Saturday 17th March 2018

Starting School Stories. #LifeThisWeek 6/52. 2018.12.

Starting School Stories. #LifeThisWeek 6/52. 2018.12.

For this week’s prompt I am having a trip down a long, winding memory lane of kids (and teachers!) starting school from this retired teacher, deputy principal, principal, mother and grandmother! There are more than a few stories let me tell you but I shall add the few.

For those readers who have just had a child start school, daycare or pre-school this is my annual letter for you…to send to the teacher.

Me as the School Starter.

Back in 1954 I started school after the September holidays. I was 4 years and 9 months. Yes, there were 3 terms for a long, long time in NSW schools. We lived in the same street as the school so I certainly knew where it was. Mum took me on Day 1 and I looked around me at the kids that were crying. “Why” I thought. Anyway, once we got into the classroom I was in love. Up the back was a white full-size rocking horse. I so wanted a ride. I do not remember if I got one, but I do remember liking school a lot and this was fun.

Off to Gwynneville PS. Our Tunic was Brown (I think!)

Our Daughter as a School Starter.

When your parents are both teachers and they are appointed to a very isolated school in NSW with Dad as the (teaching) principal and Mum as the teacher and it’s time to go to school this is what you do. There is no uniform, so you dress in your fave outfit, add a cool bag because you LOVE Abba…and off you trot across the space between home and school called The Playground. You know this place so well but right now there are around 20 different kids you haven’t yet met but eventually you join in their games, called your parents “Sir” like the other kids do and thrive on the independent learning in a small school.

Born in August and turning 5 that year, MIss K was able to start ‘school’ in February as we had a pre-school class too.

The school is on the right of this pic. The tractor is picking up kids from the local Aboriginal community to bring them to school in Term 1 1976 when we had major floods.

Our Son as a School Starter.

In complete contrast to his sister’s enrolment at her parents’ school, he was enrolled to start at the local (now we were in Sydney) large primary school. Having already been to the orientations and pre-school the previous year he was used to the ‘leaving his parents thing’. On the day he began, I was at my school where I was an Assistant Principal but wanted to be part of his start, so I returned to his (soon-to-be) school, met his Dad holding his hand, and down to the classroom we went. Without a backward glance, his nametag already on after Orientation the year before, he entered the classroom, the teacher said “goodbye” to us. That was it. Anti-climactic but at least I was there.

Student Starts School With Entourage.

As the Deputy Principal in a large Western Sydney school it was my role to meet each new starter (not everyone came to Orientation the year before) and their parent(s) to ensure all the relevant details about the child were current and to ask if there were any questions, and welcome the child and family to the school. I allowed around 10 minutes per child and it usually went well.

On one memorable occasion more than the parents entered my office with the child. I saw siblings and I guessed grandparents giving this one small person an overwhelming sense of “woah”. I could see this and asked the family to please stop the photography of me and the filming of the child being enrolled. They did.

But it set a precedent for me as I certainly understood the reason to mark the occasion but with the stressors placed upon a young child beginning school it was enough. No more photos or filming as enrolment took place. Far more important for the child and family to feel welcomed and at ease with this NEW event.


Underage Child Found To Have Started School.

At the above-mentioned school before I became the Deputy Principal there had been some lapses in viewing and noting the various documents that needed sighting before a child can start school. There is a requirement that a child cannot start school in NSW Public Schools IF they have not turned 5 after 31 July.

So in the year of my appointment to the school here’s how we (the Kindergarten teachers and I) found we had an underage child at school. One little girl seemed, according to her observant K teacher not able to do some of the gross motor activities which included how to walk upstairs (the school was two-storey) and she had little language and seemed “young”. I made a phone call some weeks into the term to the contact number and her mum answered. I asked outright what the child’s birthday was and the age worked out to be that she was 3. She would not be 4 until later in the year. I explained kindly but firmly that she would have to come and get her child now and that she could start the next year. The mother said sheepishly when she came to pick her up “I hoped you wouldn’t notice her and I didn’t want to find more childcare where I have to pay”. Sad but true.

