Wednesday 6th July 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!

Denyse.

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 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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September Stories. #1. 2018.89.

September Stories. #1. 2018.89.

I’ve enjoyed writing Thursday posts on a theme. There has been the  Just For July series and the Appreciation in August one just finished. I did give a lot of consideration to what September might be, and with the chance to tell stories in a more detailed form, here is the first! September Stories. I hope YOU enjoy too. Denyse.

Sixteen Years Ago.

But first:

I really enjoyed being a K-6 School Principal. I had waited till my late 40s to decide to ‘take the plunge’ and actively seek a principal’s role in a K-6 school in Sydney’s west.

Having been a relieving Principal in a school where I had been a Deputy Principal I knew that I did not want to apply for that role as I had been at that school for almost 10 years.

This was a much longer period than I usually stayed in one school and family reasons were part of this but I knew that to lead that school was fraught with trying to placate factions and being in conflict ethically with the old-fashioned and out-moded forms of discipline.

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

What a baptism of fire this was!

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

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

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

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

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

Answer: NO.

Further Reasons!

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

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

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

It All Takes Time.

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

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

Appointed As Principal.

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

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

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

To Be Continued.

Next week, I will outline the story, in more detail about the meaning of Sixteen Years Ago.

Denyse.

Linking up with Leanne here for Lovin’ Life on Thursdays.

 

 

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