Friday 10th April 2020

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.

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.

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* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere, or on your sidebar.

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

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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.

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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.

 

 

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Telling My Story. Chapter Ten. 1980-1982. 28/2019.

Telling My Story. Chapter Ten. 1980-1982. 28/2019.

To read all of Telling My Story to date: here is the link to the page. Thanks for your interest!

I mentioned at the end of Chapter Nine that telling my story for 1980 would be significant. And indeed it was.

Education Professional Matters. 1980.

I realised more of my professional goals via the fact of healthy competition in the school where I was a teacher. Coming back in May 1979 to a full-time role (no such thing as part-time maternity leave then) I was immediately interested in proving my professional worth.

In the system of public education back then (and for almost the whole time till it ended in the 1990s) a female teacher who wished to gain promotion to the next level to become, in my case : a deputy mistress or  a head mistress of an Infants Department. These were grades Kindergarten to Year Two.

Virtually no men taught in the Infants Departments so their promotions were to deputy master or head master. Sigh. Sorry, more to come!

To gain promotion was to show your readiness via classroom teaching skills, programming, supervision of some other teachers, understanding of the curriculum, providing leaderships skills, being well-read in the latest of education theory and…..being observed in your classroom for a whole day by the local District Inspector. That person observed you, asked you many questions through the day, looked at the children’s workbooks, spoke to the children and read through everything you’d been asked to provide.

Nerve-wracking?

Yes but in some ways gratifying. I recall enjoying the challenge of being ready for this a few months into 1980 having seen others on staff go through it and achieve List One…so I was onto it.

List One meaning? Literally a LIST of people who had been shown and observed in their work to have met the requirements fo List One and on the date of that achievement your name was added to the List. Someone whose List One had been achieved earlier than me, would be “more senior” to me by chronology and so, if we wanted to apply for the same promotion position at a school, SHE would get it before me but I would continue to wait on that list.

Taking a move to a less desirable area might be a faster way to gain the first promotion, pay rise and new role but as I was in north-western Sydney, had an unwell spouse, a child at school and a now toddler in family day care, then I remained on First List within the same school. More to come.

Family Matters. 1980 – 1982.

My clever and very education-focussed husband who had his second list and was a Deputy Master in a large Sydney Primary School was very unwell. His problems related to his spine (cervical initially) and from the time we had returned to Sydney he sought various treatments including awful disc removal and replacement with parts of his hip in 1978. This stabilised his spine somewhat but pain was never far away.

Instead of success in his career as he had so much promise, in 1979 and into 1980 his days were more and more challenging in terms of even getting to school. In a sad time for us both, he reluctantly accepted the NSW Department of Education’s offer of medical retirement at age 30. Such a loss to education and the beginning of a very painful and hard time in his life.

Our children brought him joy and love of course, but he wasn’t able to interact physically as he might have liked and the kids understood but it was hard. He supported my venture into the professional realms of education promotion but it was hard on me and for me to balance home and school life.

My parents offered physical support from time to time, having the kids come to stay in the school holidays and also preparing meals for us and tending to our yard as my previously very fit husband just could not.

It is still sad for both of us to recall this period and even more to consider that some of the medications that he was using under doctors’ instructions were actually making him sicker. Next chapter will tell more.

In the usual way of things, we still had some small family holidays even if it was just for a few nights. Our income had reduced but we could scrape by and our children brought us fun and laughter especially at birthdays and Christmas. Christmas remained a special time and memory for sure!

Onto More In My Career. 1981.

School in many ways offered a great distraction from some of the hard parts of what was happening for my husband. I could not prevent anything for him and it was hard to be an observer of someone in pain. He had good support from local medical professionals and did seek to help himself physically by continuing to drive and help with the children after school time where he could.

I admit that the competitive drive educationally was very strong in me and so with a very helpful set of leaders in our Infants Department which had over 24 classes, there was always room for someone like me who was on a promotion trail. I took the initiative of developing a pre-Spelling program which matched what was currently ‘the’ Spelling program called Quota Spelling.

Do you remember it? Our son in Year Two (getting ahead of myself) was an amazing speller and was on the maximum of 30 words each week to learn. As he always got them right, I did ask his teacher “why does he have to write them out 5 x each night?” I was not appreciated even though I was correct! 

