Friday 20th May 2022

Women Of Courage Series Begins. Denyse. 52/2019.

Women Of Courage Series Begins. Denyse. 52/2019.

Recently I wrote about the story behind Women of Courage series to begin here and this is that post.

It got me thinking that “I” should tell one of my stories first.

This is my story of courage. And, surprisingly as it was to my husband when I mentioned the topic, it is NOT about getting cancer.

          What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

I have faced quite a few challenges in my almost seventy years of living! One was a cancer diagnosis but I have written about that many times. I will continue to write about it, as time goes on. This one is when I chose courage over comfort and decided to apply for K-6 Principal roles back in 1998. I know we are talking a LONG time ago, but my memories are very clear.

  • I loved my role as a non-teaching Deputy Principal as it meant the best of both parts of my experience was used: supporting teachers in the classroom and being able to assist families in relation to their children. Being ‘on class’ as I had been as an Assistant Principal in previous years made that other part of what I did well much more difficult. So, from 1988 until ‘decision time’ in mid 1998 I was employed and happy to be so, even though the school and its community was in a low socio-economic area of Sydney, we knew as teachers we made a difference. That is why I taught.
  • However, the school population started to fall. That happens in high-growth areas when initial movements into a suburb settle. I was told that my role as a non-teaching D.P. was being taken from the school’s staffing entitlement. That meant, go on class or move to another school. I did stay and go on class and that was a special time because a young student in my class had cancer and within the first six months he died. I was honoured to speak about him at his funeral. Mid-year I got an offer to become a relieving Principal in the wider area where this current school was located.
  • Torn but confident of my decision, I left my school of almost 10 years, and went to the newer one as their relieving Principal. Now, that DID take some courage. I admit, it was such a change of role, even though I had held a relieving Principal role back at my other school, that I wondered at times “what have I done?”
  • But over the two terms, I could sense that my confidence (and courage!) to continue in the ultimate school leadership role was there. But wait, what about after 1998? It seems like destiny or something like that moved me to seek a substantive Principal’s role starting in 1999 because…caught where I was, I had been appointed the next D.P. at the school where I was already relieving Principal and it began to feel like a demotion….so I garnered all my courage and….
  • Applied for substantive Principal roles via merit selection.


         How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

  • Doing this did change me because I “had” to make the decision to move forward not to stay still or even go backwards. I had those people who worried about me a little bit (hello Dad) stepping up but ultimately I KNEW it was this or….The other was not an option.
  • I admit, it was hard work, leading a school of over 600 students till the end of that year, AND preparing for applications to new schools as their principal. I ‘got through’ to I think four interviews and was unsuccessful. I was not discouraged, which surprised me.
  • I did (and do) have more courage than I thought.


         Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

  • What I learned is to keep on going.
  • The roles I missed out on I took recommendations and feedback from the panel convenors who then could have been my future bosses as they were District Superintendents.
  • Then, I got one very helpful feedback session over the phone and as I knew an interview was happening, I used more ‘tricks’ that were legal of course…and I have recommended these to many since.
  • One was to look at the application and the school’s list of qualities wanted in the successful applicant and write up some likely questions and have your answers written when you go to pre-interview 10 minutes with the questions.
  • Take that with you into the interview, use it to glance at as it is an aid for memory. Of course, make eye-contact with the panel and in particular the person asking the questions but don’t be afraid to add to your responses later.
  • The most important part I learned from this experience was that I was:
  1. brave enough
  2. good enough
  3. knew what I was doing
  4. had a range of skills, knowledge and experience that helped guide others
  5. human
  6. unable to sustain my emotional health during the fourth year as principal (I have written about that here, here, here AND here)
  7. and was COURAGEOUS enough to recognise my health came before my job.


      Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

  • Yes I do, from this position of some 16 years later. But I still faced many life challenges where I needed to be reminded I HAD courage and needed to use it more. I know, once I managed to get over the shame of leaving the role I loved, I was much more able to see I WAS courageous. I gave it all my best shot and shame is not a helpful emotion. It did take some years of counselling and reading to achieve that level of confidence and courage.
  • When I KNEW I had some of my courage return, I then applied for and taught in schools, part-time and English as a Second Language, for six years and that was part of my healing.

     Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

You have more within than you realise it. Don’t listen to the naysayers or the negative voice in your head. Take the first step towards whatever your goal is. Sometimes the first step is the hardest…but then, there is no turning back! Onward!

This leads to the next weeks and months ahead where I have quite a few Women of Courage to share their stories.

If you too would like to share your story, please tell me in the comments and I will forward you what to complete to be a part!

Looking forward to each Wednesday!


Joining with Sue and Leanne here for Wednesday’s Midlife Share The Love linky,

With Leanne on Thursday for Lovin Life link up here AND with Alicia on Fridays for Open Slather here.

Thank you all for your link ups.

Copyright © 2019 – All rights reserved.



  1. I really enjoyed reading your story Denyse and you have articulated perfectly what courage is about. You displayed it throughout your career and your students and community were lucky to have you caring for them. Thanks for this series, I’m sure it will be full of interesting people with real stories to tell. #mlstl

    • Thanks Debbie! I am glad to have made the choices I did in my career because I was never going to ‘die’ wondering!

      I appreciate your understanding (well!) of what it was for me and that you are behind this Women of Courage series here.

      Denyse x

  2. Hi Denyse – well, you were right, I was expecting your cancer story and this one was a surprise – but also shows how resilient and positive you are in the face of challenges and adversity. Good on you for not being defeated by the setbacks and for knowing your worth and taking the feedback on board. I’m looking forward to reading more in your series.
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

    • Ah ha! No I wasn’t trying to trick anyone but yes, my life is much much more than ‘just cancer’ and I have thought long and hard about what to write for my story on courage and this one came up time and time again.

      I think it taught me not to give up before you start – it would have been much easier to stay as a Deputy Principal – and to give the new (and somewhat scary) things a go.

      It may have caused my health to breakdown over time but I sure knew how to rise above after I allowed time and therapy to help me forward.

      Thank you for your kind words
      Denyse x

  3. Yes, you are courageous and honest Denyse. So happy to read this at #MLSTL. Pinned this post and celebrate you.

  4. Thank you for the inspiration and honesty, Denyse! Reading your words has also helped me reframe my attitude and thinking around my own challenges!

    SSG xxx

  5. A great example of courage Denyse. Change can be confronting but also very rewarding. Also it’s very courageous to recognise that a situation has become detrimental to our health and wellbeing and to act on it. Many examples of courage within your words above! Looking forward to the series! 🙂 #TeamLovinLife

    • Ah yes, Min, I knew this would resonate in places for you too.

      Thank you kindly for your words – always appreciated.

      Denyse x

  6. As you know I’ve been working on mine – which led to some pondering last week re the motherhood thing.

    I love the idea of learning from past experiences and considering how we can use those learnings in future. I’m currently listening to a Mark Manson blog post about that very fact. (I listen to them several times to help them sink in. Also as I go to sleep each night!)

    • Podcasts that make sense do need listening over and over.

      The CDs I sold off last weekend remain in my memory for the messages they left me at the time and then as I re-listened. I kept a selection too as I now know we do need to revise, over and over.

      Sending best wishes as you continue to ‘work through’ what you are doing…great stuff even though it stirs all kinds of emotions. Better out than in, right? You Mum would agree I think on that one.

      Denyse x

  7. Hi Denyse, loved your answers and am looking forward to the Women of Courage series. I totally agree that we are all stronger than we realise and when tested can usually rise to the occasion. It is such a wonderful feeling when we overcome our fear. Thanks for sharing at #MLSTL and have a beautiful week. x

  8. I am feeling very honoured by the number of people I have approached and that the response in 95% cases was to say YES.

    This is a good thing because I believe we women are prone to not accepting compliments well or to even see how far we might have come in our lives.

    Getting these stories in has been a wonderful read for me and I too look forward to sharing them each week.

    Denyse x

  9. I finally got around to watching the Brene Brown netflix documentary and have been thinking about courage and vulnerability ever since. I’ve never thought of myself as courageous and little bells started ringing for me as I watched that documentary. I have no idea what I’ll do with the knowledge yet, but even this week I’ve noticed small changes in my thinking.

