Monday 24th September 2018

September Stories. #2. 2018.92.

September Stories. #2. 2018.92.

When I began this series last week and ended with...to be continued, I know that was a disappointment to some readers and also could have been seen as a way to have you come back to read more. In some ways it was but in reality it is because, as I wrote, I realised the length of the September Story about being a principal needed more space.

I also did not realise until this week, that the day for publication of September Story #2 is R U OK Day. In the past, I have blogged about R U OK day using the R U OK guidelines and always hoping that if any reader needed help, they could find it by asking or calling below. In keeping with being honest, I will admit I could not tell my employer or fellow professionals I was NOT OK. I shared that with my husband and my G.P.

So, keeping that in mind, here is some background I wrote some time ago to get me started…again!

 

Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

My story, as a K-6 teacher, English as a Second Language teacher assistant principal, deputy principal, relieving principal, principal, begins…here.

As I trawl back in my memory bank to unlock the story of mine. It’s no-one else, yet it was about more than me.

The day I never returned to my school as its principal.

Etched into my mind, my psyche and my whole body.

Thursday 5.9.2002.

But that is not where the story starts.

In one way it starts here:

The evening of Wednesday 4.9.2002 was when I knew. I knew that my emotional health was broken to the point of never being able to return to:

  • the school I had led for almost 4 years
  • the position of principal I had been appointed to from January 1999

Why?

That is where I need to take a breath…and let out the sigh and say ‘it is not an easy story to tell….and an even harder one for me to relate…but I will.’

First Year as a Principal.

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 2018, that I did all I could to both understand, accept and get upskilled 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 ataff. 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.

Next Time: Story 3.

What happened in the lead up to my emotional health breakdown.

I have written only some of what it is like to be a school principal. Despite the fact, as above “one day, I never went back” I loved the role. However, now in this age of social media and 24/7 connections, I do not believe I could perform the role without cost to my mental health.

Therefore I honour R U OK Day and this message below is for those who might be part of a conversation and not sure what to do.

I wish I had known that I could have admitted to a colleague or my boss how hard things got for me in mid 2002 but I could not. Not until I broke down at home on 4.9.2002.

Denyse.

 

Joining with Leanne for Lovin Life Linky here on Thursdays.

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So, What Do You Do? 2018.88.

So, What Do You Do? 2018.88.

I first posted this in 2016, and now today modified as I believe this is even more pertinent in years of retirement or semi-retirement which some of my readers would agree it can take a bit of thought to come up with the answer! I have also removed the original comments.

This is often a question when getting to know more about someone.

What is your answer?

Mine is…or used to be…”I’m a teacher.”

I find that there is a response of interest mostly and also I then sense that there may be another response that can be a negative one.

The ‘other’ response that teachers may get when they disclose their career can be, in my theory, based on the questionner’s experience with teachers.

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I am interested as recently I heard of a situation where someone was given a very hard time in an adult learning setting because that person knew he had a teaching background. The adult teacher/trainer displayed a bias that was not only felt by the person who told me, but the group’s learning was impeded apparently.

So, what is your response to knowing a person is a teacher?

 

Are you aware of any intended or unintended bias? Interesting isn’t it?

Now, away from the teaching background, how might I describe myself? I find I use a few more words that I might have even 2 years ago to help clarify….

I am fully retired from a career in education. I blog and that keeps me connected to a wide range of people. I also like to create and do art and take time each day to be outside and also to get dressed with purpose and go out for a coffee. Oh, and over a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer in my gums but that is going well after surgeries and treatments.

As for your career, profession or current employment or life status…what do you say when people ask:

“So, what do you do?”

Denyse.

education 150

Joining the I Blog On Tuesdays crew over here at Kylie Purtell’s site and here on Wednesday with Sue and Leanne for Mid-Life Share the Love linky.

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Famous People I’ve Met. 33/52. #LifeThisWeek. 2018.74.

Famous People I’ve Met. 33/52. #LifeThisWeek. 2018.74.

This post was a bit of a trip down memory lane. I would say though, I do not have photos with many ‘famous’ people I have met. I have lived quite a long time (in my 69th year!) so I recall meeting:

  • singer Bobby Rydell when I was 12 at the airport. My Dad took me..I do not know why!
  • now ancient and still DJ on radio Bob Rogers as a teen but I barely recall where!
  • as a visitor to my school: Dr Karl Kruszelnicki and he was pretty disinterested but he came to speak to the kids of the OC classes and they lapped it up.
  • in the TV audience for a show headed by Tony Squires- as part of the Sydney Olympics and it was fun.
  • met author & public education champion Jane Caro on the morning I appeared on Weekend Sunrise
  • met the Morning Sunrise Team – of then Kochie, Mel and Mark when they did the show next to our house in 2014 but they did not impress me
  • was invited to and attended a small morning tea with then Senator Stephen Conroy and whilst he was communications minister for then Labor Govt, we talked of the NBN….and we know what happened next. Change of Govt…and somewhere along the line, Sen Conroy left politics.
  • had the entire (old) 2WS team broadcast their breakfast show from the school where I was principal and they were a delight!

The following people I did meet….at various functions in Sydney over a few years…

What can I add? Who Gets to Meet Santa Claus? Me!

Of the people in the photos above, I enjoyed meeting and felt privileged to meet:

Then NSW Governor Dr Marie Bashir. This gracious woman thanked me, then retired from NSW public schools for all I had done for public education in New South Wales. I was touched.

The author & actor William McInnes as he has been narrating his stories to me, yes just me, right..for many years and I never tire of his voice, his tales and his genuine regard for all things Australian. I sat about one chair space from where he spoke and he was ‘just great’.

