Friday 22nd March 2019

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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My Favourite Decade. 8/51. #LifeThisWeek. 18/2019.

My Favourite Decade. 8/51. #LifeThisWeek. 18/2019.

Given my age, and my so-called group status as a “Baby Boomer” it would not be a surprise to read that my favourite decade is the 1960s.

The decade where my childhood faded, and the teen years beckoned then ended with my teaching career started.

All from ages 12 to 20.

Why oh why was it the best?

I wish I had an image for each of what I remember as highlights but instead, it’s a list and there are a few back up pics.

1960.

Into a new to us Primary School that was much bigger than the one we went to in Wollongong and I had many more people to get to know and achievements to make. The best part of 1960 was having Mr Duffy as my Yr 5 teacher and knowing that I too wanted to be a teacher.

1961.

Year 6. There were two classes and there was quite a bit of competition to do well and whilst I was not as academically gifted as many I liked the ‘leadership’ aspect of Year 6 and our relative independence. We were allowed to leave the school grounds and walk to the local shops for lunch when we had money for that. I remember hot chips and a malted vanilla milk in a carton.

It was the end of year camp that was not so wonderful as my first period decided to arrive during the 10 day camp on Lake Macquarie. Never mind, no swimming, but you can write and edit the Camp Magazine. It was fun. And it was printed on a metholated spirit printer. Remember them? They were still around when I began teaching.

The BIG deal too that year was the Year 6 Farewell Dance. Oh My! Hair done, new dress selected, stockings to wear (a garter belt held up the stockings, a bra fitted, with due embarrassment, at David Jones’ city store and my first tiny heel on a shoe. Wow.

1962.

To High School. We were the cohort of the first 6 years at High School in N.S.W. for the ‘new’ Higher School Certificate as planned by the education review called the Wyndham Scheme. We were indeed guinea pigs but off to the almost brand new single sex public school Manly Girls High, I went. I was put in the top class and there were a total of 7 or 8 classes per year. Getting to know new friends and to go to sport at a local swimming pool and to work with a timetable and catching a bus to school was all part of this time.

1963.

My social life was more fun than school but still I persisted. I would have preferred French and Art as my 2 picks for subjects added to the compulsory four but my dad insisted on French and German for the matriculation purposes in Year 12. But even though it was not as clear as that I complied. I was still part of Girl Guides but not devoted at all and went on a pretty wet camp south of Wollongong. I left Guides once I could. I also began teaching Sunday School. I like little kids and the idea of teaching. I was not as enamoured with the church side of it.

1964.

More independence and I began regular paid evening baby sitting gigs which I continued with the same family till I left for my first teaching appointment. I also began doing some school holiday office duties at Dad’s work. I sure was not interested in helping Mum much. I did a typing course at night in Manly where it was safe for me to catch a bus home in the evening. I went to an after school Ballroom Dancing class each week (i.e. meeting boys class) and my first boyfriend was from the local boys’ school. Ah Col. We had some good times and I got my first friendship ring the next year.

I went to see the Beatles in June with my friend and my brother. It was amazing to actually see, not so much hear, the Beatles.

I began collecting records. Dad was keen on all music and I could play my 45s (the small ones) and my 33s (the big ones) on the family stereo.

I got my first transistor radio and was glued to the evening shows with Mike Walsh and won prizes as I was quick on the phone. Yes I “was” doing homework but could multi-task!

1965.

A big year. Well, that was how it was made out and in terms of the new 6 years of school it was. We had to sit an external examination  called The School Certificate. In completing the School Certificate, the plan was that unless you wanted to go to University, Teachers’ College, enter Nursing or Secretarial College,  then you left school at the end of Year 10 to do an apprenticeship or go to a job. About 2/3 of the whole Year 10 would have left. It was a big shock doing our first external examination to find that the “one” compulsory component – poetry – of the English paper was not one I had prepared for nor knew much about it. Neverthless I passed all of my subjects, and we celebrated with parties at people’s places.

It was the year Sound of Music was released and more movies that genre were about: Doctor Zhivago, My Fair Lady, and so on. When we went to the movies, there was always a double feature with the main movie starting second after interval. I had a new boyfriend by the beginning of the next year, and we met via the social group at Manly Presbyterian Church.

1966.

