Hey everyone, hope all is well with you, everything is great here! I have had the past week off and have done nothing but explored the Ireland around me. I got the opportunity to move to a city called Bray and live with three other girls from the states. What is really weird is that all three are from Wisconsin as well! It is such a small world! While two of them spent their week off in Spain and the other in Germany visiting friends, I wandered around my area here. On Tuesday I went to Dublin, which is only a 20 minute train ride away from me, and got a lot of shopping done, went to the National Museum, Christ’s Church (which has an underground crypt, creepy), and walked to Temple Bar which is a famous location for Traditional Irish Music. On Wednesday I spent the day right ion Bray where I got fresh fish and chips, went and took some great photography by the Irish Sea and looked around town. I spent Thursday traveling to Dalkey which is where members of U2 live! (Yes, I was that creepy American). I wandered around looking for Bono’s house but everything is very high security and a lot of wealthy people live by the sea there so I had no luck. I did get to go to the Pub that they always hang out at, found a hidden seal sanctuary by a harbor, and a seal was hanging out within 3 feet of me! On Friday I decided to be very adventurous and climb the Bray Head Mountain. This is located right on the Irish Sea in Bray and is 791 feet to the top. It took a while to get up to the top but was well worth it from the amazing views! I then walked the Cliff walk which goes from the town of Bray to the town of Greystones. It is a 4.5 mile walk along the Irish Sea with historical ruins along the way. Ireland is absolutely breath taking!
As far as teaching, I have now spent three week at Lady of our Good Counsel All boys’ national school. After spending time with the Senior Infants (5-6 yr. olds) to see how the students start out learning, I was given a fourth class (9-10 yr. olds). I spent three days observing and then started teaching right away. I jumped right in and started teaching English, History, Science, Social Skills, Oral Language and Geography. This coming week I will also be taking on Math, P.E., Art, Music and Drama.
The school is very different from those located back in the states. As I stated above I will have to teach and do lesson plans for P.E., Art, Drama and Music. Back home these classes would be taught by specials teachers. It definitely makes it harder and more work for me as a student teacher and for the regular education teachers to have to also do these classes on top of the common core classes. However, it is kind of exciting to be able to teach P.E., Art, Music and Drama. These are classes that we do not get to experience back home and it helps me create units that can be integrated into every subject.
It is tough to complete all the lesson plans for every class every week. But, even though this is taking on a lot, compared to my roommates who only have to complete about 3-6 lesson plans for their whole week, it is well worth it. It also makes it easy when the school system is highly organized much like ours back in Wisconsin. They have an amazing website which is nccaplanning.ie which enables teachers to go online, choose their class subject, and specific area of topic. From there the website gives the specific strands/objectives that they needs to accomplish by the end of the year. This website is much like our DPI website and makes it easy to play exactly what needs to be done for the year. The teachers are also given these strands/curriculum objectives in paperback book form which they can have to use instead of the website. This made it easy for me in both ways, as I was able to print off and copy pages to help me plan lessons so far.
The planning is the easy part. The teaching here is very different from back home and from what we have been taught. I am using a lot of cooperative learning techniques and Tribes ideas when I work with these kids. However, before I have gotten there they have never even been in groups before! This made it very difficult. The teaching that I observed consisted of the teacher talking, showing problems and doing examples. The kids would then complete their work in their copy books. When they are finished they come back together as a class and the teacher goes over the questions and answers with them. They never do exploratory activities, group work and even for science the teacher just completes the experiment and the kids do problems about it. So needless to say when I came in with new ideas of teaching it was difficult. My cooperating teacher is very open and allows me to do whatever I want but the kids did not do well the first time. However, the more group work and routine of organization that I give them, the better and more comfortable they get.
The hardest part of all is learning to relax. In Ireland, the teachers get a break at 10:30/11 for coffee and tea. At this time the kids go out for recess. The teachers all meet in the lounge and hang out. They then get another 30-45 minutes break for lunch. All the teachers go to the lounge and eat together. This is so weird to me! I am still trying to get used to setting aside my work and go to the lounge at these times. Back home most teachers would continue to work through all of their breaks to get all their work done. However, as far as I can tell right now, teachers back home have more work to do. Here the students are not tested until their final year of school. This determines whether or not they pass all their years. Throughout the years the kids don’t get formally assessed or get report cards with grades or even get held back if they cannot complete their work. This seems to take pressure off of the teachers unlike in Wisconsin where testing and assessments rule their job.
Overall, my time has been amazing since moving to Bray. I am becoming more comfortable with the school atmosphere and they are impressed and open to new teaching ideas and techniques that I bring to the classroom. Living here is amazing and there is always something to do or go and visit. Even though I miss home like crazy this is a once in a lifetime experience that I will never be able to forget!