Sunday 16th January 2022

My Last Year of High School. #LifeThisWeek.44/52. 2017.123.

My Last Year of High School. #LifeThisWeek.44/52. 2017.123.

Regular readers know I decided to become a K-6 school teacher way back in Year 5!

But what no-one really knows till this post is how that may not have even happened!


I graduated from primary school and went to the recently opened Manly Girls High School in 1962. I was part of the cohort who would do the first School Certificate (end of Year 10) and Higher School Certificate (end of Year 12). This meant those who started in 1962 as I did would be at High School for 4 years minimum (for those who wanted to leave to train or do a course or had a job waiting) and 6 years if tertiary study at University or Teachers’ College was the plan.

Who actually knows in Year 7 what they want to do or be? Well, for me, I had a plan to teach in the back of my mind but I thought of a few other jobs but, let’s just set the scene for how much of a student I was.

Year 11. In the new senior uniform.

I started really well. I was put in the top Year 7 class and that continued for Year 8. I was studying: English (compulsory) Maths (compulsory) Science (compulsory) Modern History, French and German (all my electives) and we also had Music, Cooking and Sewing, Physical Education.

My life as a scholar is that I really am quite lazy  unmotivated more likely and much preferred the times at school and out of it to be talking to my friends about: boys, music, surfing, boys, dancing classes with boys, reading (a lot) and caring for little kids as a neighbourhood baby sitter.

I went down a grade for Years 9 and 10 and did not get maths or science much at all. Nothing has changed. Still. 50+years later. Sigh.

But I got through the School Certificate and then it was onto: the last 2 years of school! Where I was…down another grade to the classes which ended with C. But hey, I was having a good social life. Writing for the school magazine, being in school musicals with the local boys’ school and socialising at fellowship on Sunday nights (the place where you pretended to be part of the church but actually went to socialise afterwards). Legit I say. My second boyfriend came from fellowship whereas my first boyfriend was from dancing classes after school.

Typical report #1 for me.

Typical report for me #2

Into senior school. OK.

They did give us a new uniform and it was a bit different but like us, the teachers were winging it all a bit too. For my last two years of school I was able to drop science. Thank goodness. My subjects for Years 11 and 12 were English, Maths, Modern History, French and German. I did well in Modern History because the teacher was very engaging and I survived the Maths and English classes. French was OK and German was boring. But then again, it could have been the young teacher who was, now I think about it, only 3 years older than us. She actually sent me out of class for talking in Year 12. Imagine. Ha!

Musical in Year 11.

Around the early Year 12 time I realised, with great shock and surprise, that my life to now, pretending to study ( I was nagged but I got away with not studying by having a room on a different level to my parents), and getting a new boyfriend who was in his first year at Uni. was NOT going to get me into teachers college if I still wanted to be a teacher.


The motivation of having a study competition between me and the bf helped as did the realisation that I actually had to do more than write notes to my friends and pretend I was studying at home. I also liked the social side of school and kept up some of my fun by helping organise the Year 12 formal and edit the school magazine. My friendship group of 3 were not interested in tertiary study and I had to move away from them at times just to ensure I was beginning to learn how to catch up and pass the Higher School Certificate.

The girlfriends. We went to each others’ weddings but lost contact after we went to the country teaching.

Once it was over, I got pretty good marks – even though they were not marks then they were levels like 1, 2 and 3. I got 2 Level 2s and 3 Level 3s. By January the next year I had matriculated and earned a Commonwealth scholarship to the new Macquarie University to do a BA Dip Ed. but I did not want to do that. Sadly when the first round of offers came for teachers’ college scholarships my name was not there. But, later I did score what I wanted. My scholarship to Balmain Teachers College to train as a K-2 Teacher (later K-6). I was one very relieved new teacher-t0-be!

Mrs Whelan. K-6 Principal.

I will let you into a secret. I know what kids get up to in class…and whilst I was not ‘bad’ bad…I could be over-talkative and bit naughty. It is said that those who are like this make good teachers…and look where I ended up. School Principal!

So, how was your last year(s) at High School?

When did you leave?

Did you have any idea what you wanted to do after school?

Tell me more in the comments.


Linking every Monday with Alicia here and Kell here.

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  1. I loved this post full of memories and self-understanding, Denyse. You’ve lead such a full, happy and productive life!!

    SSG xxx

  2. I think school kids are so young – who knows at 17 what they want to do (and so lucky if they do) and if you don’t know, what are you actually aiming for? And what are you doing in class if it seems pointless? My friends son started accounting, I suspect because it’s what his dad did, and then dropped out in second year and after six months started teaching. Seems happier. Who knows what a job is like until you try it??
    I’m glad you got what you wanted. And without direction and motivation, none of us achieve the standard we are capable of….