Again social life precedes school life but the existed side-by-side thanks to joining forces with the local boys’ high schools to appear in a Gilbert and Sullivan Show, and to attend dances. Of course. Greater independence as some of the boys now had cars was for me to be ‘dropped’ by Mum or Dad into Manly on a Sunday afternoon and attend the social/church event and afterwards to go to a local coffee shop. Very trendy.

I continued to do some holiday work for Dad, and to babysit but social life aka love life beckoned more. It was during Year 11 that we of the first to do the HSC got to select and wear a senior uniform and to have some freedom with some teaching time off for ‘study.’ I was active in the School Magazine and social events but came down with a crash when my Year 11 results were not exactly stunning.

I moved on….to

1967.

Ah, a big year and one in which the boyfriend and I split (bye Rob) and hello Stu. Met through the same place. Good old Manly Presbyterian Church Fellowship. This one was already at Uni! He had completed the last of the Leaving Certificate (like my never yet met husband) and was doing Ag Science at Sydney Uni. He had a car. He lived at home with the friendly younger brother and his mum. My younger brother got to meet his, and with their neighbourhood friends, THESE blokes are still mates! Me, broken up with the bf in 1970 …another story for another time. Oh yes, here it is here.

This year was when I got my licence: P’s, could borrow Mum’s car, had more social engagements inclyuding Uni balls, and then realised I needed to put my head down to actually study in the lead up to the H.S.C. It worked, and in saying that it was a slight disappointment that I did not get a NSW Dept of Education scholarship in the first round of offers, but early in 1968.

Meanwhile from end of H.S.C. in November my father had secured a job interview for me (thanks Dad, not!) and in early December 1967 instead of holidaying like my friends, I began as a filing clerk in the human resources section of the A.B.C. in Elizabeth St. If I was happy about one part of this, I was now 18 and could meet up with bf and his mates after work and we could go to the new Wentworth Hotel, the Menzies or even the one where the Hilton is now and have a drink. I did not drink much at all but it was nice to go to those places.

1968 – 1969.

Yes, you are off the Balmain Teachers’ College: sign here to ensure your ‘bond’ of employment for 3 years after graduation and we will send you anywhere in N.S.W. as you will be a permanent teacher. And stayed that way until 2003.

I signed, our neighbour was the guarantor as was the case back then, they paid me $22 a fortnight to become a highly trained and eminently qualified teacher. It was a rigorous course: 5 days a week, every single day taken up with learning how to teach and what to teach kids aged from 5-12. Whilst I specialised in Infants teaching I qualified as a K-6 teacher. I LOVED it all. We had Wednesdays for optional activities and another arvo for sport – we had to learn what we would teach. All set in the now very posh (but not then) suburb of Balmain where the smells of making soaps at the local Colgate factory as well as the plumes from the coal-fired electricity plants at White Bay.

My social life continued with many activities based around our mutual friends’ birthdays. 21st parties were huge. As were Sydney Uni and NSW Uni Balls. I think I went to at least 4 in a year. New dress, please Mum! And I was lucky. Mum kept me looking good by being my accesory and ally in clothes shopping and hair dressing appointments.

School was even more part of my life. We did 2 pracs each year, a prac of our choice at the beginning of the second year after Christmas holidays and we also attended the North Sydney Dem School to watch selected experienced teachers and learn from them. I did well at Prac. I loved it. I had wanted to do this for a very long time and now I was.

I got to do pracs at my old primary school: Balgowlah Hts – Yr 3 and Yr 2, Mona Vale P.S. – Kinder, Neutral Bay Yr 1 and North Sydney Dem Year 2 (I was given this prac as my teaching and preparation was excellent and the Dem school was a prized place.

Graduation was formal. My parents and boyfriend attended. He had finished his Bachelor of Ag Science and was looking for work in North-western NSW. He landed a job at Tamworth. In the school holidays at the end of 1969 into 1970, my preferred teaching place came for me. I accepted: a North-western NSW country town called Barraba: about 45 minutes from Tamworth. To find out what happened next: go here. I have already written about it!

That is why 1960s was/is my favourite decade!

What is yours?

Denyse.

I join in these two other Monday Link Ups from Australian Bloggers.

Alicia is at One Mother Hen here for Open Slather and Kell is here at All Mum Said for Mummy Mondays. Go over and link up there too!

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 is: 9/51. Taking Stock. 4/3/19.
Inlinkz Link Party

 

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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 Eight. 1976-1977. 2018.124.

