Sunday 26th June 2022

Is It REALLY Time for #WhatOnMyBookshelf In June? Yes! 39/2022.

Is It REALLY Time for #WhatOnMyBookshelf In June? Yes! 39/2022.

I asked the question because “I” couldn’t believe it and had to ask Deb when it was…and yes, it’s Friday 17 June 2022…and thanks for the link up!

 “What’s On Your Bookshelf?”

Thanks to Jo, Deb, Sue and Donna who host this.

Bookmarks.

In 2018 I made 100s of bookmarks for my friend’s charity for people with cancer,  The Big Hug Box. It was great therapy for me as I recovered from my surgeries and giving back always felt good. I stopped in 2019 but continued from time to time making them for friends, putting them in the mail as a surprise, and sharing them if I met up with a friend.

So, do take a “virtual” book mark from me and enjoy this eclectic post!

 

I’ve become quite the listener and reader recently.

I am using time in the car, and at night when nothing is of interest on a screen, and also to complement my practices of mindfulness…and to remind myself of what is important, what I need to learn more about and what I need to remember.

 

And about my first book on Mindfulness….and Meditation.

Quiet The Mind. Matthew Johnstone. 

In 2012 I was on the south coast of N.S.W. on an observation day for N.S.W. Institute of Teachers. I already knew that I needed some inside help for the growing stress I was feeling and to be able to help myself.

I saw this book,  as I browsed a bookshop on the day before I went to the school, and thought, that’s it! I bought it, read it (very easy contents) and was R E A D Y for mindfulness.

It never arrived dear reader….

in fact not for about another 3 to 4 years! Oh how we fool ourselves if we think one “book” can change the life we have been leading till then. I admit, I look at this book now, and it is good.

But I had SO much life and learning and practising to do and it’s taken me ten years to really put it into action!!

 

About a School Library.

The bookshelves that will often hold treasures to turn a young person into a reader! I loved being a library monitor at primary school. And now, a little bit about a school library..and hopefully schools will continue to have libraries and with BOOKS on the shelves… sadly, some no longer do. But for now a story about a school library…

Did you know that to start a new school’s library requires not only book and other resources to be bought…but also to be accessioned.

In other words, covered and marked for their place on the shelves, AND as a school resource accountable to the financial part of the school’s operation. And then, the students will have their information loaded onto the schools’ files, and they will then form the borrowing systems.

There is something very special as a teacher and a teacher librarian, to see the youngest members of the school doing their first “borrowing” from the library..with their special library bag. 

How do I know this?

Firstly as a school principal, but more than that as…

my daughter, is a trained teacher librarian and with her masters in librarianship can operate in an educational setting like a school and a public or private library. She has started TWO new school libraries in the past 6 years…and once every month or so, volunteers in the library at Sydney Jewish Museum.

Schools Go Back….this was in the first month of the brand new school’s library in 2019.

School Readers and Others In Groups: on the bookshelf…and the letters? Donation of many from me! First school library started: 2015.

Into the spirit of all things reading for Book Week 2020.

A New Book For Beginning Teachers.

On Teaching : For New Graduates. Bianca Hewes.

A friend and colleague put a call out last year for some of us to help her with sections of brand new book that she’d been commissioned to write, and I said “yes”. My chapter was about “the first days” where as a newbie to schools there is so much to observe, listen and learn to check out how that school ticks. And it’s on my bookshelf before giving it to my daughter’s school as a resource.

Highly recommended if you know of anyone starting out in teaching. Available from the publisher: Small Caps Publishing. Great work Bianca Hewes…and co. Bianca was also a Woman of Courage! Here’s her story.

I am interested in so much of what makes us humans tick.

I tend to enjoy other people’s memoirs and what their life story has taught them. The learning and teaching part of my DNA remains keen and very curious.

I am someone very interested in how we humans manage many of life’s challenges, and probably because I am the age I am, and have had cancer, I am somewhat drawn to learning more about serious life issues which include death, dying and grief.

I don’t tend to read to escape these days. I do like to get engrossed in both fiction and non fiction but fiction that I love these days is less than it was for me back in my 40s. But now, if something from the fiction realm engrosses me and then I will likely return to it….

I returned to this listen...and I am loving getting reacquainted with the unusual storyline, the flowers and flora of the Australian bush and more. I am not good at reviews but if you look it up, I am sure you will find out more. I also LOVE that the narrator here really can do the characters’ voices.