So, I had more responsibilities willingly and loved them. The school was changing in terms of the huge numbers as the new school up the road was finally ready to accept new students and our HUGE class numbers reduced and we all went back to being on the same site. So much better for cohesiveness AND getting to know who was on the same staff as you.

Our daughter came to school with me each morning but many afternoons her dad was able to pick her up as I would be back for meetings and classroom preparation. Our son was in a very happy Family Day Care setting and I could take him and then pick him up later. We were so blessed having him there for the 5 years until his school start. In the two years before school he attended a long day care setting in a pre-school. More on that later.

I was readying myself for a ‘go at List Two’ in 1982. It was a more rigorous inspection and more leadership skills needed to be shown. Even though I did not hold a position at the school, our forward thinking Head Mistress gave people like me curriculum leadership responsibilities so I could hold meetings and help guide the work of others.

Promotions and More. 1982.

A very big two days in my life were those when Mr Inspector J.E. turned up and spent two days with me and my Year Two class asking them and me questions along the way and referring to the many documents I had written and he read through as I continued teaching. He also visited my colleague next door to measure the influence of my leadership within the curriculum and the grade. It was gruelling but I was rewarded at the end with the words “I will be nominating you as suitable for placement on the Second List”. Wow. Then what, I thought?

Not long to wait. In a most unusual scenario I had my Head Mistress tell me that Mr J.E. needed to speak to me about taking on a Relieving Head Mistress role at a school quite a few suburbs away….and I am adding, into a different socio-economic realm from the one where I was teaching.

I took some time to consider it as I needed to speak to my husband first to see if it could work logistically AND then I accepted the acting position. From classroom teacher, up not one list but two, to Relieving Head Mistress (on a class!) with a Deputy Mistress and 6 teachers to supervise.

I met the person who was taking two terms off school due to illness and it was her view that the school needed a new person in (moi!) as there was no-one on the staff who could replace her. This left me wondering even more. However, I was gracious and professional and took on board the class I would be teaching ….and some of those kids…let’s just say, I learned a lot!

From 1982 Staff Photo

Relieving Head Mistress.

I admit it, it was a job I loved. It was very tough though, combining my full-time teaching with the administration of the Infants Department. However, I formed a good relationship with those staff members and I believe they found me refreshing. I was nevertheless thrown in the deep end of leadership and I mostly swam. The community was a different one to get to know. There were families from other countries, and those from Aboriginal backgrounds. In fact some children were, sadly, already known to social services. Interesting to say the least. I did get some teaching time off (there was no such thing as Release from Face to Face teaching then) which was when a specialist teacher would teach the class. Did I mention they were a challenge? Yes, I did.

I missed the staff and the kids in fourth term when it was time to return to my classroom duties a few kilometres (and socio-economic circumstances) away. I was actually restless and that was when the Lists of Vacant Positions was published and there was a school even further west in Sydney needing a Deputy Mistress. It was a List One position and I was on List Two but it did not matter, I was on my way to my first substantive role.

First a telegram came with promotions or transfer offer, which required a visit to Post Office to send back response (YES!). Then a letter confirming all would be sent by mail.

Next time: Chapter Eleven and 1983-1984. Busy times! In the family and school life.

I do hope you are enjoying Telling My Story. I admit I am liking stretching the brain and recalling the memories.

Tell me what you think about “life back then” as I have outlined it. Some of you would have been kids yourselves!!

Denyse.

Joining with Sue and Leanne for MidLife Share The Love link up here on Wednesdays.

Here I add my post to Leanne and friends Lovin’ Life Link up on Thursdays.

And…in Friday I am adding this post to Alicia’s link up called Open Slather, here.

 

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Telling My Story. Chapter Nine. 1978-1979.11/2019.

Telling My Story. Chapter Nine. 1978-1979. 11/2019.

Telling My Story

For the past two years I have been writing my memoir which is a mix of my life as a daughter, wife, mother and educator. Written now with no personal details to protect others, I am moving onto the first two significant years of our life back ‘in the big smoke’ a.k.a Sydney. The years are 1978-1979. The chapters already written are found here.

1978.

Living in Sydney as a family.

