Monday 18th October 2021

Knowing.19/51. #LifeThisWeek. 58/2021.

Knowing.19/51. #LifeThisWeek. 58/2021.

From time to time, bloggers will invite a guest to write a post for their blog. I have done just that. I asked the man I married if he would  like to be the one who wrote on this optional prompt of ‘knowing’…his response was a resounding yes and so I emailed him (we do that, do you?) the questions.

Now, he is a considered and very well-read person with impeccable manners. He took his time to write this post and I said, the only thing I will do is ‘spell-check’. And that is exactly what happened.

Oh and he got to OK the photos I chose to use.

One thing before I hand over, living with and loving the man for over 50 years is a comfort and a challenge. And between us, we continue to learn about ourselves too. Not bored. Ever.

Thank you B.

 

Knowing. A blog post with Bernard responding to questions about his work, life and counselling.

 

What would you like the readers to know about you?

  • I am white, male, middle-class and therefore, harbour biases that I need to be alert to when interacting with others.
  • I am a contemporary phenomenon coming from a rare and unique background as the fifth child in a family of 13 children! Yes, that’s correct, THIRTEEN kids all sired by the same good Catholic parents! I have no doubt there are many other males who could lay claim to having fathered more than thirteen children. They probably are just not aware of many of them!
  • I have been married to the same super woman for more than fifty years and have never felt any desire to change that status; nor have I ever done anything that may threaten it.
  • The accomplishment that swells my soul with the greatest pride and joy has been to contribute to the reproduction of two excellent children and eight glorious grandchildren. These ten human beings, I am very proud to boast, are all examples of mum nature’s finest achievements. While they sometimes bring tears of despair to their humble parents/grandparents, the joy they return is incalculable!

 

How did you know that you would like to help others?

 Given my DNA, I think it may have been a pre-determined role that I was locked into from the moment I crashed to earth. Growing up with so many siblings provided very limited opportunity for putting self first. So, it was incumbent on each member to be a good listener and ‘helper’ or suffer the consequences! So, I acquired the answer to that question at a very early age.

 

What specific knowledge was required for your training?

  • Teaching: Combined College and University training. The prime value of this “time to join the real world” came from the exciting discoveries that socialising brings to the young and naïve adult. The ‘how to effectively teach and manage a school’ began the moment I first set foot in the playground of my first appointment. At the ripe old age of 18 I found myself as Teacher- in-Charge of a one-teacher school out of Narrabri. The school had an enrolment of 41, 10 of whom were secondary students. Fortunately, the kids loved music almost as much as I did!

Wow! What a steep – almost perpendicular – learning curve!!

But, I loved the challenge and managed to survive!!!

  • Cabinet-making: On-the-job training. Cabinet-making was the outcome of medical retirement from teaching as a result of chronic pain from spinal disease. It was good therapy!
  • Counselling: Combined university and Lifeline training. I found working with clients to help them become unstuck and return to greater contentment in their lives, greatly rewarding, it was marred by incompetent supervision. What a shame!

 

 Were there skills that you needed to learn?

 There was a myriad of skills that needed to be learned in all three of these pursuits.

  • Firstly, it should be said, there must be a willingness and openness to learning whatever skills are needed to fully enhance delivery of the service. Some of these already existed as a result of previous life experience and some were mutually beneficial between services. I refer to basic social skills built out of desirable human values such as kindness and compassion, empathy, tolerance, understanding, generosity of spirit, etc. Many more needed to be learned, especially manual skills relevant to building.

 

  • So, all three services rely heavily on the development of effective oracy (especially active listening) and literacy skills. Obviously, the ability to communicate effectively is a skill that is of paramount relevance to all, especially counselling and teaching. Contemporary society would also demand a desirable level of knowledge and skill in the new world of Information Technology. Fortunately, I was largely untouched by this beast!

 

  • Then, there are the many skills that are of specific relevance. For example, apart from being able to communicate well, running a cabinet-making business requires a broad range of business and management skills, to say nothing of the manual skills, that underpin the effective delivery of such a service.

 

  • All these skills I am very grateful for, as they have contributed greatly to the quality of life that I now enjoy.

 

 How has being a counsellor impacted your life?

 

Of all the above career pursuits, counselling has had the greatest impact on my life – a strange outcome when it was the pursuit that I spent least time pursuing.

  • However, counselling, through its skills, provided the opportunity to offer other human beings the love of listening and of taking them seriously – a rarity for some, especially women. It was a real honour to be permitted to engage in an intimate experience in which I was given open access to the secrets of clients’ tortured souls as we worked together to free them from the manacles that had them chained to an unpleasant time in their lives.

