to take up teaching from age 7 and is happy she did.
Bruce Mercer

Frankton Primary School principal Judy Dixon knew she wanted to take up teaching from age 7 and is happy she did.

Judy Dixon may be leaving Frankton Primary School but she's not giving up work.

"The word retirement isn't in my vocabulary."

The Frankton principal of almost 23 years declared at age 7 that she wanted to be a teacher and has never looked back.

She will finish at the end of the term but keep her hand firmly in the education sector as a consultant.

She's looking forward to slowing the pace and having more flexibility time-wise but there are plenty of fond memories she'll take with her from Frankton.

"Wild and wet day, kids sliding on plastic sheets. Taking student councillors to our home at Waiotahi Beach on a leadership camp every year. [Caretaker] Mr I's carrot cakes. Francis and Kelly Pye's amazing whanau room. The happiness on kids' faces when they are learning at their level and progressing. That is a real thrill. Teachers performing on stage for the children."

Dixon gets up there too - last time she was Elsa, the queen from Frozen.

When the kids run the final assembly for her, she expects to need two boxes of tissues once the kapa haka group gets going.

Asked what made her decide on teaching before she finished primary school, Dixon thinks carefully before answering.

"I enjoyed learning but I found some of the teachers were quite ... I just felt that they were quite harsh really, when they didn't need to be. And I would have learned more if they had been able to understand me as a child."

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That's quite a big thought for a seven-year-old.

"It is, eh? But I remember that."

Boundaries are still vital, though, because kids need them.

"You can't have a jungle when you're running a big school like this," Dixon says.

Since 2005, Frankton School has had a focus on virtues, based on the Virtues Project by Linda Kavelin Popov, Dan Popov and John Kavelin.

Dixon likes it because it teaches kids with examples instead of focusing on blame. They are asked to use virtues such as respect or truthfulness and told what it might look like.

"Something happens to a child inside when you say, 'I'm asking you for the virtue of truthfulness.'

And they think, 'Well, I don't really know what she means but she thinks I've got it.' Then you'll say, 'And it looks like this. We're trying to get to the bottom of this so I need you to be honest. Tell me from the beginning'," Dixon says.

She's been "all over the world" to talk about how the school is using the virtues project and hopes, through consulting, she'll be able to help more schools use it.

The virtues weren't the first big change Dixon made at Frankton.

Her first three years at the school were "character building" as she challenged the status quo. A big part of that was bringing the cultures pupils came from into the school for greater inclusivity.

Her then assistant principal Elsie Nelly loyally supported the new vision in that difficult time, Dixon says.

Another thing Dixon will likely be remembered for are her brightly-coloured clothes.

The kids love it, she says.

But she doesn't plan to change that when she's no longer a principal.

"I'll never be a beige lady. I'll always wear colour."

 - Waikato Times

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