We arrived back in Sydney and my parents’ house would be our place of abode for the next 3 or so months. Our furniture was transported back to a storage facility in Sydney and we had a holiday – at Mum and Dad’s. Almost by the beach and of course our daughter was the much-welcomed presence. My husband had a new appointment in a north-shore K-6 school as a Deputy Master and I was appointed to what was then a brand new school in the leafy glades near Pennant Hills. Our daughter was to go to school with me. It would be quite a drive across Sydney so we made the decision to get a second car. This was radical and maybe not a great financial move, but we were young! Oh, and the small matter of somewhere to live permanently meant our first mortgage and a house search.

Finding a house.

No longer able to be ‘near that water of the northern beaches’ due to affordability it also made sense for us to go ‘west’ …north-west in fact, as both of us could access our schools with greater ease AND the house and land package was, for us, affordable once the mortgage came through: $44,600.

We were stoked and then I had some health news. About my women’s issues. Just before going to our new schools I had a consultation with my Mum’s ob/gyn specialist who believed the source of my pain on the side was from my ovary. He also heard the full story from me about the NO pregnancy news from others who’d treated me in the previous years.

His plan was to operate on me and remove whatever was causing me issues, and then we might see about the possibilities of a second child.

So proud to call this our first home…that we were not renting.

Schools.

I was already at my school but with no class. In those days the Department of Education appointed teachers when they saw the numbers of students were likely to increase. I was not a happy teacher as I was experienced but I had to comply. Our daughter had settled in too. With the news of this surgery which could be done asap and my recovery period would be around 3 weeks, I decided to go for that then. Mum was there for our daughter’s practical care as was my husband but he was also working in a completely new and busy environment learning about managing large student populations and staff. He took our daughter, Miss Flexible it seems, with him to his school for the weeks involved in my surgery and recovery.

My surgery.

The findings once the abdominal surgery was done, were that I had multiple issues inside for both ovaries which were covered in cysts and ovulation was impossible. I also had some benign growths on fallopian tubes and both of these were causes for my infertility. Not fat. Thanks Dr who told me that. My now ob/gyn, Dr O, said “I have cut tiny sections in your ovaries and that should assist with egg release.”

Home to Mum’s then more news. And We Are In!

I recovered with the best of care and then came the time just before our house would be ready to move into and I returned to school. The news was this: a transfer had arrived at the school where I had no class and I was to report to this new-to-me school asap AND it was much closer to our new house. Thanks to the deities. We moved into the new house with help (and yes it was the wettest 17th March ever) and over time we made it home. I began very soon after at the school where I would be for the next 5 years and it became our daughter’s primary school until she was ready for high school.

New School. New Routines. And NEWS.

The schools in NSW had a different way of enrolling Kinder students then and my class, one of 8, was to receive each of the June and July birthday kids until the end of Term One. Every Monday over a few weeks a new set of scared, sad, happy, nervous young kids began with me in K. In a demountable. No fans or air-con people. Our daughter meanwhile who had a rocky start to the BIG school of 8 classes per grade, finally found her place and flourished. Phew. Meanwhile my husband, who was feeling effects of the neck pain and back pain along with managing his school roles, did it pretty tough. But he is tough.

Can I Be? Really?

We found ourselves a fantastic GP team of a husband and wife who were our medicos from 1978 to 2012 or thereabouts. They were family-oriented and even our kids as adults went to them and then their kids. But I am getting ahead of myself. I was feeling different. It had only been two months since my surgery but I was pretty sure I could be pregnant. No peeing on sticks then but a blood test and wait for results. Oh. My. Goodness. The nurse who did my test was a parent in my class! So much for privacy because she actually knew my story (I must have shared) and she rang me to tell me, yes I was pregnant. She kept quiet but I was always grateful to hear what I had not ever expected to hear again. The news was not accepted as excitedly by my husband right then because I have to add, we were “up to our eyeballs” in loans for cars, house and so on. But I could see we would be OK. And over time, he did too of course!

What Happened Next?

I decided to return to my Dr O who I trusted for my care and birth and even though he was not 100% impressed in my ahem, rapidity, in becoming pregnant took me on and this meant a monthly Friday afternoon trip to the Northern beaches to see him, with my daughter in tow, and then have tea with my parents and trek back. I was well. Mind you, I was tired but teaching was a joy and there were two other teachers also pregnant on Kinder and even before it was recess, the lovely canteen ladies would send us cheese crusts! Yum.