The then Prime Minister Julia Gillard impressed me with her brief chat to me about education and thanked me for my contribution. My opinion of her changed over time when she connected funding to schools via a very complicated system that negated what was the best of Gonski.

T.V. and media home designer and author Shaynna Blaze was so generous and kind in her one to one meeting with me. Admittedly it was a function where I paid some money to be in a small group who heard her speak. She even followed through with her congratulations when she heard our house had sold after I sent her a photo of ‘the decor including the cushions.’

Author and Neuropsychologist Kylie Ladd became a twitter follower and friend in 2010 and at Kerri Sackville’s first book launch in 2012 I got to meet Kylie. She is an unassuming and modest author who had written successful fiction for some time. I went to my then local Library at Castle Hill to be an supportive audience member for her talk in 2014 about Mothers and Daughters.

Have you met some famous people too?

How do people become famous?

I do think things have changed a lot in terms of fame when we consider social media’s impact.

Love to hear your thoughts.

Denyse.

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

Next Week’s Optional Prompt: 34/52. My Hairstyle History. 20/8/18.

 


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What I Will Never See Again. 23/52.#LifeThisWeek. 2018.47.

What I Will Never See Again. 23/52.#LifeThisWeek. 2018.47.

I am not sure what I thought this prompt would be about when it came to writing. Then, upon reflection, I decided the photos and some words could tell the story…of just a few things…of what I will never see again.

Some things of course are still there: Warragamba Dam, Manly Beach and Los Angeles…however, it is more likely than not that I will never see them again.

I note career items from my years as a young Mum and teacher, onto my senior years as Uni tutor and as an Education Specialist. Whilst I do not mention my grandchildren specifically any more (privacy reasons) it is noteworthy to add a drive to Sydney at dawn as a new grandchild was born and the eldest grandchild in an individual drama performance in the NSW Public Schools Spectacular in a place that no longer exists! With reference to our aging as I said to my husband when doing this post, there is hair neither of us will see again, along with our teeth! Gotta have a laugh.

There are things we will never see again because of where they occurred – the pool and the flowers – but who knows over time if we may not have at least one of those experiences again! More likely the flowers than the pool.

Enjoy!

 

Thank you for reading, commenting and I hope LINKING up a post, old or new, on or off prompt this week!
Denyse.
Joining with Alicia here for Open Slather.
Life This Week. 23/52. 

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

Next Week’s Optional Prompt: 24/52. The M-Z of Me. 11/6/18. 


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Can’t Live Without. #LifeThisWeek. 28/52. 2017.92.

Can’t Live Without. #LifeThisWeek. 28/52. 2017.92.

Welcome back everyone to Life This Week!

I have missed you all. Thank you to those lovely bloggers who checked on how I was going when I was in hospital and since I have been home.

I can’t live without blogging and bloggers it seems too!

I’ve listed the revised prompts and their weeks here. They are also on the Home Page.

This post will be ‘short and photo-filled’ as a side-effect of the strong anti-biotics that my gut dislikes (and I do too!) is giving me less time to write….if you know what I mean…so without further ado here is just a few of what I can’t live without.

This man! Met on 17 Oct 1970 and can’t live without his love, care, commonsense and the yin to my yang. Love at first sight it is true (for us) the opposites attract.

 

B put my wedding ring on this finger on 23 Jan 1971 and recently re-sized down after weight loss, I was sad when after surgery and my hand swelled it became stuck. Some cream on my other hand helped shift it and when B came for next visit it went home in his wallet for safe keeping.

 

Nature and its colours, shapes and beauty. I see it everywhere and can’t live without in my life.

 

Art of some kind is always part of my creative life. I am a highly visual person and enjoy creating my own mandalas now. They are meditative for me. I took art materials to hospital and by the time I was out of ICU in my room I was ready to create. Not this one! This was done at home.

 

Photography. I have a phone or camera with me wherever I go. I cannot live without being able to capture something which may never appear again. I particularly enjoy living close to nature like this because it gives me so much joy to find scenes like these to remember. In fact, I showed some of the nurses these photos and they could not believe the beauty that abounds where we live now.

 

I know I cannot live without my iPhone for sure! This is me the day we set off for Sydney for pre-admission to hospital and I guess I knew it would be my ‘last toothy smile’ for a while. The other thing in that photo I cannot live without is my glasses! Readers and multis. Cannot see any details without them.

 

The beach. Wherever it is. I cannot live without seeing spaces of water and sand. I am missing them now as I am a bit house-bound but on our way home from Sydney I loved coming across the Hawkesbury River towards our ‘now home’ the Central Coast.

 

I also cannot live without capturing a sunrise or a sunset if I get the chance. I did each morning from my hospital room. It was so uplifting to be part of nature this way. And my ‘old home town’ of Sydney is here.. I do not miss her as much as I thought I did.

 

I cannot live without my car….well I do for now because my husband drives me where we need to go. Last week I ‘had’ to stand next to her (red car I love you!) after my visit to the GP. He, by the way, is friendly and amazing so I share cannot live without him. He has helped me so much in the short time he has been our GP. I will add him to the list!

 

Blue Sky. As we all know we cannot live without what is above us as it sustains us. I cannot live without the air, the clouds which bring rain and the blue sky which gives joy.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this literal ‘snapshot’ of what I cannot live without.

Denyse.

Thank you for linking up here.  I link up on Mondays too with Alicia here for Open Slather and Kell here for Mummy Mondays.

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


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