 

  • Relationship dysfunction demands the most attention. This might include a cry for help to improve emotional regulation that may have expressed itself as an inability to manage anger that is violently disrupting domestic equanimity or dysfunction resulting from the loss of loved ones. Complex trauma emanating from abuse or exposure to traumatic experience needs help to resolve as does the very broad problems associated with depression and anxiety.

 

  • The needs range is extensive but rarely does the dysfunction not affect relationships, especially the relationship we have with ourselves. Whatever the reason for seeking help, the initial offering of a loving ear and non-judgmental acceptance coupled with empathetic treatment are critical to effective outcomes.

 

  • I’m happy to award counselling the prize for greatest impact as the purpose and meaning it offered has contributed most to my feeling of inner peace and contentment.

If readers wanted to know more about how to help themselves to learn more about ‘life, living and all that’ what would you suggest?

 

Well, my immediate question to that question is, “how long have you got”?

But, as I think you would like something a little more practical and hopefully helpful, here are a few suggestions.

 

  • Give yourself a break! Our most severe judgy-judgy (my wife assures me that this is the contemporary version of judgmental) critics are ourselves. We’ve got that voice or voices in our heads telling us what not to do, how not to do it, what we should be doing, etc. Whatever the thought bubble, try not to empower it by reacting emotionally. Don’t resist it for whatever we resist, persists, remembering that it is very temporary and will pass. Allow it in let your mind move from inside the thought bubble to an observer position. Then thank it but suggest you’d like to proceed the way you want to. Remember, this voice is only trying to protect us. Practise offering yourself kindness and compassion rather than harsh criticism!

 

  • Be grateful and feel it. When we genuinely feel gratitude our bodies experience a chemical release that enhances feelings of well-being. Each day practise asking, “What am I grateful for?”

 

  • Live mindfully in the present. Give the right hemisphere of the brain the opportunity to be as active as the left. We human beings, especially in Western Society where we are constantly striving for materialistic gain, are very left brain oriented. This has us flat out DOING and solving related problems. We really need to give the more reserved, quietly-spoken right hemisphere a chance to become more active and JUST BE. Right brain loves us when we live in the present with curiosity and creativity. Music that we get lost in is a great BEING activity. It’s like slumping into your favourite chair after a hard day on your feet! Practise eating your next meal mindfully, i.e. with the curiosity of a scientist allowing your sense to actively engage with the process. Observe what you smell, taste, touch, hear, etc. No digital devices permitted at the dining table!

 

  • As difficult as it is, times of hardship and pain such as illness, relationship dysfunction, etc. need to be thought about as wonderful opportunities to learn about life and enhance one’s quality of it. The more difficult and/or painful the experience the more opportunity for learning about ourselves. Practise writing about these times.

 

  • Be a good listener. How many times have you heard, “you’re not listening to me!”? If you’re like most of us when having a conversation with your partner or a friend or involved in a group talk interaction, you’re probably mentally preparing what you want to say rather than listening intently. Practise being an active listener.

 

  • Be careful not to become a digital addict. This is a very real problem for some people. It impacts our sociability as we retreat further and further into the world of social media coming to see this world as the real world. While social media is a valuable asset giving people a sense of connection that they may not have otherwise had, that connection lacks a personal dimension that nourishes our souls. It’s like the unique value breast milk has for an infant. Certainly, use your device/s as tool/s or learning aids only. Practise going out without your phone – like we used to do only a few years back!

These provide just a snapshot of possibilities

 

How did you find writing these responses?

 Refreshing, heartening and stimulating. I miss all three of my life’s career choices, especially the last!

 

Thank you Bernard. I appreciate your skills,  talents and considerably well-used active listening skills… Always! Going out without your phone? Sorry, probably can’t do that. But I hear you!! My tribute in images here.

Thank you B, for your thoughtful words in response.

I know I have benefitted from your wisdom over the years and maybe there are some pieces of information shared here for readers and bloggers to find helpful.

Denyse.

Link Up #239

Life This Week. Link Up #239

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* Please add just ONE post each week! NOT a link-up series of posts, thank you.

* Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not.

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Share Your Snaps. 15/51. #LifeThisWeek. Golden Wedding Anniversary. Part 3/3. 45/2021.

Share Your Snaps. 15/51. #LifeThisWeek. Golden Wedding Anniversary. Part 3/3. 45/2021.

And here we are, at the third  of the photo-based sharing for 2021.

I call this optional prompt, Share Your Snaps. Snaps is another word for photos, pics etc.

Every 5th Week on Mondays

 

For this week and the past 2 Share Your Snaps, I  shared the recent Golden Wedding Anniversary memories for us. 50 years married on 23.1.2021.

Part One is here.

Part Two is here.

This is a LOT more wordy than usual for a Share Your Snaps but in keeping with my blog being part of my history it’s worth it for my records.

