Monday 9th December 2019

Telling My Story. Chapter Twelve. 1988-1998. 114/2019.

Telling My Story. Chapter Twelve. 1988-1998. 114/2019.

Denyse’s Memoir: Telling My Story.

In early 2017 I finally decided it was “time to tell my story”. I have been employed  in education for decades and lived in different areas of New South Wales with my family and then went on to marry and become even more familiar with other parts of N.S.W. beyond the Great Dividing Range. There are stories to tell. However, as time goes on, to keep aspects of the writing and photos private details are likely to be fewer.

For first time readers: These images are of me but taken at different times due to my oral cancer diagnosis around the same time I published the first part of my memoir. Nevertheless, I did continue a long time after that….and here is the link to chapters 1-11. I start this chapter in 1988 and ending in 1998. A LONG time, with a lot on but come on along!

1988. Appointed as Deputy Principal (non-teaching) in a Mt Druitt K-6 School.

We drove to the school to check it out before my appointment began the following January.

 

The hard work of Lists One, Two, Three, doing a degree part-time, teaching full-time, leading a K-2 Department AND applying for roles now on Merit Selection paid off. I had an offer to become a DP at a large school where I would be non-teaching. This meant a “load off” after 18 years of teaching, learning and leading but I was to be thrown in somewhat in a deep end in a huge time of change within NSW Department of Education systems and schools.

At home one child was still in primary school and one was in the last years of high school. My husband was well and had some work where he was flexible as he was a home-based tutor and a cabinet maker with his own small workshop. Not only could I feel ‘free’ to keep on with my career challenges but also to have flexibility at home was vital as I was learning a whole new role, school culture and working with a largely traditionally minded staff and senior executive including the principal.

Two things I was glad about: no smoking in school grounds came in that year AND the smokers on the staff (the principal was one) had to go outside the grounds to do so (not, phew, in his office as it would have been the year before) AND there was a great new executive staff who had arrived with me for the K-2 part of the school and we hit it off.

Of course, the year might remind those who can remember that it kicked off in Australia in January as the year of the Bicentenary. 1788-1988. Nothing much in our ‘middle-class’ world then mentioned about the way in which Australia was settled by white  Europeans….nor about the original Australians. There were ferry races on Sydney Harbour and much to celebrate with the green and gold.

One of my new colleagues suggested we begin our Masters of Education via Distance Ed as our Dept of Education was supplying scholarships where our fees would be paid. So, yep, signed up for that too. I appear to LIKE being busy.

I need to add, I loved working in this community which was different to any others of my career to that point and I learned a lot from colleagues, families and the children.

I stayed in that one school for TEN years. There were a few reasons why!

Highlights of My Story: 1988-1998.

Health.

I was 38 when I became a D.P. and had already had signs of being not well in terms of my ‘womens’  health. I’d missed days of work due to pain and more so my GP sent me to a Specialist who on testing determined, if I wanted it, that a hysterectomy would not only alleviate the fibroids and other parts that were challenging my health but would give me a quality of life better than I had now. So, mid my first year, I had the full abdominal surgery as it was done then and needed 8 weeks off school to recover well enough to return to school. Best decision for my on-going health ever. I tapered to menopause pretty naturally over the next decades as the doctor left my ovaries intact.

Tertiary Study.

I won’t lie that doing an M.Ed and working full-time was easy but it was better after the five years of part-time study for the Bachelor of Education AND being a teaching A.P. The learning I did in terms of tertiary writing gave me experience that could be transferred into my work like as I could do submissions and applications for funding well. I learned the lingo and we had success. My M.Ed. assignments were still sent in by mail but I used a Commodore 64 at home. My colleague and I had to attend a Residential School in Wagga at Charles Sturt University for a week and it was paid for by the Dept of Education. Very fortunate and we got to engage in tutes and discussions. The year we graduated we both went with our families and for me, it was my first and only time at a Graduation Ceremony and it was very special. I highly recommend at least one if you do tertiary study. And in terms of technology, it was at this school I became a convert to Apple Mac. It’s stayed! Even though in my other school where I was principal it was all P.C.

Family Matters.

I can barely remember specifics but those late 1980s and early 1990s were huge ones for our children. Without writing too much as I have to be careful of personal matters and privacy. One went off to high school, one did the H.S.C. and got into University. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, but elected teaching after a B.A. and has indeed used her degree. The younger one found school a challenge as he neared the senior years, and whist very gifted, school did not work for him, so he left and started manual labour jobs (which he loved) at the end of Year 11. Our daughter worked through Uni, still lived at home but by 21 moved out to make a home with her then boyfriend of some years. And some years later, became engaged. And, planned a wedding. Yes. Before Uni finished. Hosted our daughter’s wedding. It was a great day and evening in 1994.

Homes and Houses.

Somewhere in the mid 1990s when banks were bending over backwards to lend people money for houses we got caught up in the ‘hype’. We were earning well and living in a house that was in need (we thought then) of more space, even though it was only us two and our son. We had already added a pool, a second storey, and converted the garage but…instead of doing more there (and over-capitalising as they say) we bit that bullet of trust and all things future centred and sold the original home …..to build in a totally new area of north western Sydney. Now me wishes past me had not done this.

But we did. Full-on. BUILT a one-0ff three level mansion in an exclusive suburb and moved in early 1994. What a beautiful house it was (still is!). In fact it looked great as the Bride-to-Be left it. However, this house really was not quite a home. Hard to explain but looking back, we over-stepped the mark financially and in terms of what we needed as a house. But wait, there’s more….

Fast forwarding somewhat we did not stay long in the ‘house we built’ as my husband who had since begun a business as a cabinet-maker was somewhat burdened by the nature of the building industry and its demands…of the builders he worked with and eventually ill-health took a terrible toll and he had to close the business and to repay debts, we had to sell the house. Sigh.

Our first home, somewhat changed but still how we left it in 1993 when we sold.

We built this home & my husband did all the internal fitouts. Alas, we sold within 4 years.

Becoming Grandparents. 

Life with two children (ours) was interesting as they are almost a generation apart. So, while one was still at high school – the other was married, a graduate of University and ready to become a mother. Life is rarely predictable of course. In fact, I would hasten to add, 1996 was for me, one of my worst years to live through until “this happened”. Our little Christmas gift of a beautiful baby granddaughter was balm on the sores of a year of not-great news for my husband’s health and business, a car accident for me where I was rear-ended, a broken bone finally discovered a few months too late in my left foot after a slip in a shop….and deciding that the role of principal at the school where I had been relieving principal was not one I wanted.

Christmas “Baby” grandchild…then and still! 22 years later.

Life’s Ups and Downs.

