Tuesday 28th June 2022

26/51#LifeThisWeek.Telling My Story. Chapter Sixteen. 2004-06.52/2020.

26/51#LifeThisWeek.Telling My Story.2004-2006.Chapter Sixteen.52/2020.

So, about a hundred three years ago ….I thought it was time, seeing I had a blog, to start writing my story. It was on advice from a blogging friend, now published author (her story is here) that I did. Then, for a long time I did not. Because cancer was diagnosed. Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at…drum roll… Chapter Sixteen.

With yet another photo of me because I keep changing my appearance…thanks to head and neck cancer, then cataract surgeries.

The most recent chapter, finalised how my first and significant career in New South Wales Department of Education ended. Sadly but there was a need for my health to improve and that it did.

L: NSW Teachers’ Federation Badge. R: N.S.W. Primary Principals Ass. Membership Badge.

Why was 2004 memorable?

I went back to school! As a teacher. But first, there is MORE!

I spent quite a bit of summer 2004 recovering from the broken right leg and receiving physiotherapy to get me walking again. We were a two-person household as our adult son had moved in with a friend. I had S P A C E to call mine, and claimed his old room for an art-craft one for me. It also doubled as a grandchild-sleepover space where we installed double bunks and these were in regular use.

My husband, whilst not in the best of health, started to enjoy his music and had a space in the house for that and part  all of the garage eventually morphed into a workshop. We had two vehicles but we were soon to add some home improvements but wait, I am getting ahead of myself.

Around the middle of what would be Term One in schools, I started to feel a restlessness within and to be honest a NEED to do something related to teaching. Having over a year away from schools to try my hand at volunteering and to get better health-wise, the thoughts grew that I probably needed to get my casual teaching availability sorted and out there to my principal friends.

“Would You Like Two Days a Week From Next Term?”

We lived in Glenwood, a suburb on former dairy land in Sydney’s northwest. My friend, D, and I had been colleagues for many years and I heard that the brand new school at a brand new suburb just 10 minutes drive away was where she was the foundation principal. I rang and she said ” come over and have a look at it, love to see you”. I did, with a version of a casual teacher resume in my bag.

After a tour in a modern, private/public built school we sat in her office and I began speaking about wanting to come back to teaching. She knew of what had happened to me at R.P.S. and in fact was one who stayed in touch initially. Before I could say much more, I received an offer, to start Term 2, doing 2 days a week Release From Face To Face Teaching for all of the SEVEN classes (K-6) the school then comprised. By the time I left the school in 2010 the student population had exploded from our original 156 to around 700…and since went close to 1000…if you know the now-densely populated North West area of Sydney, this will not surprise you.

Yes, thank you…that would be great. I asked what I should teach in that time. Her reply was ‘up to me’ and in a complete switch for me, I chose Creative Arts: art, drama and music.

Back to School. As a teacher.

On the first day of Term Two 2004,  the day after our second granddaughter turned 5 (huge party with jumping castle and I did face painting) I presented myself to the school…and the first group I would be teaching. Year 6. Now, this was still a very small school and the teachers were incredibly welcoming and friendly. I remain friends with many today. However, Year 6, first up took some courage but I did it. The thing about a brand new school is that the kids in the upper grades have come from different schools with different expectations. I did have some kids who tried me (behavioural and attitude) but we managed. After that baptism, I had the rest of the day…and I think I returned on the Tuesday as my 2nd day. I do recall being on Cross Country duty too as the kids ran around the then spacious grounds.

When a new school opens in a new neighbourhood there are children presenting to enrol every week and over time, this position grew to 3 days a week. By the end of that year however, I got a different role and loved this one even more.

Before I move on. The school had its official opening and that was a privilege to be part of. Some of the work I had done as the R.F.F. teacher in Art and Craft also involved Aboriginal Education (I had some expertise from my previous schools) and the Year 6 group performed at the opening using clapping sticks made by my husband.

The principal now had someone on her staff who she could confide in and even offload on but she did not do this much at all. However from time to time she would ask me “how come you are always so happy?” My answer was, she had seen my need to be back teaching and I was loving it as well as being a mentor of sorts to some …but I no longer had the full responsibility which weighed heavily when I was a principal.

The English as A Second Language Teacher. Me! 2005 & 2006.