So Much Better This Time Around.

I was almost 8 years older than the first time I was pregnant. I was more educated on childbirth and breastfeeding. I did not know the sex of our child and we chose names for both. I enjoyed preparing a nursery from scratch (remember, we had given all the baby items away except for a special baby basket). My weight remained stable and there was no pre-eclampsia. However, the toll of teaching Kinders in Summer in a hot demountable classroom saw my GP recommend finishing earlier than the mandated 6 weeks and I did that willingly.

With regular visits to my parents’ house where my Dad had finally added an in-ground pool, I was treated pretty darned well. My teacher mates gave me a great baby shower, and one of my friends was now at home with her baby and my other colleague was due after me. The due date was mid January and by then I was “over it”. A slight rise in BP meant I took up the locum Ob/Gyn offer to admit me the following Sunday for induction. My Dr was still sailing in the Sydney to Hobart I was told.

Birth day Time

After a leisurely float around the pool, we changed and went our way across Sydney to North Sydney saying good bye to our daughter then 7 knowing she would be a sister next time we saw her. I had then-practice of pre-induction enema and I was given a private room as I had hoped to ‘room-in’ with my baby after having such a different experience in 1971. The night was slow even though I had some pain. My husband went to Mum and Dad’s and I saw him the next morning when I was taken to labour and delivery. If only. Induction was s for slow and I had p for pain. I was adamant no pain relief or epidural. Until I could not bear it any longer – 8 hours of so of pain every 10 mins going nowhere broke me. It appeared, I had another posterior lie baby. I had the epidural and it worked. On one side. S for sheeeet.

I got tired. I was over it. And of course, that meant I was ready to give birth. But I had forgotten that. This time with as gentle coaching husband, a calm Dr, oh and a million or so nurses who rocked up to count my birthing as one of theirs for registration, I pushed out….the watermelon. I was OVER it. In fact, the baby boy was passed to my husband for care, the Dr started his stitching and they chatted. About whether this new boy would play cricket for Australia. Seriously. I was done. In fact the hospital was crazy busy with births and we got some time-out together in a side ward until I (we!) was taken to my private room.

It was a painful but glorious end to our quest to have a second child and he was just a much-wanted child. Not much more to add. His sister was proud, we thought he was great and on the date of our wedding anniversary we took him home – firstly to my parents and then back across Sydney home. Even in those days, car safety for babies was slack and he was in a basket, protected with a net and a safety belt around that.

The family baby basket. This is his sister in it. Later, over the years, our grandchildren slept in it when we cared for them.

Parenting Two.

It really was not a big issue. His sister was 7.5 years older than him and doted on him. We also made sure her routines continued and I would bring the baby with me. One thing I remember doing as a member of the local Australian Breastfeeding Association was take him to the local pre-school and show the kids how he was fed and cared for. However, I was still not as happy about being at home. My friend had her child now and occasionally we would meet up for baby weighing days. But we needed me to be back at school and I did too. There was only one choice in 1979 – full-time or stay on leave.

Of course, it was always going to be about the family day care options. I was given some places to see and I was disappointed on first impression. Then I remembered one of the parents from the K class had told me about Aunty Y who cared for her two and she highly recommended her. I visited with my son and the house was messy but it was kid-messy and a more grandmotherly person I was yet to meet. She agreed to care for him 5 days a week and her house was on my way to school. Win.

I had continued to breast feed with success and at 18 weeks our son happily went to his family daycare home with some bottles of expressed breast milk and was cared for with love. I, on the other hand, found it trickier being a breast-feeding teacher and when I thought about it, my milk would ‘come in’. I found over time though the my milk regulated and with the energy expended by me with teaching Year 1 , playground duty and so on, I had enough to feed him once we were home, and then express for the next day. Over time he added milk in a bottle and some food as babies do but I was proud of “us” lasting around 8 months.

We were grateful to have a very independent and resourceful daughter, a pretty good baby and a hands-on husband who was also in full-time work and we made it happen. It was hard. I know we got some nights where sleep was patchy because of the baby but we all know we can power on…thanks to coffee! My parents offered on some occasions to cook a meal at our house and that was readily accepted. We were new residents of a growing suburb in north-west Sydney and though very busy, our life was going well.

