Wednesday 8th April 2020

Chocolate. 13/51. Life This Week. 26/2020.

Chocolate. 13/51. Life This Week. 26/2020.

Life This Week is at the quarter-way mark of the year. 2020. What a ride. None of us saw what was coming, I guess, in terms of a pandemic called COVID-19. Many around Australia, the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada and New Zealand along with Other Countries are at various stages of this “new to all of us” virus. The world changed. We have had to change many of our routines and habits and some (even many) have lost their livelihoods as citizens in each country are asked to “stay at home” to reduce the spread. By the time this post goes live, things will have changed again. However, without wanting to centre the post today “on” COVID-19, I did want to send my best wellness wishes to all.

Stay Safe

Stay Home

Look After Each Other

Practise Physical Distancing

Continue Social Contacts in new ways. Blogging is one!

Denyse.

Sending my congratulations and appreciation to teachers last Friday. And getting myself used to photos with “no specs”.

 

C H O C O L A T E.

I am confessing something now. I am not a fan of Easter Chocolate. I know many, including my own adult children, are. They LOVE their Red Tulip Easter Rabbits and used to enjoy the Humpty Dumpty eggs from Coles as kids and I believe Caramello Easter Eggs are a fave.

Way back in 2014 at Easter we must have had an inkling it was to be our last in Sydney with the family so true to form, my husband (Papa) and I put on an Easter Egg Eggstravaganza in our back yard. A few memories here: They took a little bag outside and then collected plastic eggs (I think) and came back and selected a ‘prize’ from here…

There may be shortages of toilet paper, self-raising flour and other ‘staples’ but at my local Coles there was definitely NO shortage of chocolate: Easter or not.

At the store entrance:

Then I perused the chocolate aisle. I love some  plain Cadbury’s chocolate. I cannot eat any now with additions such as nuts. I used to love Lindt blocks but now find them too rich. I also find them far too expensive…but yes, I do eat “some” chocolate. At the moment I enjoy a few smarties and freckles. I know. Why? Actually it is the texture.

For all those months without top teeth I really missed crunching. So, they are a current fave and I have some at night.

Not many. Just enough.

I don’t know who I am these days but whatever has happened to my previous habits of having much more comforting chocolate than I do now I am glad I have overcome it. Feeling a bit sick afterwards is a good one to restrain my old ways. Happy to have that now as a limiter.

What is your favourite chocolate?

Do you have many?

I believe white chocolate is not chocolate at all. I hear that some people disagree. You?

Oh, and before I say goodbye, it has “only” been 3 weeks since my right eye had its cataract removed (on Wednesday, 3 weeks for the left eye) and how about this…I am now out and about driving with NO spectacles needed (licence changed after I saw my opthalmologist) and I am getting used to the face (more wrinkled than I knew) in the mirror that does not need specs!

Happy One Quarter of the Year 2020 to you…and

Daylight Saving In Australia finishes NEXT Sunday morning: 5 April.

Let the clocks time FALL back by 1 hour…unless you are in Queensland and now we will all be on the same time. Sigh.

Denyse.

Link Up #182.

Life This Week. Link Up #182.

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Out & About: Head & Neck Charity Ball 12/51 #LifeThisWeek. 24/2020.

Out & About: Head & Neck Charity Ball 12/51 #LifeThisWeek. 24/2020.

Regular readers and followers know I was diagnosed with a head and neck cancer in May 2017. Posts are here.

Then, in 2018 I was invited to become a Community Ambassador for Beyond Five. More about that here.

In my role helping share awareness of head and neck cancer facts and more via social media, this blog and in person, I really find it satisfying to give back:

  • to offer my skills and experience as an educator
  • and to feel and stay connected with other patients and their families/carers with a head and neck cancer,
  • attending meetings on-line and off relating to head and neck cancer support
  • to be part of social network head and neck cancer groups
  • to assist professional teams including my professor, speciality nursing staff and allied health professionals by sharing my experience on-line and in person
  • a recent interview for a Beyond Five project on nutrition
  • and then this……

Attending The Head and Neck Charity Ball at Avoca Hosted by Four Amazing Junior Doctors on Saturday evening 7 March 2020.

 

Here is the post from Beyond Five: the organisation to benefit from all the fund raising from attendance and silent auctions:

Beyond Five

Last Saturday night Caitlin Frede, Grace Swain, James Shannon and Catherine Zil, a dedicated team of junior doctors working within Central Coast Health hosted a #HNC Charity Ball https://buff.ly/37Aiejn at the Avoca Surf House in NSW to help raise awareness of #HNC and funds to support Beyond Five.

Over 100 people attended including Caitlin’s family, who lost her father Peter Frede to #HNC in 2015, and healthcare professionals from the Central Coast Cancer Centre.

Caitlin shares the stark and moving story of her father here. Thank you Caitlin for sharing your perspective in this cancer which has cost your family the presence of a husband and father…and a wonderful human being….

Dinner guests listened to powerful speeches from Caitlyn and former patient, Central Coast resident and Beyond Five Community Ambassador, Denyse Whelan who talked about her treatment for #HNC. Dr Puma Sundaresan, Radiation Oncologist at Western Sydney Health and Beyond Five Director also spoke about the need to raise awareness of #HNC and the importance of early detection.

Thank you to everyone who supported this fabulous event, helping to raise over $4,000 for Beyond Five. We are incredibly grateful!

My social media recount of the evening. 

A glorious evening at Avoca beach hosted by a group of junior doctors currently working on Central Coast to raise funds for @beyondfiveorg

As a head and neck cancer patient I know information shared helped me.

This is why I am privileged to be a Community Ambassador for @beyondfiveorg

Tonight I shared part of my story with over hundred guests many of whom were in

health medical dental allied health fields.