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

 

Dear Readers,

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

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

Photo (#1) For Telling My Story.

Photo (#2) post major cancer surgeries.

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

A Teaching Career Means a Move or Three.

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

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

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

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

Special School Indeed.

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

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

Adventures BEFORE Starting School.

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

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

But WAIT…there is MORE.

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

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

STUCK in the MUD.

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

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

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

THIS LASTED FOR TEN WEEKS.

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

GETTING OUT.

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

HIGHLIGHTS and LOWLIGHTS and NO LIGHTS!

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

What next?

Stay tuned: Chapter Nine soon.

Denyse.

 

 

 

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Telling My Story. Chapter Seven. 1972-1975. 2018.112.

Telling My Story. Chapter Seven. 1972-1975. 2018.112.

Where has this month gone? I have sort of made a promise to myself to add another chapter each month but then I realise this is the second post in October. All that aside, I think I am delaying writing and for no other reason than I am a bit worn out.

However, I am a determined person and I do well with deadlines, so off I go.

Telling My Story. The Early Mothering Years. 

Back to School. For Me.

For someone who longed to be a mother it may seem strange that I did not enjoy staying home with my child. However, I tell it as it is and know that time and time again, for me, I have been better off going to school and working. As long as I had care for my child I knew would be great, then I could get on with my work and be more content.

As we lived in the rural area outside Narrabri and I was to return to teaching in the 2 teacher-school where I had begun after our marriage, it was a great and generous offer that was made by my boss’ wife. She said she would happily mind our daughter as she was home with her 4th who was a few months older. That was a great way for me to feel better about what I was doing. We had no real dramas and M, who was our daughter’s godmother, was a motherly soul who had a lot of time for us. Some days, when I was on playground duty, she would appear on the grassy area with both her charges as they had their house next to the school.

I was someone who had gone back to her first love: teaching little kids. It may have been a bit of a struggle at times but with a very hands-on and caring father, our daughter did not miss out. We managed to out on a sweet first birthday party for local friends and family arrived from Sydney. By the end of that year though there was more new.

We Were Off To a New Area To Live and Teach.

In ‘those days’ with the Department of Education, the husband’s job took precedence on transfer over the wife’s. In a little aside where I can tell you the regret is strong…we also took up the option in that first year of parenting for me to withdraw from my State Super Fund because “only the husband will need the pension and you will have his”. Stay tuned for future chapters where R E G R E T is the word!

A big reason my husband wanted to transfer (as did I but I had not served the minimum of 3 years yet) was to another one teacher school but with a SCHOOL RESIDENCE. Where we were living was “ok” but it was relatively primitive compared to the 4 bedroom brick bungalow with garage and a yard next to the school. We left our daughter with my parents in Sydney that Christmas Holidays in the January and with our then two cars, we went back to the old place, and packed and as the Department was paying for the move, I think we arranged for that to happen for our furniture etc without us being there.

Arrival at the ‘new-to-us’ school residence….and in backyard, former occupant of said-residence with former teacher. Roo poo ain’t fun and this one was also aggressive. Glad he hopped away.

We met the Furniture truck after their long trek from one end of N.S.W. to another in a hot summer and we had Mum and our daughter with us too.

The weather was hot. So hot, we tell the story of my mother drinking beer in the wee hours to try to cool down. In the meantime, my Dad in Sydney was trying to get a cooler of some sorts sent to us by train but they were all sold out. We eventually got one but none of us have forgotten that January.

Where Will Denyse Teach? Who Will Care For Our Daughter?

We were now proud owners of one car. A new one with the new fangled air conditioning in it. It didn’t really work. Sigh. My husband had his new school of kids from 5 to 12 to get ready for but I was still school-less. That was when we knew we had a professional contact who was also a friend….who had been my deputy in my first school and was now the principal in the town some 40 kms away. We rang him. “Oh”, he said, “good news, I need a new Kindergarten teacher as one is on leave”. I can fix that with the Department. He did. So good. Such a mate too, along with his wife. We had been to each other’s weddings in early 1971 in Sydney. But wait. One more question. “Who will mind our 18 month old?” “No problem, I will ask (J) the primary AP if his wife wants to mind a child as her kids are all at school.” He did. She said yes and for the next 2 years our daughter became a 5th child (and spoiled one too) in that family.

Wonderful Three Years In a Great Community.