We knew we were in financial straits and the only way out was to sell the house we upgraded to in 1994 and we were, in some ways, grateful this was an answer. However, it was a decision I did not find I could manage easily and growing resentment and sadness about the how and what was also added to when my husband required major surgery again. I was never great when this was on – worrier me. Before this, we had liquidated the business and for anyone who has done that it means you pay off and out anyone you owe money to. Whilst I was not an active partner in the business I was there as a signatory and we had a lot of money called in. Selling the house and returning cars and vehicles on lease, repaying those we owed for short loan terms (family) meant, over the course that we were left with substantially less money to even consider purchasing another house.

Health Matters. 

Health is paramount of course and the years above, particularly towards the end of this era took a toll mentally and physically on me. I needed a time-out from work and funnily enough, my daughter had the offer to return to school for full-time teaching when her baby was 6 weeks old and I put my hand up because I was able to work part-time for a while. This respite from school matters helped me recover, even though it is very tiring caring for a baby I had amazing memories. My husband, ever the one to re-emerge from challenges, went back to teaching. It was a big ask but he found work in various schools casually, then permanently and our life settled enough for us to consider starting again. In a new house, in a new suburb. Always together in the good and not so good times, I needed to get on board with enthusiasm. I didn’t like where we were going but I did understand it was where we could afford. Life hey!

Moving On. 

Selling the lovely house, moving into a rental house (with no real air-con in the midst of summer) was almost cruel but we did it. I must say my husband’s courage, as he recovered from surgery and putting up with me (moody much?) is to be commended. I went back to full-time work as the non-teaching D.P. until, surprise….in early 1998 the school’s student population had dropped and after a long time out of the classroom, I would be back there for Day One 1998. I took this as a challenge and it sure did get me familiar with kids, class organisation and programming but it was short-lived and I was non-teaching again. With the ups and downs of student numbers, I felt I needed to take a look at my career path. I was in my late 40s and maybe I needed to move on. But to where?

I was appointed for the second half of 1998 to a new-to-me school as their Relieving Principal. It was a baptism of fire…as are many new roles but in this case, I had some good people to work with, even though I had a lot to learn. I was given a lovely farewell from my school of almost 10 years AND there I was. On the cusp of ‘where do I go’ in 1999.

But first.

A New House.

With employment for us both, and a reasonable deposit for 1998, we found a house/land package in North Western Sydney and chose our add-ons and hoped we could include a pool one day. We were back to a single storey, 4 bedroom house, 2 bathrooms (our son was still at home) but it was not quite the house we had left. Never mind, I had to get over that. We made some adjustments to the basic house and moved in at the end of Winter 1998.

What’s Next?

Oh gosh. 1999 proved to be big! But I will leave it here. The next chapter will be about the end of 1998 and into 1999.

Next Chapter: My first (and as it turned out only) role as a substantive principal and how health matters more than wealth.

Denyse.

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

For the first time, I have linked here too: GoodRandomFun

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

Copyright © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

 

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Gifts For Teachers. 46/51.#LifeTheWeek. 113/2019.

Gifts For Teachers. 46/51.#LifeTheWeek. 113/2019.

The end of the school year is nigh. Can I hear a YAY?

 

*teachers are exhausted…ask me how I know

*kids have had enough

*parents and carers….you tell me!

Some states have already commenced end of year holidays. Other still remain at school or at least the public schools are still operating.

Are you looking forward to:

  • No more early mornings.
  • No school lunches to pack.
  • No searching for a lost shoe/library book/hat/jacket/….despite the NAME being added

But wait, you also thought about getting a present for the class teacher or teachers didn’t you?

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I know there have been gift guides galore but if you want something directly from teachers..I have some here.

  • card or note is a great way to show appreciation
  • it is never “expected” to give a teacher a gift
  • Parents and children may decide that there is no reason for a gift or message & that’s fine too
  • Teachers who are parents had these thoughts about chocolate..some loved this, others said no thanks!

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  • personal notes, cards from parents and child ALWAYS a hit
  • gift vouchers up to $50 – NOT expected to be, UP to! There are limits for gifts under the Code of Conduct in NSW public schools. Check your school’s/system’s limits.
  • Popular ones include Myer, Target, Officeworks, Big W, Dymocks, ITunes, JB-HiFi…and more
  • homemade biscuits &  yummy treats.
  • stationery – many teachers are stationery-fans
  • A cup. A keep cup. Teachers are notorious cup-users. Maybe personalise it, but a lovely idea that gives and gives…

 

So, do you have some ideas or have you already sorted out what you are doing..if indeed you are!

I wrote parts of this post 3 years ago and not much has changed.

What I do see as a trend is that “wine” is the default gift. My view as someone who is not interested in “wine” per se is to leave alcohol out of the gift giving. Yet, more I see, I am in the minority. Maybe don’t assume wine or alcohol is liked or appreciated by all.

My go-to was always, if I could something I baked/made and a heartfelt card of appreciation. Always better too, if your child adds something that is a note of appreciation.

AND…

If you cannot afford a gift, do not stress. Please. Getting caught up in comparison at the school gate is not pleasant. No-one needs to know.

And, if your child’s teacher has not been one you wish to share a present with, do not.

No teacher expects a gift. Well, that was how it was when I was still in schools.

It’s almost a year since I received my ‘correct’ retirement medal from NSW Dept of Education. THAT was a gift and presentation I so appreciated.

Teacher and writer Polly Dunning wrote this on Sunday …food for thought about appreciation!

Back to you…did you make or buy a present for your teacher, your child’s teacher or maybe if you are a teacher, what did you receive?

Denyse.

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Next Week’s optional prompt is: 47/51 Do You Celebrate “zero” Birthdays? 25/11/19

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#LifeThisWeek. 29/51. Telling My Story. Chapter Eleven.1983-1987. 79/2019.

#LifeThisWeek. 29/51. Telling My Story. Chapter Eleven.1983-1987. 79/2019.

In keeping with the prompts here being optional, I am writing on a different topic to “Winter: Like/Loathe” as suggested for Life This Week 29/51. I am writing a new chapter in Telling My Story as I have neglected this part of my writing for some months.

Telling My Story. Chapter Eleven.1983-1987.

This time, with the image for Telling My Story, I am honouring what has happened to me in the time when I first started writing my story, which was abruptly interrupted by cancer. I then became well enough to continue the story, along with the continuation of my changing appearance thanks to oral cancer, and 4 surgeries and many trips to get me some teeth..over time! 

1983.