My thoughts during and after this event.

  • How fortunate we were as a group to be able to come together as this preceded the coronavirus restrictions, even though at this time, everyone was become familiar with what would be our future without handshakes and hugs. I was so honoured to be asked to speak about my head and neck cancer experience and meeting with Caitlin for coffee as part of her planning I was even more impressed with her initiative of that of her colleagues. They are working on the NSW Central Coast as part of their medical training.

 

  • Lisa Shailer, pictured above, is the Head and Neck (and Lung) Cancer Nurse who oversees new and on-going patients at Central Coast Cancer Centre at Gosford Hospital. She, along withe some head and neck cancer patients, started the Central Coast Head and Neck Cancer Support Group. Lisa is the person who ‘found me’ via my article on-line with local MP Emma McBride and invited me to attend the inaugural Soup for the Soul event at Gosford in July 2018. Since then I have been an active member of the group, in my role as an Ambassador for Beyond Five.

 

  • Dr Puma Sundaresan and her husband attended the event and whilst Puma represented the board of Beyond Five, she was there for sentimental reasons as she was a radiation oncologist on the Central Coast before taking up her current roles in Sydney. She spoke about the fact that the rise of head and neck cancers in younger people is becoming greater and there is a connection with HPV. She outlined too, that the Central Coast has a high rate of head and neck cancer cases relating in many cases to smoking and drinking.

 

  • For me it was an evening where I felt privileged to be amongst people who cared about head and neck cancer and getting the messages out there. One person came up to me and told me she is a dentist in the practice where I attend and where, along with my dentist, I first was told we were looking for cancer. What is was we did not know, but I am very grateful she showed support as does her workplace.

 

The future is bright. 

Yes I said that! We are, at the time of writing, in a pandemic state thanks to coronavirus or COVID-19 of course. I know there are going to be more restrictions imposed on many of us soon, For some, travellers and others, some cannot even get home. But I know, with the air of care, professionalism, hope and generosity I witnessed on this evening with the focus on helping others with head and neck cancer support, we have excellent people in our health professions. These times ahead are going to test them. However, if they can remain true to themselves using the skills, talents and more I was privileged to witness the future will be bright.

Notes on the fundraising experience.

These next months are going to see no gatherings for meetings and fundraisers for any cause.

Head and Neck cancer charity Beyond Five usually hosts a Soup for the Soul Fundraiser in July.

Whilst we do not know what that month will bring for getting together we may assume, like the Head and Neck Patient and Family Forum now moved from June to October, there may be flexibility in fundraising.

Maybe like my last two years, a virtual Soup For the Soul!

Recent update from the Head and Neck Charity Ball is that $4.400 was deposited into Beyond Five’s account. Yay.

Lastly….

What a beautiful scene from this event place at Avoca Beach N.S.W.

Take time to notice nature is always calming…and for  many of us in uncertain times, this can help.

Go gently and stay well everyone.

Denyse.

Link Up #181.

Life This Week. Link Up #181.

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My Neighbourhood. 11/51. #LifeThisWeek. 22/2020.

My Neighbourhood. 11/51. #LifeThisWeek. 22/2020.

My observations are personal. They are about my thoughts and experiences of living where we do now. I have used some photos but because  I try not to give out too much personal information on the blog they have few identifiers. Nevertheless I am mentioning areas that may be familiar to some readers.

We first thought of moving to the Central Coast in 2014. As the need to change how and where we were living in Sydney became evident through my uneasy health status (sad and a bit anxious) and my husband’s disenchantment with Sydney’s traffic, we sold up and with thoughts of Central Coast holidays here we went to find a place to rent. We moved to and lived at the southern end of the Central Coast. January 2015 – November 2015.

I Live Here.

 

This is a quiet and relatively new part of suburban blocks and community developments in the northern part of the N.S.W. Central Coast region. On a map, it is around here. Just north of Wyong and about 10 minutes drive from the M1 at Sparks Road exit.

When we moved to what I describe as the quieter end of the coast, at the end of 2015, it was for a few reasons.

  • Our first choice, post-Sydney life, was the southern end of the Central Coast.
  • We thought we knew the area better.
  • Turns out we knew some physical aspects but not some of the in-built social ones.
  • In short, we were relatively poorer (i.e. paying far too much in rent) and more disappointed by the closed-off community which often wrote about ‘Western Sydney refugees’ arriving to spoil their places. Hmmmm. Not great attitude is it?

We settled easily into our next rental house that it felt like one we had sold. It was a  bit older but we made it home. From November 2015 until April 2018. Here’s some of the story from living in THIS neighbourhood. We were made very welcome by the property management too. It makes such a difference.

We would have stayed at this house but the owners wanted to move into it. Turned out sometime things work out well. Our real estate property management did all they could to help us secure a new rental place. Our two priorities: on one level and ducted air. They found it. Yes it was more expensive to rent but still way under the atrocious rent in 2015.

Here we still are: from early April 2018….and have already got another year till 2021 sorted as tenants here.

Some of the reasons we like living here.

  • not far from a big shopping centre
  • less than an hour from Newcastle where I have attended some recent events
  • close to a Westfield Shopping Centre
  • about one hour’s drive to Wahroonga…end of the M1. Then if it is a visit to my dad on the northern beaches, it’s another 45 minutes, similarly to the city for head and neck cancer checks and also to Westmead for my prosthodontist checks, and around the same to see family where we used to live.

Our medical needs are catered for very well. We both like our GP and find the service at the centre is excellent. Wyong hospital is literally up the road and less than 5 minutes away. We are bulk-billed and can make appointments. I have a local dentist (many stories about him in the head and neck sections) who has seen me before head and neck cancer in my mouth and since. Bunnings is about 10 minutes up the road for my husband. And I have found more than twenty places where I enjoy my daily coffee.

