Monday 30th March 2020

Telling My Story. Chapter 14. 2001-2002. 8/51 Life This Week. 16/2020.

Dear Bloggers: I have made some changes to the link-up rules based on some recent experiences. For most of my regular linkers, this is not an issue but as I am getting some newer people come on board, I have added some rules. Thank you. Denyse Whelan.

Telling My Story. Chapter 14. 2001-2002. 8/51 Life This Week. 16/2020.

The story behind Telling My Story is this: I began in May 2017 and then was diagnosed with cancer. I had a lengthy break and returned to the plan to keep on documenting my life, one blog post at a time. Here is the link to the page where they all are now. This too, like the post 2 weeks ago has been a mix of what I wrote back in 2018 over 4 weeks about the challenges and more of being a principal from 1998 – 2003. Today’s post has much of the second two years in it, and the next one, in a few weeks, will outline how challenging (read: hard and stressful) it was to leave the role I had loved. I also shared this as My Woman of Courage story here.

Onward: New Decade and Century. 2001.

This year started in a wonderful way. After one of the hottest, awful January days in Sydney in 2001 this young man became our 3rd grandchild and our first grandson. I wrote something about his birth here and this is a recent photo of US.

My year as a grandmother was very full-on and combined with my role as a principal somewhat precariously – only because I wanted to do both well. Sometime into 2001 I took leave every Wednesday to do a “grandma-daycare” at our place for this young man and his older sister because “I” felt like I needed to help with this kind of care as I had with granddaughter number one. I was trying “not to let school” into my life on those days but it was inevitable with phone calls and catching up the next day with the assistant principal that I acknowledged I could not do both well. Lucky for me my family understood and as already explained they had a great family day care setting to go to.

We were living at Glenwood. My husband was reasonably well but still faced health challenges after his second neck surgery to fuse his spine. He was now working in a high school full-time. Our adult son was living at home. Life was BUSY and my life was full-on. I do recall some minor socialisation happened for me when I might meet a friend for coffee. My educational leadership role was, for a conscientious and practical person like me, all consuming. Very hard to switch off.

We did try, when we could to attend events at school or pre-school for our grandchildren. I recall, taking a day’s half long service leave to attend this young one’s first Athletics Carnival.

My Day as a Principal Started and Ended Like This. Mostly.

I attempted to have a relaxed morning at home, eating my breakfast along with reading the front page of the paper before setting off for school. It was about 30-40 minutes drive and I had a ‘cut off’ point where I could ‘leave home’ behind and the reverse happened on my way home! I was usually the 2nd to arrive at school and generally the last to leave. I did try to leave before the cleaners locked up at 5.30 as much as I could.

I admit I did not self-care well. Sometimes because of the day itself I would not have eaten anything until on my way home. That is the way to ill-health so I took myself in hand, and with the office staff, we had lunch before the school lunch times and that ensured I “ate” better.

I cannot recall specifics of this year at the school as I guess one change lead to another. I do know I dealt with some major difficulties in terms of one parent who berated and threatened me because (I found out later) he hated women and teachers. He was going through a difficult separation from his teacher wife. Sadly my office and the school became the butt of his anger and I had to get an order for him not to enter school grounds. These things are not great for anyone.

As the only non-teaching executive staff member I often had to do much alone in terms of policy making and decisions based on the current school’s needs and demands. This does not mean I was not a team player! However, I was conscious of the fact that teaching executive had dual roles. Therefore I made fewer meeting times and hoped that would suffice for my care of their needs. It did not always play out that way and by the time I got to 2002 the challenges I faced to lead the school well increased.

What Was Different in 2002 School Year?

It was my fourth year as principal. There were many changes within the education system, via the NSW government policies of the day, and in schools themselves. Families may move on due to work changes, sometimes those families are not replaced by new ones so a school population can begin heading downwards.

School staff (teacher and executive staff) may need to take leave for reasons of: family needs, maternity and long service leave as well as sick leave.

The other change heralding 2002 was the need to upgrades of maintenance (big cost jobs) to the school as it was one that was first occupied in the 1940s. Back in 2002 it was up to the principal to make the contacts with contracted companies to get in suppliers who could quote for major works. Then the principal, with enough funds in the school account, could give a project a green light.

I was trained to teach but there I was, like all principals still, being a site manager and a financial manager as well as HR manager. Sigh.

Systemic Changes.

More and more, I noted, as did my principal colleagues that schools were being expected (rightly too) to ensure that Codes of Conduct for staff were not only understood and agreed upon by them but if behavioural issues arose, then the principal would be the first person to begin making an action plan when the code was violated.