We had much tightened arrangements for enrolment from then and that little girl did come back the following year and started school successfully.

Today’s School Starters.

For the past few years, the Australian government requires all students to undergo an initial assessment upon enrolling at the school where they will enter… Kindergarten, Prep, Year One (we still have different names for the first year of formal schooling in Australia. Sigh).

In NSW Public Schools it is called Best Start. It is a snapshot on one day of the enrolling student’s capabilities/readiness/knowledge/skills PRIOR to starting formal education. This is a good thing! The students’ baseline is a measurement that is used by the schools and the parents in terms of ‘where is my child at’ and lends itself to support if required or extension or that the child’s progress will grow accordingly in the first year of school.

When ‘Best Start’ happens is up to each school but more and more a child is given a Best Start Assessment in the week before he or she starts school. In fact I have seen this occur for three of my younger grandchildren. Best Start is done with a K teacher (usually) and parents may or may not observe but probably will wait elsewhere for the 40 minutes or so for the assessment. Then the child starts school on a date and at a specific time within the next week. This little one was pleased as punch to have her new school shoes when she came to see us. I sure hope she enjoys wearing them for 5 days a week from Monday 5 February.


Handwriting help.

An added bonus to this post. This is an example of the first handwriting children will see and copy in NSW schools. It is NSW Foundation Style. This is the early years’ printing. I used to do this handout when speaking to parents’ groups at pre-schools so they could ‘practise’ themselves. Children learn that capital letters are for names and so on. That is why all capitals is discouraged in early writing.

I wrote this 3 years ago and the message still stands!

What Do You Remember About Starting School?


Joining here with Alicia for Open Slather.

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Next Week is the optional prompt’: 7/52.  “Who’s a Worrier? 12/2/18.



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’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?


Thank You For Being A Teacher. 366/335.

Thank You For Being A Teacher. 366/335.

It’s that time of year.

One where we are likely to be showing  appreciation for the teachers in our lives and that of our kids and grandkids.

Last week I wrote about Last Minute Gifts for Teachers.

This week, it’s a little something I have found in a book called:

Great Teachers Give Us Lifelong Gifts  by Blue Mountain Arts.

Thank you for being a teacher.

For the student who can’t sing a note but loves music…

For the student who struggles to read but loves the library…

For seeing their artistic visions and embracing them…

For seeing their lights shone and helping them burn brighter…

For your faith when failure was not an option…

For seeing the diamond in the rough…

For caring as if they were your own…

For your unwavering patience and tolerance…

For your dedication, which at times gets taken for granted…

For sharing your life and letting us be a part of it…

Thank you for being a teacher!


Heidi Beemsterboer.

I will add my thanks to all teachers I have worked alongside. Thank you!

Have you thanked a teacher recently?


Joining the second last I Blog On Tuesdays for the year…over with Kylie Purtell and bloggers here.


My Favourite K-6 Teachers. 366/299.

My Favourite K-6 Teachers. 366/299.

The qualities which make a teacher a favourite for us may be as individual as we are!

My favourite teachers were the ones who recognised in me what I needed to thrive and learn.

Here are my memories of those people and what those memories mean to me.

Year 3 Mr Lytton.

He replaced a cranky and not so nice female teacher some time in Year 3 and from the outset made such a pivotal year, first one in primary school relevant for me. He was strict but he knew that I needed some classroom responsibilities and I was assigned them.

Year 4 Mr Parker.

I was in a class over over 40. That’s what it was like then, even in suburban Wollongong, but he knew that I, along with a few classmates, needed academic challenges and we got them. I was delighted to have my spelling and reading ability  recognised at age 9 and to win a class award at the end of that year even though we had just moved away to a new place and school in Sydney.


Year 5 Mr Duffy.

Moving to Sydney from Wollongong for me was hard. From being, as someone said, ‘the big fish in the little pond, to becoming the little fish in the big pond’ in a much larger school where there were more students of a higher academic level than I meant I took quite a bit of time to ‘settle.’ At the age of 10 and in the ‘senior years of primary school’ I craved acceptance. I did get it over time from the students, but what Mr Duffy did more than most was recognise my talents of organisation and liking to help. It was in his classroom that I ‘knew’ I wanted to become a teacher!