Our street is a bit busy but we have excellent neighbours and even though the yard is small, the only time it is really noticeable is when the grandkids come up and a soccer ball easily flies over the fence.

BUT…whilst we do love being here, the sad news is that whenever we do get to buy a place of our own, this area is already out of our league. Many people here commute to Sydney. And houses in our estate are selling for well over $600K up to $900K. We will, as they say, cross that bridge when we come to it.

So, that’s my neighbourhood story in words and pics!

Did you write about that today too?

Tell me if your neighbourhood is where you want to stay forever…

Denyse.

Link Up #180.

Life This Week. Link Up #180.

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* Please add just ONE post each week! NOT a link-up series of posts, thank you.

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Next Week’s weekly optional prompt is: 12/51 Out & About. 23.3.2020

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Share Your Snaps #2. 10/51. #LifeThisWeek. 20/2020.

Share Your Snaps #2. 10/51. #LifeThisWeek. 20/2020.

Welcome to the second in the series that comes along every 5th week here. “Sharing Your Snaps” as an optional prompt grew from a need to have some less-wordy posts and more photos to share! This one though is, like me, wordy.

Now: before you start….I am absent from the blog for now. As this is published I am either still on my way to Sydney: specifically Parramatta Eye Hospital and Day Surgery to have the first of my two cataracts removed OR in the place itself. My dear husband is the kind chauffeur, picker-upper from after surgery and the one charged with caring for me on our overnight stay. No idea of how I will be but know I am a good recoverer…because after Tuesday, we have a night at home, then back down the M1 on Wednesday for the left eye to be done. We go home that evening as my opthalmologist/ surgeon is happy for me to present to the Morriset rooms for check up on Thursday. This surgery has been coming for a couple of years and now, sigh, it is necessary. I will be back here when I can and am ready to do so in a semblance of being able to read still as my eyes will be a bit sore I am told. 

When I was in Sydney, specifically the suburb of Camperdown, I decided it might be a good idea to do a “day of cancer check” post.

“Sharing the Snaps and The Words!”

Missenden Road (just off the Great Western Hwy) is where the main arm of this major Sydney teaching Public Hospital is and it’s called R.P.A. or Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. On one side of the road too, is Sydney University with its residential colleges and more. “MY” hospital, as regular readers know is called Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, and is just 6 years old. The building replaced an older part of the R.P.A. complex I believe. It is opposite a part of R.P.A., St Andrew’s Residential College and just down the inner road,  is Gloucester House, where my 96 year old Dad had a ‘melanoma’ removed…not a melanoma so good news!

Here’s my day: Tuesday 3 March 2020.

Left home around 2 hours prior to appointment. Drove myself. This has been the case since early 2018 for me. Happy to do so.

The trip is via the M1 or Motorway 1 which is a dual lane highway with speed limits of up to 110 kmh but two sections which are 80 kmh because of continued road works. I usually do not need a loo stop these days…go me…and wait till here for that.

I generally enjoy the drive via the M2 then over the Harbour Bridge (been driving over it since 1967 as a licence holder)  and along the Western Distributor until I turn left at the Sydney Fish Markets and up via Pyrmont Bridge Road and across the highway into Missenden Road. When we first visited Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, my husband drove (I was way too caught up with my day-old cancer diagnosis) and then as we came down for surgeries and then checks after surgeries he came too. We stayed twice in apartments shown here, and at 6.00. a.m. meandered up Missenden Road in winter-morning light for one surgery and daylight for another.

And, then here’s why I am here! Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is named for the visionary person, who died far too young, Professor Chris O’Brien. It was his vision, and drive which eventually saw the Federal Govt and State come together to fund this place. He did not see it happen. His wife, Gail has been there for every part of the journey. Every. Day.

Do come in. Take care first and welcome. This is why I love this place….it does not have the cold feel of any hospital I have visited. Music is heard, people chatting, creating art and just taking time to rest, look around and wonder. I still do.

Here’s my favourite sweet treat and great coffee. People watching too. Some medical and surgical people catching up. Patients brought down by a friend or family from their room and those of course, who are maybe waiting and wondering. It IS a cancer hospital I need to remember…..I have only just started being comfortable with enjoying this time for a snack since October 2018..teeth were in by then.

Oh, is that the time? Almost 1 p.m. Time for taking myself to the Clinic on Level 2.

I do prepare for a bit of a wait but last week it was around 10 minutes. Glad to have a 1 p.m. appointment booked always so I have a good trip home.

Kisses, hugs, smiles and gifts of little cakes and brownies. Oh, yes, and a cancer check up too. I can never forget that. I know once I tried to vanish it as a thought and my Prof said “Denyse I am a cancer doctor”. Yes. I know. After a great (but short as I try not to over step my time) catch up, proper examination by viewing and feeling – the glands around my neck and chest, he declared “see you in 6 months”. Wow. So good to hear. Delighted. Will be having a CT scan before that visit. Photos, please! Time for an updated one or two.

My Professor is the Chairman of Beyond Five, the organisation where I am a head and neck cancer community Ambassador and he and his surgical nurse assistant Cate were delighted to hear of the event on Saturday 7 March held on the Central Coast where I will speak and all funds will go to Beyond Five.

The drive home was good. In fact I was home without a stop in under 2 hours. I found it a challenge (but I was good) not to use my phone at all in the car as NSW is now having random cameras catching drivers (and I heard passengers..cannot confirm) using their phones. 5 points and a heavy fine. My phone, once I started its audiobook, sits inside the console where no-one can see it.