I was always a teacher of literacy at heart, and loved working with children at the entry level of school. It made sense then for me to turn what I loved to do into a role I could deepen for myself and the school when there was growing student population of students whose second language was English.

I was able to set up the program, a space for the students and to develop the school’s programs. This was an important part of my role and being a former principal something I knew a lot about. What I did need to learn more about was the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of teaching English to a range of learners. Some were literally just stepping ‘off the plane’ as we used to say, and others had been in Australia speaking and learning English at previous schools.

The ‘language’ of teaching in this field has changed in the past 5+ years so I will use what I remember. The students were assessed, if needed, by me upon enrolment in whichever year they were entering. For example a student coming into Kindergarten and one coming into Year 5 might still be classed as ‘new arrivals’ if they had no understanding of English and would need, at separate times to being in class, some one-on-one or very small group learning.

To that end, I enrolled in a Post-Graduate Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at Charles Sturt University. Part-time and on-line with lots of practical work I could do with the students. This was a great way for me to add to my qualifications and hopefully, as time passed, get appointed to the school in 2007 as the substantive E.S.L. teacher. In the next chapter, I will share what happened.

Flexibility and a program that helped teachers integrate the students into their classes was important and I did all I could on the 3 days allocated to the program – always by student numbers – that year. The school’s population grew and grew, in 2006 there was a need to employ another person like me on a temporary basis. I was not permanently appointed, even though, over time, I hoped that might occur. More on that in the next chapter. 2007 was a big year for me. In many ways.

Family Times, House with ‘New’Mortgage & My First Trip O.S.

Despite the fact that we were now mortgage-free, see chapter fifteen, we became tempted to use the house as collateral for home improvements. Yes, people, we not only were tempted, we went ahead. The house benefitted with the enclosure of the outdoor room and adding air conditioning to it so it was a useable space, a carport, added driveways and landscaping out the front and back. This all helped at the time for our enjoyment. Much later in terms of selling, we had added value but the outstanding mortgage was paid out at the time of sale in 2015, bought new cars (much needed, old ones were literally ‘dying’)  but we did not have enough after that to buy a house on the Central Coast. This has, as it turns out, not been too bad as we have found a couple of options where we may wish, one day, to buy a house. For now, we are, like many, more comfortable as renters in the lovely, modern house we are in now.

Family times in those years became busier in some ways as the first group of grandchildren were changing in terms of ‘growing up’ and starting school. We attended Open Days, School Assemblies, Musicals and other events when possible. We took our two eldest granddaughters on a family holiday to Ballina which was fun and they got to meet some of their extended family and see where Papa grew up and went to school.

We welcomed partners into the family and life continued getting to know extended family members, and share in occasions, as well as support new ventures such as a return to study for one of our kids, with eventually University degree completed and more to come. One adult child continued in teaching part-time and we offered weekend/evening/afternoon respite for the kids in her busy times of responsibilities at school and beyond.

For some time I guess I did consider travelling overseas but never really got the chance. Then my plan was hatched and by crikey, I love a plan. To organise, the research and to find out more..blah blah. It was always going to be a solo trip. The plane ride for my husband of just on 3 hours in 2003 was the deal breaker for him as I wrote last chapter. He couldn’t accompany me. However, I was actually OK to give solo travel a go in a bigger way. I had already done some shorter trips and small breaks away within Australia so I looked at what I thought I could manage flight time wise, and where I was interested in visiting. It was to the U.S.of A.’s west coast but mainly the state of Hawaii I wanted to see. Dad and Mum had been there many times following Dad’s first visit when he was part of Harvard Business Summer School for 6 weeks in 1966.

With meticulous care and with the help of Flight Centre I booked 15 days away from 1 January 2006 to 15 January. Flights on Hawaiian Air, were marvellous and I joined their Premier Club to get preferential seating, extra luggage allowance and use of Lounges at LAX and Oahu. Brilliant. But, I almost went home from Mascot (our airport) before I left.

New Year’s Day in Sydney 2006 the temperature was 45deg. There was no air con working at the airport. My flight was not leaving till 10 pm. I was dropped off at the airport by my daughter…allowing plenty of time and it was actually ‘too much’ time. I was SO hot and over it..but stayed until check in could start…and when as a priority boarder I got to my window seat (then the aeroplane was 2,3,2 in economy)and sat, the aloha music and air con working….I sighed with relief. I probably need to expand this story separately but it went like this: Syd:Oahu, 3 nights. Oahu to Kona 2 nights. Kona to Oahu & onto LAX 2 nights, LAX to Las Vegas 2 nights, LV to SanFran 2 nights. SF to LAX back to Oahu 3 nights…and H O M E.