    • It only takes one kind of word or short experience to open up the mind to new and different ideas. I am a great believer these days of letting things happen or settle in my mind and then wait a bit longer than impatient me used to, and see what happens.

      So good to read this Jo!

      Denyse x

  10. Adrianna Peterman says:

    Thank you Denyse for your beautifully told lived experience if courage. Personal challenges take us to a place of risk and anxiety. Self belief from knowing and understanding our own values gives us strength. The greatest courage is that if forgiveness. Where we stand up against bullying. Resist the temptation to join with others who seek to poison and destroy. I believe you have the gift of courage to lead people to reconcile and work together. A rare gift indeed.

    • Thank you so much for your generous and kind words. I know it is hard to put our stories out there at times but I guess having a cancer diagnosis 2 years ago, I thought it was time to come out from behind any stories I needed to share.

      I appreciate you taking the time to write your comment with such beautiful sentiments.

      Denyse x

  11. Very nice story. Thanks for sharing with us.

  12. There are so many great pieces of wisdom in this post, Denyse. I especially like: “make the decision to move forward not to stay still (or fall backwards). I also like: “You have more within you than you realize”. We all need to remind ourselves of this on a regular basis! Thank you for sharing this!

    • Thank you so much. I am glad some of my words resonated. This is why blogging is so good. We get to read and take up pieces of information that might serve us better too.

      Denyse x

  13. What a thoughtful post. It does take courage to leave a campus that feels like home. Not only did you change venues but you also moved away from a faculty and friends you had worked with for years, a student body and community that knew you. And you stepped up and into a new job, with more responsibility.

    I really believe educators shouldn’t work their entire career in one position at one school. When I became too comfortable, I would transfer to a new campus. In each instance but one, I was happier with my new position. But somehow I still dream almost every night about my second school!

    • Oh thank you for adding such personal and professional insights from your experience too Leslie.

      I too think people need to move around to new schools and take on new roles when they are ready but not everyone sees it that way.

      Denyse x

  14. You’ve reminded me of a work journey I took that I guess drew on guts and courage though I did not realise it at the time. Work makes up so much of our lives that we have to be happy and at peace, if we can be. Knowing when to push through and knowing when to let go is the challenge. Step by step applies to so much of life’s learnings.

    • Yes indeed. I had always thought I was ‘soft and couldn’t hack it’ when I first had to leave that role. In fact, it probably was me caring more for me then than I ever had. Everyone else was first. Nevertheless I wore a mantle of shame for around 10 years. Much more insight into myself has helped me navigate my way out of that. Yes, work IS important and it always was to me yet, for some months as the principal in that final year, I was not 100% emotionally and it all contributed. We sure are getting lots of these famous life lessons between us both aren’t we? Denyse x

  15. I do truly believe we are all capable of courage. The scariest bit is taking the first step and not worrying too much about what could happen, because we usually come out the other side of things learning not to worry and impressed at how well we coped. #openslather

  16. Such a great idea for a series.
    “You have more within than you realise it.” Yes we do.
    I’ve just got to find mine. I know it’s there somewhere … lurking underneath the constant fatigue

  17. Hello Denyse!

    Thank you for being courageous enough to start this series and share your story. I love how you chose to channel your courage into your physical and mental health when you recognised the signs. I also think you were very courageous to keep soldiering on for as long as you did.

    I guess the take away for me is that we often applaud courage as a tool to keep on going… but courage can also be applied to knowing when enough is enough. It’s more flexible and adaptive than we realise. Which I guess means so are we!!!

    Love, Sandra

    • Yes, thank you. I look back with kinder eyes now at the time in my career. It was ‘awful’ in many ways to finish the way I did but it was health-saving.

      And we need our health to sustain us in the good and not so good times.

      Denyse x

  18. I have just had a read through most of the series. It’s so beautifully put together – congratulations. And thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you Emily. I think it is a great way to showcase many women who may never have shared their stories either…and I am delighted that they have chosen to do this.

      Warm wishes
      Denyse x