Sunday 22nd May 2022

Women of Courage Series. #69 Bianca Hewes. 104/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #69 Bianca Hewes. 104/2021.

Two years ago… 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 into September 2021 when it will conclude.

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

 

Thanks to the world of school education being big as well as small in New South Wales, where I used to be employed, I am fortunate to say I have met Bianca Hewes, who is 41 on a couple of occasions at Teach Meets! In fact, one of them was in August 2015, held at where “I” attended high school in the 1960s, and also where Bianca did….much, much later!  She, was at the time of meeting, working locally at a selective High School and introducing new and exciting subjects, along with her philosophy of education I found very refreshing. She and her husband impress me greatly and education is richer for their presence. But today, it’s Bianca’s story, and I am delighted to share because saying “yes” was not initially Bianca’s response! Thank you, B.

 

 

 

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

 

I find this question very hard to answer, as I’ve never really viewed myself as a courageous person.

In fact, since I have anxiety (the diagnosed sort stemming from childhood trauma, not the trendy kind) I’d say that I’m almost the opposite of courageous.

But, after some prompting from Denyse and a bit of reflection, I think something that could be classified by others as being courageous was my decision to continue with my university studies whilst I had a newborn son.

Luckily he was born in mid-semester break so I had a few weeks to give birth and learn how to be a mum before I strapped him to my chest and headed back into the lecture hall.

 

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

 

I suppose it just made me more determined to work hard and prove everyone wrong.

I got used to people staring at me on the bus and around campus – even though I was 21 I looked like I was 15 – and this defiance of judgement is something I have cultivated as a key personality trait and a value I’ve passed onto my sons.

I learnt quickly to stand up for myself when I needed to and to assert my rights as a woman and a mother. It also made me realise that I can do anything I want to – which sounds really cliche but has proven (mostly) true.

 

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

 

I think the biggest thing is to not listen to the negative opinions of others and to embrace those who support and celebrate you for who you are and the decisions you make.

I remember that second semester with my tiny two week old son I was doing two philosophy courses.

One lecturer was so supportive of me, but the other came up to me after class once and told me he didn’t agree with me being at university with a child.

It hurt being confronted that way, but I knew my rights and I stood my ground.

 

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

 

Like I said at the start, I don’t think I’m a particularly courageous person, but having my children when I was also studying and then later working meant that I developed resilience and determination.

I definitely draw on both of those qualities a lot in life.

 

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

 

Just don’t listen to society.

Be true to yourself.

Trust your own judgement and your own capacity.

I knew I could care for a baby whilst completing my studies even if other people lacked faith in me – and I was right.

So, I suppose just trusting yourself and enjoy proving others wrong is my message.

 

Thank you Bianca, I “knew” you would share a great story of courage and that it would help others to see what can be done despite the ‘judgements’ of some. How awful was that comment from a Uni so-called professional!

Bianca has some social media sites where she shares about education and more.

She has written and co-authored many texts and other books for teachers and schools.

Denyse.

 

 

Social Media:

Blog/Website biancahewes.wordpress.com

Twitter @biancah80

Facebook Page:  Australian Project Based Learning Network

Instagram: @jimmy_reads_books

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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Remember. 32/51. #LifeThisWeek. 97/2021.

Remember. 32/51. #LifeThisWeek. 97/2021.

Remember? Oh yes, that’s right. We had our daughter 50 years ago last week.

“50” years …wow. Indeed.

We became parents at 21. Mind, you back then 21 meant we were already working and in permanent employment with the N.S.W. Department of Education. My husband was in his 4th year as a teacher, I was in my 2nd. Now, I look at our granddaughters who are older (just) than 21 and in different employment and life-style situations than us. Not a judgement at all. It shows the ‘gap’. Our daughter was around 25 when she became a Mum and did not get permanent employment in teaching until some years after that.

 

Our daughter does not like the spotlight nor this amount of attention but I sense given it’s her 50th we are celebrating, and it’s lockdown, then all on-line I get some leeway! On the day, she was teaching remotely, supervising her grade (she is a relieving Asst Principal at the moment) and making sure her youngest stayed on task for home-learning

During the weeks before her birthday I posted a care pack of favourite biscuits to savour at home, and some presents and a card for the day. I also sent later on the two blog posts relating to her birth year and some memories in photo collages.

