The upcoming St Mary’s Primary School Spring Fair on October 20th seemed like a perfect excuse for Rod to dive in and discover all about Claire Mellon, Principal at St Mary’s Primary School in Bellingen for the past 5 years. We discover that this fun loving, compassionate, advocate for social justice won’t be pushed into the deep end.
What do you like most about your work?
Making a positive difference in peoples’ lives. Nothing beats coming to school in the morning and being warmly greeted with happy smiles, the occasional hug and “Hi Miss Claire”. It really changes the colour of your day.
What is the most important skill you have?
Haha, can’t possibly narrow it down to one. Principals need to be complex thinkers, great communicators, compassionate and, at times, courageous. We talk a lot but we try to listen more.
My school principals needed a great sense of humour and lots of understanding!!
Do you still get to fill in as a teacher sometimes?
Yes I take Year 2 Maths this year and what a great little group they are. I also assist other years when needed. I am on playground duty daily, so I do know all the children in the school.
Tell me what is happening at the upcoming school fete on the 20th October?
It is going to be a fabulous, fun-filled, family fair (I love a little alliteration) for the whole community to enjoy. There will be games and activities for children of all ages, good old-fashioned stalls and great food. The whole idea is that while the children have fun, the parents can too – chat, eat great food, do a little retail therapy and generally have a great time. The whole family will have been entertained fed be home by 7pm with children full and tired!
In the movie “Back to School,” Rodney Dangerfield played Thornton Melon. Any relationship to you?
No relationship whatsoever. We spell Mellon with a double “L” to distinguish us from the fruit, unlike Thornton.
What was your previous career?
I have been a Principal for the last twenty years in both community and Catholic schools. Prior to that I have taught in state schools, high schools, TAFE, pre schools and tutored at university. I have also managed projects including the Goori Youth Website Project for Networking The Nation. And of course the very important job of being a mother and now grandmother.
Any future plans?
Your best memory of childhood was?
Long days at the beach.
Your best sporting moment was?
There is no such thing nor likely ever will be.
So you’re not a high board diver like Thornton?
Still no relation!!
What would you like to be remembered for?
Being loved and able to love.
Friends say that you are?
Funny, generous, late and messy.
What do you avoid in life?
Crowds, bad food, bad wine.
What are you reading right now?
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (Not just because she is a great author and I love Indian novels but because I worked with her mother at her school in Kerala for a couple of weeks in 1998.
What secret can you share with us?
That’s a bit silly because then it woudn’t be a secret.
I don’t go there because generally it’s not good for your mental health.
What really annoys you?
The amount of absolutely unnecessary, useless rubbish that is made and sold.
The best lesson your parents taught you?
Treat others as you would like to be treated.
The last big belly laugh you had was?
That happens on a daily basis, I work with some very funny people.
If you were PM, what would you do?
Oh where to start – Tackle unequal distribution of wealth, economic and educational inequity (they go hand in hand), environmental degradation, the shocking amount of waste we all produce, treat refugees with compassion and remember “That there by the grace of God go I”
What project are you currently working on?
Designing a passive play area and contemporary learning spaces.
Who inspires you?
Pope Francis, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Ghandi, my teachers and my students.
How do you relax?
I love reading, watching movies, swimming, the beach, gardening, hanging out with famiy and friends, good food, good wine and generally just lazing around.
Favourite shire eatery?
I love variety so have no one favourite eatery, just feel blessed that we are so spoiled for choice.
Best coffee in town?
Too many good ones to choose from.
Your current passion is?
Favourite country to visit and why?
I love them all. India, Italy, New York, New Orleans, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Turkey, Greece, Indonesia. There are so many beautiful places in the world that the list is never ending. I like to feel that sense of otherness when I travel and a little bit of adventure. And of course food, culture, people, magnificent scenery, fabulous architecture are all part of the wonderful experience of travel. Mark Twain sums it up beautifully “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Are we going to get the opportunity to throw a wet sponge at you or watch you bob for apples at the school’s Spring Fair?
You’ll just have to turn up and see.
In the movie Mellongate, who would play you?