Saturday 17th March 2018

Thanks Mr Duffy. 2017.66.

Thanks Mr Duffy. 2017.66.

A long time ago, blogger, now writer Catherine Rodie, asked for people to respond to this for a series of blog posts when Catherine had her blog:

“if you could, who would you like to have a cup of tea with?” The original post was “A Cup of Tea With Mr Duffy”.

Today I have refreshed the post, to add it here, for the first time on my blog.


The classroom on the left was my Year 5 room and also where I did my first teaching prac. The coloured building in the background was the library. Taken on a trip back to the school in 2013.

I gave some thought to who I’d like to have a cup of tea with, it was an obvious choice.

Mr Duffy.

It would need to be at 11.00 a.m. on a school day in the Balgowlah Heights Primary School staffroom. That is a room at the end of the wooden building closest to the headmaster’s office where Mr Piper rules via a loud voice and a stern manner.

Walking up the wooden steps and holding onto the rail, I can feel the timber underneath the flaking paint. I notice that the school hasn’t had the public works painters in for a while. As I reach the verandah, a smell emanates from the left, as does the plume of grey. Of course, teachers can smoke in the staffroom! And in the playground. But not in the classroom. It IS 1960!

Slowly moving towards the screen door, I hear the words “oh Ian, you were great last week with the cricket team those boys really go well against Manly West.” Then as I raise my hand to knock and ask if Mr Duffy is there, Mrs Ridley rushes up and wants to know “what do you want Denyse Simpson, we are having our cups of tea?” I reply, “I am here to see Mr Duffy if he’s here.”

“Greg, that girl from your class who likes helping in the library is here, Denyse Simpson, can you see her?” I stepped back and waited near the verandah’s rail and the door swung open. It was Mr Duffy. “Who are you?” he said looking puzzled, “I was told Denyse Simpson here, and I can see she is not.”

“Mr Duffy” I say quietly, and watch as he lifts his cup of tea from the saucer as I can tell he’s thinking how much time till the bell rings and recess is over. “I was Denyse Simpson, and you were my teacher..but now I’m Denyse Whelan and I’m a teacher too.”

And that’s  when I to reassure him right away of my reason for visiting at the time of his “cup of tea” at Recess. I pull out my photo of me in Grade 6 and point out that he, Mr Duffy, had been the one teacher in my primary school years who had seen the qualities of a teacher in me. The way he encouraged that was to appoint me as the chief library prefect in Grade 6 where I continued to learn about how it is to teach and learn.

The bell rings. Cup of tea drained. Mr Duffy shakes my hand and says “well, that’s been nice to know” and leaves. I look at this man, within this school setting and remember with great affection why I became a teacher. I know too, that he is a modest self-effacing man & he’s a bit embarrassed by my words.

I returned to my old school and classroom in 1968 to do my first teaching practice and loved it! Mr Duffy had retired by then I think. I was made to be a teacher and Mr Duffy helped me realise that!

The list of schools in N.S.W. where I was a teacher, school executive and principal.

Update: I am now retired from all work in teaching but will always be interested in why people choose teaching as a career. This post reminds me of what I did! 

My husband, also now a retired teacher, and I met in the country teaching days and last week he went back to one of his schools, where I also taught after him. Here’s a photo of Fairfax Public School….and the classroom where I taught kids from K-2 in one room in 1971-72.

Do you have fond memories of a teacher from your school days?

Have you ever said thanks to someone who may have inspired you to choose a career?

Adding a P.S. I’ve just read over at Sammie’s blog this: about marrying a teacher! We are married teachers, me and hub, so that makes us..happy!!

Young Married Teachers and their first born!


Joining with Kylie Purtell and friends here for I Blog On Tuesdays.

On Thursdays I link with Leanne and friends here for Loving’ Life.


Proud to Be Public. 2017.63.

Proud to Be Public. 2017.63.

I’ve been a proud supporter of public education since 1954 when I started school in Gwynneville.

I even recall turning down the opportunity to attend a private girls’ school for my high school years in Sydney.

I am not sure of what kept me so loyal to public education but from the time I joined the ranks as a professional I stayed with that loyalty.

Do not get me wrong however, as I also believe in parental choice for schooling.

I just preferred both the system I knew and was proud of for our children’s education as well as where I worked.

Now, one time I have been particularly proud of public education in NSW is when the MAJOR live event called The Schools Spectacular is on.

From the mid 1980s until the NSW Government determined to change the buildings and surrounds at Darling Harbour, the ‘school spec’ was held at the Sydney Enterainment Centre. We first attended in its second year, and from then on, every few years and when grandchildren were part of the multi-thousand casts from NSW schools I was there!!