There always had been the mandatory notification to the Department back then called Family and Community Services where if a child was deemed by a mandatory reporter (all school staff are) to be ‘at risk’ then a first notification was to be made by telephone. This saw me, often waiting for a person to answer, locked into a phone call because of issues which may look trivial on the outside but may be clues to more.

One such event could be repeatedly coming to school with no food. Other times it could be the child letting her/his teacher know that a parent may be unwell or even violent and it was never our role to investigate but we did need to reassure the child, then make the reports. Over the years I have sat in with a child in my role as a support person (if the child requested that from me) and it is heart-aching to be witness.

Our system, the N.S.W. Department of Education, was updating its role in terms of staff compliance and behaviour. This was nothing new and in fact teachers have had annual reviews in a conversation form for decades. Since I left teaching, this has become a joint venture between the schools and the overseeing body of school governance.

Returning to my principal days.

IF there was a reported incident told to me by a student, parent or staff member where a staff member’s behaviour (spoken, actions or in written form) was not within the Code of Conduct (signed off annually as part of mandatory training) then the principal had to act upon it.

I dealt with the Officers from the Conduct Unit first who listened to what had been reported to me and then I was given advice that it could be managed at school level (guess by whom?) or it could be escalated, with the staff member’s knowledge to a higher authority.

I had to do this on one occasion and the fallout for me came later. The temporary staff member who brought along a permanent staff member as a support person as the complaint was told to her from my account given to me was aghast at the inference.

In fact, there was nothing I had done wrong at all….but remember way back “your role will be to bring this school into the next century” comment by MY boss…this matter was a prime example of how staff thought they could still behave but it was not compliant with the Code of Conduct.

Executive Members of Staff  Were All On Leave.

Not at all related to the above in were two instances where my school staff allocation of experienced executive became diminished’. Apart from me, there were 3 other executive staff at the school by 2002: 2 Assistant Principals and 1 Executive Teacher. They all taught classes too.

The executive teacher was to have a baby and so went on maternity leave, the other, an assistant principal took extended long service leave both for the remainder of 2002 from early in the year.

But wait, there was one more. Yes, this one person who was an assistant principal ‘broke me’ in so many subtle then obvious ways.

And whilst I cannot say much, the continued leave based on medical certificates over and over did cause alarm for the parents of that class as it did me because the year had started well. As it was expected of him by me, this Assistant Principal would perform other executive duties (as do all teaching executive) this person refused and did not return after many months.

Oh, yes, one day there was a return, after hours to access my office and computer telling the only person on site, the cleaner, that “I” had given him permission. Following that, he was disciplined and placed in a different school.

How Did That Affect Me?

In some ways it was a relief but in many more, as we geared up for the mid-year reports, parent-teacher interviews and then Education  Week along with concerts and fund raisers, it was the beginning of my end.

Sadly I did not see it for some time.

I kept on working even harder.

Yes. I was doing the roles of the appointed executive who were on leave.

I know that I did have three teachers put their hands up to do the relieving roles but without the experience and knowledge beyond their classroom teaching, I was giving more and more of myself to duties that were not mine.

I was even writing reports for a class teacher with little experience. I will say now that I know I was over-doing things but I could see no way out. I was under pressure to perform well for the school’s sake and also to answer to my ‘bosses.’

My lovely boss actually retired at the end of Term One (sadly) and he was replaced by someone I knew well but was nothing like the people-person my old boss was.

 

Schools have a culture of their own.

I can now walk into a school and get a feeling of how things are. In my school, as Winter took hold I know that my mood was also one of worry and concern. That was for the school and its staffing into the next year.

When school populations decrease in the NSW public system, the principal will be asked to nominate a teacher to leave. In the majority of cases, teachers are very comfortable in their current school and rarely does anyone volunteer. So then it becomes a matter of ‘asking’ and ‘hoping’.

The staff were getting the idea that with the school’s drop in population, which occurred when the Special Needs unit was disbanded and there was a reduction of families moving to the area, that “I” had something to do with the reduction.

I was told this by telephone on the night (4th September 2002) I heard staff were arranging a delegation to my office the next day. They were going to tell me it was my manner with parents that was the cause.

This may have had one essence of truth after I was threatened by a violent father who I had to get removed from the grounds, but generally I had a supportive P&C and was a principal who was active and even did playground duty. But people like someone to blame. Of course, and that was me.

The Night Which Wounded My Career.

Before I go on, I was feeling emotions of overwhelm from the role. I remember with clarity coming back from yet another principals’ meeting where they was MORE that we needed to take responsibility for. I wondered how I could possibly manage more.

In the meantime, I became probably hyper vigilant after another meeting about my responsibilities for Work Health and Safety.