I hope you found My Day of interest. I hope to be back to comment when and if I can…and to read but I shall have to ‘see’ how I go.

Denyse.

Link Up #179.

Life This Week. Link Up #179.

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* Please add just ONE post each week! NOT a link-up series of posts, thank you.

* Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not.

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Taking Stock #1 9/51. Life This Week.18/2020.

Taking Stock #1 9/51. Life This Week.18/2020.

Here we are, if you also follow the optional prompts: Taking Stock #1 for 2020. These prompts come in roughly every nine weeks. Let’s go: first one this year.

I wanted to be different this time round so added photos first, then the prompt that I thought suited best. Hope you enjoyed the pictorial version.

Happy first week of Autumn (Southern Hemisphere) and I know Northern Hemisphere people wait till equinox: 21/22 March for first day of Spring!

Denyse.

This is the list of optional prompts I use for my taking stock posts. Feel free to copy them from here if you wish.

Making
Cooking
Drinking
Reading
Wanting
Looking
Playing
Wasting
Wishing
Enjoying
Waiting
Liking
Wondering
Loving 
Hoping

Marvelling
Needing
Smelling
Wearing
Following
Noticing
Knowing
Thinking
Feeling
Bookmarking
Opening
Smiling

Link Up #178.

Life This Week. Link Up #178.

You can link up something old or new, just come on in.

* Please add just ONE post each week! NOT a link-up series of posts, thank you.

* 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: Leave a comment on a few posts, because we all love our comments, right!

* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere, or on your sidebar or let others know somewhere you are linking up to this blog’s Life This Week.

*Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog & the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. These may include promotions, advertorials and any that are overly religious or political or in any way offensive  in nature.

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Next Week’s weekly optional prompt is: 10/51 Share Your Snaps #2. 9.3.2020

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Telling My Story. Chapter 14. 2001-2002. 8/51 Life This Week. 16/2020.

Dear Bloggers: I have made some changes to the link-up rules based on some recent experiences. For most of my regular linkers, this is not an issue but as I am getting some newer people come on board, I have added some rules. Thank you. Denyse Whelan.

Telling My Story. Chapter 14. 2001-2002. 8/51 Life This Week. 16/2020.

The story behind Telling My Story is this: I began in May 2017 and then was diagnosed with cancer. I had a lengthy break and returned to the plan to keep on documenting my life, one blog post at a time. Here is the link to the page where they all are now. This too, like the post 2 weeks ago has been a mix of what I wrote back in 2018 over 4 weeks about the challenges and more of being a principal from 1998 – 2003. Today’s post has much of the second two years in it, and the next one, in a few weeks, will outline how challenging (read: hard and stressful) it was to leave the role I had loved. I also shared this as My Woman of Courage story here.

Onward: New Decade and Century. 2001.

This year started in a wonderful way. After one of the hottest, awful January days in Sydney in 2001 this young man became our 3rd grandchild and our first grandson. I wrote something about his birth here and this is a recent photo of US.

My year as a grandmother was very full-on and combined with my role as a principal somewhat precariously – only because I wanted to do both well. Sometime into 2001 I took leave every Wednesday to do a “grandma-daycare” at our place for this young man and his older sister because “I” felt like I needed to help with this kind of care as I had with granddaughter number one. I was trying “not to let school” into my life on those days but it was inevitable with phone calls and catching up the next day with the assistant principal that I acknowledged I could not do both well. Lucky for me my family understood and as already explained they had a great family day care setting to go to.

We were living at Glenwood. My husband was reasonably well but still faced health challenges after his second neck surgery to fuse his spine. He was now working in a high school full-time. Our adult son was living at home. Life was BUSY and my life was full-on. I do recall some minor socialisation happened for me when I might meet a friend for coffee. My educational leadership role was, for a conscientious and practical person like me, all consuming. Very hard to switch off.

We did try, when we could to attend events at school or pre-school for our grandchildren. I recall, taking a day’s half long service leave to attend this young one’s first Athletics Carnival.

My Day as a Principal Started and Ended Like This. Mostly.

I attempted to have a relaxed morning at home, eating my breakfast along with reading the front page of the paper before setting off for school. It was about 30-40 minutes drive and I had a ‘cut off’ point where I could ‘leave home’ behind and the reverse happened on my way home! I was usually the 2nd to arrive at school and generally the last to leave. I did try to leave before the cleaners locked up at 5.30 as much as I could.

I admit I did not self-care well. Sometimes because of the day itself I would not have eaten anything until on my way home. That is the way to ill-health so I took myself in hand, and with the office staff, we had lunch before the school lunch times and that ensured I “ate” better.

I cannot recall specifics of this year at the school as I guess one change lead to another. I do know I dealt with some major difficulties in terms of one parent who berated and threatened me because (I found out later) he hated women and teachers. He was going through a difficult separation from his teacher wife. Sadly my office and the school became the butt of his anger and I had to get an order for him not to enter school grounds. These things are not great for anyone.

As the only non-teaching executive staff member I often had to do much alone in terms of policy making and decisions based on the current school’s needs and demands. This does not mean I was not a team player! However, I was conscious of the fact that teaching executive had dual roles. Therefore I made fewer meeting times and hoped that would suffice for my care of their needs. It did not always play out that way and by the time I got to 2002 the challenges I faced to lead the school well increased.

What Was Different in 2002 School Year?

It was my fourth year as principal. There were many changes within the education system, via the NSW government policies of the day, and in schools themselves. Families may move on due to work changes, sometimes those families are not replaced by new ones so a school population can begin heading downwards.

School staff (teacher and executive staff) may need to take leave for reasons of: family needs, maternity and long service leave as well as sick leave.

