2015 The Good, The Bad, The People that helped me Through.

How to define 2015?  There were such highs and lows.

It began on a promising note. I was in the final phase of my coaching accreditation with GCI education and looking forward to taking on a coaching client, being coached myself and gaining my credential.

At school, I was trialling a model of learning support which focused on coaching, goal setting and building teachers’ capacity to work with students with specific learning needs. I was anticipating push back from colleagues who might not welcome this new way of working, and wasn’t sure if it would succeed, but the early signs were promising. Students were making strong progress right from the start, and teacher feedback at the end of Term 1 was very positive.

But all of a sudden everything changed. A news report reminded me of a time when I survived a violent assault and whether I lived or died was in someone else’s hands. The memory was like one of those tiny chips you get in car windscreens that cause fractures to spread across the glass.

For two or three weeks after hearing that news, the fractures spread across my psyche. And then one day I fell completely apart, as if I had been shattered into thousands of tiny pieces. I couldn’t function for weeks. I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic-stress disorder, and needed a term off work to put myself back together.

I spent weeks in almost complete isolation. Aside from my partner, the only people I saw regularly were my psychologist and doctor. I was re-living trauma on a daily basis. For quite some time, I was afraid to leave the house, open email or even answer the telephone.

When I finally returned to work in Term 3 I’d lost confidence, not in my ability to do my job, but in my ability to manage everyday life. The PTSD had been so disabling. I’d  been forced to face the fact that I was vulnerable. I felt breakable.

But, moment by moment, one step at a time, I picked up the threads of the what I’d been doing before my breakdown and continued on. Now that there’s time to reflect, I realise how much I was able to learn and to achieve.

In spite of several weeks’ interruption, I achieved my coaching accreditation. I’m grateful to my supervising coach and to my client for bearing with me and being patient and understanding when our coaching cycles were put on hold for several weeks.

The model of learning support I began in Term One continued in my absence. I’m grateful to my colleagues who so willingly embraced what was a significant change and worked in that manner throughout the year, even when I wasn’t there. We have more to do to refine the model, but our 2015 evaluation has shown that it is making a real difference for our students.

Other plans I’d been working on also started to come to fruition. My principal and I began the year aiming to develop our teachers’ understanding and use of formative assessment, but this was put on the backburner. However, we were able to send a team to train with Dylan Wiliam in Term 4, and are ready to run a whole staff  professional development program in 2016.

Another question that had been rattling around in my mind throughout the year was how to develop a coaching culture at my school. Fortuitously, this coincided with the introduction of a new performance and development framework for NSW teachers which requires us all to participate in peer observation. This provided the impetus for my principal to approve training for our entire staff in Peer Coaching from Term 1 2016.

And, in the final week of school, of my professional life suddenly changed. After putting in an expression of interest, I was offered the role of relieving principal of Arndell for Term 1 2016. Arndell is a K-4 for students with emotional and behavioural needs.

So, in spite of setbacks, the year ended well. I’m moving forward with my professional goals and my school is heading towards greater things. 2016 is going to be an exciting time of growth and development.

The fact I’m running towards challenges, not away from the risks, shows me I’m finally healed, the breakdown is behind me, that I’m able to move ahead with my life. I heard from a few sources that a colleague said of my breakdown “Well, she’s blown her chance of ever being principal.”  I’m happy to be proving her wrong.  And that’s the thing about mental illness – It doesn’t have to define us.

I’m indebted to the many people who supported me through a difficult and confronting time:

  • My principal who supported me both personally and professionally in allowing me the time I needed to recover before returning to work.
  • My colleagues from school who sent messages of support, and then welcomed me back so warmly when I returned from leave.
  • My colleagues from Twitter who looked out for me when I needed it most and continue to check in on me frequently. You know who you are.
  • My friends who met me for lunches and coffees, and who were forgiving when I’d refuse invitations because it was all too overwhelming.
  • And most importantly, my partner Michael, who was so accepting, patient and supportive. He carried me through much of this year.

I’m extraordinarily fortunate to have so many wonderful people in my life. Thank you all. I wish you the very best for 2016.



2 thoughts on “2015 The Good, The Bad, The People that helped me Through.

  1. Hi Corinne,
    I can find so many parallels between my year and yours – although my dilemma that interrupted my ‘perfect start to the year’ was depression brought on by the trauma of a physical accident at work. I empathise, especially your moment by moment, one step at a time comment. You seem to have had a great team behind you to continue the model of learning support in your absence. Coaching conversations are difficult for many but if they (your team) trusted and followed you before I’m sure they will follow you down the coaching pathway. I live on the border of Victoria and NSW, and although I teach in Vic, my partner is a principal in NSW who has just ticked over his second year championing peer coaching in his school. From his perspective, it has been very rewarding to see the impact on developing teacher capacity and improving collegiality. I will certainly be following your journey at Arndell with great interest. I have been curriculum leader F-4 in my school for the past few years and tried, with mixed degrees of success, to implement a sustainable SEL program. What was challenging to get across to my principal was that the PBIS framework at the school was not a one-stop shop for supporting children to make good decisions. Explicit teaching of social competencies, either through play-based activities or explicit lessons designed to improve self-awareness, self-control and empathy are proven to work. I am a great fan of Martin Seligman, and have utilised the 6seconds.org resources to improve my skills of SEL to help students that have issues of self-regulation and often come to school with stress or in distress, due to challenging home environments. I think the problem for my beliefs misaligning with my school was that the school was a Catholic school that could not move beyond their robust Religious Education curriculum to invite educating the ‘whole-child’ in what was seen as an ‘unlikely transformative’ way.
    Anyway, cut to the end of the year and I took a voluntary redundancy after 5 years. I’m starting the year as a CRT, a little anxious for not having a full-time position for the first time in a long time but also of the belief that I will end up at a school that I ‘need to be’.
    Good Luck with 2016 and congratulations on what you have achieved thus far. Oh, and don’t even get me started on my jealousy of being on a team that gets to meet and work with Dylan Wiliam. (I mutter ‘Embedded Formative Assessment’ in my sleep sometimes!!).
    Cheers Corinne and keep up the good fight,

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