My Parents. 

In the latter part of 2006 my parents celebrated their Diamond Wedding Anniversary (60 years wed) with a couple of small at-home celebrations with friends, and a family lunch in a local restaurant with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren on the following weekend.

I went to their house on the actual day with 60 yellow roses from the local Dural Rose Growers, and Dad already had the cards I had organised from Queen Elizabeth II, the Governor-General, the Premier of N.S.W. and…for Mum especially, my brother organised a ‘congratulations to long time listeners, N & A,’ message on 2GB from Alan Jones. Mum loved it. And he was kind.

Mum had not been well for a couple of years and with an aversion to doctors and investigations, Dad did the best he could to keep her health under check. Mum had some symptoms that appeared to be Parkinson’s related and also a lot of pain in some areas that was put down to be ‘post shingles’ neuralgia.

Mum had a great smile. And she made a lot of effort to do the best she could to look well and co-ordinated, with hairdresser appointments weekly and a pretty regular wardrobe updates. She started to not want to go out much in a lot of 2006 and it became harder to convince her to do so.

Previously Mum had been quite social, independent with her own car and social groups and interests including tennis and cards. But no more. Even their much enjoyed June-July winter stays on the Gold Coast stopped in 2005. But, there were reasons which would not be evident until next chapter: a big one. 2007.

Mum and Dad, taken by me, at the family celebrations for their 60th Wedding Anniversary. November 2006.


That is all…that I remember and CAN write about…with confidence of telling my story without giving away too much. It does get tricky with privacy but I have permissions and try to stay within boundaries set by myself and what is reasonable.

For all of the stories to date, please visit this part of the blog. Telling My Story.

I print each post out and have it stored in a folder for family if they wish to read it.

Thanks for reading.


List of Optional Prompts: July & August 2020. On home page too.

27/51 Taking Stock #3 6.7.2020

28/51 Self-Care Stories. #4. 13.7.2020

29/51 Your Choice. Mine is: World Head & Neck Cancer Day. 20.7.2020

30/51 Share Your Snaps #6 27.7.2020

31/51 Food. 3.8.2020

32/51 Why Did I? 10.8.2020

33/51 I Want. 17.8.2020

34/51 Self-Care Stories. #5. 24.8.2020

35/51 Share Your Snaps #7 31.8.2020

Link Up #195.

Life This Week. Link Up #195.

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* THANK you for linking up today! Next week’s optional prompt.27/51 Taking Stock #3 6.7.2020

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  1. Thank you, Denyse, for sharing your story. How wonderful that you returned to teach and had your solo trip to Hawaii to start the New Year 2006 in style. #lifethisweek

    • Thanks so much Natalie, it was a great thing to do, getting back to what I love…and the travel was very special too.


  2. There’s a lot here but I think I just want to say, that’s probably a definition of success if someone asks ‘Why are you always happy?’. I loved Kona and the Big Island – good choice!!!

    • Thanks I remember that day so well. I was constantly smiling (very grateful to be back and being helpful as a senior teacher to younger ones) but I know as a principal I was not like that nor was this person. It IS a huge responsibility and even more now I think.

      I went to the Big Island because I was interested in learning and history, I was not into lying around a pool in Hawaii!

      Glad to see you have your ‘out and about’ self somewhat back.


  3. I love the passion for education that you have – some people are born educators & you’re one of them. I remember that 45deg new years day – we have friends over from England for Christmas & they nearly fried.

    • Thanks so much Jo. I know I love to teach but with some of the add-ons these days and behaviours of ‘some kids AND their parents’ I think my time was just right. Then from 2012 to 2014 I got to mentor teachers in training and some seeking external qualifications as they were in that time.

      Yes, “that” day…and I am pretty sure the power went out just about everywhere. Your poor visitors.


  4. I love that you’re documenting this for future generations.

    What I got most out of this was how you were able to return to teaching and enjoy it without the extra responsibilities (politics and bureaucracy I suspect!!!) after taking time to rediscover your balance.