Off I drove to H every school day, dropping Miss K to her loving surrogate family, and I was able to do my job. It was a great rural community and lively with activity and positivity. Whilst my husband’s school was some 40 minutes south, he also became involved in this town.

Here are some things we did:

  • We became electoral officials one year at a tiny place (I won’t name it) where the road to Hay crossed it. It was a very slow day – 8.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. in those days in a hot country hall. I cannot remember who won but I remember we did not offer to do that again. Counting the votes with scrutineers in a closed space, and waiting for the number to tally…is hard yards.
  • My husband and some of the town’s folk and teaching/office staff formed a Drama Society and put on Musicals (Gilbert and Sullivan)…an aside, I auditioned for a role, and the producer did not let me have it. He said “I needed to be at home”….because of night-time practices…. with our daughter. He did “offer” me a chorus role but I rejected it. Mind you the production was superb and I was a very happy audience member.
  • We often held impromptu parties and dinners at our place for the couples and any stray singles from the school where I taught. As we had put an above-ground pool in (summers were brutal) we rewarded those who helped with dinners for a while.
  • In 1974 “we” were the ones who got Colour T.V. I wrote about that in another post. We sure were popular but we loved having T.V. nights.
  • We also went back to the town on Movie nights when they were held at the school
  • We got to have weekends away. By ourselves. We had, as I said above, a wonderful family caring for our daughter during the week and they offered to have her for us to go away and she was fine. In fact, I do recall her crying to come home. As in “I don’t want to come home because all the kids are here”.
  • My husband started study via distance to gain a new qualification in teaching and he also added an inspection from a School Inspector to get First List. Back in the day this was how promotions to new roles happened. My husband was looking to become a small school principal – one with 2 or more staff. More on that later.

This daughter of ours had it all! A tent, a swing set, a dinky with a trailer and a cat. But no-one to play with…except Dad!

School Holidays.

Most of these were back at my parents’ house (free, by the beach AND they loved having our daughter stay) and we took time to shop and relax and sometimes have a little break just for us. We went to shows and the movies – the drive-in was the best – and I recall how much we loved Blazing Saddles. Still do. This was at Frenchs Forest which is slowly been eaten up by development.

We visited family and friends. We went out for dinner. We got supplies for our classrooms from that wonderful place called Dominie and slowly we wended our way back to the bush. Only in the school holidays preceding our 3rd year, we purchased the best.car.we.had.ever.seen. Well, maybe that is an exaggeration but it was a wonderfully comfortable car with PROPER air conditioning and it was LIME green. A Toyota Crown.

At Mum and Dad’s where we holidayed each school hols from 1971-1978. Miss K, the apple of their eye.

Sadder Times.

It was around the middle of the three year stay in this area that we decided to try for our second child. So easily pregnant with Miss K, we were saddened, over many months, that I was not with child. My weight ballooned from stress-eating (or calming eating!) and I cried each month. Our G.P. decided I needed to see a specialist in the regional town some distance away – probably 45-50 minutes. There I went, on a sad but true journey to disappointment and heartache. Tests showed I was rejecting my husband’s sperm. I had a salpingogram without anaesthetic to check the fallopian tubes and I have never had worse pain after. Nothing seemed wrong there.

Then with my heart soaring and my fingers counting since the last menstrual period, I thought I was pregnant. It was a time well over the usual 28-30 days. Almost to the point of having a test (it was nothing like it is now back in the mid 1970s) I began to bleed. At school. I was heart-broken and someone took me to the cottage hospital where the G.P. sadly said he could not tell if I had been pregnant but now, I was not.

That was it.

For then. It played on my mind for some time, and it took every ounce of courage I had to enjoy seeing friends and colleagues’ families grow. But not ours. Mind you, we had a gorgeous bright little girl and my husband had a new job.

As an Acting Principal.

Off We Went. Again.

More to come of THIS particular time in Chapter Eight.

Have you lived in different places?

Tell me more in the comments.

Denyse.

 

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Observations in October #4. 2018.110.

Observations in October #4. 2018.110.

     Honouring Teachers – World Teachers’ Day – 26 October 2018.

In October, usually around the beginning of the month, it is World Teachers’ Day. This event is celebrated  annually world wide and came as a result of a United Nations declaration. Because we in Australia are often on a school holiday break when the rest of the world celebrates, the last Friday in October is set aside for honouring, appreciating and celebrating teachers.