NB: I cannot bear listening to a narrator whose skills are not up to speed. I once had to return a book because I could hear every intake of breath. Fussy, moi? Yes!

From Audible: The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland. And in bookstores.

Lisa by Lisa Curry. From Audible. The book is out in most book stockists.

Just finished this:  Lisa a raw and true memoir from Australian swimmer, Lisa Curry.

She has written from the heart, and I suggest it needs some tissues nearby to listen to Lisa share the part of her life, particularly when describing the impossible but true death of her eldest child, Jaimie.

I wasn’t sure if I would find this book a bit light on, and some parts were I guess for me, but the true pull is the fact that no-one can change another person’s fate (my word) where mental illness, an eating disorder and more are part of a human’s load.

I hope Lisa has some professional guidance for her grief that can complement all of the other loving support in her world now.

Which brings me to these books:

Every Family Has a A Story: How We Inherit Love and Loss. Julia Samuel.

Julia Samuel is a psychotherapist in the UK. I have the actual book but am listening, one chapter at a time, to her at times raw and painful recounting of others’ stories shared with her in the therapy space. What attracted me to her book was “Every Family Has a Story” and whilst we may not know them all, nor even want to know, there will be something in each of our family and forebears which has an effect on us and if we have them, our kids and grandchildren. It is a dense and intense listen and I am doing it one story at a time. In the car.

The Choice. Dr Edith Eger.

This book was recommended to me by my daughter. The one mentioned above. She is into life history, family histories, and  the history of those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis in World War Two. It’s a reason she gets so much out of her regular volunteer work ( I don’t know how she does it as a full time now Relieving Assistant Principal, and Mum to one under 12) because of her respect for the member of the Jewish Community who survived and many made their homes in Australia.

This book is written by an Auschwitz survivor and her work and what she found out about herself and others is compared with the work of Dr Victor Frankl. I haven’t finished Dr Eger’s book but I am going to as I recently heard her on Brene Brown’s podcast here. Worth the listen!

Grief.

It affects us all and it is not always related to death. It can be a loss, a trauma, a serious illness. I know I have written about the surprise of grief during my years of transition ….grieving the life and type of life we had led to go into a retirement mode. I also grieved for lost friendships when we moved to the coast, and for the loss of connection.

I know I grieved the changes of relationships I witnessed in our close and extended family and at times it would all seem too much to bear. But knowing now, that the mention of the word “grief” means that you are less likely to be “shhhed” or asked, “aren’t you over that now?” but as humans we will want to be out of the discomfort of grief as fast as we can.

And that doesn’t work.

In fact, it probably worsens it.

I am not an expert at all but I believe in self-education and learning from others and Megan Devine is one such person.

It’s OK that You’re Not OK. Megan Devine.

She also now has a podcast. I follow her on twitter and have listened to her book on-line and have this copy here:

I know my friend Sandra finds Megan’s words helpful &  is in a space that is both challenging and hard, with sprinkles of good times after the sudden death of her husband over a year ago. Sandra’s  story from Women of Courage is here. 

And folks, that’s it for now.

I am writing this post Wednesday evening to be ready for Friday. Thursday I will be driving to and from Sydney to see the prosthodontist and to have lunch with my two oldest granddaughters. I am not sure which book I will listen to but I often do one book I have in my Audible collection for the journey down and another for coming home.

It also depends on how I am feeling.

NB: it was Every Family Has a Story on the way down, and The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart coming home. 

Take care!

Thanks for reading here!

And small shout out for bloggers. The last link up from my blog is on Monday 20 June. Do join in if you have a post old or new.

Denyse.

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Love Is… 7/51 #LifeThisWeek. 9/2022.

Love Is… 7/51 #LifeThisWeek. 9/2022.

LOVE is making my husband his fave chocolate cakes, freezing them, and he gets to enjoy one a day! Recipe: NMAA Cooks: Simplicity Chocolate Cake.

What is love?

  • You can’t see it. Only in person and in expressions of it…maybe.
  • But you might very well feel it, hear it and know it.
  • I am sharing a trip of nostalgic love from my life…

and at the end there is a quiz.

Not about the post but about something B and I found interesting as a 51 years together couple!

Here are some memories of what LOVE IS for me:

Parents to our daughter. Learning about unconditional love.

First selfies I think…with Ms now 12.

 

Love the privilege of introducing H to the beach, 13 years ago

 

LOVE is meeting our 6th granddaughter and 8th grandchild. 2015.