Where We Live(d): Bella Vista   Glenwood   Empire Bay (Central Coast Sth)  Gorokan (Central Coast Nth)  Hamlyn Terrace (Central Coast Nth) current residence.

Where We Worked:

N.S.W. Department of Education Schools:

Denyse:  Cherrybrook P.S.  Jasper Road P.S.  Seven Hills West P.S.  Walters Road P.S.  Shalvey P.S.  Rooty Hill P.S.  Richmond P.S. As Principal. More here as part of Telling My Story.

Kellyville Ridge P.S.  Hebersham P.S.

Adult Education:

Via in-home English One to One Teaching.  In Small Classes: Macquarie Community College

Own Business:

Denyse Whelan K-6 Education Specialist.  Writer, Presenter, Advisor for Families with Children  Entering School.

University Contracts:Western Sydney.  Masters of Teaching Tutor   K-6 Pre-Service Teachers Experience in Schools.

New South Wales Teachers’ Institute   External Observer

Receiving my Service Medal. NSW Dept of Ed.

Bernard:

N.S.W. Department of Education Schools:

K-6 Teaching

Turramurra P.S. Shalvey P.S.

High School and Special Education Teaching

Parramatta Diocesan Schools: Western Sydney.

Own Business: Cabinet Maker, Kitchen Designs.  Home Tutoring.

Volunteer: Lifeline: Telephone Support and Counsellor

My man…visiting me at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in July 2017.

Vehicles: More!  Toyota Van,  Corolla,  Commodore,  Corolla, Lexcen, Toyota Van,  Commodore Wagon, Holden,  Ford Van,  Falcon,  Magna,  Toyota Paseo,  Territory,  Avensis,  Nissan Pathfinder,  Corolla,  Nissan X Trail

 

Now that is out of the way…our proud legacies in terms of family.

Our children, seen in the last Share Your Snaps, went on to form relationships and in a couple of instances, married their partners, and “we” became the most fortunate of people…in our life anyway…Grandma and Papa.

How did those names get chosen?

My parents for their own reasons chose to have their grandchildren call them bu their first name. Hence, “Andrew and Noreen” to the four grandkids they had between my brother and myself.  B’s parents were Nana and Pop. So, I came up with “Grandma” for me and “Grandpa” for B. This was fine. Until, when Miss J (eldest) started saying his name as “Papa” we LOVED it. And as I had a much loved Papa in my life , it fit. I admit I got “Gummy” for a while, and now the adult grandkids refer to us as G-Ma and Pups.

 

Here they are: in order of arrival as our grandchildren….we are so fortunate! First one arrived late 1996 and the last one early 2015.

A few more memories, specifically from the Golden Wedding Anniversary:

We were very grateful to receive cards and letters of congratulations from various heads of state and government.

These can be organised for many celebratory occasions and the links are here and here if you are interested. I knew what to do because I had used this to get my parents’ Diamond Wedding Anniversary Congratulations Messages. Knowing your local (in our case, N.S.W.) member is also a way to apply along with sending in our case, a copy of our marriage certificate. The one lodged at Births Deaths and Marriages.

The Federal member for us also helped and very kindly sent her personal congratulations in a floral way!

And just a few more memories…it seems ages ago now but life is like that, right?

And that is it. The three posts commemorating our Golden Wedding Anniverary on 23 January 2021.

Thank you for reading and commenting.

Denyse.

Link Up #235

Life This Week. Link Up #235

You can link up something old or new, just come on in.

* Please add just ONE post each week! NOT a link-up series of posts, thank you.

* Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not.

* Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do!

* Check out what others are up to: Leave a comment on a few posts, because we all love our comments, right!

* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere, or on your sidebar or let others know somewhere you are linking up to this blog’s Life This Week.

*Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog & the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. These may include promotions, advertorials and any that are overly religious or political or in any way offensive  in nature.

* THANK you for linking up today! Next Week’s Optional Prompt: 16/51 Interesting. 19 Apr. My Post will be Telling My Story Chapter 23. Pt1.

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Share Your Snaps.#2. 10/51. #LifeThisWeek. Golden Wedding Anniversary. Part 2/3. 30/2021.

Share Your Snaps. #2. 10/51. #LifeThisWeek. Golden Wedding Anniversary. Part 2/3. 30/2021.

Every 5th Week on Mondays

This is the second of the photo-based sharing for 2021. I call this optional prompt, Share Your Snaps. Snaps is another word for photos, pics etc. Every five weeks I invited bloggers to Share Their Snaps.

For this week and  then the final Share Your Snaps in my series of 3, I am going to share the recent Golden Wedding Anniversary memories for us.

Bit more wordy than usual too.

50 years married on 23.1.2021.

As young married teachers we went back to the North West countryside of New South Wales, and in addition to adjusting to being married, “I” had to adjust to being a young, teaching, mother-to-be.