A most poignant attendance for me was my last one. In November 2014 we already knew we were moving away from Sydney and family. It was the last chance to attend a Schools Spectacular at the EntCent so knowing I had my eldest granddaughter in this one it was important. I took one granddaughter who would be starting school the following year, and on the day, met up with my daughter (a teacher in NSW public schools too) and two of her kids (two more of my lovely grandkids in their teens).

We got to see this. I watched it again last week and knew I had to share it.

The person playing the Army Nurse (red cape, and at the end in the coat) is my eldest granddaughter. The first two of the young men playing soldiers are friends of hers from then school. This is 2014 and they have all left school now. My granddaughter and her friends were part of the NSW Public Schools Drama Ensemble and this the reason for their inclusion.

My granddaughter was in top 10% for drama that year in the HSC, and after her gap year, auditioned and was accepted into AFTRS (Australian Film Television and Radio School) where she is now in the second year majoring in film production.

Grandma is very proud to introduce Jessica Gosling!

And, this talented young woman has started something different..for women, about women. Here she is,

. Her channel on YouTube explains it all. Go!

So, this is one more reason I am proud to be a supporter of Public Education!

Have you ever been to the Schools Spectacular?

If you want to know more: here is the link to the page.

It sets records for the largest number of performers around the world I believe!

Did you attend concerts at the Sydney Entertainment Centre?


Joining friends who blog on Tuesdays, here with Kylie Purtell.

I think that Leanne will enjoy this post too…and I am joining her and other bloggers for Lovin’ Life Linky here. 


Casual Teacher Ready To Teach! 2017.48.

Casual Teacher Ready To Teach! 2017.48.

I developed a ‘classroom-in-a-box’ for my first day back teaching in a classroom after some years in June 2012.

I am a K-6 teacher who likes to be prepared for all contingencies – ok, I am ‘over-preparer’ – because as a former K-6 principal I know that casual teachers cannot necessarily be guaranteed to:

  • know exactly what class or grade they will take even though they might have been engaged to teach a particular one because between the time of engagement and the reality of that school day, plans might need changing
  • have equipment and resources for a day in the classroom made available to them, particularly if it’s not been known that the teacher they replace was to be absent
  • be given any guidance or plan for the day as schools are incredibly busy and dynamic places
    get a chance to do any kind of preparation on arrival at school, e.g. photocopying etc.
  • So, what went into my (self-titled) ‘Classroom In a Box’?

This post brought back memories of sharing these photos as slides to the new and upcoming teachers who were students I tutored back in 2013 and 2014 at a Sydney University. If anyone reading here wishes to use any of my ideas or the photos they are copyright free by me for personal use by teachers.


Linking up with Kylie Purtell and friends here for I Blog On Tuesdays. I hope you’ve enjoyed my education and schooling posts over the years! See below:

News from Denyse:

I have LOVED presenting posts about education and schooling here each Tuesday since January 2015. In fact there have been more than 100 original posts!! Before then I also linked up to I Blog On Tuesdays from 2012 onwards whenever I had a new post. I am reducing my blogging output now and I will be only posting on Tuesday intermittently. I will continue to be a blog reader and commenter as past of the I Blog On Tuesdays team. This is not saying goodbye but I am taking care of myself and blogging less! I wrote about why here.



School Kids’ Progress T1. 2017.34.

School Kids’ Progress T1. 2017.34.

Around the middle of first term at school this experienced Primary School teacher/principal (and parent/grandparent) predicts ten things may be true…and they may also be for those first timers, the ones whose kids have just started school. 

Are you ready for this?

ONE: Your child will quote the ‘teacher says’ and be adamant that all the ‘teacher says’ is right.

TWO: Your child will call you by the teacher’s name at least once. Conversely your child will also call the teacher “mummy/daddy” at least once.

THREE: The school uniform items (shoes, hats, jumpers) you lovingly labelled – in laundry marker AND an iron-on label for good measure will still “get lost”.

FOUR: Having spent money on new items as above because “no hat no play,” rules are enforced, the “old” item will miraculously turn up.

FIVE: There will be one week where you will promise your child that he or she can have some money to spend at the canteen and your child will buy something you have never heard of called a “zingy zong healthy treat something” and your child declares it ‘best food ever.’

SIX: The school newsletter will have news about how well the new children have settled into their new routine at ‘big’ school and you think ‘erm, but I have noticed’ at least one child crying as they are led by the hand into class each day. Life at school.

SEVEN: You are glad to know this is not your child -this time! You also feel a great deal of empathy for the new K/P kids and their teachers as settling into something as new as school is hard – for everyone!