The school was OLD in many parts and I knew that there was much that did not comply, so I contacted my properties’ manager (the centralised one, not a personal one!) and for a fee, he came out and condemned or ok-ed parts I was concerned about. One such area was deemed so risky I had to tape it off before demolition and in doing so, incurred the wrath of the teachers who had been there forever. I could not take a trick.

I stood for what was right because that is who I am. I knew I needed to have a timeout but it happened to be an official one to attend a meeting for a day and then a personal one to accompany my husband to a vital medical appointment.

Schools: I love them. But I Could Not Return To Mine.

Two days away from school…..then I was rung the night before I was to return. Wednesday 4th September. One of my relieving Executive who I always thought was both compassionate and brave to rang to tell me that some staff were getting a delegation ready along with a Teachers Federation Organiser to meet with me to discuss their issues.

Initially I listened with interest and then with surprise/shock at what was apparently my fault: declining numbers, meaning one of them would be asked to transfer. Once I had talked (and been upset a bit) with her, I had successive phone calls from the remaining two relieving executive and it was then I said “I will be speaking to…(my boss) in the morning and will not be returning to school until I have”. They implored me not to but I had the sense not to act upon a threat like this.

I broke.

I broke down. I was ill. I couldn’t contact my boss: left a message that I would be going to my GP in the morning.

That would be the start of pretty horrible days but also some days of relief and release. Yet, nothing ever has helped me get over the fact that I loved being a principal but one day I never went back.

There was so much shame in me for that and it has almost all faded now some 17 years later. Lifeline: 13 11 14

It’s been hard to learn THIS….

Thank you for reading. At least I hope you did.

Denyse.

 

Next Chapter Will Be About The Outcome for Me Personally and Us Financially.

Life This Week #177

Link Up #177. Life This Week.

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Telling My Story. Chapter 13. 1999-2000. 6/51 #LifeThisWeek 11/2020.

Telling My Story. Chapter 13. 1999-2000. 6/51 #LifeThisWeek 11/2020.

The story behind Telling My Story is this: I began in May 2017 and then was diagnosed with cancer. I had a lengthy break and returned to the plan to keep on documenting my life, one blog post at a time. Here is the link to the page where they all are now. It’s been a while since my last one. This one, I admit, is not a brand new one. In fact I wrote back in 2018 over 4 weeks about the challenges and more of being a principal from 1998 – 2003. This post has much of the first two years in it, and the next one, which I will post for Life This Week 8/51 will conclude that part of my professional education leadership life. 

1998.

I really enjoyed being a K-6 School Principal. I had waited till my late 40s to decide to ‘take the plunge’ and actively seek a principal’s role in a K-6 school in Sydney’s west. Having been a relieving Principal in a school where I had been a Deputy Principal I knew that I did not want to apply for that role as I had been at that school for almost 10 years. This was a much longer period than I usually stayed in one school and family reasons were part of this but I knew that to lead that school was fraught with trying to placate factions and being in conflict ethically with the old-fashioned and out-moded forms of discipline.

My Primary School. Attended 1960-61 is where I decided I wanted to be a teacher.

In the lead up to the end of the 1990s I was asked to relieve as a Principal is a larger school within the Western Sydney environment I knew well. This school already had a leadership team including Deputy Principals but it was the wish of the out-going (Long Service Leave first!) Principal that someone from out of the school be appointed. That was me.

What a baptism of fire this was!

Whilst I knew the general area, I was not knowledgable at all about the make-up of the student population – which was well into the 600s. I was to lead that school for Terms 3 and 4 when a principal would be appointed. There were special needs classes, there were children of high needs (intellectual and behavioural) in mainstream classes. Fortunately, it came with a non-teaching Deputy, who helped bring me up to speed with every new challenge including:

  • chasing a boy who was ready to jump the low fence and run onto the road. He stopped. In the playground.
  • finding another boy climbing to the roof of a building to escape the problem he had being in class.
  • having a mother of a girl scream at me over the desk “what are YOU going to DO ABOUT this, YOU”RE the PRINCIPAL”

“I really do not want to be a Principal” I said after a very hectic Term 3 leading into Term 4…but then again..

” the old death bed regret” popped into my mind.

“Did I want to think I should have given the principalship a go but I did not?”

Answer: NO.and this…

As the last Term of 1998 progressed, unless I did decide to start applying for Principal’s roles, I had this ultimatum delivered.

As a Deputy Principal who had needed to leave her original school (the 10 year one) because the school student population  was slowing and there was no longer a DP position, I had to accept any position as a DP and guess where I was appointed: to the school where I was currently Relieving Principal. 

