Week 9 -  Term 4  -  2019

View Online

Visit    https://goo.gl/JATwKZ    to follow  Whanau Time live. 


WHS YouTube  with 109 school videos https://goo.gl/OECvhD


Click on the Calendar icon for our Live Community Calendar


Calendar of Events - Term  4:


Friday 7 February is a Teacher Only Day for Western Heights in 2020.

Thursday 6 February is Waitangi Day so you could take an extended weekend if you wanted - from Thursday to Sunday.

School will be closed on Friday 7 February - staff will be offsite for the day.


Kia Ora, Talofa Lava, Malo e Lelei, Bula, Namastē, Namaskar, AyubowanKia Orana, Taloha Ni, Kumusta,  Aloha Mai E, Fakaalofa Lahi Atu, ‘Alii, Malo Ni, Halo Aloketa Aloha, Nī Hāo, Sawatdeekhrap  Sabaidi, Terve, Dobradan, Bonjour, Hola, Guten Tag, Ciao, Salaam, Olā, Zdravstvuyte, Konnichiwa, Ahn Young Ha Se Yo, Hoi, Merhaba, Jambo, Yasou, Shalom, Salamat Siang, Ahoj, Xin Chāo, Sawubona, Bok, Yiassoo, Hej, Dia Dhaoibh, Cham Reap Sour, Hoi, Vanakkam.


This Year’s Thoughts:


This year marks 41 years in teaching for me - a long time. I started as a 19 year old and half way through my first year I was given a class of 42 year eight students who were so tough their teacher - the Deputy Principal - resigned half way through the year. It was a baptism by fire as they say. Several of the boys were quite a bit bigger than me, and several of the boys and girls had been in serious trouble with the Police. One had been sent away for several years to a residential home for tough boys - he came back in year eight with a lot of new criminal skills. 

Violence was an almost daily issue to be dealt with, and often I would have to wrestle a tough young man into submission to stop him beating up on another student. Twice I had my nose broken, and I basically accepted physical assault as part of the job. I did four years at that school and I learnt a great deal about managing and understanding angry young men, how to take the heat out of a situation and how to appear a lot braver on the outside than I felt on the inside.


Many years later those skills came into play at a Decile One school in Auckland. As Principal I not only dealt with violent students but also violent parents - some of whom came into the classroom to physically attack a child who they felt had hurt their child. I disarmed a dad with a tyre iron on one occasion and I roared at a Mongrel Mob gang member to get back into my office and sit down when he physically threatened two of my female staff - they literally dived under a big desk - he actually did as he was told, to both our surprise.

At a South Island school about 14 years ago I was confronted by two Skinhead dads in my office. They called me a ‘Maori lover’ and added some very bad words to go with it. They told me I was going to die and one said he knew where my family lived. I coped with them too.

I share this because it gives some context to what a wonderful, awesome and amazing school this is by comparison. We have a few problems from time to time, but we persist and we usually come through with a positive outcome. 

I am incredibly grateful to my team of teachers and support staff, to my Boardof Trustees, to my parent community, and to these wonderful, beautiful, fabulous kids we have here. All of our children have not so good days from time to time - some more often than others - but all are a gift given to us to challenge us, encourage us, develop us and reward us as we see them learn, grow, progress and develop into fine young people. It is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world in my opinion and I wouldn’t want to do anything else, or be anywhere else.

So thank you everyone for your part in making this a great year. Our focus on kindness has been consistent all year. I really think it is getting through to our children’s hearts as it were too. For example, I received a card form Siena. It had Love to Learn to Lead on the cover. Inside was a picture af me and Siena. Below it was the following message…

“Dear Mr Maindonald - I love how you gave us so much good hope. Now everyone is so kind. Thank you for teaching us kindness. From Siena.

I don’t think I could sum up what we are trying to achieve here any better than that - it’s a pretty wonderful Christmas present in my opinion.

Happy Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to every one of our WHS community - you are all a taonga - a treasure - in our eyes. Come back safely after a good rest - we will look forward to seeing you all on Monday 3 February.


This Is Us - 2019:


I got up on the roof with a wide-angle phone camera and managed to squeeze 725 children and about 60 staff into the shot.

Good luck spotting your child!

At right are our year five students making WHS.


Junior School Christmas Concert:


Our Junior School Christmas Concert was just awesome! We once again had a huge turn-out of parents and extended family - by my estimate close to 1000 in our audience.

Our Juniors performed with joy, enthusiasm and pride. Huge thanks to our wonderful teachers and support staff who put so much work into making this event a great success. Special thanks to Lauren Nummy for all her organisation - it all went like clockwork thanks to her.