EIGHT: The school will send home a note about a mufti-day to raise funds for a special cause and somehow, along the communication route, you forgot and your child arrives in school uniform that day…but luckily her/his sibling is in the car and of a similar size so a ‘quick change’ occurs leaving a puzzled sibling wondering if he or she is going to school now too.

NINE: You are just beginning to realise why school is good for the kids when you see how much time you have for all the things you want to do …. this is a cheeky point…just seeing if you are reading LOL.

TEN: You will look closely at your Kinder/Prep child’s face as you kiss him/her goodnight  and wonder, “where did my little one go? I now have a school kid!”

So half-way(ish) through Term One, congratulate yourselves parents! You are getting there…right?

Tell me how it’s going with your school-age children? High school too!


Linking with almost seasoned school mum Kylie Purtell here for I Blog on Tuesdays.


Meditations for Back to School. 2017.22.

Meditations for Back to School. 2017.22.

I wonder what you thought when you saw this title?

In fact it IS about meditation and it IS for kids…yes!

From my experience of the past two years, meditation is helpful. I use it for helping me stay in the moment more and for being mindful. I’ve written about it here.

More and more though, it is found that a few minutes of meditation, slowing down to focus on the ‘here and now’ and the breath is an excellent strategy for us all. It is not about clearing the mind nor about going to sleep.

Smiling Mind is an Australian-based company producing apps and meditations on-line. The app is free. I have used this app a few times. I like the Australian accent too. Here’s the link to Smiling Mind to find out more.

What caught my eye recently from the ABC in Australia is this:

Meditations for Back to School.*

There are meditations for kids and teachers. I tried the kid one and that’s why I am sharing it here. I would suggest having a go with your children.

I would also try it with a class if I was still teaching!


Here from ABC and Smiling Mind. From their website:

Our vision is to see mindfulness meditation on the Australian National Curriculum by 2020.

This hopeful statement from the Dalai Lama provides food for thought.

*Not a sponsored post..I just like to share what I think is helpful for families and education.

Have you tried meditation?

Do your children meditate?

Tell me more!







It is I Blog On Tuesday time I. B. O.T! Joining Kylie Purtell and the crew who blog on Tuesdays here.


Starting School in 2017. 2017.14.

Starting School in 2017. 2017.14.

Starting school is huge for everyone concerned. Maybe you remember your first day at school. I do, and I was confident enough to go straight into the Kindergarten classroom leaving Mum behind. It is not always like this however, it can be with less anxiety if some steps of preparation are taken.

I have written about it before  here.

In 2014 I was asked to contribute to an article by friend and writer, Donna Webeck,  which of course I did. Reviewing it today,  it holds true for 2017. I hope it can be of help for you and your child who may be starting school this year.

I have highlighted the sections where Donna quoted me, along with 2 others, for the article. Here they are:

Talk to the teachers*
School teachers have lived through many “first days”, so if anyone will have an insight into what will work best for parents and children starting school solo it is they.
With her vast experience, Whelan has seen it all. The good news? Your child won’t truly be as alone as you fear.
“This child will not be the only ‘solo’ child starting school I can state that unequivocally,” she reassures.
“What a school that is looking out for every child’s needs on day one will do is to ‘notice’ every child. Not always in a direct and over-the-top kind of way because teachers are long-experienced observers,” Whelan explains. They will also ensure socialising starts via introductions between children as well as settle children into small groups.
“There will be less than a day for your child to have had someone to sit next to, share a game with or go to the toilet. They may not be called ‘friends’ yet anyway, but your child will not be alone.

There is also this:

Keep your own emotions in check
Often children who are nervous about starting school sans friends feel this way because they are feeding off their parent’s anxieties.
“Monitor your own stress levels,” warns Hirst. “Children can pick up on how you are feeling so try to talk positively about school.” Whelan couldn’t agree more, commenting that fear can be contagious. “I am of the belief that our kids can catch our emotions and I would be keeping mine in check – as best I could!”
She also mentions that unless we make a fuss, the child will not know there is something for them to worry about. “To be honest, a young child has no real concept of starting school and being alone or knowing no-one unless his parents, caregivers or others have made a big deal of it.”
Spicer asks you to think long term, because promoting positive emotions will do you a favour down the track. “Research shows if kids start out enjoying school early on it’s more likely they will enjoy it ongoing.”
The final word on coping goes to Whelan, who wants to reassure this: “I can’t quantify how they cope but I do believe it’s part of our parenting role to see that they can be left to manage themselves,” she says.”We’ve  grown these little people to be people. It’s about taking more steps away from us, just as we did and our parents let us do.”