  • It was a rough first half- year for our family, particularly my husband who became very unwell and required surgery mid year. We had a young family, he was medically-retired, and I was working (teaching) full-time.
  • We (he!) got through thanks to his own strength and courage and it opened up some new parts of family life that we had not experienced for some time. Family holidays at the beach were back on the agenda as was a new-to-him backyard project of building some furniture for our daughter’s bedroom. More on that later.
  • My father retired from his work and whilst that did not directly affect us, it provided him and my mother with more time to enjoy their family, particularly their now four grandchildren. They also made the Gold Coast their ‘winter home’ for July and August, catching up with friends who had moved their permanently and enjoying the lifestyle away from the cold of Sydney. Each of the grandkids got to spend some time with them over the next few years, some even flying to join their grandparents.
  • I was back into teaching and eyeing off promotions into the next roles where I could put my hand up. I did, and was given a relieving role in a nearby school which then ended up being the first substantive role: Executive Teacher at Walters Rd P.S.

Dad and Mum: retired life: On the Gold Coast each winter.

1984.

  • Happy and busy family life. Whilst I was out to teach and lead part of the K-2 section of the school, my husband was the one at home, ably helping our daughter  settle into her first year at high school and our son into Kindergarten at the local public school. With his experience as a teacher and school leader, though medically-retired, my husband became P&C president for the years ahead and this was a great way to become involved again in education.
  • I was busy at my school and recall asking (and it happened) the NRL’s Parramatta Eels’ star, Peter Sterling, to come and read to the children for Book Week, showing them how “even footballers read” and he was delighted to do so.
  • Remember Wham? It was their season in the sun! We also started Morning Fitness at school with the K-2 kids and “I” taught a dance to “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”. Still think of that fun time!
  • But, time to move on! Why? Well, there was a new job, and at the second list level that I had earned and it was for me to become the substantive Assistant Principal at Seven Hills West P.S. Yes. I had already been there in an acting capacity for part of 1982 and now I was returning.

1985.

  • Assistant Principal roles are full-on! With full-time teaching responsibility and managing and leading a group of staff. In this case, an Infants Department of 7 classes and with an executive teacher to assist in the leadership. Located in a busy and relatively low socio-economic area of Sydney there were many challenges and rewards.
  • I worked for a very demanding principal who encouraged my leadership. I also ‘put my hand up’ for external roles to help gain a better understanding of how the then Metropolitan West area of Sydney was managed and to make a contribution. I became a member of the K-6 English committee and through involvement there was convinced by a senior educator that “now” was all about getting more qualifications to go further in our careers.
  • What she meant was, that as we were still two-year trained teachers, when the new and different promotion means would come in, then a person with a degree (Bachelor of Education) would have more training academically. I agreed. After soul-seatching and a decent discussion at home, it was agreed even with the kids that I would start my B.Ed. by distance ed. It was called by “correspondence” in those days.
  • On top of the three terms at school, I had two semesters at Uni. It was then via notes by mail, assignments sent back that way and it all happened out of the old Wagga Teachers College which became the Riverina Murray Institute of Higher Education.
  • I recall weekends which were me away from the kids, head down reading the reams of notes for the subjects, coming up with a draft and then TYPING it all on an electric typewriter and if all was well, it was posted.
  • They were tough times holding down the full-time job and studying and my husband had started his new at-home business tutoring children with learning needs.
  • Yet we managed. We did have a cleaner and at least Uni wasn’t 365 days a year.
  • Each January we took ourselves to a beach unit on the N.S.W, coast.
  • A somewhat sad year in our family too. My beloved Aunt died very suddenly after surgery went wrong. Mum was in shock for sometime after that. Dad’s mum had died from a stroke in her 80s earlier that year.
  • I remember too, that with a small legacy from my Aunt’s will, we got enough money to add a ‘toilet and washbasin’ to the now-study that was our double garage. Two loos! Luxury.

Our first home, did not have the addition until the late 1980s. The addition is above the garage which was always a play/work space of some kind.

1986.

  • This year was full-on and busy too as I continued the University work part-time, had a class and of course, led a department of teachers caring for the needs of the students which were many and varied.
  • It was time, I decided to “go for third list”. Not this year but the next. Back then, a long lead was highly recommended as the candidate for promotion not only had to be visited over some days in the school but had to hand in quite a series of folders with: my initiatives and programs, policies I had devised and how they were working, evidence of my professional learning and reading (here was where doing the degree was the best thing!)
  • I was incredibly fortunate to have the time to do this. I am aware that having my husband at home who worked on his small cabinet making projects at home & elsewhere during the day was available for our kids if need be, along with us living not too far from the school meant that I could be back home in the late afternoons for family dinners (I cooked) as he was often busy coaching young people.
  • There is much to be grateful for as I was living this life but I do recall how fraught I might get and I also know it was hard to deal with some issues both at school level which impacted me health wise. I know I had a great GP who listened to me and for a time I got some help from professionals. My irritable bowel syndrome kicked in around this stage of my life, and after all the tests it was deemed to be part of me. Sigh.
  • Passed Uni again this year as I did the year before. It was also the year (I think) I had to go to Wagga campus for a residential school. THAT for this girl was quite an experience and I was glad to drive home!

Assistant Principal

1987.

  • We got the family Christmas present of a Commodore 64 so after the games fun (Bomb Jack for the boys) I found I could type assignments…and print them out to send via the mail to Wagga. Still didn’t get the idea of how to make a draft so I was still copying my handwritten assignments.
  • Back to school also meant back to a new Boss, the principal who I had started with got a promotion and now, in the year I was going to ‘go for my third list’ I had a new female principal to work with. This is quite a big deal. “Back then” the Department of Education was changing big time as the governments of the day were shaking up their previously independent Depts of Education, Health and so on.
  • Merit selection, along with ensuring a fair mix of women in the workforce, at principal level was a major shift. Previously people like me who were in K-2 roles could not go for a K-6 principal role. The world in education in N.S.W. was ….gobsmacked if you were a man, and applauded if you were female (ok that may be some exaggeration but it was H U G E).
  • Lists are very hard to explain but ‘back then’ there were levels of promotion in N.S.W. public education called Lists. They really were actual lists because your name, if you were successful in your inspection, got added to a DATED list and there you stayed until you got a school position where there was no-one more senior to you. The actual lists came out published each year (it was called the stud book – male oriented much?)
  • Women like me could only go as far as 3rd list this time round and even if I had wanted to go for 4th list by the time I was at my next school, the whole process changed to: merit, equal opportunity…you know the rest.
  • In preparation for List Three inspection I had full on classroom responsibilities to have made ‘perfect’, to record all I had made via policies and planning written up and the staff understanding of it along with enacting it, could lead subject (English was mine) based learning for teachers to improve student outcomes and much much more. I also had to be up to date with all of the N.S.W. Department of Education policies and be prepared to answer questions on their implementation at our school. My staff also needed to know what we had done together for improving learning and they were expected, if asked, to be ‘inspected too’ so the inspector could see evidence of my leadership.
  • I was also continuing to do University work….and attend district meetings and so on.
  • I recall being very stressed about it but also wanting it to happen. I was really, really ready.
  • The process was over 3 full days. The District Inspector watched me teach, asked the children, questions, read their books, looked through my documentation, observed me leading a staff meeting, visited other classes and more. Full-on alright!
  • Mum and Dad came over and cooked us a baked dinner somewhere in the middle. It was so lovely of them to do that but my gut was not happy.
  • Nevertheless, the final day came and “Denyse I am prepared to put your name forward to be placed on the third list, congratulations.”
  • I think I was very happy…but oh so tired and relieved. Thank you I said. Then….
  • Some weeks later the Assistant Area Director had to spend a day with me doing similar inspection to confirm that, “Yes, I was eligible to be place on the third promotions list”.
  • But what did I want to do next?