Rms 27, 28, 29
Rooms 1 and 30
Rooms 2 and 3 pt 2
Rooms 2 and 3 pt 3
Rooms 4 and 11
Rooms 5 and 10
Rooms 6 and 7
Rooms 8 and 9
Staff Dance

White Water Rafting - Year Six Students:


The end of the year is a very busy time and until now I have just been too busy to be able to get to this event. I am so glad I could this year though - what a treat for our year six students. They had a great time, the instructors were just brilliant with our kids and the challenge level at the top level was not for the faint hearted. A great day all round - big thanks to all our parent helpers on the day.


Room 10 Visit to Amberwood Rest-home:


This is an annual event for teacher and Team Leader Dana Taylor. She takes her lovely year two children each year to sing Christmas songs, and put on a performance for the elderly residents of Amberwood Home.

As always, the residents absolutely loved the performance and the little gifts and big hugs they received from our children.

Santa made an appearance and was very popular - especially when he gave out lollipops by the handful. Thanks to Mel Sullivan who also supports room 10 in this special occasion every year.


Alicia Shines - On and Off the Field:


We are very proud  to share with you some photos of Alicia Cowan participating for Waitakere Athletics Club at the Papatoetoe Festival Shield day on 23 November in her age group, competing with other 9 year olds from various clubs.

Alicia placed 1st in High Jump, 1st in Long Jump, 1st in 400m, 2nd in 100m, 3rd in 60m and 3rd in Discus. With every placement she gained the club points and along with the other awesome members of the team they won the Shield.

Alicia also attended the Central North West Relays meet last weekend competing against various clubs and in a team effort won two silver medals and one bronze medal.


But wait there is more - Alicia’s mum shared some of Alicia’s leadership and personal qualities. I have great respect for Alicia from all I see of her at school and therefore wanted to take this opportunity to share what mum sees from Alicia at home…

We were overwhelmed with all the activities Alicia chose to participate in at school this year and are truly grateful for all the support and mentoring WHS has supported Alicia with - Kapa haka, softball, cross country, ripper rugby and she took a large interest in learning Korean - the language and culture mainly because she loves K-Pop music.

At home Alicia does these thoughtful little things that fill my bucket like putting a pair of socks on my drawers every morning (socks can be so hard to find some days in our house with such a big family). This may seem like a small gesture to most but to me it warms my heart to see this loving girl thinking about others.

 She is a hard worker in our home with her chores and  helping to keep everything organized and in order.  Alicia's favourite thing at home to do is help take care of her two year old sister, she is like a mini mum as she wanted to learn from a young age how to do everything like prepare bottles, dress Alexis, read to her, and make her breakfast. They have a close bond. We have lots of fun too 😊


Catch Ups:


Sarah - from our Board of Trustees - has been completing all our Calendar Orders. This is our major fundraiser for the year, so it is an important job. So Fra we have sold 540 calendars but with a school roll of over 720, there might be a few more orders. 

Sarah says it is NOT TOO LATE - she will take last minute orders - only $10 a calendar and they make brilliant Christmas gifts. It’s a bargain, it’s your child’s art work (and a lot of the art work is quite stunning) and it raises much needed funds for our school… so get those last minute orders in today!


Above:  Calendar examples from 2019.


Guitar Lessons in School

Our visiting guitar teacher, Andrew Burt, will be starting some new beginner guitar groups in 2020 open to any student from Year 3 upwards. Andrew has been with us for 10 years now and comes to school every Tuesday to teach small groups of guitar students. Andrew’s fees for lessons are fixed at $120 per term. Please email Andrew direct if you’d like further information or to register your interest in lessons for 2020. Spaces are limited. andrewburt1@hotmail.com text 021 1586 739


Play-Based Learning: Producing Critical, Creative and Innovative Thinkers:


Go inside any primary school classroom and look for the ‘play’. Where is it? When did we become so serious with our students and forget to include play? It was only 15 years ago that we could go into any Year 1 classroom and find children playing with play-dough and creating the most spectacular creatures, painting a masterpiece or gluing together toilet rolls to make a spaceship. They were engaging with each other, negotiating, sorting out arguments and establishing friendships. They were imagining, exploring and inventing. It was through taking risks, discovering new ideas and putting these ideas into action that learning took place.


Now it seems such acts of play are a thing of the past. We walk into a typical classroom and find containers of maths equipment that only come out at maths time, musical instruments gathering dust while they wait for the designated time-slot to learn percussion and Lego in buckets under the reading shelves waiting to be used on rainy days.

We are reading a lot lately about having children ‘school-ready’ when they start school, especially so that the transition to school is smooth for the child. Why don’t we turn this thought completely around and ask schools to adopt a play-based pedagogy to reflect the Te Whāriki early childhood curriculum and weave this pedagogy thread throughout all levels of primary school?