Teaching and Ambition.

I returned to a Year One class in May 1979 and was immediately struck by the teamwork and professionalism in this particular section of the school. I admit, I saw teachers who were applying for promotion via what was then called The List system and it made me say to myself “I can do that.” So, from then onwards, I took on a few more responsibilities within the school. It was a very large school in a newly populated area. 8 classes per grade: 24 classes K-2! We only tended to meet with our grade as the time was hectic. We were in temporary lodgings as a new school to take some of the kids was being built further along the road. By 1981 that would occur and we would be all on the same site.

Family Life.

What would occur in our family life in 1980 is part of the next chapter. It was huge, and significant and continues to affect us in some ways today.

Next Chapter: 1980 onwards. 

This will incorporate more of my teaching career as it was the beginning of promotions and new roles for me. NOT something I had planned but it happened for quite a few reasons.

Denyse.

Joining here on Thursday with Leanne and crew at Lovin’ Life.

 

 

 

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Telling My Story. Chapter Two. 1954-67 Schooling. 2018.26.

Telling My Story. Chapter Two. 1954-67. 2018.26.

 

Photo of Me on my 67th Birthday 30.11.2016.

The day before I was diagnosed with upper gum cancer I published ‘the first’ of a fore-shadowed series of posts about Telling My Story.

The response to the post of 16 May 2017 was well-received and I am glad I made a start. Here it is. I have included, from that post of almost a year ago, the introduction:

Recently I decided to begin Telling My Story.

Initially it was school-career based in a memoir genre. Then I wanted to tell what had happened in my life once I’d reached 60 and what I had learned. Where I am at now it a mix of all of this! I am going to start here: the beginning of my life, and interspersed with my career will be aspects of my life and how I have grown and changed…over and over!

I hope you will find something of interest. I know essentially I am doing this for me as it helps. However, as a blogger, I would like to think it has enough appeal for you to enjoy too.

I admit it was a pretty full-on time from 17th May 2017 and my mind was in quite a few places where blogging took a lesser priority but I knew I wanted to keep on doing this story of my life. I am finally ready to dive deep and remember where I was and what I want to say next!

Fast Forward: 2015 I returned to my old H.S. and presented at my last ever teacher professional meeting. I was retired in full after this!

Primary School Years. 1954-1961.

I began Kindergarten in September 1954, the term of my 5th Birthday. I loved school from day one and as it was in the same street as our house, I soon walked to school independently. I had to do a transition year (common then & in 1956 (the year of the Melbourne Olympics) I was a student in Year One. Mum and Dad asked my teacher if my left-hand writing should be changed and she said no. Thank you! I did well in school – the classes were large and there was some serious competition between me and two others for placement in the year. At the end of 1959 our lives would change. We sold our house in Wollongong and my brother and I started at our new school in Balgowlah Heights and got to know both a new area and new schools. This time there were many more kids in my grade and I settled into somewhere around the midlife. It was a big deal for my parents to move away from friends and family but Dad’s promotion was the prize and we settled into the almost-water side suburb and got on with new friends, sports and so on.  It was in 1960 in Mr Duffy’s 5th class that I knew I would like to be a teacher. I am so grateful too that he encouraged my skills of organisation as I became the head library prefect in Year 6. We had a Year 6 Formal/Dance and I wore my first pair of stockings and small heels. The sophistication! Then I, along with all my HS starting peers for 1962 were being sent headlong into the “new” Wyndham Scheme – Higher School Certificate after 6 years at school!

High School Years. 1962-1967.

I was part of the cohort of N.S.W. students to enter high school in 1962 and become ‘the guinea pigs’ for the introduction of the Wyndham Scheme where it was decided that breaking the high school years up into 2 sections was the best plan. The first was Forms (years) 1 to 4 with an external School Certificate examination and then Forms 5 & 6 with an external Higher School Certificate.

The previous system which had been around for decades had students doing an Intermediate Certificate at the end of 3rd Year (and could leave school for work or a trade) and those who wanted to train, for example, as teachers or go to University went to do the Leaving Certificate at the end of 5th Year.