Latter part of 1987.

  • The part-time degree was nearing its end and whilst I did not go to the graduation for this one, I was very proud to receive the testamur in 1989.
  • Our daughter was now in Year 10 and just as term 4 started (I think we just went from three terms to four, if anyone remembers, let me know in the comments) and she caught glandular fever. She was so very unwell she had liver complications and basically stayed on the couch. It did however lift enough for her to attend the Year 10 Formal but I will never forget how tiny she was and that GF stayed with her for a very long time.
  • N.S.W. schools also started the new Foundation style of handwriting. I thought it would be hard for me as a left-hander but it went well.
  • Before we knew it we were inundated by Handwriting books at the shops and from then on, every parent who ‘wanted their child to excel’ would pick up one of those books…which are still around. Everywhere.
  • So, on the way to promotion…where was I? Right at the cusp of all the changes. I could choose to be a principal if I wanted to seek merit selection to that position or I could go down the path of non-teaching deputy principal in a large K-6 school and that’s where I wanted to be.
  • How I got there was this: fill in the many forms, list ALL of the schools I would want to be appointed to, and attend a six person interview at Regional Office to answer generic questions for either principal or deputy positions and then wait. To see if I passed.
  • I did. Late November, I found I had been appointed Deputy Principal to a large Mt Druitt K-6 School called Shalvey.
  • I was on my way. Off class, and I admit I was glad after 18 years and onto leadership.

 

 

What a story comes next…..

I do need a break! This was quite some post to recall as much as I could and I admit, checking with my husband a few times.

It’s the bi-centenary next time…and more!

I do hope you got to the end and did not feel too tired. They were busy years.

Denyse.

 

 

You can link up something old or new, just come on in. * Please add just ONE post each week! * Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not. * Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do! * Check out what others are up to by leaving a comment because we all love our comments, right! * Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere. I don’t have a ‘button’ so a link in text is fine! *Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog and the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. * THANK you for linking up today!

Next Week’s Optional Prompt: 30/51 Share Your Snaps #6. 29/7/19

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Women Of Courage Series Begins. Denyse. 52/2019.

Women Of Courage Series Begins. Denyse. 52/2019.

Recently I wrote about the story behind Women of Courage series to begin here and this is that post.

It got me thinking that “I” should tell one of my stories first.

This is my story of courage. And, surprisingly as it was to my husband when I mentioned the topic, it is NOT about getting cancer.

          What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

I have faced quite a few challenges in my almost seventy years of living! One was a cancer diagnosis but I have written about that many times. I will continue to write about it, as time goes on. This one is when I chose courage over comfort and decided to apply for K-6 Principal roles back in 1998. I know we are talking a LONG time ago, but my memories are very clear.

  • I loved my role as a non-teaching Deputy Principal as it meant the best of both parts of my experience was used: supporting teachers in the classroom and being able to assist families in relation to their children. Being ‘on class’ as I had been as an Assistant Principal in previous years made that other part of what I did well much more difficult. So, from 1988 until ‘decision time’ in mid 1998 I was employed and happy to be so, even though the school and its community was in a low socio-economic area of Sydney, we knew as teachers we made a difference. That is why I taught.
  • However, the school population started to fall. That happens in high-growth areas when initial movements into a suburb settle. I was told that my role as a non-teaching D.P. was being taken from the school’s staffing entitlement. That meant, go on class or move to another school. I did stay and go on class and that was a special time because a young student in my class had cancer and within the first six months he died. I was honoured to speak about him at his funeral. Mid-year I got an offer to become a relieving Principal in the wider area where this current school was located.
  • Torn but confident of my decision, I left my school of almost 10 years, and went to the newer one as their relieving Principal. Now, that DID take some courage. I admit, it was such a change of role, even though I had held a relieving Principal role back at my other school, that I wondered at times “what have I done?”
  • But over the two terms, I could sense that my confidence (and courage!) to continue in the ultimate school leadership role was there. But wait, what about after 1998? It seems like destiny or something like that moved me to seek a substantive Principal’s role starting in 1999 because…caught where I was, I had been appointed the next D.P. at the school where I was already relieving Principal and it began to feel like a demotion….so I garnered all my courage and….
  • Applied for substantive Principal roles via merit selection.

 

         How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

  • Doing this did change me because I “had” to make the decision to move forward not to stay still or even go backwards. I had those people who worried about me a little bit (hello Dad) stepping up but ultimately I KNEW it was this or….The other was not an option.
  • I admit, it was hard work, leading a school of over 600 students till the end of that year, AND preparing for applications to new schools as their principal. I ‘got through’ to I think four interviews and was unsuccessful. I was not discouraged, which surprised me.
  • I did (and do) have more courage than I thought.

 

         Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

  • What I learned is to keep on going.
  • The roles I missed out on I took recommendations and feedback from the panel convenors who then could have been my future bosses as they were District Superintendents.
  • Then, I got one very helpful feedback session over the phone and as I knew an interview was happening, I used more ‘tricks’ that were legal of course…and I have recommended these to many since.
  • One was to look at the application and the school’s list of qualities wanted in the successful applicant and write up some likely questions and have your answers written when you go to pre-interview 10 minutes with the questions.
  • Take that with you into the interview, use it to glance at as it is an aid for memory. Of course, make eye-contact with the panel and in particular the person asking the questions but don’t be afraid to add to your responses later.
  • The most important part I learned from this experience was that I was:
  1. brave enough
  2. good enough
  3. knew what I was doing
  4. had a range of skills, knowledge and experience that helped guide others
  5. human
  6. unable to sustain my emotional health during the fourth year as principal (I have written about that here, here, here AND here)
  7. and was COURAGEOUS enough to recognise my health came before my job.