Why don’t we play?

Our children have more structure and organisation in their lives than ever before. They get fewer opportunities for play within their classrooms, whether it is free play, supported play or purposeful play. We know the social, emotional, intellectual and cognitive benefits of play based-learning, so why aren’t we brave enough to put some free play back into our classrooms?

I once taught a boy in Nelson, who arrived on his fifth birthday with a bright, cheeky grin that instantly stole my heart. But it was difficult to engage him in any classroom activities. He wasn’t interested in the sand, the water, Lego or the Mobilo. After two weeks of trying to engage him, I visited the local recycling centre and bought an old typewriter and camera. I placed these objects in a tray with screwdrivers and left them out all day. The only rules I attached to them was that there were to be only four children playing at a time and they could only be played with before school started. He started coming to school each morning at 8.30am to dismantle these objects. I would take two minutes out of my morning preparation to go over and greet him, ask him about his family and make comment about the mechanics of what he was doing. We built up a positive connection which turned more into an attachment, and I found he would do anything I required of him in the classroom. 

We established respect for each other – him respecting me for taking time to get to know him and me respecting him for adhering to the classroom rules and expectations.

There are many reasons why we may not have play-based activities in our classrooms: a perceived loss of power; the amount of imagination required to come up with ideas; the organisation of time, materials, activities and spaces; the classroom may be noisy and messy; students may be talking, laughing and moving around, and you may feel that you are losing all classroom control and management.

But take a look inside an early childhood centre and you will find none of these things bothering the teachers. They set clear expectations of their students and have consistent rules and consequences set in place. They have already done the hard work; primary teachers just have to keep up their practices.

I found my love for play-based learning in a Year 1 class in Hokitika. I had 12 students, including identical boy triplets and identical boy twins. Almost half of my entire class looked remarkably similar and was mostly boys! I was rummaging around in the caretaker’s shed looking for some paint one day and came across an old wooden carpenter’s table along with a dusty box full of child-sized tools. My dad cleaned them all up and sent me back to school on Monday with a box full of wooden off-cuts and shiny clean tools. I set the table up outside my classroom and placed the box of materials beside it. During maths I sent one of the groups outside to the table. I took a breath that lasted the whole lesson and let it out once they were all back inside with all fingers intact and eyeballs still in their sockets. 

Kevin had a permanent smile on his face because he was allowed to work outside in the sun, James was delighted at his creation of a futuristic space-ship and Becks was the envy of her class when she appeared with a wooden praying mantis including its wooden enclosure. These children had the opportunity to communicate with each other, share materials, practise patience, negotiate, create a masterpiece and have fun!

Start now!

Our National Curriculum identifies several values and key competencies that we strive to teach our children. Almost all of them can be developed through play-based activities: innovation, inquiry, curiosity, and sustainability, respect, thinking, using language, and managing self, relating to others, participation and contributing.

I propose that we say, ‘enough is enough!’ Children in ALL years at primary school have the right to play, both within their classrooms and in the playground. We know that they become intrinsically motivated through play-based learning (and the need for rewards and star charts will likely no longer be needed). 

We know that one of our main goals is to motivate students to learn and we want them to continue to learn long into the future. We know researchers are linking the benefits of play on the developing brain. All around the world, children are engaging in pretend play that simulates the sorts of activities they will need to master as adults, suggesting that play is a form of practice. So give them the opportunity to practice at school, right now in your classroom.

Digitally record the creations your students make and upload them to ySeesaw. Be prepared to let the child discard their creations when they are finished with them...it’s often the process that is more important for the child than the product!

Give yourself permission to roam around the room observing the children at play, listen to their conversations, take photos for picture stories, sit down alongside them and engage in conversation, identify ‘teachable moments’ and run with them. You will soon work out the right time and place to intervene. Use your intuition, experience, knowledge, expertise and common sense to judge when the time is right.

In order to face the challenges of the 21stcentury, our children need to be critical and creative thinkers. The industrial age is truly over. We are now ensconced in the knowledge age with its unique challenges that are largely undefined as yet. Why not create a classroom environment to reflect a play-based pedagogy approach which encourages children to think outside the square and be creative? Why not arrange materials in provoking and inviting ways to encourage exploration, learning and inquiry?

We know that play contributes positively to a child’s sense of well- being. It enhances a child’s natural capacity for intense and self- motivated learning. It helps build creative and critical thinkers, and lets children test social boundaries. Play produces curiosity, openness, optimism, resilience and concentration. It enhances a child’s memory skills, develops their language skills, helps regulate their behaviour, advances their social skills and encourages academic learning to take place.

