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Friday 22 May 2015

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When I started teaching – well before the turn of the last century – the technology of the time used for producing multiple copies (of a school notice for instance) was “the Gestetner”. To use the Gestetner required very firm typing on a typewriter in no-ribbon mode; the letters cutting through a purpose-designed film of paper. Plan B involved writing by hand using a sharp ended crochet-hook-like gizmo called a stylus. However, as they easily tore through the sheet, you’d have to get a new one and start again. Therefore: typewriter was the preferred device.

Once carefully mounted – wrinkle-free – on the roller of the Gestetner, each crank of the handle forced ultra-smear-able printers ink through the letter-shaped cuts onto a (usually ‘foolscap’) sheet of newsprint paper: and voila - your first copy! Two cranks of the handle equalled two copies; one-hundred cranks, a hundred copies and so on.

On one occasion, time was running out and 250 copies were required. A combination of a crank-speed that wouldn’t have been out of place on an Americas Cup boat and the principal’s edict that “the inspectors are coming so all you blokes will need to wear ties!” Unfortunately, that totally useless item of clothing got caught in the roller of the madly-whirring Gestetner: all but wrenching my head off my shoulders (so not for the first time -  the lack of a visible neck paid-off).

If the Gestetner wasn’t an option, the fall-back technology was the Banda machine. You wrote or typed on ordinary (often ‘quarto’) paper with a sort of carbon paper under it. The ink from the carbon transferred to the back of the page your were writing on (“Press firmly using a ball-point pen”).

You then clamped the top of that original into the roller of the Banda and once again started cranking; albeit at a stately two cranks per copy - it had to be a stately speed as, with each lap of the roller, the master-copy picked up a layer of methylated spirits which wet the ink sufficiently to transfer the print onto the next sheet coming through. Too fast = big illegible, purple smears (because both the meths and the ink were purple): useless - so you started again.  

If you were an organised soul, you printed the Banda stuff for your class at least twenty-four hours in advance of needing to hand it out (even then, there could be the odd issue). If the hand-out was fresh off the press when you gave it out; you and your class immediately faced a new set of challenges. To put it mildly: fresh-off-the-press Banda notices stunk. They positively reeked of methylated spirits. This smell was more-or-less guaranteed to divide a class of kids into three, more-or-less the same sized groups:

1 Those who were totally unmoved by the smell and were, therefore, no problem;

2  Those who loved the smell - immediately burying their noses in it and failing to hear anything at all discussed in the following ten minutes – so a  problem as you had to repeat yourself. More than on

And then there were these guys; my personal favourites:

3  The kids who absolutely hated the smell - to the point where they’d sit with hands firmly clamped over mouths and noses, quietly baulking, retching, heaving ...or worse - oh the disruption. Because meths was also the smell of the dental clinic - “the murderhouse”- always said as one word. No amount of re-focussing strategizing worked with these kids. It just took time for the gagging noises to stop. Not an easy cycle to break, as one kid doing it usually set off another desperately trying not to.


Yes - it really did pay to do your printing a day before you had to take it into the classroom...

All these memories came flooding back this week when the interweb went down for a hunk of Monday morning. Everything that needed doing at the start of the day, involved the need to be able to get online (as was the case in most classrooms).

Fortunately, a Plan B eventually appeared out of the mists and so it was that this – the first part of this week’s newsletter – got done the “old fashioned way”. Typed and stored on an old-fashioned hard drive. (Apparently) “that’s like, so history!”

Harrumph - not even a Gestetner to fall back on! Why, back in my day, we would’ve just grabbed a stylus and……oops! (See above).



Friday 15 May 2015

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“Settling down” is just one of the challenges kids can face when they head to school each morning. If the alarm has failed to go off, everyone has overslept, so you end up bolting out of bed at twenty to nine; hollering at the kids to get up and get going too: chances are their stress levels are as high as yours - particularly if they have been slow to get going and you have had to do some extra-specially-hollering and encouraging: “If you kids don’t get a moving we’re never ever going to Gran’s again!” (or whatever the weekend promised weekend action was).

It’s peculiar wee beastie, the human brain. When the brown stuff hits the whirly thing, all brains react the same way. All brains - yours and your kids’ too. That elevated anxiety, stressed feeling is generated by the hormone cortisol - the chemical that comes flooding into your brain every single time you get a fright (eg: waking late on a work / school day). It’s purpose is to put your body on high alert - ready to to fight, flee or just freak out - whatever the circumstances may warrant.

Brains have been that way since the days when our early ancestors had to consider running from the chasing packs of dangerous animals; it’s a key part of our ‘survival’ mechanism.

If the situation gets worse, adrenalin - the hormone that powers your freak/fight/flight reaction - also floods your system. Result: you’re hyper-alert and your heart rate is anything but calm. Furthermore, your ability to process information not relevant to your immediate survival is nil (the brain focusses on the aforesaid freak/fight/flight; so thoughts like  “did I turn off the iron / make the lunches / change my undies?” just won’t feature. A kid coming to school (or you going to work) needs a settled brain before any real ability to focus, recall, or really think will be possible.

The cure? Having fun will cause the brain to release serotonin and dopamine - the “feel good” hormones  Exercise and/or  laughter are the two simplest remedies. A run, a game, a funny video clip; teachers use all of these activities at the start of the day to help kids’ brains to settle. Try it - it’ll work (for you and your kids).