I was in a public primary school at Balgowlah Heights on the Northern Beaches in Sydney and the ‘feeder’ High School for my area was Manly Girls High School. It was located quite a way from home & not in Manly but a bus took us from a street near home to school and then the same in the afternoon. Manly Girls High was only pretty new too. So, when we arrived, there were students doing the five years and us, the newbies. There were at least 5 classes of 35+ students in this cohort of mine and I was placed in 1A. . This was, apparently, based on ability from primary school testing. In 2nd Form 2A meant I was studying the compulsory English, Maths, Science & History  along with my chosen subjects of French and German. We also had P.E., music lessons too. I admit I was not a swot but enjoyed the social aspect of school. I have written about that before here!

In the photo we are in Winter uniform (tunic, long sleeved shirts, tie, blazer). I am 3rd row, 2nd from left.

The school uniforms were traditional even though we were essentially a new school. The  main colour was brown, with green too. Who picks that, I ask? There were summer and winter uniforms and prefects checked length of uniforms (visually) as we walked into school and also…if our socks were turned down correctly. If we were seen in public (for example, my bus went through Manly and if I needed to go to the dentist or elsewhere, I would get off the bus there) and we had to ensure we had hat and gloves on. Even in Summer. I am not making this up.

 

First Day of High School. Gloves must be in my pocket! Summer Uniform was beige. Hats were made of straw…and flung around on the bus ( oh, not for a while!)

Our headmistress (no principal title for her!) was very English private school in her policies and we even sang British anthems at Assemblies: Jerusalem being one. (mind you I actually still like it!). To officially open the school we had the daughter of the Governor General of Australia do the honours. As in all things with government the official opening came way after the actual opening – I was in my 3rd year of H.S. but then – but we all got our photo taken to mark the occasion.

 

 

With our group being the first  to have two senior years we got the chance to have (and help design) a senior uniform. By now, the old headmistress had been replaced by a more reasonable head…but a deputy head who was dragon-like in her insistence on petty rules also arrived. Sigh. We also had the choices in subjects and could take 6 subjects in Form 5 and then drop one if we wished into the Higher School Certificate Year. I immediately dropped Science! No good at science ever. So my subjects ended up as compulsory: English and Maths, Modern History, French and German.

 

On Being The First Group To Complete Six Years at High School.

Last year it was the 50th anniversary of the first students to complete the 6 years of high school with the Higher School Certificate examination at its end. In the many years since we did it in 1967 there have been changes, such as making English the only mandatory subject and allowing many more ‘mini but specialised’ subjects into the list. The purpose as was foreshadowed by the Wyndham School of the additional year at school was to add maturity and experience in completing more complex subjects to enable most of those sitting the H.S.C. to go to University or, as in my case, Teachers’ College as they were known then.

The formal end of compulsory schooling was via the external examination called the School Certificate. It was rigorous and we sat for it in a similar way to the H.S.C. After this examination was passed (or not) students could decide to:

  • by passing, they could continue their education into the last 2 years of school at senior level
  • by passing, they could choose to leave and enter into the workforce or get a traineeship or apprenticeship and many did
  • by failing (awful word) repeat the year OR if they were 15 and over, could leave school without the qualification and enter the workforce.

There was nothing like the services of centrelink or similar. In fact, it was true that most people did get work or trained for a career. Some professions like nursing took entrants in with a School Certificate (or the H.S.C.) and they did hospital-based training as well as work in the hospitals. They were paid as they did so. They often lived-in and would have to pay board etc.

For those wanting to attend University in the time of my school leaving, there were paid Commonwealth Scholarships for University for those who wanted to do a degree (say B.A. or B.Sc) and then a Dip. Ed. to become a High School Teacher. These scholarships, earned via the quality of the final examination results,  indentured the student to work in a particular place/area of Australia for an agreed time. For me, as a new-to-be teacher in a N.S.W. Public School I secured a teachers’ scholarship which paid me an allowance to study and as I was living at home I did not need board and food allowances as my husband did when he went to teachers’ college away from home. We were both ‘bonded’ to the N.S.W. Department of Education for the first 3 years of our teaching and could be sent anywhere in N.S.W. or forfeit the bond and not have work from this employer. Neither of us did that..and if we had, we never would have met! That’s a whole chapter in the future!