If you ask me now how I did it…I would say, I just did. I was young, healthy and in love. Yes, having a baby early in our married life who was not planned but much wanted was a challenge. I have written more about that here.

Our daughter with her parents

As life went on, pre-becoming parents & after, we both moved together to new places to live and teach, at the same time growing as a couple and making new friends and becoming accustomed to long travelling days back and forth to my parent’s house for holidays and then to the country side.

I share the story of the year we decided to return and buy a house, and incidentally become unexpectedly pregnant here. Life was a mix of busy, good, challenging and filled with caring for both a baby and his sister who was  by now in Year 3.

Luckily I found great day care for him when I had to return to teaching (and was glad to) and then we faced more challenges over the next few years than many. I also documented that here.

 

Our son. After being told ‘no more children’.

So, all in all, parenting is both a joy and a challenge! And still is but now we watch those parents be parents themselves …and just quietly we are fine about that too.

We lived here in those years:

Boggabri

Barraba

Narrabri

Merriwagga

Weilmoringle

Kellyville: our first home in Sydney.

We Taught Here In Those Years:

Fairfax PS

Harparary PS

Barraba CS

Hillston CS

Merriwagga PS

Weilmoringle PS: one of the most remote schools in N.S.W.

Turramurra PS

Cherrybrook PS

Jasper Road PS

Seven Hills West PS

These Were The Vehicles We Drove.

Datsun 1600

Datsun 1000

Ford Falcon

Holden Belmont

Datsun 180B

Toyota Crown

Ford Fairmont Wagon

Datsun 120Y:  the first car for me.

Holden Premier

Images from Parenting Years.

Our Daughter.

Our Son

And from our Silver Wedding Anniversary in 1996.

This image brings back memories that were not always great. Yes, we had a loving family and friends’ party for our 25th Wedding Anniversary as organised by our married daughter.  We were not to know that by the end of that year, my husband would become ill, his business (building kitchens as you see in the background from the house we only lived in for 3 years would be liquidated, I would be in a rear-ended car accident for which I had to have a lot of time off work and seeing a physio…but this was to happen…Becoming grandparents just before Christmas 1996.  Life, hey!

It’s a great way to share my snaps and keep the family life record happening too.

Blogging is so good for this!

Thanks for your comments, adding a post and sharing too.

Denyse.

Life This Week Link Up #230

Life This Week. Link Up #230

You can link up something old or new, just come on in.

* Please add just ONE post each week! NOT a link-up series of posts, thank you.

* Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not.

* Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do!

* Check out what others are up to: Leave a comment on a few posts, because we all love our comments, right!

* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere, or on your sidebar or let others know somewhere you are linking up to this blog’s Life This Week.

*Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog & the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. These may include promotions, advertorials and any that are overly religious or political or in any way offensive  in nature.

* THANK you for linking up today! Next Week’s Optional Prompt: Floral. 15 March 2021.

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Share Your Snaps. 5/51. #LifeThisWeek. Golden Wedding Anniversary. Part 1/3. 13/2021.

Share Your Snaps. 5/51. #LifeThisWeek. Golden Wedding Anniversary. Part 1/3. 13/2021.

Every 5th Week on Mondays

And here we are, at the first of the photo-based sharing for 2021. I call this optional prompt, Share Your Snaps. Snaps is another word for photos, pics etc.

For this week and the next 2 Share Your Snaps, I am going to share the recent Golden Wedding Anniversary memories for us. 50 years married on 23.1.2021.

How did we meet?

This has been mentioned in a couple of posts here and here.

As recently as late last year after we had been “back to Tamworth” in north western New South Wales to celebrate our 50 years since meeting.

Both of us were K-6 teachers. I had graduated in 1969 and, as a city and beach girl, I was actually delighted to be going to the ‘bush’ for my first appointment in a school, at Barraba. My husband though only 9 months younger, had finished high school in 1965, gone to a rural teacher’s college and graduated in 1967, with his first appointment in 1968 to a one-teacher school in north western N.S.W. On the opposite side of the Great Dividing Range to mine….as we would find out later.

He lived much of teen years near water like the first image and the ocean on the north coast of N.S.W.

I lived much of mine in a much busier place, Sydney, and close the the Beach here at Manly.

Meeting. Here. 50 Years On.

Tamworth N.S.W. 2020.

Time For the Memories Of Our Wedding AND Where We Were Headed After Our Marriage.

Smiling as this left-hander writes her name, Simpson, for the last time.

 

Lovely Priest Who Encouraged Us to Have the Wedding Ceremony “WE” wanted not the one our families did.

 

And Obligatory but Awesome After Shots…On the Church Steps. Looking West Into the Sun.