The other change heralding 2002 was the need to upgrades of maintenance (big cost jobs) to the school as it was one that was first occupied in the 1940s. Back in 2002 it was up to the principal to make the contacts with contracted companies to get in suppliers who could quote for major works. Then the principal, with enough funds in the school account, could give a project a green light.

I was trained to teach but there I was, like all principals still, being a site manager and a financial manager as well as HR manager. Sigh.

Systemic Changes.

More and more, I noted, as did my principal colleagues that schools were being expected (rightly too) to ensure that Codes of Conduct for staff were not only understood and agreed upon by them but if behavioural issues arose, then the principal would be the first person to begin making an action plan when the code was violated.

There always had been the mandatory notification to the Department back then called Family and Community Services where if a child was deemed by a mandatory reporter (all school staff are) to be ‘at risk’ then a first notification was to be made by telephone. This saw me, often waiting for a person to answer, locked into a phone call because of issues which may look trivial on the outside but may be clues to more.

One such event could be repeatedly coming to school with no food. Other times it could be the child letting her/his teacher know that a parent may be unwell or even violent and it was never our role to investigate but we did need to reassure the child, then make the reports. Over the years I have sat in with a child in my role as a support person (if the child requested that from me) and it is heart-aching to be witness.

Our system, the N.S.W. Department of Education, was updating its role in terms of staff compliance and behaviour. This was nothing new and in fact teachers have had annual reviews in a conversation form for decades. Since I left teaching, this has become a joint venture between the schools and the overseeing body of school governance.

Returning to my principal days.

IF there was a reported incident told to me by a student, parent or staff member where a staff member’s behaviour (spoken, actions or in written form) was not within the Code of Conduct (signed off annually as part of mandatory training) then the principal had to act upon it.

I dealt with the Officers from the Conduct Unit first who listened to what had been reported to me and then I was given advice that it could be managed at school level (guess by whom?) or it could be escalated, with the staff member’s knowledge to a higher authority.

I had to do this on one occasion and the fallout for me came later. The temporary staff member who brought along a permanent staff member as a support person as the complaint was told to her from my account given to me was aghast at the inference.

In fact, there was nothing I had done wrong at all….but remember way back “your role will be to bring this school into the next century” comment by MY boss…this matter was a prime example of how staff thought they could still behave but it was not compliant with the Code of Conduct.

Executive Members of Staff  Were All On Leave.

Not at all related to the above in were two instances where my school staff allocation of experienced executive became diminished’. Apart from me, there were 3 other executive staff at the school by 2002: 2 Assistant Principals and 1 Executive Teacher. They all taught classes too.

The executive teacher was to have a baby and so went on maternity leave, the other, an assistant principal took extended long service leave both for the remainder of 2002 from early in the year.

But wait, there was one more. Yes, this one person who was an assistant principal ‘broke me’ in so many subtle then obvious ways.

And whilst I cannot say much, the continued leave based on medical certificates over and over did cause alarm for the parents of that class as it did me because the year had started well. As it was expected of him by me, this Assistant Principal would perform other executive duties (as do all teaching executive) this person refused and did not return after many months.

Oh, yes, one day there was a return, after hours to access my office and computer telling the only person on site, the cleaner, that “I” had given him permission. Following that, he was disciplined and placed in a different school.

How Did That Affect Me?

In some ways it was a relief but in many more, as we geared up for the mid-year reports, parent-teacher interviews and then Education  Week along with concerts and fund raisers, it was the beginning of my end.

Sadly I did not see it for some time.

I kept on working even harder.

Yes. I was doing the roles of the appointed executive who were on leave.

I know that I did have three teachers put their hands up to do the relieving roles but without the experience and knowledge beyond their classroom teaching, I was giving more and more of myself to duties that were not mine.

I was even writing reports for a class teacher with little experience. I will say now that I know I was over-doing things but I could see no way out. I was under pressure to perform well for the school’s sake and also to answer to my ‘bosses.’

My lovely boss actually retired at the end of Term One (sadly) and he was replaced by someone I knew well but was nothing like the people-person my old boss was.

 

Schools have a culture of their own.

I can now walk into a school and get a feeling of how things are. In my school, as Winter took hold I know that my mood was also one of worry and concern. That was for the school and its staffing into the next year.

When school populations decrease in the NSW public system, the principal will be asked to nominate a teacher to leave. In the majority of cases, teachers are very comfortable in their current school and rarely does anyone volunteer. So then it becomes a matter of ‘asking’ and ‘hoping’.

The staff were getting the idea that with the school’s drop in population, which occurred when the Special Needs unit was disbanded and there was a reduction of families moving to the area, that “I” had something to do with the reduction.

I was told this by telephone on the night (4th September 2002) I heard staff were arranging a delegation to my office the next day. They were going to tell me it was my manner with parents that was the cause.

This may have had one essence of truth after I was threatened by a violent father who I had to get removed from the grounds, but generally I had a supportive P&C and was a principal who was active and even did playground duty. But people like someone to blame. Of course, and that was me.

The Night Which Wounded My Career.

Before I go on, I was feeling emotions of overwhelm from the role. I remember with clarity coming back from yet another principals’ meeting where they was MORE that we needed to take responsibility for. I wondered how I could possibly manage more.

In the meantime, I became probably hyper vigilant after another meeting about my responsibilities for Work Health and Safety.

The school was OLD in many parts and I knew that there was much that did not comply, so I contacted my properties’ manager (the centralised one, not a personal one!) and for a fee, he came out and condemned or ok-ed parts I was concerned about. One such area was deemed so risky I had to tape it off before demolition and in doing so, incurred the wrath of the teachers who had been there forever. I could not take a trick.

I stood for what was right because that is who I am. I knew I needed to have a timeout but it happened to be an official one to attend a meeting for a day and then a personal one to accompany my husband to a vital medical appointment.