 

Now: love of learning, love of teaching and love for these young people, our children, who followed career paths of difference and now are working in professions they love too.

Love the moments of connection with little people. Those we are fortunate to call our grandchildren, and to have time to nurture our relationship over the years during the times they spent at our house for day care and for sleep overs.

I LOVE this photo I took of H & R as they were about to meet their new baby sister back in 2013.

We had the privilege of picking them up from school & preschool to do this.

 

Early morning after dawn on ANZAC Day. Love of and for my country.

 

Then there is this love: Nature…in its many forms.

Long time ago now, but back in 2011 when I first met many of the Aussie Bloggers who are still  my friends, I found a love of a different kind. One where I was included in a different social setting to my previous life as a teacher. One where I became accepted and enjoyed meeting with and enjoying how much blogging would come to mean for me. Here I am at 2012 Digital Parents’ Conference in Melbourne where I was a speaker: “My Blog, My Story.”.

I also would not be blogging now if it was not for the friendships made way past that time here, and into the communities where I have been accepted as a fellow blogger. I love the connections and that you who follow me and add your posts are here today. Thank you. I love that.

Colouring My World…with nature, colour and appreciation.

I also have a love for those who have helped reconstruct my life…my mouth and more following my cancer diagnosed in May 2017. Forever grateful for their presence and care in my life.

Love Stories: By Trent Dalton. Wow. I am listening via Audible and even though I have the physical copy of the book, his voice (and his emotions) gives it far more in terms of life as he knows it. And I got to meet Trent at Newcastle Writers Festival in 2019 and HOPE that he may be part of the yet to be announced program for 2022. Would love to catch up again.

  •  Uplifting True Stories about Love from the Internationally Bestselling Author of Boy Swallows Universe

 

And last but never least, is the relationship of love I have with my husband.

We have our ups and downs but far fewer as we live more gently in this quieter retirement we have made, and generally we are very well suited. As they say “opposites attract” but we also share lots of similar interests and have the love of each other at the heart of our relationship.

But, there are still some hiccups of connection along the way so recently we did this quite short but interesting (for us) quiz.

If you have a partner, it may interest you too. We are very late to the 5 Love Languages which were first heard of way back via Oprah and the man who came up with this. Since then, it has helped countless communicate just that little better as we have too. Not sharing our responses! Between us but it has been helpful.

 

https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/love-language

A timely post on Valentine’s Day 2022. I know it is celebrated around the world in different ways. Some commercial enterprises do try to help us into spending our money! Our grandkids’ high school has a “buy a single rose” event which can be pre-ordered and I think the money goes into a fund for end of year events. I do recall seeing kids walking out of school with the cellophaned red rose!

May love be kind to you and yours.

Denyse.

 

Life This Week. 14.2.2022.

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21/51.#LifeThisWeek. Telling My Story. Chapter Fifteen. 2003. 42/2020.

21/51.#LifeThisWeek. Telling My Story. Chapter Fifteen. 2003. 42/2020.

 

Background…from Telling My Story: Chapter Fourteen published in February 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. I also shared this as My Woman of Courage story here.

Where was I?

OK. I know. I was a K-6  school principal.

It was in September 2002 when I could not return to my school.

I was sad, ashamed and very tired as there were different outcomes for me personally and us financially.

But I also had some good things happening in my personal life. I will get to them too.

Life is LIKE that!

Cancer. Leaving My Role as a Principal.

Doctors, Psychologists, WorkCover, Staff Welfare, Dept of Education, Psychiatrists…..

When the school principal is told by her G.P. “you are not to return to that school, nor to be in that role again”, it felt both comforting and helpful.

I had been a patient of my G.P. for decades and she had been doctor to our growing family including my husband and me so knew what else had probably impacted my life as well as school and its responsibilities.

But even before that…the night before, I was left to try to tell my acting boss – who was known then as a District Superintendent, that I would not be going into school the next day…and for sometime after that but he did not understand.

Eventually I must have made inroads into his understanding, after seeing my G.P. who immediately saw this as a work overload matter making me both depressed and anxious. The employer had not taken steps to see me better supported in my school. I told that story in the last chapter.

 

Days into Weeks into Months.

What started as ‘sick leave’ did become workers compensation leave over the next month as I took myself to appointments and interviews.

I had to share my story (see the recent two chapters here & here) and my employer’s representative agreed that yes, there was a case for me to be compensated under Work Cover. In other words, I was paid via that scheme and did not lose sick leave.