My attendants were 2 teachers from school, and our neighbour’s eldest girl. My bro on right, B’s bro out of shot!?

 

With my parents.

 

With B’s parents.

 

And relaxing before the reception. Lemonade in my hand*.

 

Onward, Up the N.S.W. Coast and Into Floods In a Week or So.

If only I was the photographer then as I am now. Actually I was. Most of our shots I think were on slides? We also have some silent Super8 movies from the times. Nevertheless, our honeymoon, for two teachers, one (me) newly pregnant* and newly appointed to a second school in her second year of teaching was spent in a rather cramped car, laden with wedding gifts, beach holiday needs and those of a teacher who was going to a new school. A two teacher school as it turned out.

In 2017, my husband re-visited the area where we both taught, at Maules Creek out of Boggabri. This was my K-2 classroom in 1971 and 1972 with no air con

 

We enjoyed the notion of living rural. He had experience. I did not. But I loved (still do) my husband and together we could make it all work. What we did not know is that as we kept driving from our lovely honeymoon in Ballina, the north west was receiving flooding rains. We heard that we would not be able to travel to dirt (black soil = bogged) track that led into our rented place on a property so we were generously given lodgings by a family from  my husband’s school.

The property where we lived for the first 2 years of marriage and where we brought home our baby daughter. Our little house is no longer there.

 

Not an ideal start to married life, but that is the perils of bush living in 1971. Next thing I knew, “I” was off to school. To my new school, meeting the boss who was already a good friend to my husband and had attended our wedding, via a tractor as I had to be ferried across a creek.

I started school a WEEK before my husband because “his school” was the other side of the imaginary line called the western division and they had an extra week of hols. This imaginary line still exists and is good for extra holidays, salary and some points towards transfer. Believe me, incentives ARE important.

These country scenes from north-western New South Wales, which I captured when we went back in October 2020 were so very familiar to us, from our first years of marriage. We loved re-visiting the area and feeling the freedom of the space around us.

Next time for Share Your Snaps will be Golden Wedding Anniversary Part 2. I am so trying not to bore my readers but I also want to have the record here!

Thank you,

Denyse.

And, for those who like to plan ahead, this is the next set of optional prompts. Some have already been on the home page.

6/51 Decision. 8 Feb.

7/51 Self Care Stories #1. 15 Feb.

8/51 Explore. 22 Feb.

9/51 Taking Stock #1. 1 Mar.

10/51 Share Your Snaps #2. 8 Mar.

11/51 Floral. 15 Mar.

12/51 Good. 22 Mar.

13/51 Heroic. 29 Mar.

14/51 Self Care Stories #2. 5 Apr.

15/51 Share Your Snaps #3. 12 Apr.

16/51 Interesting. 19 Apr.

17/51 Joyful. 26 Apr.

18/51 Taking Stock #2. 3 May.

Link Up #225.

Life This Week. Link Up #225

You can link up something old or new, just come on in.

* Please add just ONE post each week! NOT a link-up series of posts, thank you.

* Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not.

* Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do!

* Check out what others are up to: Leave a comment on a few posts, because we all love our comments, right!

* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere, or on your sidebar or let others know somewhere you are linking up to this blog’s Life This Week.

*Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog & the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. These may include promotions, advertorials and any that are overly religious or political or in any way offensive  in nature.

* THANK you for linking up today! Next week: 6/51 Decision. 8 Feb.

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What’s The Story Behind These Images? 8/2021.

What’s The Story Behind These Images? 8/2021.

Quite some time ago, years in fact, I began buying images from Dreamstime for use on the blog. I accumulated many and have used few.

I guess I have not used them in more recent times because the focus of those images was for my education category which I blogged about with frequency in 2012-2015.

I was also an Education Specialist assisting families and educators who were part of a group of pre-schools in the northern and norwest suburbs of Sydney.

I was very careful to only use approved photos from the organisation so I tended to add some of these images where there was a correlation between my written messages and the images.

Today, I am using my imagination to write something as I might see as the story behind the images.

Image One.

Here are the students in Year 9 who were asked to look as if we are reading and be interested too. However, you can see that that two of them who were excluded from being seated. Huh? Stand against the shelves and look like they are reading? We can do that. Still not sure what we are reading though. Guess if the teacher is smiling it might be a funny book?

However, in all seriousness it is good to see reading AND being in a library of interest. Far too much these days, books from libraries and students being able to access a library within a school setting is being denied. Something, something, funding! Rubbish. I wrote a post about it here.

Does your child’s school have a library and a trained teacher librarian?

 

Image Two.

This one is a very familiar image. Boy, in image, gets what they are supposed to be doing, as requested by the teacher, leaning over another student at a computer in rear of image. This is how it does happen in many schools. There is a computer lab or bank of them set up. Truly, it can be quite the challenge to keep this kind of lesson under control in terms of the students’ searches. Fortunately there are security set ups via the schools’ systems.

