Inside the Teacher’s Classroom – episode 9

“I’ve always maintained that I wanted to teach them to be the artist or to be the designer, as opposed to teaching them about art or about design. And, there’s a trade-off there, in that it’s more challenging, but for those that understand it then that spark has been ignited and there’s no stopping them and then they’re self-taught because they just get a buzz out of doing it and then they just do it all the time and, consequently, they get better.

Mark Masterton taught art and design at Westlake Boy’s High School for over 30 years and was Head of Faculty in a vibrant and highly successful Art Department for 21 of these. This podcast was recorded in December 2019, just a couple of days before his retirement, and our discussion covers sweeping ground, while continually returning to Mark’s piercing insights on fostering creativity; a major part of which, as he sees it, being the need to instil in our students the recognition that it is okay, often in fact desirable, to make mistakes. Thinking creatively, significantly, is a central pillar underpinning the vision, values and principles of our New Zealand Curriculum; an ability recognised to be at the beating heart of contemporary education, not only here, but globally.

Over the course of our discussion, Mark recalls his own challenges in education, coping with dyslexia at a time when far less was known about the specific ways it can impact upon one’s learning. Fascinatingly, Mark now views his dyslexia as one of the contributing factors in his ability to tackle tasks and problems in a creative and abstract manner.

Some of my favourite moments come when Mark speaks about the students he has taught over the years, particularly their work, from conception to completion, commenting on variant approaches adopted to mentor and foster creativity. In these moments, we are afforded a rare glimpse into the expertise and passion of a great teacher reflecting on his method. The words of advice, below, which Mark ends our discussion with, certainly apply directly to education and teaching, but are dictates for success in any pursuit in life.

“Keep up to date, believe in yourself and be true.”

The first three tiles find Mark Masterton and Dave Smale appreciating Ben Ko’s year 13 project titled Disease. The next two are a macro view, along with an inset, of Jackson Munday’s Danger. The penultimate tile is Joshua Romero’s Controlling Nature. The final is Water, a mindful colouring project that Mark initiated for staff at WBHS in 2019. Each of these featured pieces are discussed during the course of the podcast.


Relevant Links:

The New Zealand Curriculum

TKI Inclusive Education (Guide to Dyslexia and Learning)

About Dyslexia

Dyslexia Strengths

St George’s School, Rome

AUT – Art and Design

Bream Bay College

Albert Einstein

Frank Gehry

Frank Lloyd-Wright

Pablo Picasso

BIG Architects


True – Neil McAlpine

Santiago Calatraver

The Len Lye Centre

Guggenheim Bilbao

The Hundertwasser Art Centre