Schools: I love them. But I Could Not Return To Mine.

Two days away from school…..then I was rung the night before I was to return. Wednesday 4th September. One of my relieving Executive who I always thought was both compassionate and brave to rang to tell me that some staff were getting a delegation ready along with a Teachers Federation Organiser to meet with me to discuss their issues.

Initially I listened with interest and then with surprise/shock at what was apparently my fault: declining numbers, meaning one of them would be asked to transfer. Once I had talked (and been upset a bit) with her, I had successive phone calls from the remaining two relieving executive and it was then I said “I will be speaking to…(my boss) in the morning and will not be returning to school until I have”. They implored me not to but I had the sense not to act upon a threat like this.

I broke.

I broke down. I was ill. I couldn’t contact my boss: left a message that I would be going to my GP in the morning.

That would be the start of pretty horrible days but also some days of relief and release. Yet, nothing ever has helped me get over the fact that I loved being a principal but one day I never went back.

There was so much shame in me for that and it has almost all faded now some 17 years later. Lifeline: 13 11 14

It’s been hard to learn THIS….

Thank you for reading. At least I hope you did.

Denyse.

 

Next Chapter Will Be About The Outcome for Me Personally and Us Financially.

Life This Week #177

Link Up #177. Life This Week.

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Telling My Story. Chapter 13. 1999-2000. 6/51 #LifeThisWeek 11/2020.

Telling My Story. Chapter 13. 1999-2000. 6/51 #LifeThisWeek 11/2020.

The story behind Telling My Story is this: I began in May 2017 and then was diagnosed with cancer. I had a lengthy break and returned to the plan to keep on documenting my life, one blog post at a time. Here is the link to the page where they all are now. It’s been a while since my last one. This one, I admit, is not a brand new one. In fact I wrote back in 2018 over 4 weeks about the challenges and more of being a principal from 1998 – 2003. This post has much of the first two years in it, and the next one, which I will post for Life This Week 8/51 will conclude that part of my professional education leadership life. 

1998.

I really enjoyed being a K-6 School Principal. I had waited till my late 40s to decide to ‘take the plunge’ and actively seek a principal’s role in a K-6 school in Sydney’s west. Having been a relieving Principal in a school where I had been a Deputy Principal I knew that I did not want to apply for that role as I had been at that school for almost 10 years. This was a much longer period than I usually stayed in one school and family reasons were part of this but I knew that to lead that school was fraught with trying to placate factions and being in conflict ethically with the old-fashioned and out-moded forms of discipline.

My Primary School. Attended 1960-61 is where I decided I wanted to be a teacher.

In the lead up to the end of the 1990s I was asked to relieve as a Principal is a larger school within the Western Sydney environment I knew well. This school already had a leadership team including Deputy Principals but it was the wish of the out-going (Long Service Leave first!) Principal that someone from out of the school be appointed. That was me.

What a baptism of fire this was!

Whilst I knew the general area, I was not knowledgable at all about the make-up of the student population – which was well into the 600s. I was to lead that school for Terms 3 and 4 when a principal would be appointed. There were special needs classes, there were children of high needs (intellectual and behavioural) in mainstream classes. Fortunately, it came with a non-teaching Deputy, who helped bring me up to speed with every new challenge including:

  • chasing a boy who was ready to jump the low fence and run onto the road. He stopped. In the playground.
  • finding another boy climbing to the roof of a building to escape the problem he had being in class.
  • having a mother of a girl scream at me over the desk “what are YOU going to DO ABOUT this, YOU”RE the PRINCIPAL”

“I really do not want to be a Principal” I said after a very hectic Term 3 leading into Term 4…but then again..

” the old death bed regret” popped into my mind.

“Did I want to think I should have given the principalship a go but I did not?”

Answer: NO.and this…

As the last Term of 1998 progressed, unless I did decide to start applying for Principal’s roles, I had this ultimatum delivered.

As a Deputy Principal who had needed to leave her original school (the 10 year one) because the school student population  was slowing and there was no longer a DP position, I had to accept any position as a DP and guess where I was appointed: to the school where I was currently Relieving Principal. 

Oh. No, I thought that was untenable and also once I knew who the new boss would be in the following year my hand was forced – in a way. So it was out with the application templates and late nights writing and honing these to match K-6 School Principals roles that I might fit.

It All Takes Time.

Back then, applications for Principal  were sent into the District Office for the Superintendent to look over with his/her panel of selectors. These were a parent from the school which was seeking a new principal, a staff member from that school, a principal of similar status as the role on offer and the Superintendent. If the application met with the panel’s approval, professional referees (nominated on the application) were called, and then if the panel thought they wanted to know more, then the applicant was invited to a formal interview.

I went through this process over some weeks for a total of four times and got to interview but not the role. I was also still leading a school! I did get positive and helpful feedback particularly by one District Superintendent By the second last week of Term 4 I thought I was not going to get a Principal’s job but that was not true and within 2 days of school ending for Term 4, I was offered and I accepted the role of K-6 Principal in my own right.

Appointed As Principal.

The District Superintendent rang me to offer the position and of course I accepted it. Being so close to the end of the year, I could not visit the school until close to the end of the January holidays.

The words that rang in my ear, and were written to me by the District Superintendent echoed…and not nearly as much as in future years.

“Denyse, you have to bring this school into the next century and I know you are the one to do it. It won’t be easy and it will have challenges but you are the right fit for this”.

And of course, Life Goes On, in the family! We were looking forward to the birth of Grandchild #2 in the May of 1999 and by this appointment, I remember telling my daughter “I don’t think I will be able to have part-weeks off to care for him/her”. My daughter understood, and already had an amazing family day care arrangement. I admit my “Grandma” hat was firmly back on my head – with the blessing of my boss, the one who had appointed me and my staff when she, new GD was literally on the way, I was able to have the week off school to help out and BE Grandma. That time meant a great deal.