    I’ve actually not been to Hawaii (or the US in general). I’m not sure it’s on my list… there are probably other places I’d prefer (quaint English villages are still on my bucket list!). xx

    • Thanks Deb, I am glad Rebecca Bowyer gave me that advice because it seemed overwhelming. It is not the full memoir of course because of ‘others’ and I being an public system educator I have to be very careful of names and times.

      Yes, it was good to get back to kids. Mind you, it was pretty exhausting but it fed my need to be doing and creative….and then getting to E.S.L. teaching in small groups was my ideal. Pity I didn’t get the job…more on that next chapter.

      I think I saw UK as being too far – the amount of time I could sit in a plane – and as Dad & Mum had such great times on their many visits to Hawaii that was doable – 10 hours flight. I went to the big cities out of curiosity but would definitely get more from a return, longer stay in San Francisco. Sadly, none of this is likely to happen now so I have ‘that’ in my memory bank.

      My ideal would be to see the village in UK where my paternal grandparents met, see Scotland and perhaps France for the WW1 memories too. My brother has done that one so at least one of us has.

      Hope you get to do your UK one…more time on your side than I have!!


  5. I always enjoy reading your story Denyse. Your trip to Hawaii reminds me a lot of my solo (and first ever overseas trip) trip to Singapore when my kids were in primary school. I went to visit my sister who was an expat over there. She had a 3-4 yr old daughter at the time and was pregnant with my nephew. I remember feeling so excited and liberated heading off on this trip on my own. I’d never done anything like it before and it turned out to be a trip of a lifetime. I had such a wonderful time! I look forward to the next chapter of your story. xo

    • Thank you Min. I am pleased you are enjoying the stories from my life.

      I do have to be somewhat careful of privacy and that some of my memories are indeed ‘just mine’ so as not to complicate any relationships from my former career and within the family. Still, there is enough there to represent much of what my life has been about.

      How exciting to visit your sister solo…as a mum, that must have felt very freeing!! And how time flies too because your kids are now adults!


  6. Hi Denyse, in a previous life I think I was a teacher! I am probably more suited to it than nursing. My son has always told me he will be a teacher and came close to enrolling in his Masters this year but has again opted to do something else. I still think it’s his eventual destiny but we’ll have to see. Your story reinforces my belief that you can have further education at any age. Good on you, we definitely need more teachers like you, regards Christina

    • So true, there is no definite date or time to enter the teaching profession.

      Some like me and my husband came to it early and to be honest, in the late-mid 1960s you did go straight into some sort of tertiary study or training if your completed the final years of school.

      Others take their time…and you too might be seeing that in your son and maybe yourself!

      Never say never, Christina!!


  7. Hi Denyse – it looks like a lot happened in this period of your life that brought you quite a degree of happiness – a job you loved, travel, grandkid visits, home improvement etc. I have a friend who stopped teaching a year ago (burn out) and has gone back this year for 3 days a week as an aide. She’s loving the contact with the kids but without all the pressure and preparation.

    • Thanks Leanne, it was the right time for me to be back. I had my big shift from the principal’s role and was trying all the things we tend to talk about for retirement but, money AND being bored ended up coming together to get me back…and yes, it was good.

      More in the future posts. Some sad, and some glad news.

      Glad for your friend. Really pleased for her.


  8. Casual teaching and RFF are such great options for returning to the teaching field without the pressures of being a full time teacher/principal. I was planning to do quite a bit of casual teaching this year, but the whole Covid situation changed things around a lot! I love your passion for teaching that’s reflected in your story.

    As someone who’s into researching family history, these blog posts are going to be so valuable to your family members one day!

    • Yes they were and they got me back mentally and physically…teaching through the day and playground duty 3 days a week was tiring but good in many ways.

      I understand what you say about not coming into schools this year…a definite no no for you.

      I do hope my kids and grandkids have an interest in reading this but I don’t push it. They will come to it when they need to or are ready.

      Hope you continue to do well….exciting times ahead.


  9. Denyse
    Thank you for sharing more about your teaching career. I am fascinated by your time teaching English as a second language – the rewards and challenges of that role must have both been great.

    SSG xxx

    • Thank you. I learned a lot from those I was teaching. I cannot imagine what some of them went through in terms of language and change coming to another country..then starting school within a few days. I admit one little girl actually needed to leave school and return the following year as she had no idea of this new thing called school and was young.