Stephanie Menzies recently completed her Master of Education degree, with her final assessment on play-based learning. Useful websites for play ideas include

www.pinterest.com, www.backtoblocks.com and www.playbasedlearning.com.au

10 ways to bring back play, have fun and promote learning:

1. Buy old suitcases at the op-shop and fil them with various manipulation toys: Lego, Duplo, Meccano, wooden blocks, magnets and an assortment of magnetic and non-magnetic materials. Bring them out at different times of the day and let your pupils spend 15 minutes creating.

2. Keep a plastic cube full of natural materials .Children love having a handful of shells, some pieces of branch, some stones and a glue- gun. Trust me on this! Give them these things and stand back and watch the creativity and learning that takes place!

3. Collect a box of mechanical junk from the recycling store and add several screwdrivers and Allen keys. Set the box up somewhere in the classroom for the children to go to before school, or on rainy day lunch times.

4. Bring out the woodwork table and tools you will find hidden in the back of the caretaker or sports shed. Add a box of wooden off- cuts (not treated wood) and you have created an amazing builder’s paradise! Keep this table just inside your door so you can easily put it outside each day. Offer it to your colleagues’ students to use outside your room. I found I never used to get in trouble for the noise my students made when I offered it to other classes!

5. Introduce glue-guns to your classroom along with a large basket full of recycled cereal boxes, perfume boxes, toothpaste boxes, egg cartons, etc. I suggest you use cool glue-guns which can be found at your local supplies store.

6. Alternate between having a  sand or water tray in your room. Along with learning science and maths concepts, children also have the opportunity to practise their social skills.

7. I can’t think of anything better to use ice-cream containers for, than to fill them with play-dough.. It is easy to make, can last a couple of weeks and children of most ages enjoy playing with it. Don’t be scared off by the ‘germ-brigade’. Dirty play-dough doesn’t kill, and children over five don’t tend to snack on it!

8. Why not include a painting easel into your room and give it the respect one gives a classroom computer. Use watercolour paint cakes with a jar of water and a cloth nearby and let children come and paint when they feel like it. The world will not stop spinning if you let a child spend 10 minutes painting her masterpiece during silent reading.

9. Have a box of dress-ups in your classroom. A Year 6 teacher may allow his students to use them every time they present something to the class. This infuses the presentation with laughter and helps put the more nervous students at ease.

10. Wooden blocks should be in every classroom at every level in primary school. That’s a no-brainer...all children, at any age enjoy building with blocks.


Outstanding Achievements:


At right:  Luke is an outstanding swimmer and one to watch for the future!

Recently he competed with huge success yet again at the Auckland Champs - representing his club Mt Eden over three days. 

Luke entered 12 events and won 11 medals - seven Gold and four Silver -  and also broke the Auckland record for the  10 year olds for the 50m Breastroke.


His results are as follows :


50m Breastroke

100m Breastroke

200m Breastroke

50m Freestyle


200m Fresstyle

200m Individual Medley


50m Butterfly

100m Butterfly

50m Backstroke

100m Backstroke 


A couple of weekends ago at Gion’s Basketball club prize giving (Waitakere West Auckland Basketball (WWABI)), Gion won the ‘Defensive Player of the Year’ award.

Gion is a natural leader on and off the court and will be one of our two year five co-hosts for our Year Six Graduation Assembly.


Short Tech Tip = A Weekly Series:


* When you’re searching for something on the Web using, say, Google, put quotes around phrases that must be searched together. For example, if you put quotes around “electric curtains,” Google won’t waste your time finding one set of Web pages containing the word “electric” and another set containing the word “curtains.”


Random Fact = A Weekly Series:


Wisdom of Children = A Weekly Series:


Parenting Tip = A Weekly Series:

Julie and Kathryn from our Tuck Shop are selling Sausage Sizzle lunches on Monday - $2 each.


David Pogue’s Life Hacks - A Series - Food Tips:


Thursday’s Thoughts:


Kindness is the Key:


Cats and Dogs This Week:


Signs of the Times:


Western Heights School

126 Sturges Road


Auckland 0612

P -  09 8361213

E -  macash@mac.com

M - 021 779 009

Office eMail



Update Email Address


View Online


As part of our ongoing initiative to move towards Zero Waste, we no longer send home printed newsletters. This way of keeping you in touch with our school is mobile friendly and enviro-friendly.


Should you not want to receive our newsletter via email, please click the Unsubscribe link above.


Ash Maindonald



Thank you for reading our newsletter.

Thank you for supporting our awesome school and wonderful teachers.

Direct Mail for Mac This email is powered by Direct Mail for Mac. Learn MoreReport Spam