With a whole class of 30 this kind of lesson is exhausting! Back when I reckon this was the kind of way teachers may have “ticked” the boxes of computer education. This is less likely to be the kind of work done by students now as each classroom has a range of set ups for technology including interactive white boards. High school students have laptops and ipads too, as do many primary schools.

Do you remember this kind of lesson?

 

Image Three.

Taking the hand of an older and trust adult to be safe in terms of being outside, in a crowd, approaching the road, or even starting school. It is both reassuring and kind to the child as he or she makes changes that need some parental or adult support. However, of course, there can be hand-holding refusers and with those little ones, there needs to be a firmer grip…a kind one.

Did you know children need adult supervision to cross a road up to around the ages of 8-10. It is something to do with developing peripheral vision.

 

Image Four.

This is quite an homogenous group of four. Interestingly for me as I reviewed some of my images, I realised back when I was selecting them my unconscious bias took me to the familiar for me. White and anglo in appearance. I am quite surprised now that I look back and know that even acknowledging it is better than continuing this.

Do you think play and children’s ability to let off steam outdoors is allowed enough for these days?

 

Image Five.

I loved the connection of these two children as I imagined in this image. They seem comfortable with each other, and are moving along a bridge-like structure to another area. The simple parts of childhood can be forgotten in the hustle and bustle can’t they?

How much do children really get to play and explore within a relatively safe space. Food for thought.

 

 

And now for my images….I think I am missing return to school time in some ways but agree it is not something I could do practically nor emotionally but I still have the love of teaching in me.

My M.Ed. Graduation from CSU Wagga Wagga in 1991. My daughter used ‘the same cloak’ for her Masters of Education (Teacher Librarian) when she graduated in 2017.

 

Images Six, Seven & Eight.

Image Nine.

My Education Collage: Where two teachers met, our trip back to the area, farewelled by the Deputy Secretary of NSW Dept of Education, My Service Medal

Image Ten.

On 27 January 1970 this is where I began teaching. The classroom in background was mine, teaching a K/1 group. My image here: 50 years later we re-visited Barraba Central School.

That’s my  post about the stories and the images. It was thought-filled and a bit of fun as well as a trip down memory lane!

Did you enjoy being at school?

Tell me more.

Denyse.

Joining with Leanne for Lovin Life Linky here on Thursdays.

And here too for Natalie’s Link Up: Weekend Coffee Share

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26/51#LifeThisWeek.Telling My Story. Chapter Sixteen. 2004-06.52/2020.

26/51#LifeThisWeek.Telling My Story.2004-2006.Chapter Sixteen.52/2020.

So, about a hundred three years ago ….I thought it was time, seeing I had a blog, to start writing my story. It was on advice from a blogging friend, now published author (her story is here) that I did. Then, for a long time I did not. Because cancer was diagnosed. Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at…drum roll… Chapter Sixteen.

With yet another photo of me because I keep changing my appearance…thanks to head and neck cancer, then cataract surgeries.

The most recent chapter, finalised how my first and significant career in New South Wales Department of Education ended. Sadly but there was a need for my health to improve and that it did.

L: NSW Teachers’ Federation Badge. R: N.S.W. Primary Principals Ass. Membership Badge.

Why was 2004 memorable?

I went back to school! As a teacher. But first, there is MORE!

I spent quite a bit of summer 2004 recovering from the broken right leg and receiving physiotherapy to get me walking again. We were a two-person household as our adult son had moved in with a friend. I had S P A C E to call mine, and claimed his old room for an art-craft one for me. It also doubled as a grandchild-sleepover space where we installed double bunks and these were in regular use.

My husband, whilst not in the best of health, started to enjoy his music and had a space in the house for that and part  all of the garage eventually morphed into a workshop. We had two vehicles but we were soon to add some home improvements but wait, I am getting ahead of myself.

Around the middle of what would be Term One in schools, I started to feel a restlessness within and to be honest a NEED to do something related to teaching. Having over a year away from schools to try my hand at volunteering and to get better health-wise, the thoughts grew that I probably needed to get my casual teaching availability sorted and out there to my principal friends.

“Would You Like Two Days a Week From Next Term?”

We lived in Glenwood, a suburb on former dairy land in Sydney’s northwest. My friend, D, and I had been colleagues for many years and I heard that the brand new school at a brand new suburb just 10 minutes drive away was where she was the foundation principal. I rang and she said ” come over and have a look at it, love to see you”. I did, with a version of a casual teacher resume in my bag.

