Sunday 15th December 2019

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

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

Denyse’s Memoir: Telling My Story.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highlights of My Story: 1988-1998.

Health.

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

Tertiary Study.

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

Family Matters.

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

Homes and Houses.

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

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

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

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

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

Becoming Grandparents. 

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

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

Life’s Ups and Downs.

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

Health Matters. 

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

Moving On. 

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

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

But first.

A New House.

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

What’s Next?

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

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

Denyse.

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

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

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

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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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