But….

I could not and would not attend a school.

It was suggested at meetings that I could transition back to schools but did nothing to improve my mental wellbeing. In fact they made me even more anxious. Then I was offered, later in the year, the chance to ‘work in district office.’ Noooo. I felt such shame and was so anxious about seeing any of my colleagues that I could not envisage any kind of “return to work.”

And…it did not let up.

My mental illness, as it was defined later by a treating psychiatrist, was a reactionary one based on my personality and my role in the school.

It would, over time, resolve but there was medical agreement with my G.P., the employer’s rep and that of work cover, that I could return to “a school” for some days a week but never in the role of a school executive.

In 2003 all that felt like for me was:

F A I L U R E.

 

How I Was Affected By Schools.

Before I continue.

I lived about (then) 40 minutes from the school. I love schools! It had been my life…as a kid and then becoming a teacher and of course, having our children and grandchildren attend schools.

But, I was so scared, worried, ashamed and threatened by “schools” I could not even drive on the road (Windsor Road) that would have been my way to my school without feeling ill.

I was a proud (still am) Grandma but my first foray into the grounds of the school where our daughter was a teacher and our granddaughter in an Infants’ class made me highly alert.

I still felt I was the principal within that school, watching children running everywhere and wanting to tell them to stop. It was not fun. At all.

But, I was also not a victim….and I refuse to play that role any time.

I did know though that I was ill from the stress of my role in a school and so I took the chance to get the help of professionals and did a lot of work for myself. This involved seeing a friend each week for a coffee and over time, driving on the road that went to my school…and one holiday time, I went back and drove around the perimeter. I was sad and it felt wrong that I had to leave it as I did but I also know my health was paramount.

3 amazing grandkids who love me unconditionally and their presence in my lives helped me in this awful time.

 

Giving Up The Role For the Greater Good. 

Despite the urging of my bosses, the meetings with the work cover people and my professionals who agreed I would choose to do what I had to, I could not return to school. Or any school.

What then?

To ensure the school was able to progress into 2003 from my day of departure in September 2002 I relinquished my role.

It could then be advertised for a replacement principal. I was visited at home sometime after that by my then school office assistant who had brought me any personal items from my office and some cards and I recall getting flowers.

I was a sad but relieved person that not everyone ‘hated me’ there.

Photos remind me of my literal ups and downs re weight. Far right, 2003,I was ‘looking good’ but feeling awful inside.

 

But, How Will We Survive Financially?

At this stage of our lives as a couple, we had a mortgage on the house, my husband was in part-time work and I brought in a good salary as a school principal. Work cover continued to pay that but over time, as I stood my ground about not returning to the Department of Education  because of my health things got tricky for us financially.

 

Don’t Give Up Your Superannuation People!

I married my husband (teacher in NSW Dept of Education) in 1971 and in 1972, as I returned to work after maternity leave we made a short-term financial decision that would (still does!) affect us negatively. Back then as both of us was paying into the then BEST ever Super Fund “I” could opt out and save us some much needed dollars. We spoke to my accountant father about this who, it seems, saw this as a win….and over time, agrees “NOT right”.

The reason is this. None of us knew then that  by 1980 my husband’s health would deteriorate to the point that he was medically retired and was placed on a pension from the Super Fund. I was working then and continued to do so, but still had no super. At all.

It was in around 1985 again, my father who advised I try to get back into superannuation. Made sense but nope, I could not.

Once opted out, I was not allowed in….but wait “we have a new fund and you can join that”.

I did. The new fund was different but I did pay into it. I had a sizeable lump sum there in 2003 when I was making up my mind how to access it. Aged 52.

 

Getting Paid Out. Not Easy. At All.

By the beginning of 2003 and into the first few months, I was being harrassed strongly encouraged by my employer and work cover to ‘get back to work’.

Let me tell you now, it was worse in some ways than how I had to leave my job.

Phone calls, meetings…doctors’ appointments, psychological testing…so, with the agreement of my G.P. I decided to “medically retire”.

Um. No. There is no such thing now.

The new and subsequent super funds that took the money from  NSW Dept of Education teaching staff only ever paid out a lump sum IF you were declared NOT FIT TO WORK and you have to RESIGN first.

No pension…and YOU need to prove you are not fit for work.