After a tour in a modern, private/public built school we sat in her office and I began speaking about wanting to come back to teaching. She knew of what had happened to me at R.P.S. and in fact was one who stayed in touch initially. Before I could say much more, I received an offer, to start Term 2, doing 2 days a week Release From Face To Face Teaching for all of the SEVEN classes (K-6) the school then comprised. By the time I left the school in 2010 the student population had exploded from our original 156 to around 700…and since went close to 1000…if you know the now-densely populated North West area of Sydney, this will not surprise you.

Yes, thank you…that would be great. I asked what I should teach in that time. Her reply was ‘up to me’ and in a complete switch for me, I chose Creative Arts: art, drama and music.

Back to School. As a teacher.

On the first day of Term Two 2004,  the day after our second granddaughter turned 5 (huge party with jumping castle and I did face painting) I presented myself to the school…and the first group I would be teaching. Year 6. Now, this was still a very small school and the teachers were incredibly welcoming and friendly. I remain friends with many today. However, Year 6, first up took some courage but I did it. The thing about a brand new school is that the kids in the upper grades have come from different schools with different expectations. I did have some kids who tried me (behavioural and attitude) but we managed. After that baptism, I had the rest of the day…and I think I returned on the Tuesday as my 2nd day. I do recall being on Cross Country duty too as the kids ran around the then spacious grounds.

When a new school opens in a new neighbourhood there are children presenting to enrol every week and over time, this position grew to 3 days a week. By the end of that year however, I got a different role and loved this one even more.

Before I move on. The school had its official opening and that was a privilege to be part of. Some of the work I had done as the R.F.F. teacher in Art and Craft also involved Aboriginal Education (I had some expertise from my previous schools) and the Year 6 group performed at the opening using clapping sticks made by my husband.

The principal now had someone on her staff who she could confide in and even offload on but she did not do this much at all. However from time to time she would ask me “how come you are always so happy?” My answer was, she had seen my need to be back teaching and I was loving it as well as being a mentor of sorts to some …but I no longer had the full responsibility which weighed heavily when I was a principal.

The English as A Second Language Teacher. Me! 2005 & 2006.

I was always a teacher of literacy at heart, and loved working with children at the entry level of school. It made sense then for me to turn what I loved to do into a role I could deepen for myself and the school when there was growing student population of students whose second language was English.

I was able to set up the program, a space for the students and to develop the school’s programs. This was an important part of my role and being a former principal something I knew a lot about. What I did need to learn more about was the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of teaching English to a range of learners. Some were literally just stepping ‘off the plane’ as we used to say, and others had been in Australia speaking and learning English at previous schools.

The ‘language’ of teaching in this field has changed in the past 5+ years so I will use what I remember. The students were assessed, if needed, by me upon enrolment in whichever year they were entering. For example a student coming into Kindergarten and one coming into Year 5 might still be classed as ‘new arrivals’ if they had no understanding of English and would need, at separate times to being in class, some one-on-one or very small group learning.

To that end, I enrolled in a Post-Graduate Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at Charles Sturt University. Part-time and on-line with lots of practical work I could do with the students. This was a great way for me to add to my qualifications and hopefully, as time passed, get appointed to the school in 2007 as the substantive E.S.L. teacher. In the next chapter, I will share what happened.

Flexibility and a program that helped teachers integrate the students into their classes was important and I did all I could on the 3 days allocated to the program – always by student numbers – that year. The school’s population grew and grew, in 2006 there was a need to employ another person like me on a temporary basis. I was not permanently appointed, even though, over time, I hoped that might occur. More on that in the next chapter. 2007 was a big year for me. In many ways.

Family Times, House with ‘New’Mortgage & My First Trip O.S.

Despite the fact that we were now mortgage-free, see chapter fifteen, we became tempted to use the house as collateral for home improvements. Yes, people, we not only were tempted, we went ahead. The house benefitted with the enclosure of the outdoor room and adding air conditioning to it so it was a useable space, a carport, added driveways and landscaping out the front and back. This all helped at the time for our enjoyment. Much later in terms of selling, we had added value but the outstanding mortgage was paid out at the time of sale in 2015, bought new cars (much needed, old ones were literally ‘dying’)  but we did not have enough after that to buy a house on the Central Coast. This has, as it turns out, not been too bad as we have found a couple of options where we may wish, one day, to buy a house. For now, we are, like many, more comfortable as renters in the lovely, modern house we are in now.

Family times in those years became busier in some ways as the first group of grandchildren were changing in terms of ‘growing up’ and starting school. We attended Open Days, School Assemblies, Musicals and other events when possible. We took our two eldest granddaughters on a family holiday to Ballina which was fun and they got to meet some of their extended family and see where Papa grew up and went to school.

