Wednesday 4th August 2021

Women Of Courage Series. #60. Tracey Breese. 77/2021.

Women Of Courage Series.  #60. Tracey Breese. 77/2021.

Two years ago….around this time of year, I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

 

Introducing Tracey Breese, who  is 49, and known to me via our social media connections relating to schools and public education in New South Wales. Tracey is an innovator and a highly competent high school principal who has recently left one school where she was leader learner as school principal ….to become principal of a different type of high school, called Hunter School Of The  Performing Arts found via this link….and the students range from Year 3 to Year 12. What an interesting school and so good to read of Tracey’s updates on-line. I do hope to visit one day as well. Find Tracey here on Twitter.

 

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

“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.”

― William Faulkner

Courage is a funny thing. In the moment, you don’t particularly recognise it as ‘courage’ per se.

As a school leader I see many of the ‘moments’ in my career now, on reflection, have involved courage.

Many of them have evolved from my strong beliefs and convictions.

So, that idea of courage through conviction rings true for me.

The integrity of my convictions and not lying down when I need to speak up, have been pivotal to my personality and growth, as a mum, as a teacher, as a leader and as a community member.

Many of the pivotal moments of my career have changed me.

Sadly, many of the challenges harden the resolve that you have.

I have had to work harder to get some roles in my career, where, at times, simply being ‘male’ appeared to be the criteria.

When I first became a principal, I had a head teacher come to my door and say; ‘What we really needed was a strong man in this role, it’s a tough place.’ This was not in 1960: but 2016. I was speechless.

This stayed with me and drove me to be the best principal I could be.

 

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

Yes.

I found it really difficult to believe that I have got to this point, and was still fighting some old cultural misogyny.

Even though it was only one person’s opinion, it is amazing how these things stick like velcro to your armour.

I was able to move from the moment, but I was always striving to make sure that everything achieved for students was at the level of excellence and innovation.

I was warm to all, but ferocious in my resolve to be the best person I could be.

I had exceptional role models.

Christine Cawsey has been an amazing mentor in my entire career.

It is the women in leadership like this that have forged the path and created amazing opportunities- created through their courageous and fearless watershed moments.

 

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

Stick to your convictions and don’t let others drag you under.

Michelle Obama’s quote is up in my office: ‘When they go low, you go high.’

It’s not everyday that you need the power of resilience, but when you do: go to the mantras.

I did a mindfulness course with Gillian Coutts (you’ll want to get her on the blog!) Thank you for your recommendation, she is going to share too! 

It was life changing.

The strategies were about putting the gaps in between the work.

Knowing that you need to re-centre and revive yourself between the moments.

This has been work/life balance changing for me.

 

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

Yes.

I feel that the emotional intelligence you gain in leadership is so important and changes all the time as you experience different situations.

Courage is also about calling in your resources and knowing the right resources you need in the moment.

This includes the fact that in all situations, you do have the power of your own response.

This is the best point in courage.

The courage to know yourself and not be forced into responses by others.

I am at all times the calm and consistent adult.

I do not have to respond in a stereotypical way to any situation.

Walking away, in some instances can save others from themselves.

 

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

Courage is standing strong to your conviction, not the overwhelming and all powerful emotions that sometimes take over others.

Be the best person.

Walk away when needed.

Don’t get in the ring if you don’t have to.

Sometimes, doing what’s right is more important that doing what is easy- that is to be truly courageous.

 

As a now-retired K-6 principal I read your story with heightened interest and even used red and italyics to show how we women in leadership roles have had to manage some people’s comments, attitudes and ignorance. I am in awe of your daily work with the many students, staff and families who are part of your new school community. What a thrill it must be to be also part of a large student population with huge talent in many area. Mind you, as I would understand from having two “OC” classes at RPS, giftedness has its many challenges too.

 

Thank you so much again for sharing.

I am sure others who read will also take something from your work, your heart and your mind as you lead your school onward.

And I wish you and your colleagues some respite from school life as you lead up to the mid-year Winter School holidays.

Denyse.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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Newcastle Writers Festival. 40/2019.

Newcastle Writers Festival. 40/2019.

When I lived in Sydney I went to a few Sydney Writers Festivals when they were still located at The Wharves down by the Harbour. It was often on a warm May Saturday I attended and soaked up sunshine, wisps of words from those who chatted along with their companions and took my seat in the theatre or section to listen to authors. I saw quite a few and even got some selfies back then as well.

Now, I live closer to Newcastle than Sydney so it made sense to consider attending the ‘Newy’ festival and even better when I saw who I could book a seat to listen to and ‘get a selfie’ with.

On Sunday 7th April it was a beautifully warm day in Newcastle and I took the chance to learn more about the city as I found the parking situation better this time.

I met my friend first. She had already had a coffee so that would wait for me. We hadn’t seen each other for years and had quite a bit to catch up on. Lisa is one of the ‘old school bloggers’ I first met in 2011!

 

Session One.

Rick Morton. OK. He too is someone I have known since 2011 (the first Bloggers’ Conference) and I have followed his career as a journo and writer since. In fact, he interviewed me for a story in the Australian about “Grandparents Caring for Grandkids”. That was in 2014. Now, he has written a best-seller.

His story.

Wow. The tales he tells are true. His talk sure was impactful. His book is One Hundred Years of Dirt. It has been re-printed over and over. Now I can listen to him narrate his story on Audible. Thanks Rick for our extra long chat and connecting me to your Mum Deb. Do read Rick’s book!

Intermission.

There were no sessions I wanted to attend until after lunch. So, this meant I got time to meet this man, Trent Dalton. The author who, on Instagram, convinced me to continue listening to Boy Swallows Universe when I found it a bit unsavoury. He said: “Denyse, stick with it, it IS a love story, I promise you will love it.”.

He was right. It is. I did. I had to tell him! I lined up, not with a book to sign (it was at home) but to introduce myself. He was chuffed to meet me and so self-effacing. A lovely man. Please, if you have not, read or listen to Boy Swallows Universe.

Then Lisa and I caught up again over: lunch for her, morning tea for me.

Session Two.

After Lisa left, I walked around the Civic area and park trying to stay cool as the day’s temperature rose to over 30. Once I had a bit of a rest under a 100 year old tree, I made my way back to the Main Civic Hall where my friend Jane Caro was interviewed about Accidental Feminists. Her latest book. I took notes. I learned a lot about myself (because I am a bit older than Jane) via her life experiences. Interesting alright! Do buy or borrow the book.

Jane was so kind in between sessions when she agreed to a quick photo telling me “You look amazing”. Jane is a FB friend and knew about the oral cancer.

Summing Up.

It was a big day out for me. A first really since way before cancer but it was so good for  me to do this. I loved it and will certainly be going in 2020 if some of my fave authors are part of the program.

Do you go to Writers festivals?

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.

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