 

More times to remember…

We celebrated with a family zoom….can’t can share the  one image &  we did have fun.

She LOVED her birthday that was at home…with her whole school staff, arranging a staff meeting (all on zoom) to sing her Happy Birthday and they delivered little cakes and a huge bunch of flowers. I made her smile…with a beautiful message via instagram from our fave author Trent Dalton. He mentioned how much he values teachers too. Aww.

A few more photos to remember her stories before 50th Birthday.

1991. K at 20, with Mum & Me.

 

With her brother’s family and hers, our daughter managed this magical photo shoot. Always remember the sweet surprise when I got the big photo on canvas and book for my 70th birthday.

 

18th Birthday for only son. We enjoyed being back celebrating too. With the fam!

 

Thank you for our Anniversary Cake, K.

My Birthday cake made by my daughter.

 

Glad I got this shot! Thanks KT, I know it’s not your fave thing to do. Brunch by ourselves in Jan 2021. A rarer than rare occasion in covid.

 

Our first born with a first born Mum and fifth born Dad.

We love you and always remember how it was to become YOUR parents back in 1971!

Mum and Dad.

Link Up #252

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My Retirement Medal Presentation from N.S.W. Department of Education. 2018.132.

My Retirement Medal Presentation from N.S.W. Department of Education. 2018.132.

This day, which was only last week, was a long time coming. And yet, I did not ever expect it to happen as like so many things in life when they do not quite work out as they might, we move on. Reluctantly and with some sadness at the time but we move on.

I did. At least I thought I had until one very interesting twitter thread back in October 2018 between me, my principal friend from Merrylands East P.S. John Goh and the Deputy Secretary, School Operations and Performance, N.S.W. Department of Education Murat Dizdar. Essentially I responded to a tweet from John who said he had not realised the message on a retirement medal is “Service to Students” and I tweeted back to him and Murat that “yes it says that on mine, but it’s a pity it has the wrong date”. In an instant…twitter is like that, Murat tweeted, email me Denyse and “we’ll fix it”.

Oh MY!

But first….

It started much before that and if you have read my post here in early September and then here, here and here about having to let go of my role as a principal due to ill-health in 2003 then you will know more. I will add, that through the kindness of the school where I did resume classroom teaching from 2004 until the beginning of 2010 I did re-receive my original retirement medal (dated incorrectly)  at a staff morning tea.

This year as readers (and I) know cancer and recovery has taken my time. I decided to also let N.S.W. Teachers’ Federation know I would not continue my membership and they wrote a kind letter. Since I was not able to attend NSW Retired Primary Principals’ events I opted out of paid membership. It felt like letting go of a very special part of me but I am practical and thought…life moves on.

There was always something MISSING. I could feel it but would dismiss it and then, on Wednesday 12th December 2018 I got what it was! Not as much the medal, although wonderful of course in its correct form, but the validation, appreciation and understanding from current education personnel:

  • this man in my photo, Murat who holds the second most senior role in the ‘Department’ and who CARED enough about my career ending not as well as it might have…to ensure that I had a special morning.

 

  • the morning tea was held at the new headquarters of N.S.W. Department of Education in Parramatta after the original building and place I knew well as 33 Bridge Street was closing to become a hotel.
  • I was initially asked to come alone, and regret in many ways not asking for my husband to attend but I got caught up in other matters and did not do so, sadly
  • our daughter, a teacher-librarian and teacher with the same employer for over 18 years got leave for the morning to come and watch her Mum and she made a little video to bring home
  • the speech was casual but hit the spot. It was amazing to listen to the list of schools and know I had taught and lead in them for almost 40 years
  • in fact my day of starting teaching, not on the new medal was, 27.01.1970 and my date of retirement was 26.01.2010. ONE day short of 40 years!
  • but wait, there is more, back in the days of my career starting, everything was managed manually in terms of leave, starting at a new school and applications for new roles, so a request for my documents from the archives at Kingswood was lodged I have a copy
  • to see, on this some of the story of my career before more sophisticated record-keeping came in was so nostalgic

  • to have around 20 people attend my morning tea from the Department who were so respectful and congratulatory in our conversations was such a bright part of my day

This is a copy of Murat Dizdar’s speech for which I am very grateful.