Oh. No, I thought that was untenable and also once I knew who the new boss would be in the following year my hand was forced – in a way. So it was out with the application templates and late nights writing and honing these to match K-6 School Principals roles that I might fit.

It All Takes Time.

Back then, applications for Principal  were sent into the District Office for the Superintendent to look over with his/her panel of selectors. These were a parent from the school which was seeking a new principal, a staff member from that school, a principal of similar status as the role on offer and the Superintendent. If the application met with the panel’s approval, professional referees (nominated on the application) were called, and then if the panel thought they wanted to know more, then the applicant was invited to a formal interview.

I went through this process over some weeks for a total of four times and got to interview but not the role. I was also still leading a school! I did get positive and helpful feedback particularly by one District Superintendent By the second last week of Term 4 I thought I was not going to get a Principal’s job but that was not true and within 2 days of school ending for Term 4, I was offered and I accepted the role of K-6 Principal in my own right.

Appointed As Principal.

The District Superintendent rang me to offer the position and of course I accepted it. Being so close to the end of the year, I could not visit the school until close to the end of the January holidays.

The words that rang in my ear, and were written to me by the District Superintendent echoed…and not nearly as much as in future years.

“Denyse, you have to bring this school into the next century and I know you are the one to do it. It won’t be easy and it will have challenges but you are the right fit for this”.

And of course, Life Goes On, in the family! We were looking forward to the birth of Grandchild #2 in the May of 1999 and by this appointment, I remember telling my daughter “I don’t think I will be able to have part-weeks off to care for him/her”. My daughter understood, and already had an amazing family day care arrangement. I admit my “Grandma” hat was firmly back on my head – with the blessing of my boss, the one who had appointed me and my staff when she, new GD was literally on the way, I was able to have the week off school to help out and BE Grandma. That time meant a great deal.

With my GD some years later!

1999 First Year as a Principal.

The first months.

Hot, No Plan, Making Plans, Learning About the School.

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 now, that I did all I could to both understand, accept and get up-skilled 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 staff. 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.

In re-reading this I recall much of it. It has stayed as a very strong memory, being principal of R.P.S. I did have some amazing opportunities and one was being a community member for the local (new then) gaol in the area and contributing to ideas and supporting the warden in his role. I was the district principal  representative for Stewart House, the N.S.W. Public Schools charity supporting needy children to have a break from home by the sea. I do know I missed a lot of ‘family time’ because of the nature of the role and my school was about 40 minutes from home but I was (still am) a passionate educator!

Stewart House: South Curl Curl.

Next time: 2001 and 2002. The Way My Career as a N.S.W. School Principal Ended.

I know there is a lot that’s been said (and I hope read) but it’s such a pivotal part of my life (then) and even now. I needed to share it as I have.

Thank you.

Denyse.

Link Up #175

 

Link Up #175. Life This Week.

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.

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* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere, or on your sidebar.

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Next Week’s weekly optional prompt is: 7/51 Self-Care Stories 17.2.2020

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Australia. School Days. 4/51. #LifeThisWeek. 7/2020.

Australia. School Days. 4/51. #LifeThisWeek. 7/2020.

In years past I may have written about Australia Day.  This link I found very helpful about reconciliation.

I now write of my love for this country and all its people. Particularly those of the first nations as I pay my respect on the home page of my blog.

Love seeing these flags fly together. Thank you NSW Public School.

School’s Back. Almost.

In Australia schools return for first term of the year around the end of the summer holidays: late January or early February. It is not a great time of year weather-wise as it is often hotter in the coming months that any other time. However, after almost 6 weeks of school holidays. parents are practically willing schools to be open…and they are! Mind you, I know that schools have been occupied in recent weeks (before school returned) getting classrooms ready, holding meetings, having open days for new families…and in some of the worst affected areas, trying to establish some school buildings where they have been destroyed by recent bushfires.

It about now that in many Australian homes, there are parents doing this:- approaching child’s bedroom. Knocking on the door. It’s the first day of school. No answer. Open the door, go to the window, draw the curtains, and say “come on, it’s time to get to school.” “nnnnnooo, do I have to?” says occupant of bed. “yes you do”. But “whyyyyy?” “Because you’re the principal and that’s why.”

Wishing this favourite school of mine…North Kellyville P.S, a great second year! #IBelongatNK What a year ahead..and this photo is from the beginning of 2019.

27th January. A day of note in my life.

On 27.1.1970 I commenced my role a permanent teacher with N.S.W. Department of Education at Barraba Central School. It was (still is) K-12 school in north-western N.S.W. My parents drove me up there with all my teaching resources and clothes and whatever else 20 year old me would have needed. After meeting the school’s Deputy, he recommended if I was looking for a place to stay, the share house with 3 other teachers was just opposite the school. That is where I was accepted and lived for my first year of teaching. More about that here in Telling My Story.