With my GD some years later!

1999 First Year as a Principal.

The first months.

Hot, No Plan, Making Plans, Learning About the School.

I was busy learning about the school and the fact that the person I replaced had actually died the previous term without anyone at the school having access to school keys, passwords and the like made it more difficult. The school was a medium sized (around 450 kids from K-6) one with added Unit for Students with Special Learning Needs and an Autism Satellite class. Within the stream of classes there were two “OC” groups: Year 5 of 30 students and Year 6. These students gained their place at the school via competitive examinations the year before.

The school culture was, as my boss told me, one I would need to lead into the 21st century and I knew that but I also knew to hasten slowly on some changes whilst making some practical ones quickly. The previous principal, sadly departed, had been there for quite some time, shared very little in terms of financial goals for the school but, as a local which I was not, whatever he had done was acceptable. One big ticket item that happened under his leadership was a sports area which catered for a number of court-based sports.

One of my first spends was blinds. In a school with a second storey and in a very hot/cold place in outer Sydney, some respite from the sun and to make activities such as work via a whiteboard or screen effective this was vital. Once done it gave the school, from the inside and out, a better appearance for the community.

The school was fully staffed with each role filled: 2 Assistant Principals (teaching) 2 Executive Teachers (teaching). There was a group of speciality teachers: for Gifted and Talented students, Special Needs – Intellectual, English as a Second Language, Computer and Technology, Special Learning in Mainstream. I had been familiar with leading each of those roles in my previous schools with three  ‘new’ to me

  • having the O.C. classes
  • overseeing the use of the school’s facilities with an outside the NSW Dept of Ed jurisdiction
  • supervising a Special Needs Unit of 3 staff within the school

I like to think, looking back from now, that I did all I could to both understand, accept and get up-skilled quickly to enable me, the educational leader of the school, to best meet the needs of those students, also considering the skills of their teachers and to see that the parents of the students knew the children’s needs were paramount.

That of course, was also integral to my oversight and management of the remainder of the school in the mainstream classes.

There were computers for my work and communication via emails did not arrive for a few years. It was a telephone, fax and mail school and being on the outskirts of Sydney the communication and responses were not as frequent as the suburbs of Sydney.

The year went well with ME being the major learner of course. I was the ONLY new staff member but I also had to ensure that MY leadership goals were part of the new school’s as well. There was a lot of policy discussion which was mostly related to why there were none where I was used to having these done. Like I have said before, I was there to make change but I also needed to handle matters carefully.

This year I turned 50 and on the staff was another person my age and I recall a joint celebration with two cakes. We did socialise somewhat during the school term with a restaurant meal or something similar with staff. We had regular morning teas and I promoted collegiality and support for all staff.

My executive staff were good but two of them sought promotion – one to a country school, the other to a city school and of course I was pleased for them professionally when their  work was rewarded with what they sought. I recall an incident which was a critical one as it demonstrated a lack of foresight, organisation and care from one of the senior staff. This related to a student being announced at the final year assembly as Vice-Captain, when in fact, she was to be a prefect, and another student was the Vice-Captain. In an embarrassing time for the student, her family and the senior staff I had to interrupt the announcement with the correct person’s name. From that time, I was aware of more loopholes within the school’s management. Policies for example. In a first for this executive staff, there needed to be a written policy on the how, what and why of student leadership nominations, voting and results. From my side, it looked quite poorly scrutinised and certainly that family of the student who was incorrectly announced as vice-captain continued to let me know of their upset long after that incident. No apology in the world was good enough.

Onward into 2000 & beyond.

There were some staff changes into this year of the Sydney Olympics and I had to call panels of parent representative, school representative and one other teacher to enable me to interview, by merit selection, 2 people to replace those who had been promoted. More on this in the third post next week.

The education communities in and near Sydney loved the fact that this was the year of the Sydney Olympics and we even had an extra week off school in September 2000 for all of the available transport (buses mostly) to be geared to getting people to and from Olympic venues. A person who had carried a torch in part of the area near the school brought it to us and we all got to hold it. We had special days and the vibe was good. We even made our Staff Photo that year based on Sports and the Olympics.

I had some lovely people working at the school in administration and I know my mantra (from my boss) of keeping on heading into this famous 21st century was embraced but it remained a load on me as the school leader both administratively and educationally. There were courses in finance and human resources to attend and of course ones to train us further in Child Protection.

This became even more important as time went on, and I recall sitting at yet another training course thinking “I am responsible for all of this yet I have no control over it”. It was quite a  watershed moment for me.

I loved the role even so. I felt I brought action and innovation to the school and lifted its place in educational areas. I may not have been a local in a very conservative area but I did my best to keep open and good relationships with the local community, my Parent groups and the community of schools nearby.

At home, I know I really never switched off. The laptop came home with me. Newsletters written by me on the weekend. There was no email or other communications like that until 2002 so everything was done and then printed off for the families each fortnight. I improved more of the external appearance with signage and keeping areas safer by removal of damaged play equipment. I had a General Assistant 3 days a week and because of the size of the school grounds, he spent most of his time on a mower.

I had to organise school repairs and more via private contractors and be savvy enough to know how to ask for quotes and then to see how the school might benefit and when to get those happening in a child-free time. I would be phoned at home in school holidays about staffing and maintenance and there was/is not a time-off for school principals.