    • It is true.
      I see the kids we had and then those they had not having a clue really and trying to fit into a career path that may not be one at all. In our day (gosh I said that!) we did have a path in a way because the reason you did the final two years was to go to Uni or Teachers’ College. It was the same in my husband’s cohort who only did the remaining 2 years (the Leaving Certificate) to get into tertiary education.
      I think work experience placements can be invaluable. I know it helped one of my kids know what they did NOT want to do. D x

  3. Such a lovely post Denyse and it is good to look back at where we were and how we are today. I wasn’t going to write a post but after reading yours you inspired me. Although the photos of me at school – well let’s just say I wasn’t the poster girl!

  4. It was great to read some background info about your schooling Denyse! Thanks for sharing your story. Mine was pretty standard, I did Year 12 then went straight onto Uni. Fun times lol.

  5. A beautiful and interesting read Denyse! These pictures are priceless.
    I left my high school at the end of year 11 as I was selected to attend RMIT to study a VCE/TOP.
    I loathed my high school but by the time I started year 12 I felt I was finally with my peers and all the fun began.
    There are times I wish I could return to Uni but life takes over. It’s my kids’ turn now.

    • Yes the days of being a student can be fun. Your story is interesting too. I see our grandkids now doing what I so vividly remember. One is half way through Uni and another started a traineeship but gave it up and still doesn’t know exactly what to do next. D x

  6. So many memories!

  7. I would NEVER have guessed that about you in a million years! I always pictured you as a swot in school. Shows how much I knew. Meanwhile, I think you did it totally right. Learning all those social skills, making friends and making use of your talents. I was absolutely awful at maths and science at school. And I wasn’t completely hopeless but I had to study a lot to get the high end of mediocre grades.

    • Ah ha! Now you know. Yes I loved school but for all the reasons not connected withs study. Mind you our Modern History teacher really knew how to engage us and she loved her topic so I did too. It was my best result and subject. What I didn’t add about the young German teacher was this. Back in the HSC of 1967 the exams were sooooo spread out and German was my last one with a week to wait. One of the weekend days I went to the beach with my friends, and the teacher came up to me and said “I’m surprised to see you here and not at home studying”. Ooops. When I passed the exam, she graciously sent me a card of congratulations!! I often think of her, only about 21 teaching us 18 year olds. Science still bugged me at teacher’s college where we had to do an exam. I failed and as a result had to re-sit it in my first year of teaching to qualify for the teacher’s certificate. I passed. Phew. But I could never teach it to kids nor maths past Infants grades so that is where my career was! Dx

      • Well I loved Ancient History when I was in senior school and I think it might have been one of my best subjects in terms of HSC marks. It’s funny how we put so much emphasis on the HSC and now I can’t even remember my grades for it.
        Aww, you deserved a day at the beach, especially with a week between exams! That would have been tiring. I think they do all the language exams straight up now. I remember doing two days of English exams then an afternoon Maltese exam.

        • Yes, I remember afternoon exams too.It always seemed hot in exam times too! It IS important for some reasons the HSC but then for others not so much. Not everyone I know has completed it but they have gone on to tertiary study via pathways courses when they were ready.

  8. I think it’s great that you had fun and friendships in school because I didn’t, and looking back I think I was depressed and that’s part of the reason I didn’t care about studying. Oh well…

    I loved reading this and seeing all your photos. Thanks for sharing xo

    • Thank you Ness and I am so sorry that your school experience was not good. I know that there were probably people in my grade who were similar to you and I think it takes enormous courage just to get to school. You are very kind about this post! Thanks again. D x

  9. I was also easily lead astray! I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left school. I went to boarding school and hated it with a passion. I convinced my parents to let me leave after year 11 as I was so miserable.

    • I was someone who probably led others astray too but we were a girls only school so I am guessing the appeal of the opposite sex made it even moreso!! I am glad your parents let you leave school. There is seriously nothing worse than that misery. D x

  10. I went to two high schools – hated the first one! But lasted three years there. The second one suited me much better. I did really well in year 11 then got bored of it all haha. I was top of my class for half of my senior subjects (the ones I liked) and bottom for the other half (the ones I got bored in).

    • Why oh why am I not surprised by your last sentence!! Similar here too. However, I do believe, using my teacher skills that you are an exceptionally gifted student and that was part of the reason for “boredom” and there ARE teachers who have no idea!! Thanks for sharing your story! D x

  11. I think many of us really didn’t understand the importance of results at that time. In a way I feel for today’s students who seem to be under so much more pressure.