 

      Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

  • Yes I do, from this position of some 16 years later. But I still faced many life challenges where I needed to be reminded I HAD courage and needed to use it more. I know, once I managed to get over the shame of leaving the role I loved, I was much more able to see I WAS courageous. I gave it all my best shot and shame is not a helpful emotion. It did take some years of counselling and reading to achieve that level of confidence and courage.
  • When I KNEW I had some of my courage return, I then applied for and taught in schools, part-time and English as a Second Language, for six years and that was part of my healing.

     Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

You have more within than you realise it. Don’t listen to the naysayers or the negative voice in your head. Take the first step towards whatever your goal is. Sometimes the first step is the hardest…but then, there is no turning back! Onward!

This leads to the next weeks and months ahead where I have quite a few Women of Courage to share their stories.

If you too would like to share your story, please tell me in the comments and I will forward you what to complete to be a part!

Looking forward to each Wednesday!

Denyse.

Joining with Sue and Leanne here for Wednesday’s Midlife Share The Love linky,

With Leanne on Thursday for Lovin Life link up here AND with Alicia on Fridays for Open Slather here.

Thank you all for your link ups.

Copyright © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Starting School and Pre-School. 5/2019.

Starting School and Pre-School. 5/2019.

This post is being linked on two Australian sites this week, commencing 21 January 2019. If it is something helpful for a family you know, please share it. I know some states of Australia are ‘back to school’ this week! In N.S.W. Government Schools, the first day back for returning students is Wednesday 30 January 2019. New students to the school should call their new school or check the school’s website. Kindergarten (Prep/Preppies/Reception) kids starting will have been given separate starting days and times. As for those families where children are starting at  Family Day Care, Early Childhood Centres and Pre-Schools, I send you my very best wishes, and in many ways, THIS message is for you.

Once the January calendar clicks over to today: 15 January then it is onward, downward or upward (you choose) about:

Back to School.

Yes, we have already been to Officeworks/Big W/KMart and we are shopped out. 

We have about 2 weeks left (in an ideal world) sleeping in, lazy days at home, fun days at the beach and maybe even a holiday away. But not so  much for the teachers.

Already school car parks are filling up with staff attending meetings, fixing up classrooms and generally gearing up for education  year 2019. I also see many via Instagram who are making resources to share. Teachers are very much like that.

It is one of the reasons I love(d) being a teacher and I miss the collegiality.

My second classroom: 1972. No air-con then in NSW North West!

But enough about me.

About Starting School (or Pre-School).

For all my years of blogging I have written about this special time in a family’s life. Last year this was my post. 

My blogging friend and parent, Kell Kelly at All Mum Said has written a post about readiness for school too, here.

And in those years of blogging I was always careful to understand and acknowledge for many parents it can be hard to entrust your child to others. This may be at Day Care, a Pre-School or Starting School.

Reading this book to young children even when they started school helps with sharing their stories. A teacher-librarian knows how this helps in adjustment to ‘big’ school’.

This was why, quite some time ago, my blogging friend Kelly Exeter, agreed to make me this. I love this letter. Kelly has a special place in my heart (and in others of course) as she and her family were involved in a freak car accident in January. The horrific outcome is that her husband lost his life after time on life support. The blogging community is shocked at this most unexpected news.

So to say thanks to Kel for her generosity way back, I am remembering her and the children (all unharmed) right now and into the future. Sending my love.

I worked for and was part of the N.S.W. Department of Education from 1970 until 2010. I am now a 100% supporter as a retired teacher and principal. I am loving the increased connections via social media.

After my Retirement Medal presentation by Murat Dizdar (Deputy Secretary of Education) I was joined by him and my daughter (a teacher/librarian) for this special photo.

Here is a great little video that is happening now.

I wish all of you: back-to-schoolers, new-to-schoolers ( I have a granddaughter starting!)  and reluctant-to-schoolers the very best. That is for the teachers too!

One tiny message more: just take a few photos on your child’s first day(s) as there is enough emotion in the day itself..and, if you can also not talk about how much you will miss him/her in front of the child or even telling your child as well. I know of an instance where a child was not settling into school as expected because “I am worried about Mummy who says she is sad I am going to school.”

Education and schooling rocks.

One last link from NSW Department of Education : Check out our handy back to school countdown for all your first day tips and tricks: https://bit.ly/2SCszUs

Denyse.

Joining in with Sue here and Leanne for MidLifeShareTheLove linky on Wednesday.

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My Retirement Medal Presentation from N.S.W. Department of Education. 2018.132.

My Retirement Medal Presentation from N.S.W. Department of Education. 2018.132.

This day, which was only last week, was a long time coming. And yet, I did not ever expect it to happen as like so many things in life when they do not quite work out as they might, we move on. Reluctantly and with some sadness at the time but we move on.

I did. At least I thought I had until one very interesting twitter thread back in October 2018 between me, my principal friend from Merrylands East P.S. John Goh and the Deputy Secretary, School Operations and Performance, N.S.W. Department of Education Murat Dizdar. Essentially I responded to a tweet from John who said he had not realised the message on a retirement medal is “Service to Students” and I tweeted back to him and Murat that “yes it says that on mine, but it’s a pity it has the wrong date”. In an instant…twitter is like that, Murat tweeted, email me Denyse and “we’ll fix it”.

Oh MY!

But first….

It started much before that and if you have read my post here in early September and then here, here and here about having to let go of my role as a principal due to ill-health in 2003 then you will know more. I will add, that through the kindness of the school where I did resume classroom teaching from 2004 until the beginning of 2010 I did re-receive my original retirement medal (dated incorrectly)  at a staff morning tea.

This year as readers (and I) know cancer and recovery has taken my time. I decided to also let N.S.W. Teachers’ Federation know I would not continue my membership and they wrote a kind letter. Since I was not able to attend NSW Retired Primary Principals’ events I opted out of paid membership. It felt like letting go of a very special part of me but I am practical and thought…life moves on.

There was always something MISSING. I could feel it but would dismiss it and then, on Wednesday 12th December 2018 I got what it was! Not as much the medal, although wonderful of course in its correct form, but the validation, appreciation and understanding from current education personnel:

  • this man in my photo, Murat who holds the second most senior role in the ‘Department’ and who CARED enough about my career ending not as well as it might have…to ensure that I had a special morning.

