Getting to Know You: Dr Clayton Massey

29th September 2020

With our new Head due to commence at Girton in Term 4, we put some questions to Dr Clayton Massey so that the school community may begin to get to know its new leader. Dr Massey will become the School’s eighteenth Head since foundation in 1884 when Miss Alice Mary Hill (later Mrs Millward) and Mrs Marian Aherne became joint founders of Girton Grammar School.

What made you want to become a teacher, and what subjects have you taught?

I had many inspiring teachers, especially my Year 5 and Year 7 teachers, my English and my Media Studies teachers.  I was also fortunate to attend a school in which all the teachers went above and beyond.  Teaching was my one and only university and career choice.  I’ve taught a range of subjects in the area of English, from the equivalent of VCAL in a regional agricultural college, to VCE English, English Literature and Media.

What are two crucial elements of being an excellent school leader?

To be an excellent school leader, you must be an enabler.  That means leading in a way that seeks and finds opportunities in the existing, as well as the new.  I am an advocate of encouraging and developing capacity in everyone – from students to staff and School community.

Secondly, you have to be yourself.  I live my life totally immersed in my school, its people and its community. I will share the stories of my life with Girton and in return look forward to involving myself in its stories. When I left my previous school last term, staff, parents and students told me they felt that they could always talk to me – I considered this the greatest leadership compliment.

What are your personal learning passions? 

There are many ways to answer this question, so I’ll answer them all.  When it comes to schools, I think teachers have an extraordinary capacity to influence the learning in their classes by consciously reflecting on their students, their subjects and their teaching.  I am passionate about teachers delivering learning that engages and extends each and every student.  Although an English teacher, I wish I had studied History at school.  The stories of events, people, times and places fascinate me.  It’s an area of huge personal interest.  Finally, I have a very practical passion for ‘lifelong learning’.  Over the years, I have turned my hand to many a new skill including making stained glass windows (otherwise known as lead lighting), French polishing as well as making jams, chutneys and pickled onions.

What are your overarching educational philosophies?

I am an advocate for personal growth and development, providing opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable, and putting students at the centre of all decision making.  I’m also a passionate believer in education that develops critical and higher-order thinking.

How can schools thrive through disruption, challenge and change?

In that regard, mindset is everything.  If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that in certain situations, such as COVID-19, resistance to disruption, challenge or change is impossible.

Accepting and adapting is the secret of success.  Change and challenge present us all with the opportunity to evolve and grow. The process can be uncomfortable and even difficult, but there is no greater joy than achieving something which you never thought you would be able to do.

If you could wave a magic wand, what 21st-century educational challenge would you fix, and why?

Following on from the last question, I’d fix the fear of change. Experts tell us there are three basic reactions to fear – fight, flight or freeze.  Every parent and every teacher has been faced with supporting a child paralysed or petrified by fear.  I’ve always encouraged my students to take away fear and ask themselves ‘What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?’  We can’t change everything to suit ourselves, but we can take control by accepting and adapting.

What are you looking forward to when you move to Victoria and to Bendigo? 

I am particularly looking forward to meeting all members of the Girton community, from students to parents and staff.  I was planning a number of visits before beginning in Term Four, but that hasn’t been possible.  Once school life returns to close to normal, I look forward to attending school events and activities to totally involve myself in the life of the School.  More broadly, I can’t wait to enjoy the Bendigo lifestyle, make new friends and to see the house we bought over the internet – something I could not ever have imagined doing!

Dr Clayton Massey

What do you find alluring about Girton Grammar School?

So much!  Expert teachers getting the very best out of their students, students engaged in their learning, their community and community service, parents passionate about their children and school, untold academic pathways and co-curriculum opportunities especially including a strong Arts presence.  A school that leads in the area of emotional intelligence and personal excellence. Being Head of a high performing school with an enviable educational reputation in an outstanding regional location is a dream come true.

What are your aspirations for Girton Grammar School?

Girton strikes me as an aspirational school itself, so I will be looking to further enable its well-established, forward-thinking, broad-based educational philosophy.  Whilst honouring and preserving tradition, I also hope to nurture innovative and entrepreneurial opportunities for our students, further advancing their abilities to experience success in life beyond their schooling at Girton.

Dockers, Eagles, or a new AFL team when you move to Victoria?

This will be a happy reset for me, coming from a family with a longstanding Dockers and Eagles divide.  Any suggestions are welcomed, and I’d even let the collective voice of Girton decide for me.  Stand by for the vote!

Cats or dogs?

We are failed feline foster carers, having been unable to return our rescue kittens when the time arrived.  As a result, we are currently a two-cat family, but a puppy is a topic of much discussion.  Poppy and Kipper are now eight years old and will be travelling with us to Bendigo.

Kindle or hardcopy?

Hardcopy at home, electronic wherever possible at school.  That said, I’ve become accustomed to reading the Bendigo Advertiser’s online edition over recent months and I’m now a digital news convert.