Year 6 Mr Woodhouse.

I really liked Mr Woodhouse because he gave us work which challenged us and helped us learn so much in readiness for the high school years ahead but he was a lovely fellow too! He made lessons interesting and great. I know I was given a great opportunity to grow by being in Mrs Woodhouse’s Year 6.

It has been interesting to note that each of these teachers were male. Many more men were in Primary Schools back then and it is sad that nowhere near that number enter K-6 teaching these days because of concerns fuelled by risk that they could be accused of inappropriate behaviour.

Do you have memories of favourite teachers too?

Share them in the comments, I would love to read about them.


education 150

Joining the lovely Kylie Purtell here and fellow bloggers for I Blog On Tuesdays.





Fourth Term Means This. 366/292.

Fourth Term Means This. 366/292.

Those of you who have had kids at school for a while will identify with some of the things on this list. Some of you I know are in your first year of having a child at school and the list may help. Or not!

It is offered with no advice other than



  • The weather will be hot or  cold, rainy and all that in between because it’s FOURTH term
  • The child who left home with jumper or jacket or both will have taken them off and even though they are labelled, will not bring them home.
  • You will ask why. The child will say I left it in my room. It will not be there. It will be somewhere.
  • Muttering under your breath, you pop into the classroom, greet tired teacher with ‘have you seen J’s jacket?’
  • You will be told, nicely I hope, ‘it could be in the lost property bin near the office if it’s not here.’ It is in none of these places. It IS FOURTH term you know.
  • YOU think “I am so not buying another jacket so my child will have to learn from this. Other parents advise: ‘just take an unlabelled one from lost property, you can see that the box is overflowing. It is so ‘not like you’ but it’s FOURTH term and you are not buying a new one.
  • Your child wakes up and says “I’m not going to school today, we are only watching DVDs”. Of course….that’s what happens in the last weeks of  FOURTH term!
  • You send you child to school and later that day, when asking how the day was. “It was cool, we got to watch DVDs all day.”
  • Providing lunch and snacks each day for your child is over-rated, yeah?
  • So, because  it’s FOURTH term…so it’s a case of “who’d like a canteen order today?” and hope that you can scrounge enough cash for more than one day a week because…so over it.

What’s your Fourth Term advice for parents?

What are some examples you could add to this list?

By the way, how IS Fourth Term going?



education 150

Joining Kylie Purtell and bloggers over here for I Blog On Tuesdays.



Teachers Who Served. 366/271.

Teachers Who Served. 366/271.

I am always proud of the teachers who have gone before me in our service to the children of NSW public schools via the:

New South Wales Department of Education.

They were employed, as I remain, by this entity. I know it continues to change but this building will always be The Department of Education for me. I got news of my teacher’s college scholarship in this building in 1968, I was part of a group of principals at a special cocktail party in the 2000s and in 2001 I was honoured to take one of my lovely office staff here for her to receive a Director-General’s award for Services to Children of NSW Public Schools.


In paying my respects to those teachers who were employees of the same Department of Education N.S.W. as I am, I do not glorify war but I honour those who enlisted. Some never returned to the home land of Australia. Many others were wounded. Yet, they were teachers first. Teachers who served.

This photo of from Arcadia P.S. on the outskirts of Sydney showing what schools looked like then.


Teachers from NSW Department of Education Schools who served in World War I are named on a special roll of remembrance. This board, placed in the NSW Department of Education building, 33 Bridge Street Sydney, had become damaged and was recently restored.

Here is more about how that occurred. This is from Storify.

Source: NSW DE

Source: NSW DE

Many more teachers served in World War II and in those which followed. I chose to mention the first World War I teachers because there were so few back then. When those men enlisted, there needed to be replacements for them and who got the teaching roles? Many women did. Some would not have been trained back then however, as in war time, needs must be met. Of course, other occupations also saw women step into traditional male roles and once the war was over, the jobs went back to the men. Women went back to their houses and families. Life changes again.