  1. For someone like me, a dedicated and loyal employee from 27.1.1970 to HAVE to resign was C for crazy but we were P for poor when my salary was being slowly stopped
  2. I filled out the form. It was awful. I also added, though, that I wanted “approval to teach”. I did not want any issues in case I wanted to ever have a day as a casual teacher. I would be pleased I did.
  3. It was accepted. Leave paid out.
  4. I was now free of the dreaded work cover requirements
  5. Got all the forms from the State Super People and completed them…along with the documentation from my G.P. and others.
  6. Attended one of the most stressful appointments ever with a psychologist from State Super and was obliged to complete a 500 question survey to assess my mental health and ability to work.
  7. Found out my application to access my funds  was “Rejected” after that horrid experience.
  8. You are still fit to work according to our rules.
  9. “Dejected” and now time, finally, for me to get some legal help.
  10. My union, N.S.W. Teachers Federation, were wonderful once I got to outline to a welfare officer what had happened.
  11. She arranged a meeting (free) with their lawyers and they heard the rejection story and saw the documentation from the State Super Board.
  12. The lawyer took my information, along with the State Super letters and my reports and so on and sent off the missives that….eventually allowed me to:
  13. Access all of the funds as a lump sum
  14. And retain my right to return to part-time teaching work if I chose.

We paid off this house….

 

Relieved. Getting Better. Breaking My Ankle. Retirement Means This. 

From paying out the mortgage there was a big sigh of relief.

There was also a relatively good amount of money from leave entitlements and by June we decided to “splurge” on a Far North Queensland holiday for 2. We even got a car to drive us to the airport. That was cool. But I must say, for my poor husband whose spine is very damaged from surgeries and more, the flight in economy for over 3 hours was not a good one at all. I was OK but he was not. We picked up the hire car and I drove via the Captain Cook Highway on that most beautiful trip: from Cairns to Port Douglass. Disappointingly though the apartment was accessed by a series of flights of stairs and by the time we got inside, my husband admitted “I cannot fly back like that”. My pain is too much. I agreed. So, the luxury of a return trip by business class meant comfort but took a huge amount of money to obtain so the holiday’s effect was negated! His health was worsening from the load of high school teaching which he took on after the business was liquidated in 1996 so, retirement was his plan too.

We were OK financially without a mortgage but by the time I had a few months at home I sought an art class (it was great) and became a volunteer with the Smith Family. It was around November after I had been answering the phones for them for people requesting Christmas Hampers that I had an accident. At home.

It was a rainy afternoon, I parked on the sloping driveway and as I got out of the car, one foot slipped, and the rest of me came with it, twisting my right ankle badly. I tried to call to my husband – from the letterbox…on the driveway and he did not hear, so I crawled up and made it inside.

Not wanting to over-dramatise it..but I should have actually…I waited for my husband to have a cuppa and we drove to the local medical centre.

Rooky error. I literally had to hop from the car with my good foot as the very sore foot could not weight bear. Oh. The G.P. agreed that X-rays were needed and they had that facility there. After the X-ray showed broken bones, it was “off to local private hospital” because this needs specialist attention.

Long story short: back slab applied, in-hospital stay, saw preferred orthopaedic specialist, “we will operate tomorrow and pin the fibula and tibia”. He did. I came home needing a wheelchair around the house as I couldn’t use crutches (hands needed surgeries for carpal tunnel etc) and I was stuck. The best part was shortly before Christmas at a check up I got a fibreglass cast and then could shower and even get in our pool but getting out was too hard.

Oh, and about that fibula of mine…I did get the screws out sometime in 2004 and in 2017…guess where that fibula went….HERE: The upside down U shape. My fibula cut into 3 with abutments added.

New Jaw is seen here

This sure was a year, 2003.

We did have a lot on our plate between us. But we also had a great family supporting us with care and love and three grandchildren to bring joy. The next year 2004 would prove to be significant too but with some great stories that helped re-build me in many ways.

Grandkids helping me, newly without plaster, to stand up!

Just after my cast came off, a celebration for my Dad’s 80th birthday.

Let’s see what Chapter Sixteen will bring!

Thank you for reading my story started over 3 years ago.

I do print the blog pages out and have them in a folder for future readers.

What were you doing in 2003?

It seems not that long ago, but of course it is 17 years ago!

Denyse.

 

Link Up #190.

Life This Week. Link Up #190.

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8/51 #LifeThisWeek. Telling My Story. Chapter Fourteen. 2001-2002. 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.

8/51 #LifeThisWeek. Telling My Story. Chapter Fourteen. 2001-2002.  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

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