    • Oh I realised that if I didn’t put my head down I would miss out on what I wanted so much.

      Mind you, it helped to have a boyfriend in first year Uni and we used to have competitions for how many hours we put in. I have to say in latter tertiary study I liked it if my grades were credit or above but I never strove as some do for all D’s or HDs’. A pass gets the degree.

      There has been and continues to be FAR too much emphasis on HSC and the marks. Some it is school and system driven, other is from the kids themselves and of course parents.

      It is so wrong to put that on kids who are, in most cases, still developing their full brain power.
      In our family one person left in Year 11 and then some 8 years later enrolled in a tertiary pathways course and completed a professional degree. D x

  12. I studied hard in year 12 but, on the other hand, I didn’t really have much of a social life so that helped! My favourite subject was Modern History and I also loved English, Art and Music. Maths was my only non-arts subject (and only because it was compulsory at the time!)

    • Yes that was my reason for Maths too. My granddaughter got to drop maths for her HSC much to the consternation of her grandfather. Snap with the Modern History. I admit though I didnt always get some of the aspects of formal English study even though I loved reading. I wanted to do Art but back when we selected subjects in Year 7 for Year 8 (and the rest of our schooling) my Dad thought doing another academic subject would aid in matriculation. So German it was. D x

  13. Reading previously about your amazing career in education, I imagined you to be a real swot at school. Oh how wrong I was. High school was not my thing. I was sent to an all girls school and forced to do lots of the science subjects, which I hated. I only really went to socialize and play sport and at the end of year 11 when the oversea’s sports trip was cancelled there was no way I was going back for year 12. I did go on to uni much later and did well, its amazing what you can achieve when it’s something your’e interested in. My son is in the process of sitting his final high school exams now and can’t wait to be away from the school environment and be responsible for his own learning, in his chosen field of IT.

    • Ha! I like that I was considered a swot. Nope. Liked all aspects of school but the social ones were the best. I was not a trouble-maker but neither was I a teacher’s pet. But the Modern History teacher loved her subject and taught really well and that was the way learning should happen. Interesting about high school times. Not everyone is ready to go all the way and it should not necessarily be compulsory. In our family not all the kids/grandkids finished HS as it was more important for them to be happy.
      I wish your son well. And as for you, when I was teaching at Uni the mature-aged ( i.e. over 25!) students were the most motivated.
      Thank you for sharing your story too. D x

  14. What a fabulous topic to write about, I must put this down as something to write about. I must look at your prompts more often! I finished year 12, and could have gotten a better score if I’d tried harder, I know that. I did well in Maths, to my surprise. I thought I wanted to be an accountant at the end of year 12, but went down the librarian path. I probably should have gone and done it instead of deferring, because I never got there. I think I would have enjoyed working in a library.

    • Oh I think you would too…and it is never too late!! My daughter has just finished her Masters of Teacher Librarianship (it was hard as a single mum with 4 kids and teaching part-time but she did it) and it now opens up more work opportunities beyond school which suits her growing love of research and archiving.
      Yes do check out the prompts…next year I am having a Photo Prompt every 5 weeks! So I can remember : weeks ending in 5 or 0. Thanks for your linky too. D x

  15. What a delight! Those pictures are all so happy and memory laden. Such a sweet Year 11 pic! My final year of school seemed to be the one where I shed some of my efforts to be the perfect student/daughter/person and rebelled (still tame by most standards – lol). Wasn’t the best year to pick for a moderate rebellion, but I passed none-the-less and went on to study for my teaching degree. 30 years teaching have gone by since then!!

    • I am glad to read of your experiences too. Thanks so much for sharing them. Love the moderate rebellion. Yes I think I could add that to my CV. Congrats on your 30 years teaching. Go you!! Denyse x

  16. I was always a good student – very diligent and hard working (very Type A/oldest child personality) and I really enjoyed my last year of High School. I wanted to go on and do teaching too but my parents were very anti the idea of “over educating” girls “because we only get married and have babies”! Instead I became a Dental Therapist and enjoyed that for many years until I changed career direction several years ago. It’s interesting the direction our life takes isn’t it?

    • Oh Leanne that is such a shame to read about how your parents placed you ‘in a pigeonhole’. I have always been grateful my dad wanted me to have a tertiary education and to become a teacher. He was ahead of the times I think as my mum was a stay at home mum. She actually would sigh about me working full time but she appreciated in her own way this was a better fit for me than staying home. I am glad you found some fulfilment in your career and now have moved on from that too. D x