Friday 08 May 2015

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One of the things that effective schools do is constantly keep looking for ways to improve what happens for kids. There are various ways of doing this:

  • responding to constructive feedback from trustees, parents, colleagues, kids;

  • members of staff individually undertaking extra study;

  • participating in professional development contracts;

  • talking to / working with or visiting other like-minded schools;

  • “having a go” - trialling and refining new ideas; and

  • being smart enough to know that there is no silver bullet; no magic wand and (like red wine or blue cheese): good things take time.

With all that in mind; these are busy weeks. Just this week, Helen Kennedy and Carolyn Williams visited St Joseph’s school in Oamaru; and Anderson’s Bay and St Clair schools in Dunedin. Also part of our constant quest to further develop our modern learning environment - which isn’t just about the buildings (a good job in our case) - on Wednesday, Raiha Johnson and I attended a 7.30am breakfast seminar in Dunedin (followed by a three-hour workshop): “Modern pathways to raising Māori achievement”.

The early indications are that the messages both ‘tour parties’ have brought back are very similar:

  • teaching practices at Waverley Park School are already well down the right tracks; and (just as importantly)

  • there are still improvements to make and new things to think about.

The “thinking” about what and how we do stuff is important; we take it very seriously. Our teachers regularly meet to discuss, develop and improve teaching practice. They read, talk about and trial new techniques and new ideas. They maintain reflective professional journals (online so I get to read them…) where they record their professional thinking; and improving teaching practice is built into the performance appraisal processes for everyone.


We learn stuff as a group of teachers too - targeting improving our kids’ writing (particularly those who struggle) is a good example. We have worked as part of a cluster of city schools (with Sacred Heart, Fernworth and St Patrick’s) on this common goal. A range of strategies and approaches to lifting kids’ achievement have been developed over the last two years: we now know more - about what works and what doesn’t - than we did when we started two years ago. Not surprisingly - there  is no one thing that makes a difference; but there are a lot of little things that combined, can improve the writing of a kid willing to strive.

And that’s what our staff do too - strive. Strive to make a difference; strive to have an impact; strive to make sure that, like our kids, they too are truly “Living the learning.”



Friday 01 May 2015 

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Remember when autumn used to last more than a couple of weeks? Anyway….

The Anzac Day dawn parade saw a healthy turnout of Invercargill people; the Waverley Park well-represented among them. Thank you to everyone who brought their kids down - it was widely appreciated.


The senior school inquiry focuses on NZ history at Gallipoli; in many ways, Anzac Day was just the start of the inquiry. The kids have visited the WW1 museum  set up at Southland Boys’ High School (thanks SBHS for hosting us); and the outstanding exhibition at the Southland Museum and a visit to the cenotaph are still on the kids’ ‘to do’ list. (Thank you to the parents assisting with these trips - the kids get a lot out of them).



Kia ora Parents and Whānau,

We are really looking forward to catching up with Māori whānau old and new at the Māori Whānau meeting on Wednesday 6th May at 6pm in Room 11.

You are welcome to bring your child/children along to the meeting with you :)

We really do value your input into what goes on with YOUR child and we genuinely want you to come along and share your ideas.

The meeting will be a great opportunity for Māori whānau and our Māori teaching team (Raiha, Wiki, Justine and Renee) to meet each other, make some connections, and discuss our plans for this year.

Ngā mihi mahana - warm regards


Raiha Johnson, Wiki Burdon, Justine Marley & Renee McGinnis


Further condolences…

Just a last week’s newsletter came off the printer, we got word that our friend and former colleague Mrs Carolyn Olphert had lost her battle with cancer.

Carolyn “officially retired” from our staff in 2013; but that didn’t stop her coming in and out of the school as she continued to assist us by working with a variety of kids who needed that little bit extra. Our Facebook page posting was a brief and really inadequate acknowledgement of what she meant to our school; but then nothing we could say would really have done her impact justice:

“These are difficult days. Our thoughts and prayers are very much with the family of Carolyn Olphert. A much loved and highly respected member of our teaching team for many years; Carolyn was the consummate professional. Even in her supposed retirement, she was still in and out of school helping kids and colleagues alike. Her positive attitude, sense of humour and calm consistent manner will be sorely missed.

We have lost a colleague but the Olphert whanau have lost a dearly loved wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, sister and aunt: we know that because we have seen that love manifested many times over the years. Arohanui Olpherts. Kia kaha, kia manawanui.”

The fact that over 2000 people viewed it in 48 hours says it all.



Friday 24 April 2015  

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And so term two is underway - welcome back! We are pleased to especially welcome new families to the Waverley Park community; we trust that the first week has not been too taxing for your - and our newest - Waverley kids: all of whom had settled really quickly on Monday (by about 9.03am). Fortunately by then, the staff had too.


It’s been a hard old week or two for some in our school community.  Raiha Johnson’s dad Ben Blair passed away in the first week of the holidays, after a period of illness. It was a privilege and an honour to be part of the Waverley Park group that visited Raiha’s whanau at the marae to pay our heartfelt respects.  

We extend our heartfelt condolences to our front office’s Jacqui McAllister and family on the passing of her step-sister earlier this week. We also offer our sympathy and support to the family of Ray Cooper who also died this week. Up until this year, Ray was the  Go-Bus driver who picked up and delivered our wheelchair boys each day. The owner of a well-honed sense of humour, he was also noted for the genuine care and concern he showed towards our kids and those who work with them.

Board of Trustees meeting…

Next  meeting is at 7.00pm on Tuesday night - all welcome.