 

  • the morning tea was held at the new headquarters of N.S.W. Department of Education in Parramatta after the original building and place I knew well as 33 Bridge Street was closing to become a hotel.
  • I was initially asked to come alone, and regret in many ways not asking for my husband to attend but I got caught up in other matters and did not do so, sadly
  • our daughter, a teacher-librarian and teacher with the same employer for over 18 years got leave for the morning to come and watch her Mum and she made a little video to bring home
  • the speech was casual but hit the spot. It was amazing to listen to the list of schools and know I had taught and lead in them for almost 40 years
  • in fact my day of starting teaching, not on the new medal was, 27.01.1970 and my date of retirement was 26.01.2010. ONE day short of 40 years!
  • but wait, there is more, back in the days of my career starting, everything was managed manually in terms of leave, starting at a new school and applications for new roles, so a request for my documents from the archives at Kingswood was lodged I have a copy
  • to see, on this some of the story of my career before more sophisticated record-keeping came in was so nostalgic

  • to have around 20 people attend my morning tea from the Department who were so respectful and congratulatory in our conversations was such a bright part of my day

This is a copy of Murat Dizdar’s speech for which I am very grateful.

Welcome to Country: we meet on the homelands of the Darug people…

DENYSE JENNIFER WHELAN “Teacher 4 ever”

Let me introduce, Denyse Whelan, and her daughter Katie… Welcome to Parramatta!

Denyse is a lifelong learner and educator and also a prolific blogger and technical expert across all social media platforms.

Now retired, Denyse started her long career in 1970 and was a K-6 teacher, deputy principal, school principal, university tutor, and ESL teacher of children and adults.

Denyse managed and led two schools in low-socio economic areas of western Sydney as relieving principal. When appointed as principal she led a large school with mainstream students, a special education support unit, 2 ‘opportunity classes’ (GAT) and an Autism Spectrum Satellite Class.

Denyse has given more than four decades of educational leadership to staff and students of NSW and is a staunch advocate of public education. Her range of expertise was developed across the state in many schools…

  • Barraba Infants – Rural North
  • Fairfax Public School – Rural North
  • Hillston Infants School – Rural South and West
  • Weilmoringle Public School – Rural North
  • Cherrybrook Infants – Metropolitan North
  • Jasper Road Public School – Metropolitan North
  • Walters Road Infants School – Metropolitan North
  • Seven Hills West Infants School – Metropolitan North
  • Shalvey Public School – Metropolitan North – Deputy Principal
  • Rooty Hill Public School – Metropolitan North – Principal
  • Richmond Public School – Regional North – Principal
  • Hebersham Public School – Metropolitan North – classroom teacher (casual/temp)
  • Kellyville Ridge Public School – Metropolitan North – classroom teacher (casual/temp)
  • Lalor Park Public School – Metropolitan North – classroom teacher (casual/temp)
  • Hassall Grove Public School – Metropolitan North – classroom teacher (casual/temp)

Last year in May 2017 Denyse was diagnosed with cancer in her mouth. After a considerable number of surgeries and invasive treatments, Denyse now has a reason to smile. We are honoured to have Denyse with us today to acknowledge her service to the students of NSW.

With reference to Denyse’s Instagram hashtag she is indeed, a “# teacher 4 ever” and it is a privilege for us to be able to acknowledge her long and successful career.

I have great pleasure to award you with this medal on behalf of all employees of the Department of Education, and the families and communities of our great public schools.

Our daughter, Katie, to the left of me.

  • It was lovely to get to know people I knew from twitter and they were telling me how much my continued support of N.S.W. Public Education and Schools means to them. Wow. Sometimes we do not know we make a difference.

 

  • I can tell, from what I experienced, that there has been a shift. One of great personal connections with us all and in a tweet later on the evening of this day, Murat tweeted

    “@DenyseWhelan1 you will always be a member of our  education family”.

  • This, in particular, changed so much of my years of thinking I was no longer relevant nor my service as an educator was appreciated. In fact, Murat quoted me in a tweet: “I feel so valued” and that is true.

Now, I have officially been recognised, thanked and received my retirement medal that is it. Right? No, wrong.

I am now keener than ever to contribute, support, engage and tell my education stories if they help. In fact, I have been invited back to a Teach Meet here in March 2019! I thought I was done with Teach Meets after my last appearance but it seems, as I have in my Instagram Profile: #teacher4ever

I have re-joined my retired colleagues in N.S.W. Retired Primary Principals’ group and may now be able to attend functions now the cancer treatments are fewer. How good that will be. I realised yesterday how much I miss education-chats. I wore my Primary Principals’ pin from my years as a principal on the day and also my N.S.W. Teachers’ Federation one given in recognition of service.

After thanking Murat Dizdar, whose own education story can be found here, this came in response:

I am so pleased that we were rightfully able to recognise your contribution to Public Education with a morning tea in the presence of your daughter at our Parramatta office.

Now I am taking back my rightful place as a K-6 Retired Principal – N.S.W. Public Schools.

Amazing what a difference this has made for me.

Do you have  memories of your days at school as a student, parent, teacher or leader to share?

Denyse.

Joining with Sue and Leanne here for Midlife Share The Love link up and Leanne and friends here for Lovin’Life linky.

 

 

 

 

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November Notes #5. 2018.125.

November Notes #5. 2018.125.

I went to a million (give or take) in-service courses as a teacher/principal.

I think they are called “professional learning” now and I also know they “count” towards accreditation each year.

I also devised and delivered many as both a teacher and University tutor and Adult Educator.

So what is this about in relation to my final November notes?

It’s how my personal development was & is enhanced by having cancer.

I am aware I have written at some length about the processes I have learned behaviour-wise and they are here, on the page “Denyse and Her Cancer Story”.

What I will do now is write about my changes in behaviour and attitude and how this can be linked to my cancer diagnosis. To make it easier and for me to see the changes, it will be in photos.

  • I gained independence
  • I became much less anxious and fearful following my diagnosis and subsequent BIG surgery
  • I tried new things with greater ease than ever before
  • I knew that to follow the processes and trust in the professionals, I would be OK.
  • I sometimes had to challenge the negative voice inside that wanted it all “done and now”
  • I found calm in more ways than I realised: particularly by going outside, into nature and doing art.

And then more:

  • As I already knew from the experiences of ‘exposure therapy’ the more I did the more I could do with increased confidence
  • Things do not occur linearly nor with ease and of course there were (still are at times) so tears that spill over and some worries
  • What is different now is how quickly I recover and re-group
  • It feels so much better for me to be a calmer person who is less afraid to travel, meet up with friends old and new and see greater times ahead
  • I can also put the “cancer voice” back in its box with relative ease by using my thinking strategies well.
  • I no longer try to ‘case manage’ anyone else’s behaviour.
  • I accept with great assurance that not only am I doing the best I can, so are most people
  • I am much more likely now to reach out a hand in friendship and care rather than recoil because of the anxiety and fear based on social engagements and effects of IBS.