*added now: I do not mean ‘talk to the teacher in depth’ every single morning and afternoon unless there is a real issue of concern but just a conversational ‘hi’ and ‘how are things?’ is fine and reassuring in first week or so. Believe me, don’t even think of asking as the teacher is attempting to bring the class to the room or on the way out…it’s tricky I know because you want to know…but observe for a bit is my advice! Make a proper interview time for any real and on-going issues. Please! 

So, what are your memories of starting school?

Do you have someone starting school in 2017?

How will it be for you and your child?

And ICYMI (in case you missed it, in 2016 I wrote about Starting High School!)

I would love to hear your stories in the comments!


Joining Kylie Purtell for IBOT here and she DOES have a school starter in her family and I know there will be mixed emotions next week in her household.


School’s Nearly IN! 2017.10.

School’s Nearly IN! 2017.10.

Yes indeed, it nearly is for those living in Australia.

Here’s what it’s like for the three groups who might relate to this post!


OH. It’s only 2 weeks (or less in some states or more in others) and I will be back at school. This means I am scouring the stationery shops for all the specials. Because I know the school can only give me some supplies and I know how much I go through the stickers, the whiteboard markers, the pencils, the tissues, the glue sticks, the paper….I won’t go on. I am glad I have taken a break from thinking about school (well, it felt like I did over Christmas and New Year) but now, even though I am not “at school” every day, I will be going in when it’s open to set up the classroom and check out the plans for the year BEFORE we start officially. SIGH.


OH. Thank GOODNESS it’s only 2 weeks to go and those kids will be starting (or back at) school. It’s costing me a fortune to keep them entertained and fed. And will they help around the house? Not much despite notes on the fridge and all the hints. I am pleased though when someone offers to have play date/kiddie swap but it’s always hard combining child care/work responsibilities and more. Mind you, I recall saying about a MONTH ago (only a month??) that I could not wait for these school holidays. Now, I am meeting up with parents from the school at local stationery shops and we are all getting ‘bill shock’ at the checkout. Sigh. Do they really need those glue sticks, folders, USBs, tissues and a NEW device? The school list says yes. And this is a public school too. SIGH.


OH. From the calendar on the fridge it seems like we HAVE to go back to school soon. Mind you, my little sister/brother is looking forward to starting school. Ha! Not sure why. Anyway, I guess the one good thing about going back to school is friends and the playground. As long as it’s not 40 degrees when we have to stay inside. Oh, the bad thing about going back is shoes. And socks. So hot in Australia for going back to school. When I saw how much stuff I have to take back to school it was fun but also a bit worrying. Will I really be doing that much work this year? SIGH.

So how are things in your household right now?

It’s nearly time for school to be in!


P.S. The graphic in the post was my initial logo for my business/blog which in 2012-2014 I called Ready.Set.School. for parents and kids and I had another called Ready.Set.Teach. for teachers and those training to teach. I no longer have the business nor the blogs but they were both part of my professional life (after working in education) then.

Joining with the many who blog on Tuesdays over here who link up with Kylie Purtell. Do you blog on Tuesdays?


Last Minute Gift Ideas For Teachers. 366/331.

Last Minute Gift Ideas For Teachers. 366/331.

The end of the school year is nigh. Can I hear a YAY?

Some states have already commenced end of year holidays. Other still remain at school or at least the public schools are still operating.

Are you looking forward to:

  • No more early mornings.
  • No school lunches to pack.
  • No searching for a lost shoe/library book

But wait, you also thought about getting a present for the class teacher or teachers didn’t you?


I know there have been gift guides galore but if you want something directly from teachers..I have some here.

  • card or note is a great way to show appreciation
  • it is never “expected” to give a teacher a gift
  • Parents and children may decide that there is no reason for a gift or message & that’s fine too
  • Teachers who are parents had these thoughts about chocolate..some loved this, others said no thanks!


  • personal notes, cards from parents and child ALWAYS a hit
  • gift vouchers up to $50 – NOT expected to be, UP to! There are limits for gifts under the Code of Conduct in NSW public schools. Check your school’s/system’s limits.
  • Popular ones include Myer, Target, Officeworks,Big W,ITunes, JB-HiFi…and more
  • homemade biscuits &  yummy treats.
  • stationery – many teachers are stationery-fans
  • A cup. A keep cup. Teachers are notorious cup-users. Maybe personalise it, but a lovely idea that gives and gives
  • I do not like alcohol being given to teachers but that is my view and I also do not  drink

So, do you have some ideas or have you already sorted out what you are doing..if indeed you are!


education 150

Joining Kylie Purtell here for I Blog On Tuesdays.