      The following year made all the difference for her. A good decision all round.


  10. How wonderful that you got such a perfect second opportunity to redefine yourself as an educator. My daughter-in-law is also an English as a Second Language teacher. She finds the position as rewarding as you did.

    My hubby and I did the same as you – as soon as our mortgage was paid off we used the value of the house to do a series of home-improvements. I’m glad we did!

    • Thanks Laurie. I can still remember when I made those shifts in my thinking to what was now possible for me, given the emotional turmoil I went through as a principal, and could return to what i loved from the start.

      The ESL position was a privilege…teaching both adults and children. I had a lot of respect for those who have come to a brand new to them country and need to learn the language of the land.

      I hope your DIL continues to enjoy her role.

      It’s a pity we didn’t get to keep that house after all we did to it but it was never the forever house for us as we wanted to be out of the big city.

      Glad you have reaped the rewards with your place.


  11. I always enjoy reading your chapters Denyse and this was no exception! I’m happy to hear you enjoyed teaching again as it is just in you to teach I feel. I was also glad to read about your solo trip and can relate, as you know from my previous post about kindness to strangers while I was travelling solo. I loved reading about your mum too and her lovely smile, what a great achievement to get to 60 years of marriage, especially these days. They both look very happy 🙂

    It’s so good to keep these memories for your family, they are very lucky to have you writing your story.

    Thanks for the opportunity to link up each week, you are very generous and supportive.

    • Thanks so much Deb. It was really interesting for me to let my memory take over..and it wasn’t till I had almost finished the post, I remembered my OS trip!! Only possible because I had been earning as a part time teacher. Special memories alright.

      Mum was the owner of the best smile and I have not appreciated my inheritance until far too late. My eldest granddaughter has the same smile too. That photo has a story…for next time!

      I am glad to have kind and generous linkers like you and many Deb. There have been a couple this week and last that have not responded to my emails so….I have deleted their posts. That is a biggie for me!!


  12. I can definitely see how appealing returning to teaching would be after being a headteacher – all the fun without the pressure! I did something similar before I left the UK. I gave up my literacy co-ordinator position to substitute teach/cover classes instead. I love how these temporary positions so often become permanent, isn’t it funny how life works out? And you have TESOL and I have CELTA, another thing we have in common 🙂

    • You know from your UK experience and as I do now watching the Australian education scene change and move to mandatory external observations and the like that we are getting far too stressed as educators because of it when in actual fact we lose sight of the kids and making positive relationships.

      Many people move from the temp to the permanent jobs I agree. These days thought they tend to be by merit selection and a family member of mine continues to seek these but ‘just misses out’ yet is continued to be employed the next year.

      Yep, we can talk English as Second Language too. I actually started, in that first retirement, as a community volunteer working with one lady in her home near us as part of the Mission Australia program.


  13. Lot of things to learn from your story. So inspiring!

  14. That’s a huge chunk of “things” in a short time 🙂 Hawaii interests me – though I don’t know if I could choose which island to visit.

    • Vanessa, It was based on how many days and how many dollars I had…for the whole trip and it was a big ask but one I am glad I did. The selection of The Big Island came from me being more interested in history rather than sitting by a pool. There is a town I drove through called Captain Cook…he was killed in the (then) Sandwich Islands which became known as Hawaii. I actually had a convertible Mustang to drive around the island and had to remember which side of the road to be on but I could do it!


  15. Thanks for sharing your story Denyse. I didn’t realise how much you’ve studied! I mean I knew about the bachelors and masters but didn’t realise there were all these additional certs too! That was so great about your first overseas trip! And lovely to read about your parents’ anniversary around those years too.

    • Thanks Sanch. Yes 2 x of Cert IV in Workplace Training and Assessment which made no sense to me until I got my head around ‘standards’ in Australian training and standards.

      The Uni Post Grad Cert in TESOL was really helpful and got me the work with children and adults.

      Now you know why I am a fan of education..no matter the age.

      Mum and Dad’s story was a good one…sadly next chapter deals with Mum’s pretty quick decline.


  16. I love following your story. My daughter has just started as a teacher recently and I hope she develops the same passion you had. Life is so full of ups and downs and you always seem to come out smiling.