And this is why and how having cancer helped me grow. It is a learning process of course. However, I am loving how my life is now and what I have gained back from this past 18 months living with a cancer diagnosis.

There is such a phenomenon called Post-Traumatic Growth. Article can be found here.

This resonates with me:

Types of personal growth

People may experience different types of change while coping with cancer, including:

  • Improved relations with others. Living with cancer may increase feelings of closeness or intimacy with family or friends. It may make it easier to connect with others who have had a traumatic event.
  • New life experiences. Having cancer may change your priorities, causing you to make different life choices. You may be motivated to make a career change, overcome a fear, or fulfil a life goal.
  • A greater appreciation for life. A cancer survivor may have an increased regard for life’s value or a new sense of vulnerability to death. This awareness may help you appreciate the world in new ways.
  • A sense of personal strength. Living with cancer can help you develop increased mental strength and a sense of empowerment. You can be proud of what you have accomplished.
  • Spiritual development. Some people living with cancer find they gain an increased interest in practicing religion or adding spiritual depth to their daily lives.

Having post-traumatic growth does not mean that you have completely overcome the stress and other feelings about having cancer. Growth and suffering can happen at the same time. In fact, most people who report post-traumatic growth also report having struggles. A person may grow in one area of their life and not another, or in a number of areas at different times.

I have been incredibly fortunate of course to have the surgeries and treatments and I never downplay cancer but as an educator I know what it has taught me and continues to teach me.

Have you had experiences that have changed part of your life and your outlook?

Please share!

Denyse.

Joining in with Leanne for Lovin Life linky here.

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Telling My Story. Chapter Eight. 1976-1977. 2018.124.

Telling My Story. Chapter Eight.1976-1977.  2018.124.

 

Dear Readers,

This is the eighth instalment in Telling My Story. I hope that you are enjoying the blasts from my pasts. I am finding your comments very supportive. This chapter takes us through the beginning of  two years, namely, 1976-1977. You might consider what you were doing then or even if you were alive. I know! It IS over 4o years ago. Are you ready?

But first, let me remind you….I started telling this story almost 2 years ago. Then there was a slight long break while I dealt with the matter of oral cancer. By the few times I wrote though I was smile-added back again!

Photo (#1) For Telling My Story.

Photo (#2) post major cancer surgeries.

Photo #3 for Telling My Story. Post Upper Teeth Prosthesis.

A Teaching Career Means a Move or Three.

By the end of 1975, my clever husband had earned what was called “First List” in the then promotion systems of N.S.W. Department of Education and along with starting a part-time degree, HE was on his way, up the career ladder and I was more than happy to support him as I needed to. This meant the following….

He was offered an Acting Principal’s position in one of the most remote schools in New South Wales. By remote, I mean very and would still be regard that way. Here’s where it gets interesting and would not be part of a job-ad these days. He found out about the vacancy in this school via the travelling N.S.W. Teachers’ Federation Organiser who said “why don’t you take up the offer to go and see it?”. We thought, ‘why not?’. I was happy(ish) teaching, our daughter was now 4 and we could make a change BUT I was still longing for a second child. More about that later.

He Went, He Saw, He Said “We will take it”.

We were ambitious but also professionally-centred and once my husband had driven the many miles to this school, stayed with the then-teaching team, and driven home again to our little one teacher-school and home, he said “let’s do it”. By WE I should add, the pre-requisite that there be a married couple take the two jobs on offer. Teaching Principal and Classroom Teacher. That was because of the extreme isolation and only one place to comfortably live. I saw photos of the place and loved the idea of the new challenge. Our daughter, though under school starting age, would be able to come to school as there was a pre-school year attached to the school which was part of the Principal’s responsibilty.

Special School Indeed.

This school, a two-storey building, had a library underneath and shelter for play, a toilet and shower block and a flat in the school grounds for visitor accommodation. Across the sandy playground was the School Residence, up on stilts too with a garage and laundry underneath. The previous husband and wife teaching team had added in the window air conditioners to the school and to the residence. It was needed. Back of Bourke this is!

The student population, aged from 4 years to around 12 years was, in the majority, from the Aboriginal community which was located on the banks of the Culgoa River, some walking distance from the school. There were ‘white kids too’ including our daughter, the children of the local land lessee and the son of the shopkeeper (one shop which stocked limited supplies but was also the telephone exchange).

Adventures BEFORE Starting School.

By adventures, I really mean ADVENTURES. So, between us, we had organised the movement of our furniture to the new school and house – some 6-8 hours drive from where we had lived. We went back from Mum and Dad’s in Sydney to oversee the packing up and then we followed them in late January 1976 for our belongings would arrive, and we unpacked in the HEAT and went back to Sydney…only a 12 hour drive…which we did in one stint this time. A small respire time in Sydney, then with a very packed station wagon – 4WD were only farm-type jeeps then and we got a new Ford Wagon because we were going to a remote place and needed to have one of the more commonly known vehicles “just in case” (and there was one of those!).

With our daughter safely sat between us with a proper seatbelt harness, and a very, very full wagon, we took off for Dubbo. First stop and where we were most welcomed by the District Inspector (who would be a visitor from time to time) and his family to have a meal and stayed in a motel. All good! Not really. You see, we are talking many decades ago, no mobile phones and so communication was by radio announcements and talking to locals about road conditions. We were due to go to the school via a series of dirt roads after coming off the main road to Bourke…until we knew there had been heavy rains and flooding was expected. My husband got the news to “take the detour via Warren and you should get in to your place”. OK…I admit I had no idea it was a wee bit troubling that this was necessary. Packed (even more!) with some fresh food and more groceries…we got to the school and residence…after a MUCH longer drive and pretty wet conditions.

But WAIT…there is MORE.

So this school of ours was located away from the Culgoa River on a flat tract of land..in fact is all flat. The house and school were on a dirt road (heck everything was dirt) and the Aboriginal camp was next to the river. Just up the road from us was the store and over the road was a tennis court, an airstrip and further over, by the river, on the other side of the bridge over the Culgoa, was the land leased by the family who would give us both support and grief!

The rains came…and came and never left. The River was already flooding from the rains in nearby Queensland (only 14 miles away) and we were in for a LONG stay. School starting day came and two students turned up. Our daughter and the boy whose parents ran the shop. We began the day at school but due to the conditions came back to our place, and the mum of the boy said “if anyone calls from the Dept I will put them through to your place.” The system was helpful as it was a party line but certainly there was no privacy AND the phones only operated 9.00 am – 9.00 pm.