We welcomed partners into the family and life continued getting to know extended family members, and share in occasions, as well as support new ventures such as a return to study for one of our kids, with eventually University degree completed and more to come. One adult child continued in teaching part-time and we offered weekend/evening/afternoon respite for the kids in her busy times of responsibilities at school and beyond.

For some time I guess I did consider travelling overseas but never really got the chance. Then my plan was hatched and by crikey, I love a plan. To organise, the research and to find out more..blah blah. It was always going to be a solo trip. The plane ride for my husband of just on 3 hours in 2003 was the deal breaker for him as I wrote last chapter. He couldn’t accompany me. However, I was actually OK to give solo travel a go in a bigger way. I had already done some shorter trips and small breaks away within Australia so I looked at what I thought I could manage flight time wise, and where I was interested in visiting. It was to the U.S.of A.’s west coast but mainly the state of Hawaii I wanted to see. Dad and Mum had been there many times following Dad’s first visit when he was part of Harvard Business Summer School for 6 weeks in 1966.

With meticulous care and with the help of Flight Centre I booked 15 days away from 1 January 2006 to 15 January. Flights on Hawaiian Air, were marvellous and I joined their Premier Club to get preferential seating, extra luggage allowance and use of Lounges at LAX and Oahu. Brilliant. But, I almost went home from Mascot (our airport) before I left.

New Year’s Day in Sydney 2006 the temperature was 45deg. There was no air con working at the airport. My flight was not leaving till 10 pm. I was dropped off at the airport by my daughter…allowing plenty of time and it was actually ‘too much’ time. I was SO hot and over it..but stayed until check in could start…and when as a priority boarder I got to my window seat (then the aeroplane was 2,3,2 in economy)and sat, the aloha music and air con working….I sighed with relief. I probably need to expand this story separately but it went like this: Syd:Oahu, 3 nights. Oahu to Kona 2 nights. Kona to Oahu & onto LAX 2 nights, LAX to Las Vegas 2 nights, LV to SanFran 2 nights. SF to LAX back to Oahu 3 nights…and H O M E.

My Parents. 

In the latter part of 2006 my parents celebrated their Diamond Wedding Anniversary (60 years wed) with a couple of small at-home celebrations with friends, and a family lunch in a local restaurant with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren on the following weekend.

I went to their house on the actual day with 60 yellow roses from the local Dural Rose Growers, and Dad already had the cards I had organised from Queen Elizabeth II, the Governor-General, the Premier of N.S.W. and…for Mum especially, my brother organised a ‘congratulations to long time listeners, N & A,’ message on 2GB from Alan Jones. Mum loved it. And he was kind.

Mum had not been well for a couple of years and with an aversion to doctors and investigations, Dad did the best he could to keep her health under check. Mum had some symptoms that appeared to be Parkinson’s related and also a lot of pain in some areas that was put down to be ‘post shingles’ neuralgia.

Mum had a great smile. And she made a lot of effort to do the best she could to look well and co-ordinated, with hairdresser appointments weekly and a pretty regular wardrobe updates. She started to not want to go out much in a lot of 2006 and it became harder to convince her to do so.

Previously Mum had been quite social, independent with her own car and social groups and interests including tennis and cards. But no more. Even their much enjoyed June-July winter stays on the Gold Coast stopped in 2005. But, there were reasons which would not be evident until next chapter: a big one. 2007.

Mum and Dad, taken by me, at the family celebrations for their 60th Wedding Anniversary. November 2006.

 

That is all…that I remember and CAN write about…with confidence of telling my story without giving away too much. It does get tricky with privacy but I have permissions and try to stay within boundaries set by myself and what is reasonable.

For all of the stories to date, please visit this part of the blog. Telling My Story.

I print each post out and have it stored in a folder for family if they wish to read it.

Thanks for reading.

Denyse.

List of Optional Prompts: July & August 2020. On home page too.

27/51 Taking Stock #3 6.7.2020

28/51 Self-Care Stories. #4. 13.7.2020

29/51 Your Choice. Mine is: World Head & Neck Cancer Day. 20.7.2020

30/51 Share Your Snaps #6 27.7.2020

31/51 Food. 3.8.2020

32/51 Why Did I? 10.8.2020

33/51 I Want. 17.8.2020

34/51 Self-Care Stories. #5. 24.8.2020

35/51 Share Your Snaps #7 31.8.2020

Link Up #195.

Life This Week. Link Up #195.

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* Please add just ONE post each week! NOT a link-up series of posts, thank you.

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* THANK you for linking up today! Next week’s optional prompt.27/51 Taking Stock #3 6.7.2020

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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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* Please add just ONE post each week! NOT a link-up series of posts, thank you.

* Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not.

* Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do!

* Check out what others are up to: Leave a comment on a few posts, because we all love our comments, right!

* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere, or on your sidebar or let others know somewhere you are linking up to this blog’s Life This Week.

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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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