In re-reading this I recall much of it. It has stayed as a very strong memory, being principal of R.P.S. I did have some amazing opportunities and one was being a community member for the local (new then) gaol in the area and contributing to ideas and supporting the warden in his role. I was the district principal  representative for Stewart House, the N.S.W. Public Schools charity supporting needy children to have a break from home by the sea. I do know I missed a lot of ‘family time’ because of the nature of the role and my school was about 40 minutes from home but I was (still am) a passionate educator!

Stewart House: South Curl Curl.

Next time: 2001 and 2002. The Way My Career as a N.S.W. School Principal Ended.

I know there is a lot that’s been said (and I hope read) but it’s such a pivotal part of my life (then) and even now. I needed to share it as I have.

Thank you.

Denyse.

Link Up #175

 

Link Up #175. Life This Week.

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* 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.

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Next Week’s weekly optional prompt is: 7/51 Self-Care Stories 17.2.2020

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Share Your Snaps #1. 5/51. #LifeThisWeek. 9/2020.

Share Your Snaps #1. 5/51. #LifeThisWeek. 9/2020.

Here we are, fifth week of the link-up already, and it’s time to Share Your Snaps. This optional prompt occurs every 5th week here for Life This Week.

January 2020 has not, in the overall scheme of things, been wonderful for so many people and places. As I prepare this post, it’s late Saturday in NSW on the Central Coast and (fingers crossed) the air-con is working because it’s high 30s outside. Many are doing it much worse than we are, including family who lived back where we used to – it’s around 45deg C there now. I am getting RFS fire updates for NSW on my phone and “know” it is still very nasty out there.

Here’s my January: each has a short story! Of course it does.

A flashback to the end of November when I received the delightful photo book with these lovely grandchildren. Love this so much.

After the success for me of finding something/someone/reason to be grateful for my birthday month of November, I went full-on into gratitude. I wrote about the why here. However, January has really made me work at finding gratitude. I guess, that IS the point. Nothing comes easy. I admit I faltered a bit wondering whether to continue to post a photo each day for 366 days but I am continuing. I also complete a journal entry each evening.

 

What helps keep me focussed….

Back in January 2018, as I faced more challenges (despite the fact I had already overcome many in 2017 relating to head and neck cancer) I made my word that year: B.O.L.D. I explained its purpose here. I know I glanced at and reminded myself of my goals a LOT in 2018.

In 2019 my husband suggested that whilst I may have had head and neck cancer, it was not the sum total of Denyse. Yes, he is/was right but I also saw that this takes time to integrate into one’s life. I used integrate as my word….and tripped, fell, got up again…a few times as I did this over and over. But, it, like the year before’s B.O.L.D. worked.

It comes as no surprise for regular readers and followers  then that I chose gratitude for 2020. I saw how helpful having the words engraved on little bracelets was for 2018 and 2019 so 2020 got a third one. I admit they are not heavy at all, and I do look and them more than I realise and am buoyed and supported by my memories of how I far I have come and how I can keep on going. Even on tough days. I am actually having some right now. Sigh.

Thank you NOT Instagram.

I have been unable to be part of Instagram on my new Iphone since 7 January. I have tried un-installing, re-installing, making a new account, sending messages to both Instagram and Facebook and seeking help at the Apple store. I have the app on the Ipad and can use instagram there but for this Iphone lover, it is not fun. Nevertheless, I am still seeking help and have some plans to see other people who may help. I do believe, the whole thing is about something being ‘stuck’ in their system. I am OK about it for now but it is frustrating.

In the meantime I opened a second Instagram account: @denysewhelan_blogs for my gratitude photos and @denysewhelan continues for day-to-day pics. I have made them both public and deleted many of my photos so if one or the other gets ‘hacked’ I have photos already in the cloud etc.

We celebrated 49 years of marriage on 23 January and this photo was unearthed when I last visited Dad. Mum had a ‘brag book’ with our wedding pictures in it. I look at this photo and of course love it but think “why didn’t I wear something around my neck?” Seriously I was very much a minimalist in terms of the dress. This was from Bridesmaids’ stock at the wedding shop we went to in Sydney. Still have the dress. No, still can’t fit into it but a couple of granddaughters have tried it on as little girls.

One year before marriage, I was appointed to my first school. Barraba Central. I got this copy of my service record when I had my “proper” retirement from N.S.W. Department of Education in 2018 and I just LOVE how my record was hand-written. Sigh. This is from the NSW State Archives in Kingswood.

A simple lunch, right? Well, for me it was another occasion to give this food of regular eating a go. Even though I have a set of teeth up top, my mouth does not easily eat foods unless they are cake-like, cereal with milk, soft and creamy and so on. But I really miss regular food so gave this another try. Instead of joining the bread roll, I made it the 2 halves and with some small bites, and chewing very well, I enjoyed the simple lunch as shown. Lettuce is tricky for head and neck cancer patients which is why I chose a curly textured one not a slippery smooth one.

Back to the beach. 

Inspired by a friend in New Zealand who posted a photo of herself off for a beach swim, I made a promise to myself to get back to the beach. Well, in a way. I chose not to go into the water: rough and some blue bottles and seaweed, but I did walk in the water and enjoy the ambience and views. What I did not factor in is that mornings are my “going to coffee at the shops” time and so will keep beach visits to afternoons and when cooler day occur!

Thank you grandchildren…and my children who made this photo shoot happen. Bye to January 2020.

Having said goodbye to January, I am turning my mind towards February and taking part in Fat Mum Slim’s Photo-A-Day. I am not regularly part of this but figured for 29 days I will give it my best. Do you follow @fatmumslim and #fmspad?

Thanks for reading and I hope linking up a post too.

Denyse.

Link Up #174

 

Link Up #174. Life This Week.

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, or on your sidebar.

*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 weekly optional prompt is: 6/51 Interesting 10.2.2020

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