(Exciting picture from the plane)
My name is Alison Smith and I am a Secondary Education-English major with a minor in Speech Communication at UW Oshkosh. I began my first nine weeks of student teaching at Oshkosh West high school and am now completing my final 12 weeks of student teaching in Ireland.
I arrived to Ireland on March 8th and began in school on the 10th. The town I am staying in is Kilcoole, which is located in County Wicklow. Dublin is only a short 45 minute train ride away! I am staying with a lovely host family, which is comprised of a host mum, dad and four sisters. I have been placed in a secondary school in Kilcoole; Colaiste Craobh Abhann.
My time in school has been very minimal and limited to observing so that I get “my feet wet before jumping into the deep end!” My (main) cooperating teacher has given me a permanent “timetable” (schedule as we call them) and it is comprised of: first year students (7th graders) second year students (8th graders) fourth year students (Sophomores) and fifth year students (Juniors). Teaching such a diverse range of classes means that I coordinate my lesson plans with five different teachers. I am up for the challenge and looking forward to working with such amazing teachers!
School Climate and Culture:
(picture of the entrance of my school)
Thus far I have noticed several aesthetic differences between American schools and Irish schools, as well as some classroom management differences. For example, when Irish students want to gain the attention of a teacher they call them sir, or miss. In the states, we often say Mrs. XYZ or Mr. ABC to gain a teacher’s attention or address them. Another difference at my Irish school is that the students are required to wear their uniforms at all times, even though the school is National (public.) Students are not allowed to go to their lockers in between class periods, and lockers have keys here, not combination locks. Sometimes you might even find a set of lockers in a classroom or in a small corridor, which is completely random! Also, there are no water fountains in the hallways. Students who need water are required to knock on the door of the staff room and get a glass from a teacher.
Something I have found challenging at school is walking on the proper side of the hall. When I was in school, we were required to walk the way cars are driven, and the same is true here, but of course they walk on the opposite side of the halls than what I am accustomed to. Therefore, I find myself having to make a conscious effort to think of which side is the “right” side. Honestly I’m a little bit afraid to return home and drive right away because now I’ve gotten used to walking on the left side of the road. : )
Behavior management is also very different here, in terms of classroom “norms.” As you may have read from the previous student teacher in Ireland, students here believe that they can make side comments, or even shout out answers/whines whenever they feel. Teachers are much more strict in their discipline and overall demeanor with the students (not as strict as Cameroon, though!) Often times classes can get out of control very quickly and in order for the teacher to regain their students’ attention, they yell, then reprimand the classes accordingly.
For example, two boys (first year students; our 7th grade) were late for class by five minutes. The teacher disciplined this matter by distributing a detention to each and lecturing the students in the hallway…with the door open, so that the entire class could hear. I do believe that I will be challenged to remember my own classroom management philosophies, as often times it’s somewhat easy for people to assimilate to their surroundings.
I am writing this blog from the confines of my glorious bedroom because I am on a two week Easter holiday from school, that’s why I said I haven’t had much time in the classroom yet. That’s right, I arrived in Ireland on a Saturday, was in school on Monday and observed for two weeks and am now on holiday! Sorry. But don’t think I’m slacking off. I am diligently planning persuasive writing and speaking units for my first and fifth year students and am reading Oliver Twist for my fourth year class. Next week Wednesday I will be leaving for Paris and London to take a nice spring break! I must say, teaching abroad is not an easy task but it is definitely rewarding, culturally enriching and exciting.
I look forward to blogging more about my experiences teaching, once I’ve begun lead teaching in the upcoming weeks. Classroom management will be a challenge for me and I look forward to updating you on how I have overcome my teaching obstacles, as well as sharing the rewarding aspects of teaching in an Irish secondary school.
If you’re interested, take a look at my school’s website here: http://colaisteca.ie
PS it’s snowing here too.
Also, don’t forget that it is never too early to begin planning/researching student teaching abroad options!
Until next time, Happy Spring Break to you all!