 

Where I lived as a first year teacher in Barraba, N.S.W.

Memories of Reading. At School.

I love(d) reading and cannot remember learning to read other than sitting in front of charts with the consonants and vowels listed and we had to chant them…

a (a, not the letter name) is for apple b is for boat  c is for car  d is for duck….you get the idea. I also add that some 15 years after learning from these, I had them to teach from in my 1970s classrooms.

One reading idea which took off in the 1980s was Drop Everything And Read. D.E.A.R. In the K-6 schools where I was a teacher and school executive these were allocated times in each day 0 usually straight after lunch break for EVERYONE in the school to read in silence. Kids could bring in their own books or magazines. It was about a period of sharing the love for reading and need to read..in an enjoyable and relaxed way. Some kids in my year 2 classes had ‘chapter books’ (that was such a landmark for many!) and some could use the class readers, or picture books or bring in their own.

An important part of this Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading (U.S.S.R. was another acronym) was the quiet, the time to be with the book/magazine and to be immersed. Of course not every child could do this but there were more that could. I, the teacher, also read. So did the office staff. BUT…sadly, and I cannot tell you when, this idea as a whole school program discontinued in many place.

BUT…the good news! 

Individual schools and teachers are continuing the practice individually or as a school program and it is mostly in High Schools. Big yay for that. Here’s some screen shots of twitter conversations and a poll I carried out.

This one was of special interest as I know how hard teachers are working in schools to comply with marking, testing, and so much more…sadly even their own reading for interest or enjoyment is being compromised…..

I am glad to see this practice happening in many high schools. I know it’s a challenge to find time in any school day for sustained reading. However, if you can find time at home, even better. There are of course, reluctant and non-readers and my friend and teacher-librarian Megan Daley (see her details here from when she was featured as a Woman of Courage) has many categories to help families choose titles and stories to engage all readers.

Quite a few years ago, I too wrote the topic of reading…and here’s my advice: from K-2 teacher, K-6 principal and mother and grandmother!

 

My suggestions for 10 Ways to Raise a Reader.

  1. Before you have your child(ren) enjoy reading yourself.
  2. Find a wide range of reading interests as reading does not have to be restricted to books and fiction.
  3. Think: reading is around us! Signs, newspapers, magazines, on-line, captions, instructions, comics, picture books and more.
  4. Talk about reading with your child(ren)’s other parent. Do you both have a way of viewing reading as important?
  5. Child is in utero….read to said child! It can be an instruction manual if you like, but a picture book read in your voice will be remembered by your child once he or she is born. It is true!
  6. Make a habit of reading a story from a picture book (showing the pictures too) every night at a similar time to create a habit of this ‘wonder of words and images’ in your child’s life from BIRTH.
  7. Continue above..not as an oral reading practice session  (please!) at bedtime until you and your child cannot fit together for the closeness of story time (this is part of the wonderful way to raise a reader!).
  8. Be seen to read yourself.
  9. Make reading a natural part of your child’s day by having books around, on benches, in the car, by the bedside and near the media which can be swtiched off for “silent reading time” or “D.rop E.verything A.nd R.ead” time at home.
  10. Encourage library membership, books and book vouchers as gifts and do not forget the enjoyment of being read to by an adult. Kids reading to adults can be reserved for the after-school reader practice.

From Parents To Their Child’s First Educator/Teacher.

And, finally but not last…My time-honoured message from parents to their children’s educators. Made by me and made beautiful by Kelly Exeter. You may definitely share this. I made it to be shared.

Whatever you are up to on 27 January 2020 I hope it goes well. From the website here. 

Our First Peoples are the traditional custodians of our beautiful lands and waterways and have a fundamental role in the great Australian story. 

We aspire to an Australia Day that can increasingly include a recognition and celebration by all Australians of the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to our nation.

Thank you for being part of Life This Week’s community.

I always appreciate your blog posts and comments.

Denyse.

Link Up #173

 

Link Up #173. Life This Week.

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, or on your sidebar.

*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 weekly optional prompt is: 5/51 Share Your Snaps #1. 3.2.2020.

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

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

Denyse’s Memoir: Telling My Story.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highlights of My Story: 1988-1998.

Health.

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

Tertiary Study.

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

Family Matters.

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

Homes and Houses.

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

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

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

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

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

Becoming Grandparents. 

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

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

Life’s Ups and Downs.

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

Health Matters. 

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

Moving On. 

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

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

But first.

A New House.

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

What’s Next?