STUCK in the MUD.

Isolation is a new environment but with lots of advice and help from the locals was made better. In fact, we got school started once the pouring rain stopped and the lessee of the property collected the kids from the camp to bring them to school. His own kids and wife had left when they knew the floods would be arriving and went down south. We did not have them come to our school until Term 2. In the end, we got to know the support services very well. The Doctor in the nearest town who had never met us, could consult on the phone when we had a couple of health issues, the Chemist in the town would fill the scripts AND I could also ring the small town grocery store to order food and all of what we could get would be flown to us via the RAAF helicopter or a RAAF carrier plane. Other times, the supplies might land via a large drop off by the helicopter. The store got its supplies which helped us and the Aboriginal community. Sometimes too, someone may be taken to hospital that way.

In the initial days of the flood, we had no power for a few days BUT fortunately keeping the freezer closed and packed meant no food spoilage. We had a portable gas stove for a meal or two. And, the man who had the tractor had us to his house once a week for a cooked meal. He had more options on his property. He would come and get us in the tractor (see my husband in the second shot, with the friendly farmer, walking ahead to check levels and ditches and then on this occasion it was for us to see what things looked like along the way.

In the first photo this is the road to the school and our house is obscured by the school is in the distance. To the left of the photo, out of sight, is the airstrip and tennis courts.

THIS LASTED FOR TEN WEEKS.

In some ways it was one heck of a learning journey and in others it was very very tiresome. It was the very poor condition of the dirt roads because tractors and 4WD had left tracks and bad scarring on the road so no regular vehicle like ours could go anywhere. Somewhere in this time, my parents who had been very concerned about the situation drove up to Moree and chartered a small plane to come and visit us. The air strip had dried out. It was the roads that were impassable. Armed with all the makings of a fresh baked dinner and more my brave Mum and Dad hopped in the little Cessna and came for the weekend. They flew back the same way but with lots of love and hugs from their much-adored granddaughter. 

GETTING OUT.

I admit I became very stir-crazy and whilst it has been a term and a half of learning much about a new community I was determined, somehow to get to town for wait for it…Easter Eggs! How could our daughter miss the Easter Bunny? So one Saturday, our friend with his tractor, went before us, and gave us newbies to this situation, guidance on where to go to avoid being stuck and eventually we were on a better dirt road to town. We got back OK too.

HIGHLIGHTS and LOWLIGHTS and NO LIGHTS!

Just writing about the transition to the place, then what we went through personally and professionally means I am going to write more about the stay (and it WAS only for two years!) in point form:

  • The second term meant a more settled life. Well, in terms of the weather it was. My husband, who was both teaching principal and my supervisor meant “we” had some interesting and challenging conversation about teaching. You see he had not ever taught with another staff member, I had, and my temperament is totally opposite to his. We sorted this with roles and responsibilities (as every school should!) and subject area responsibilities and his work toward his next promotion, called List Two, was what he needed to achieve within his  stay at the school.

 

  • This was achieved by him and his classroom and school management was policy-central and all very much in keeping with educational standards then, and with the District Inspector (friendly man from Dubbo) staying with us too, it was good to know he had succeeded.

 

  • The unfortunate side of such isolation related to both social matters and health matters. My husband became ill for a number of reasons and was even hospitalised for some time and in the meanwhile I was relieving as Principal (and a worried wife!) and the N.S.W. Department of Education sent a replacement teacher from Bourke (almost 2 hours away) to stay and help out.

 

  • We also did our best to mix with the local and wider community, playing social tennis (the afternoon teas were amazing!) and getting together for meals. However, we would always be, as in many country settings “blow ins”.

 

  • Our daughter was socially isolated but as an only child she was quite content with play and reading at home by herself. We did have one young student board with us for a while to be company and to help our daughter too. That same family had our daughter stay when we went to Dubbo for a weekend.

 

  • Getting OUT was important. School terms were up to 3 x 13 or even some 14/15 week terms. We needed the break and so on the last Friday of term, our car would be packed and ready. I must add, that IF any rain fell, we would be delayed. Because of the road conditions.

 

  • The District Inspector allowed us an early Friday finish mid-term so we could drive to Dubbo (6 hours away) and shop and have respite for the weekend.

 

  • On one of those occasions, in Winter, it was meant to be that  we chose a Ford in the year we left Sydney. As we drove along stone filled road, we would get chips on the windscreen but even worse, as we found one almost dark afternoon getting back onto the BITUMEN at Coolabah, our lights were shot. The garage was still open. Yay. He had replacement bulbs. Yay. MY husband installed them. Yay. BUT, our daughter aged 5 was growing worse from a virus and her temperature was high. NO!

 

  • The next town east was Nyngan and we called into the hospital. She was given something to help and we drove through the Dubbo with great relief. Next day, with her health on our minds, we had a doctor call and she got meds. I also “needed” to go shopping and she had a particular wish to have some new sneakers. I got them. What a weekend. Grocery shopping was done too but I chose parcel pick up. THEN at 11.50 a.m. I remembered shops closed on Saturdays and not open till Monday. One ‘fast’ drive to Coles and I loaded them up.
  • The school was a hub for health professionals from Sydney and other places with specialist teams and most would arrive by air. Some came in 4 WD convoys. The professionals would examine anyone including us and in that time we had the late Dr Fred Hollows arrive with his then girlfriend, Gaby, in the team to check everyone’s eyes. We needed to have food at the ready and I often entertained thanks to cooking multiple dishes and freezing them along with my now-regular little cakes.

 

  • I also travelled to Brewarrina to see an Obstetrician who, upon hearing my story of tests done previously declared I would never have another child. See more about that here. It was such a definite and firm view, I mourned what was not going to happen and gave away all of my baby things to the Aboriginal community.

 

  • ABC TV did a story about folks living where we did and we, along with the children in the school were part of that program as were the locals from far and wide.

 

  • We had a grant from Disadvantaged Schools Program which funded the students from the school aged 7 and over, along with family carers and us to fly to Sydney, stay in lodgings in Kings Cross and experience places like Manly beach and the Zoo. Our daughter came with us but stayed with my parents and met up with us back in Manly.

 

  • But….this place got to us in some ways,  particularly access to health services for us both. We announced that at the end of the two years minimum we would be transferring back to Sydney as we hoped to find our first house and have our daughter attend school with more kids than 25.

This news was not taken well by SOME of the community but many also understood our motives. We left the school, and the area on the last Friday of term and with relief, when we got to the bitumen, this (then) 28 year old wife, mother and teacher sighed with relief.

What next?

Stay tuned: Chapter Nine soon.

Denyse.

 

 

 

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