Welcome to Country: we meet on the homelands of the Darug people…

DENYSE JENNIFER WHELAN “Teacher 4 ever”

Let me introduce, Denyse Whelan, and her daughter Katie… Welcome to Parramatta!

Denyse is a lifelong learner and educator and also a prolific blogger and technical expert across all social media platforms.

Now retired, Denyse started her long career in 1970 and was a K-6 teacher, deputy principal, school principal, university tutor, and ESL teacher of children and adults.

Denyse managed and led two schools in low-socio economic areas of western Sydney as relieving principal. When appointed as principal she led a large school with mainstream students, a special education support unit, 2 ‘opportunity classes’ (GAT) and an Autism Spectrum Satellite Class.

Denyse has given more than four decades of educational leadership to staff and students of NSW and is a staunch advocate of public education. Her range of expertise was developed across the state in many schools…

  • Barraba Infants – Rural North
  • Fairfax Public School – Rural North
  • Hillston Infants School – Rural South and West
  • Weilmoringle Public School – Rural North
  • Cherrybrook Infants – Metropolitan North
  • Jasper Road Public School – Metropolitan North
  • Walters Road Infants School – Metropolitan North
  • Seven Hills West Infants School – Metropolitan North
  • Shalvey Public School – Metropolitan North – Deputy Principal
  • Rooty Hill Public School – Metropolitan North – Principal
  • Richmond Public School – Regional North – Principal
  • Hebersham Public School – Metropolitan North – classroom teacher (casual/temp)
  • Kellyville Ridge Public School – Metropolitan North – classroom teacher (casual/temp)
  • Lalor Park Public School – Metropolitan North – classroom teacher (casual/temp)
  • Hassall Grove Public School – Metropolitan North – classroom teacher (casual/temp)

Last year in May 2017 Denyse was diagnosed with cancer in her mouth. After a considerable number of surgeries and invasive treatments, Denyse now has a reason to smile. We are honoured to have Denyse with us today to acknowledge her service to the students of NSW.

With reference to Denyse’s Instagram hashtag she is indeed, a “# teacher 4 ever” and it is a privilege for us to be able to acknowledge her long and successful career.

I have great pleasure to award you with this medal on behalf of all employees of the Department of Education, and the families and communities of our great public schools.

Our daughter, Katie, to the left of me.

  • It was lovely to get to know people I knew from twitter and they were telling me how much my continued support of N.S.W. Public Education and Schools means to them. Wow. Sometimes we do not know we make a difference.

 

  • I can tell, from what I experienced, that there has been a shift. One of great personal connections with us all and in a tweet later on the evening of this day, Murat tweeted

    “@DenyseWhelan1 you will always be a member of our  education family”.

  • This, in particular, changed so much of my years of thinking I was no longer relevant nor my service as an educator was appreciated. In fact, Murat quoted me in a tweet: “I feel so valued” and that is true.

Now, I have officially been recognised, thanked and received my retirement medal that is it. Right? No, wrong.

I am now keener than ever to contribute, support, engage and tell my education stories if they help. In fact, I have been invited back to a Teach Meet here in March 2019! I thought I was done with Teach Meets after my last appearance but it seems, as I have in my Instagram Profile: #teacher4ever

I have re-joined my retired colleagues in N.S.W. Retired Primary Principals’ group and may now be able to attend functions now the cancer treatments are fewer. How good that will be. I realised yesterday how much I miss education-chats. I wore my Primary Principals’ pin from my years as a principal on the day and also my N.S.W. Teachers’ Federation one given in recognition of service.

After thanking Murat Dizdar, whose own education story can be found here, this came in response:

I am so pleased that we were rightfully able to recognise your contribution to Public Education with a morning tea in the presence of your daughter at our Parramatta office.

Now I am taking back my rightful place as a K-6 Retired Principal – N.S.W. Public Schools.

Amazing what a difference this has made for me.

Do you have  memories of your days at school as a student, parent, teacher or leader to share?

Denyse.

Joining with Sue and Leanne here for Midlife Share The Love link up and Leanne and friends here for Lovin’Life linky.

 

 

 

 

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