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

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

Denyse.

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

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

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

Copyright © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

 

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#LifeThisWeek. 29/51. Telling My Story. Chapter Eleven.1983-1987. 79/2019.

#LifeThisWeek. 29/51. Telling My Story. Chapter Eleven.1983-1987. 79/2019.

In keeping with the prompts here being optional, I am writing on a different topic to “Winter: Like/Loathe” as suggested for Life This Week 29/51. I am writing a new chapter in Telling My Story as I have neglected this part of my writing for some months.

Telling My Story. Chapter Eleven.1983-1987.

This time, with the image for Telling My Story, I am honouring what has happened to me in the time when I first started writing my story, which was abruptly interrupted by cancer. I then became well enough to continue the story, along with the continuation of my changing appearance thanks to oral cancer, and 4 surgeries and many trips to get me some teeth..over time! 

1983.

  • It was a rough first half- year for our family, particularly my husband who became very unwell and required surgery mid year. We had a young family, he was medically-retired, and I was working (teaching) full-time.
  • We (he!) got through thanks to his own strength and courage and it opened up some new parts of family life that we had not experienced for some time. Family holidays at the beach were back on the agenda as was a new-to-him backyard project of building some furniture for our daughter’s bedroom. More on that later.
  • My father retired from his work and whilst that did not directly affect us, it provided him and my mother with more time to enjoy their family, particularly their now four grandchildren. They also made the Gold Coast their ‘winter home’ for July and August, catching up with friends who had moved their permanently and enjoying the lifestyle away from the cold of Sydney. Each of the grandkids got to spend some time with them over the next few years, some even flying to join their grandparents.
  • I was back into teaching and eyeing off promotions into the next roles where I could put my hand up. I did, and was given a relieving role in a nearby school which then ended up being the first substantive role: Executive Teacher at Walters Rd P.S.

Dad and Mum: retired life: On the Gold Coast each winter.

1984.

  • Happy and busy family life. Whilst I was out to teach and lead part of the K-2 section of the school, my husband was the one at home, ably helping our daughter  settle into her first year at high school and our son into Kindergarten at the local public school. With his experience as a teacher and school leader, though medically-retired, my husband became P&C president for the years ahead and this was a great way to become involved again in education.
  • I was busy at my school and recall asking (and it happened) the NRL’s Parramatta Eels’ star, Peter Sterling, to come and read to the children for Book Week, showing them how “even footballers read” and he was delighted to do so.
  • Remember Wham? It was their season in the sun! We also started Morning Fitness at school with the K-2 kids and “I” taught a dance to “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”. Still think of that fun time!
  • But, time to move on! Why? Well, there was a new job, and at the second list level that I had earned and it was for me to become the substantive Assistant Principal at Seven Hills West P.S. Yes. I had already been there in an acting capacity for part of 1982 and now I was returning.

1985.

  • Assistant Principal roles are full-on! With full-time teaching responsibility and managing and leading a group of staff. In this case, an Infants Department of 7 classes and with an executive teacher to assist in the leadership. Located in a busy and relatively low socio-economic area of Sydney there were many challenges and rewards.
  • I worked for a very demanding principal who encouraged my leadership. I also ‘put my hand up’ for external roles to help gain a better understanding of how the then Metropolitan West area of Sydney was managed and to make a contribution. I became a member of the K-6 English committee and through involvement there was convinced by a senior educator that “now” was all about getting more qualifications to go further in our careers.
  • What she meant was, that as we were still two-year trained teachers, when the new and different promotion means would come in, then a person with a degree (Bachelor of Education) would have more training academically. I agreed. After soul-seatching and a decent discussion at home, it was agreed even with the kids that I would start my B.Ed. by distance ed. It was called by “correspondence” in those days.
  • On top of the three terms at school, I had two semesters at Uni. It was then via notes by mail, assignments sent back that way and it all happened out of the old Wagga Teachers College which became the Riverina Murray Institute of Higher Education.
  • I recall weekends which were me away from the kids, head down reading the reams of notes for the subjects, coming up with a draft and then TYPING it all on an electric typewriter and if all was well, it was posted.
  • They were tough times holding down the full-time job and studying and my husband had started his new at-home business tutoring children with learning needs.
  • Yet we managed. We did have a cleaner and at least Uni wasn’t 365 days a year.
  • Each January we took ourselves to a beach unit on the N.S.W, coast.
  • A somewhat sad year in our family too. My beloved Aunt died very suddenly after surgery went wrong. Mum was in shock for sometime after that. Dad’s mum had died from a stroke in her 80s earlier that year.
  • I remember too, that with a small legacy from my Aunt’s will, we got enough money to add a ‘toilet and washbasin’ to the now-study that was our double garage. Two loos! Luxury.