This is actually still a provision of accepting a role of permanence in N.S.W. Department of Education : whilst in our employ you can and may be instructed to teach anywhere in N.S.W. When I was teaching Masters of Teaching students in 2013 and 2014 I told them of this and many were in disbelief. Unfortunately there is much less of the pioneer spirit had by those of us who graduated in the 1950s and 1960s which is a shame as there is so much to learn by moving away from your home and comfort zone.

The Social Aspects of My Teens 1962-1967. This will be the next chapter!!

What was high school like for you?

What kind of uniform did you have?

Did you go to High School to learn or to play?

I will be looking forward to reading your responses!

Denyse.

 

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Telling My Story.Chapter One. My Parents. 2017.69.

Telling My Story.Chapter One.My Parents. 2017.69.

Added: March 2018: This was published one day before I knew I has cancer. Once that was diagnosed a lot of change took place for me as I need to focus on my health, surgery and recovery. The story now picks up again…in mid March 2018 here! 

Recently I decided to begin Telling My Story.

Initially it was school-career based in a memoir genre. Then I wanted to tell what had happened in my life once I’d reached 60 and what I had learned. Where I am at now it a mix of all of this! I am going to start here: the beginning of my life, and interspersed with my career will be aspects of my life and how I have grown and changed…over and over!

I hope you will find something of interest. I know essentially I am doing this for me as it helps. However, as a blogger, I would like to think it has enough appeal for you to enjoy too.

Denyse.

Telling My Story.

I was born in the last year of the 1940s.

Photo taken for my Dad in Melbourne.

But before this all happened….

Obviously most memories of early childhood are gleaned from photos and other people’s stories when they tell us too. My life began in a most conventional way, first born to parents who loved each other and already had secured a house. Mum had worked in retail until I was coming along. Dad was an accountant continuing his career started at 15 with Australian Iron and Steel Port Kembla (later BHP) and joining a new company when the old one wanted him to move permanently (with me and Mum) to Melbourne for work. He did not want to leave the familiar and family which was based in Wollongong and surrounds.

Here’s a bit more to that story….

Dad tells me that in my first year of life when he HAD to go and work in the Melbourne office was one of the worst times he could recall being separated from his loving wife and baby girl. He even had us fly to Melbourne for a stay. What a time that must have been for my mum. In Wollongong we had loving and caring neighbours who helped Mum find her feet as a new parent. This family was amazing and I loved that we had a gate between our two places and I always felt welcomed there! Dad found another job, which was in the same company he retired from some 30 years later, and the family was complete when my brother was born AND we got our first car. A Holden FJ of course!

More on my parents before they met…

They were born in 1924 and raised in working class families on NSW South Coast, living through the Great Depression and World War 2 before meeting in the 1940s. My Dad is from Wollongong and my Mum was from Dapto.

Dad’s father died after a workplace accident at The Steelworks in 1935 and his mother was left to raise 4 children. Dad was the second child aged 11 at the time. He did without but his good marks at school and his willingness to become involved in the community which was predominantly the scouting movement meant he developed resilience and knew the power of having some money to survive. Even though he could have done the Leaving Certificate it was his duty to help support his family so at 15 he went to the Steelworks (AI&S as above) to begin in the role of Office Clerk.  Later this would lead to his training as an accountant as he had the mathematics for it! He tells me though, he never ‘got’ algebra.

Mum’s parents worked hard, one in the home, and one outside the home at the coal mine at Wongawilli near Dapto. My grandfather had lost an eye in a mining accident in 1924 so they gave him work ‘above the surface’ looking after the workers’ change areas. They helped raise two families. One, their own, of three children (Mum was the youngest, and 2nd daughter) and the family of two boys where the widower was my grandmother’s brother. It was not uncommon in the 1920s and 30s for this to be the case. Nevertheless my mum remembered it as the ‘boys’ got spoiled and did nothing and we girls did all the work around the house. Mum left school at 15 and went into retail where she thrived.

So how did a young man from Wollongong meet a young lady from Dapto in the early 1940s when there was a war happening? Dad was exempted from war service (age first, then industry reasons) and Mum had only just left school and was working in retail. However, they were both in the Scouting organisation as leaders in their respective home towns and met at Mt Keira Scout Camp Wollongong. After a courtship of some two years, they married on 2 November 1946 at Dapto. Mum’s cub group put on a guard of honour outside the church.