Teachers may be those working in classrooms, they maybe those helping others become teachers at University, some may still be at school themselves but know they want to be a teacher. There are those in leadership roles at schools, within the systems of education and at the training level.

Each person would be honoured if the community in general, not only parents and kids in schools, celebrated and appreciated teachers!

 

World Teachers’ Day in Australia Date in the current year: October 26, 2018

All Australian teachers have a special holiday, that is known as World Teachers’ Day. It’s celebrated on the last Friday in October and it doesn’t coincide with actual World Teachers’ Day.

International holiday of World Teacher’s Day was established by UNESCO on October 5, 1994 and since then it’s annually celebrated on this day in many countries around the world. However, many countries also have their National Teachers’ Days or move World Day to another day, as it was made in Australia. The thing is that Australian schools go on a holiday at this time in October, that’s why the holiday is celebrated on the last Friday in October. If it coincides with Halloween, the festive events may be postponed to November.

Every year the NeiTA Foundation (National Excellence in Teaching Awards) and ASG (Australian Scholarships Group) announce the national teaching recipients of the ASG Community Merit Awards on this day. All teachers and members of school government are encouraged to participate in the events, that are organized across Australia. All willing participants have to register and wait for confirmation and official invitation.

https://anydayguide.com/calendar/3115

I want to thank teachers who helped guide me (and inspire me to become a teacher) in classrooms from Gwynneville P.S. to Balgowlah Heights P.S. and onto Manly Girls High School. Thanks especially to Mr Parker from G.P.S.(in this photo) and Mr Duffy (Yr 5 at B.H.P.S.) and those who recognised my strengths at M.G.H.S. Miss Lyon is one stand out.

Then, as regular readers know, I went on to train and become a K-6 teacher, ending up as a school principal and there is more about that here and here.

And when I retired ‘the first time’ as I had to resign, I literally had to fight for my service medal via a series of letters. My career should not have finished that way but it did. Thanks to staff shortage and my work overload. In the end, I got my medallion of service….and it has the wrong date on it. Sigh. I KNOW the right one though! I would always recommend teachers join the Union. It helped me in many ways when my employer and superannuation fund did not.

My list of schools where I taught is here:

 

  1. Barraba Central School. 1970
  2. Fairfax Public School. 1971-1972.
  3. Hillston Central School. 1973-1975.
  4. Weilmoringle Public School. 1976-1977.
  5. Cherrybrook Public School. Term 1 1978.
  6. Jasper Road Public School. Term 2 1978 – part 1982.
  7. Acting Promotion to: Seven Hills West Public School. Part 1982. (Assistant Principal – teaching)
  8. Promotion to: Walters Road Public School. 1983-1984. (Executive Teacher – teaching)
  9. Promotion to: Seven Hills West Public School. 1985-1987. (Assistant Principal – teaching)
  10. Promotion to: Shalvey Public School. 1988-1998.  (Deputy Principal – non-teaching) (Acting Principal): part 1994
  11. Acting Promotion to: Rooty Hill Public School. Terms 3 & 4 1998. (Principal – non-teaching)
  12. Promotion to: Richmond Public School. (Principal) *first retirement: 2003.
  13. Kellyville Ridge Public School. Part-time teacher: Release From Face to Face & English as a Second Language. 2004-2006.
  14. Hebersham Public School. Part-time teacher. English as a Second Language. Terms 1 & 2. 2007
  15. Kellyville Ridge Public School. Part-time teacher. English as a Second Language. Terms 3 & 4 2007 until end 2009. *retirement from schools 2010 although I continued working in them as a University  Advisor/Tutor until end 2014.

I want to thank all of those teachers who have taught my children and grandchildren. Several come to mind who had lasting good influences on them. I also want to thank my colleagues, some of whom are no longer with us, but I know that all of my work and social life in schools has been enhanced by so many great and caring staff members. I remain a connected person in education: I follow colleagues on twitter, have been part of #teachmeets, and get updates from my membership of the Retired Primary Principals Association of N.S.W.

Finally, of course, I want to pay tribute to the thousands of children who passed through the classrooms and playgrounds where I worked. Some of course are old enough to be grandparents!

Have you thanked any teachers lately?

Are you a teacher who feels you are appreciated in your community?

Tell me more about how it is for you!

Denyse.