Our first home, did not have the addition until the late 1980s. The addition is above the garage which was always a play/work space of some kind.

1986.

  • This year was full-on and busy too as I continued the University work part-time, had a class and of course, led a department of teachers caring for the needs of the students which were many and varied.
  • It was time, I decided to “go for third list”. Not this year but the next. Back then, a long lead was highly recommended as the candidate for promotion not only had to be visited over some days in the school but had to hand in quite a series of folders with: my initiatives and programs, policies I had devised and how they were working, evidence of my professional learning and reading (here was where doing the degree was the best thing!)
  • I was incredibly fortunate to have the time to do this. I am aware that having my husband at home who worked on his small cabinet making projects at home & elsewhere during the day was available for our kids if need be, along with us living not too far from the school meant that I could be back home in the late afternoons for family dinners (I cooked) as he was often busy coaching young people.
  • There is much to be grateful for as I was living this life but I do recall how fraught I might get and I also know it was hard to deal with some issues both at school level which impacted me health wise. I know I had a great GP who listened to me and for a time I got some help from professionals. My irritable bowel syndrome kicked in around this stage of my life, and after all the tests it was deemed to be part of me. Sigh.
  • Passed Uni again this year as I did the year before. It was also the year (I think) I had to go to Wagga campus for a residential school. THAT for this girl was quite an experience and I was glad to drive home!

Assistant Principal

1987.

  • We got the family Christmas present of a Commodore 64 so after the games fun (Bomb Jack for the boys) I found I could type assignments…and print them out to send via the mail to Wagga. Still didn’t get the idea of how to make a draft so I was still copying my handwritten assignments.
  • Back to school also meant back to a new Boss, the principal who I had started with got a promotion and now, in the year I was going to ‘go for my third list’ I had a new female principal to work with. This is quite a big deal. “Back then” the Department of Education was changing big time as the governments of the day were shaking up their previously independent Depts of Education, Health and so on.
  • Merit selection, along with ensuring a fair mix of women in the workforce, at principal level was a major shift. Previously people like me who were in K-2 roles could not go for a K-6 principal role. The world in education in N.S.W. was ….gobsmacked if you were a man, and applauded if you were female (ok that may be some exaggeration but it was H U G E).
  • Lists are very hard to explain but ‘back then’ there were levels of promotion in N.S.W. public education called Lists. They really were actual lists because your name, if you were successful in your inspection, got added to a DATED list and there you stayed until you got a school position where there was no-one more senior to you. The actual lists came out published each year (it was called the stud book – male oriented much?)
  • Women like me could only go as far as 3rd list this time round and even if I had wanted to go for 4th list by the time I was at my next school, the whole process changed to: merit, equal opportunity…you know the rest.
  • In preparation for List Three inspection I had full on classroom responsibilities to have made ‘perfect’, to record all I had made via policies and planning written up and the staff understanding of it along with enacting it, could lead subject (English was mine) based learning for teachers to improve student outcomes and much much more. I also had to be up to date with all of the N.S.W. Department of Education policies and be prepared to answer questions on their implementation at our school. My staff also needed to know what we had done together for improving learning and they were expected, if asked, to be ‘inspected too’ so the inspector could see evidence of my leadership.
  • I was also continuing to do University work….and attend district meetings and so on.
  • I recall being very stressed about it but also wanting it to happen. I was really, really ready.
  • The process was over 3 full days. The District Inspector watched me teach, asked the children, questions, read their books, looked through my documentation, observed me leading a staff meeting, visited other classes and more. Full-on alright!
  • Mum and Dad came over and cooked us a baked dinner somewhere in the middle. It was so lovely of them to do that but my gut was not happy.
  • Nevertheless, the final day came and “Denyse I am prepared to put your name forward to be placed on the third list, congratulations.”
  • I think I was very happy…but oh so tired and relieved. Thank you I said. Then….
  • Some weeks later the Assistant Area Director had to spend a day with me doing similar inspection to confirm that, “Yes, I was eligible to be place on the third promotions list”.
  • But what did I want to do next?

Latter part of 1987.