Wedding Day. 1946.

 

Dad and Mum late 1950s. Still in Wollongong.

In 1959 Dad got a job offer within the company he moved to in 1951 and that was of promotion to Chief Accountant at the Sydney office. It was one that could not be refused and this time with 2 children, I was 10 by now and my brother aged 7, we moved to what was to be Mum and Dad’s forever house at Balgowlah Heights.

Snapshots of Mum and Dad over the years…

They had active social and sporting lives, which continued in Sydney. Mum who had been a district rep in Hockey in her youth, went into tennis and played socially and competitively into her 70s. Dad found golf as a sport and business connection and played each Saturday and then once he retired on a Wednesday. Whenever they went away, their golf clubs and tennis racquets went with them as did groups of friends or they would meet up with friends. Mum loved her cards and working for charities such as the View Club. Both supported me and my brother in scouts and guides and in our sporting and school arenas.

Dad retired in 1983 and they spent 6 weeks annually on the Gold Coast, chasing the sun and meeting up with the many friends who had retired that way as well. Mum becoming unwell in the mid 2000s saw the end of that tradition. Sadly too, by the mid 1980s Mum had lost both her older siblings in their 60s. Dad, now 93, is the longest living member of his immediate family of 4.

1980s & 1990s on Holidays on the Gold Coast

 

Mother’s Day 2006. Mum and Dad with me.

Up until Mum’s 80th Birthday in December 2004 she had been quite well. A few so-called minor things were wrong and I know where my worry/anxiety gene comes from. But my mum, just as I do, could put on a smile no matter what.

Mum and Dad celebrate 60 years of marriage. 2006.

We knew Mum was not well but Dad, as her primary carer, liked to see she did as much as she could that she enjoyed in what ended up being her last 2 years. on 2nd November 2006, after the messages from the Queen and many more, for their Diamond Wedding Anniversary, there was  a very special family-only get together, where this photo was taken. After that, Mum’s health sadly declined.

Mum was diagnosed with secondary brain tumours in early 2007  We will never know how much Mum knew about her declining condition but she was the one, back in late January 2007 who said ‘no operation’ when it was offered. The specialist and her doctors  agreed, along with us,  that we would not want Mum to go through that. She spent the next 2 weeks at home and sadly despite Dad’s best efforts to care for her there, she was admitted to palliative care where she died some weeks later. Dad visited every single day.

Moving along….

Mum and Dad have always supported our families over the years and of course, we have been there to support Dad in his new status as widower. He stayed in the family home for the next 4 years. He is still fiercely independent and wanted to be there. He did all the jobs as he was raised to do, and learned via scouting. By the end of 2010 loneliness was prevalent and he announced it was time to sell and move on. Along with family help of my brother, sister in law and me he was delighted to find the best place I could have found. In June 2011, after selling at the downturn in Sydney markets (!!) he moved into an airy and spacious independent retirement unit at Dee Why and has more interactions with people every day than ever. He has only given up driving, and the car, in the past month.

3 years ago at Dad’s 90th Birthday. 3 years ago!

Reflections now…about my parents.

I love my parents and I was always well-cared for and encouraged to follow whatever path I chose. Dad was keen on continuing education and I when I wanted  to become a teacher and remain in the workplace, there was no feeling that I should be at home with the kids. However, my mother, who had always been at home, used to say “Denyse you rush those kids too much”…and sadly I may have but my work at school, along with childcare drop off, was where I was headed. I am more like Dad in personality and less like Mum. Yet I do have some of mum’s anxious disposition and I do enjoy what she did which was to cook and care for her family. She taught me a lot about cooking and I have her recipe books too. She did not encourage me to read, but I did. I was not interested in helping around the house because I preferred to read! I did not inherit Mum’s sporting prowess but I did her smile and the ability to chat with people. I can do that without my mum’s deafness for which I am grateful. More to come in the weeks ahead!

Please tell me if this has been of interest…and if it was too long.

I do know I can ramble on so I may need help!

I welcome your comments and thank you in advance!

Denyse.

 

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