Joining in with Leanne for Lovin’ Life Linky here. Happy Thursday everyone.

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Best Friend Stories. 41/52. #LifeThisWeek. 2018.102.

Best Friend Stories. 41/52. #LifeThisWeek. 2018.102.

I have always envied those who can keep a long-time friendship going, claiming best friends from school days and more.

I reviewed some photos of mine before writing and i can see, in my case, why this is not so.

I would not like to think I am a bad friend but I do agree that over time friendships change and move on.

In the most recent years I let a friendship slide – we had moved away from Sydney – as my anxiety grew and I knew I was not able to travel back to see this friend. Nevertheless, I did make contact after a year, and she happily caught me up and I felt a sort of re-connection. Then I got cancer. She is not on social media and to be honest, maintaining friendships was not high on my priority in recovery and beyond. Nevertheless, knowing I was risking being rejected I wrote her an email, letting her know of my health status and that, for the present, I could probably meet up in Sydney again for a coffee. We met up for coffee over many years. No response. Nothing. I suspect, I did leave it too late but I also know I did something to offer the hand of friendship again.

Chronological Order of Best Friends. 

Early 1950s.

Dad tells me I had imaginary friends at this age. I think one was called Pinky. I do not remember but I believe him. I am off to the Dapto Show with my Aunty. Didn’t I dress well then?

Late 1950s

I am in second row from the bottom, 2nd in from the right. I am next to my best friend at Gwynneville P.S. in Wollongong: Helen. We played outside school hours and went to each other’s houses. She and I competed, along with Warwick, in front row, second in from left, for first, second and third place in class. Check the class numbers people!

We stayed in touch via letters and some visits when we had moved to Sydney at the end of this year. I do know, amongst the trivia in my head, that her birthday is 27 September.

Early 1960s

It would be untruthful to say anyone here was a BEST friend but some were indeed friends. I am 3rd from left in front, and my friend, who also came to the same high school as me in 1962, is first on the left front row. We were passing acquaintances once we chose our subjects for the ‘new H.S.C.’ and saw each other (and sang together) on the school bus from Balgowlah Hts to Brookvale where our High School was.

I went my way to teachers’ college and teaching as she went her way to Uni and became an architect. Our parents still lived in the same suburb and saw each other as ‘waving’ aquaintances I guess. Then, with the era of Facebook, we found each other in the past 5 years…and guess what, we had been living relatively close to each other in the Hills District of Sydney for decades! We met up before we left Sydney and I love her memory about all things where I lived because she was there from birth. It’s a great connection and I know her birthday too. She is 1 month and 5 days older than me. Ann.

Late 1960s

Last year of High School – 1967. I am far right. We were ‘besties’ in the senior years of High School. It became apparent though, that I was the one who needed to buckle down and study in that final year as I really wanted to a tertiary education to become a teacher. My friends had boyfriends then that each married. About 2-3 years out of school, and they trained in secretarial work. We went to each other’s weddings (I think!) and they came to ours. From time to time, when we returned to Sydney for school holidays we had a catch up but I could already see my social world as a country-side teacher was not in keeping with theirs. Many years later, via a social media forum I think, we did have a reunion of sorts and even more recently my Dad saw Julie (on the left) being a personal home carer to someone in his retirement place. She said “Are you Mr Simpson, Denyse’s Dad?” That is one good memory. No, we have not met up. Julie, Sue, Pauline.

From then to now.

As teachers, much of our social life is connected where we are teaching. We had friends in each of the country towns and when we moved back to Sydney, we continued seeing people once a year. I had female friendships groups at school and always enjoyed the connections. Once I became a Deputy Principal then Principal, I moved into more work-related social networks. However, after my health breakdown as a principal, I eventually went to teach in a friend’s school and had a kind and lovely relationship with two of the administration ladies. These ladies stayed in touch when we left Sydney and after my cancer diagnosis and surgeries arranged to come and visit. This is just lovely. We still do keep in touch via social media due to distance. Luisa and Marg.

But the one person who keeps top status as my best friend is this man. The one I married. Just for something different, a photo of me with him in late 2016 before cancer.

So, what are your best friend stories?

Denyse.

Today I link with Alicia here: for Open Slather and Kel here for Mummy Mondays. Do visit them too and link up!

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Next Week’s Optional Prompt: 42/52. What I Have Learned Lately. 15/10/18.


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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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