  • The part-time degree was nearing its end and whilst I did not go to the graduation for this one, I was very proud to receive the testamur in 1989.
  • Our daughter was now in Year 10 and just as term 4 started (I think we just went from three terms to four, if anyone remembers, let me know in the comments) and she caught glandular fever. She was so very unwell she had liver complications and basically stayed on the couch. It did however lift enough for her to attend the Year 10 Formal but I will never forget how tiny she was and that GF stayed with her for a very long time.
  • N.S.W. schools also started the new Foundation style of handwriting. I thought it would be hard for me as a left-hander but it went well.
  • Before we knew it we were inundated by Handwriting books at the shops and from then on, every parent who ‘wanted their child to excel’ would pick up one of those books…which are still around. Everywhere.
  • So, on the way to promotion…where was I? Right at the cusp of all the changes. I could choose to be a principal if I wanted to seek merit selection to that position or I could go down the path of non-teaching deputy principal in a large K-6 school and that’s where I wanted to be.
  • How I got there was this: fill in the many forms, list ALL of the schools I would want to be appointed to, and attend a six person interview at Regional Office to answer generic questions for either principal or deputy positions and then wait. To see if I passed.
  • I did. Late November, I found I had been appointed Deputy Principal to a large Mt Druitt K-6 School called Shalvey.
  • I was on my way. Off class, and I admit I was glad after 18 years and onto leadership.

 

 

What a story comes next…..

I do need a break! This was quite some post to recall as much as I could and I admit, checking with my husband a few times.

It’s the bi-centenary next time…and more!

I do hope you got to the end and did not feel too tired. They were busy years.

Denyse.

 

 

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: 30/51 Share Your Snaps #6. 29/7/19

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Memories I’d Like To Re-Capture. 12/51 #LifeThisWeek. 29/2019.

Memories I’d Like To Re-Capture. 12/51 #LifeThisWeek. 29/2019.

I have just been talking to my husband about some of my memories and have realised that re-visiting can be harmful to my emotional health.

With that in mind, I have decided to be light-hearted as I think about these memories and the why I’d like to re-capture them.

 

How are you with memories? Can some be triggering too?

I know I like having a good memory but in some instances it is not a good thing!

Denyse.

Linking here on Mondays with Kell for Mummy Mondays.

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

Next week’s optional prompt: 13/51 April Is About 1/4/19

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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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Best Gift Ever. 3/52. #LifeThisWeek. 7/2019.

Best Gift Ever. 3/52. #LifeThisWeek. 7/2019.

The best gift ever has given me food for thought.

I have had some great gifts in my life including these:

  • parents who gave me life, shelter, education, care and loveand who were wed for over 60 years.
  • a man I met and married within 3 months who has loved me for over 48 years now as I have him. This is on our wedding day, 23 January 1971.

  • the first gift of a child: our daughter (story is here) and then much later, our son (story soon!) and even though we did not know much about parenting, both are doing well in their adult lives.
  • a career in K-6 education in New South Wales schools which took me from probationary teacher to school principal thanks to the gifts of others who saw the potential in me, degree courses I completed with loving support from my family, and the children, teachers and parents of the many schools. Latterly I enjoyed teaching and supervising pre-service Masters’ students at University. On many occasions I was glad I could help these people and share what had been shared to me as gifts in my career.
  • the gift of meeting people and socialising is one I enjoy and to this end am doing it in a new area and loving making new connections socially: on-line and in real life, as they say!
  • I love the gift I have been given as someone who notices nature, enjoys solitude from time to time, and has learned so much about herself during some times of turbulence in recent years.
  • The gift I have been given of enjoying art and especially making mandalas has also seen me make 100s of bookmarks to help a charity called The Big Hug Box.
  • How good is it to give back! My story was also in a book that was published. What a gift that was.

But what about cancer? Is THAT a gift? 

I cannot finish this post without mentioning my fairly recent brush with the big C and what a gift that has been.

  • Life is a matter of how it’s viewed by the individual.
  • I do not like having had cancer because of many of the ramifications in my life, yet I know its presence has been a present. Let me explain more!
  • I was in a major life transition which had, in its own way, strangled my confidence and demeanour because of the grief involved. Yet I had some ideas of how to help myself.
  • That series of ideas was supplemented by the gift of amazing professional support, amazing and unending personal support and many hours of time to both learn and absorb.
  • When it was found that I had cancer, up from within me, emerged what had been hidden for almost 3 years and over time, my personal qualities of determination, belief in my surgical and oral health teams and in my capacity to heal and that I could share my story with others as I have and do.

The Best Gift is:

  • A return to “Denyse”. She had been long gone and I am so glad she is back.
  • This is my best gift: I am back. It does not matter I am ageing – that’s a privilege, nor that I have some physical scars I cannot overcome – they’re part of my history now and I am so glad to be here and look at my image in the mirror to say:

Hello, looking OK for someone who’s been through so much.

Well-done, you!

 

What is your best gift?

Denyse.

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

Joining Alicia here for Open Slather and Kell here for Mummy Mondays.

Next Week’s Optional Prompt: 4/51. What Is Hope? 28/1/19.


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