Credit: NSW DET

Credit: NSW DET

A little piece of history today on the blog for education and schooling.

Do you know of any war memorial and rolls of remembrance that are near your place?


education 150

Joining Kylie Purtell and the folk who Blog on Tuesdays over here. 





The Heart Sees What Is Invisible. 366/201.

The Heart Sees What Is Invisible. 366/201. 

To be a teacher, for me, is a privilege. In recent years my career took me from schools to university where I was fortunate to be part of the teaching team for a subject called Inclusive Education in the Masters of Teaching at a university in Sydney. The subject was always a popular one with pre-service student teachers and I enjoyed being a part of the learning processes with them. A great start to each of the tutorials was ‘telling a story’ from real life that encapsulated what it meant to be a teacher. This one was a firm favourite for me when I read it aloud (pre-service teachers liked this part too!) as the tute for the day began.

Love in the Classroom. From Chicken Soup for the Teachers’ Soul. source: Michelle Wallace Campanelli


Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye. H. Jackson Brown Jr.

I will never forget Sarah. In my eight years as a Head Start teacher, she was my most exceptional student.

One morning, the administrator has called my assistant and me into her office. She told us that we’d be getting a new student – a three year old named Sarah.

“The girl has been abused,” she said. Her father had poured a scalding bucket of hot water down her head, badly burning her neck, back, legs and scalp. She had no hair. Her back and legs would have to be wiped down with oil every few hours so they would not get stiff.

Sarah visited my pre school room the next day for an introductory meeting while the other students were out. Her facial features were petite, and she smiled up at me with innocent brown eyes, startlingly naked because her eyebrows were missed. The back of her bald head was badly scarred down to the neck. She wore a simple white sundress that showed her burnt arms. I seized with anger at her father. Then I worried about how the other children would react.

I struggled to maintain calm in front of Sarah and her mom left, I gave into tears.

“We must prepare the students,” My assistant reminded me. “We can’t just let her walk in and be made fun of.”

“To draw attention to her appearance would single her out,” I said. After much discussion, we agreed to have Sarah come in for a half-day on her first day to ascertain how the children would react towards her.

The morning Sarah arrived she quietly took a seat. I watched her every second. During playtime, the other children talked to her and shared their toys. They didn’t seem to notice she was different.

“It’s dress up time,” one of my students reminded me. Every day before lunch, they all got to raid the closets and play in a collection of grown-up clothes and fanciful kids’ costumes.

“Okay, everyone, let’s get started,” I agreed.

Sarah followed the other children and put on an Easter bonnet and princess outfit. I tried to smile., but the disparity between the delicate fabric and her scarred skin made me ache for her.

Sarah left after lunch. Her classmates had nap time, and then I led a vocabulary-building lesson.

Finally, I asked the children, “So how do you all like our new friend Sarah?”

One child answered. “Her hands are small.”

Another added, “She picked the long skirt for dress-up.”

Not one mentioned her thick skin or her missing hair.

The children’s observation helped me realise something very valuable. We teachers saw Sarah as a child who had suffered greatly, a child who needed exceptional handling and assistance. Wed wanted to hold her, prove to her that not all adults were bad.

The children, many of whom had also suffered in some way, saw beyond her scarred appearance. They saw another child, a peer, a new friend.

The next school day, during dress-up, Sarah put on the princess clothes again. She stood in front of a full-length mirror and danced in front of her reflection. “I am so beautiful,” she murmured to herself.

The confidence of her whirling poses and self-compliment struck me. Here was a child who I thought should be shrivelling in self-pity. Instead she was twirling around, having fun. I felt humbled by her inner strength and honoured to witness her joy in just being alive. I reached out and embraced her.

“Yes, Sarah, you are beautiful.”




I leave the story as is and welcome your responses.

Thank you.


education 150

Joining with Jess at Essentially Jess for I Blog On Tuesdays.