2013

Ireland-Success and Challenges

Hello all!

I cannot even believe it’s been one month since my last blog posting.  Let me tell you, time absolutely flies here.  Believe it or not, this is upcoming week will be my very last teaching, and the following week will be dedicated to finals.  Since I’ve been teaching, I have faced many challenges, but also experienced some great successes.

As I’ve noted previously, Irish students are lovely, but they love to chat.  I was extremely overwhelmed during my first weeks of teaching because in the first year classes, students don’t feel that they need to raise their hands for anything!  And, what do you do when 12 people talk at once besides constantly positively reinforce students raising their hands to speak.  Overall, behavior management has been my hugest struggle in the Irish school.  I wish I had more time in the class so that I could create a system for students to rely on, in which I had a PBIS set up, but when I only see my students twice a week, sometimes even only once, it’s extremely difficult.  But, I tried my best and always kept my cool.

Another challenge that I faced in school was having to conform slightly to a  classroom management plan much different than mine.  The authoritative disciplinary style is the standard form of management at my school.  If students are being “bold,” they are often times required to open up to a particular rule number in their school journals and copy down lines before they are allowed to participate in class again.  Also, pulling a student out of class to sit in the cafeteria if he/she has been bold is also a common form of punishment.  For the record, I never did any of those things as form of punishment because I did not see the point in it.  Although I was stern at times, I always talked to students individually, after class if there was a behavior management problem.

During one of my second year classes, two 6th year students were roaming around the halls, peeking their heads into the windows of classrooms and making funny faces.  I was having a particularly challenging time with my class that day, trying to get them to settle down (because the sun was actually shining and they were being antsy) and said distraction threw the entire class off task.  When students are kicked out of class, they feel that they can do whatever they want.  If the principal sees them roaming the halls, then they will get in trouble, but if that doesn’t happen, they’re basically allowed to do whatever they want.  I was so angry in this instance because I have no tolerance for shenanigans disrupting my classes.  I found out who the two boys were that were roaming around the halls, disrupting classes, and had them come into my classroom the next day and apologize to my class for being so immature and bold.  Accountability for one’s actions in school isn’t really a big deal here, so I thought it was only appropriate that these two boys be held accountable for their actions and apologize accordingly.

Another challenge has been transitioning from being very much so in a co-operating teacher relationship in the States, to being an independent student teacher in Ireland.  All of my planning, teaching, copying, navigating about school has been done independently.  At times I have felt slightly overwhelmed being physically independent, in that I don’t constantly have a guardian watching over me, but on the flip side, I have never felt more prepared to enter a classroom and take on my role as teacher.  I’ve learned that if I need something or if I have a question, I need to be an advocate for myself.  Don’t get my wrong, my cooperating teacher was wonderful and he always made himself available.  But, he isn’t a mind reader, and he has no idea what the differences between a stateside placement and an international one are, so it was up to me to ask questions or seek help.

My greatest success in the classroom has been with my 5th year students.  I see these students twice a week, and we were working on writing persuasive/argumentative pieces as leaving cert preparations over the course of my teaching.  Because this class was already on the same page about being courteous and professional in the classroom, we got a lot of work covered over a short period of time.  I got to see a unit plan on persuasiveness come into full circle at the end of last week when I gave the students a class period to write up the text of a speech, then the next day everybody presented their speeches.  All of the students participated in the lesson and were able to give tremendous speeches!  At that moment, I felt extremely proud of both my students and myself.  In just five weeks we had gone from complete strangers to a harmonious class.  When I told them that this would be my last week with them, they all started saying, “Awww!  Miss, but why?!” and then one of my rowdy male students started a slow clap, round of applause in my honor.  Needless to say, my heart strings were pulled and a tear welled up in my eye.  It’s amazing how beaten down teachers can get at times, but when the light peeks through the end of the tunnel, and we see success on the horizons, it truly makes the journey worth it!

In just two short weeks I’ll be packing my entire life back into two suitcases, boarding a plane, and heading back to the United States.  I have so many mixed feelings about having to do that, because as you all know, I’ve been staying with a host family and have become extremely close to them.  I truly feel as if I am a part of the family.  Thinking about hugging my host sisters goodbye and thanking my host mom for everything literally makes me cry.  Not only have I been able to experience school life, but I’ve also been fully immersed into a host stay, and that has made everything worth it!  I can’t even imagine what my experience here would have been life if I hadn’t stayed with a host family.

I do miss home.  I miss my family and my dog.  I miss my car, but can I tell you that I’m absolutely petrified to come home and drive on the right side of the road again?  Yikes.  I’m going to need at least a couple of days to be re-introduced to the rules of the road in America!  I miss American food and being able to cook my own meals.  I miss American Diet Coke, because the Diet Coke is different here.  I miss how much cheaper everything is in the states, because the Euro, and definitely the pound, are much more expensive to live on.  I miss being on the same time zone as the rest of my family.  Being six hours ahead of my family has been so challenging, because by the time I’m ready for bed, my mom is just getting home from work etc. etc.  I also miss being able to pick up my phone and text whomever I want.  🙂  But, all of those things are just things to miss.  I know that when I get back to America I will be homesick for Ireland, but I will absolutely be coming back to visit as soon as fiscally possible.

To sign off, I want to include a quote by a man who wrote about the reasons why every single person should travel in their lifetime.  I was inspired to share it with others, and I hope that everyone takes his words and infuses them into their lives.  I wish I could document and blog about every single tiny thing I’ve experienced while abroad, but the truth is, I cannot.  How can I put into words the beauty of the Irish accent, or what it’s like to sit in a kitchen with four girls, my host mom, and granny listening to the Beatles on vinyl, while everybody sing every single lyric, how can I show you through words what it’s like to be in the Wicklow mountains, or hear a traditional Irish music session?  I can try my best, but as the cliche goes, you have to experience it for yourself.  Until next time, cheers, lads! : )

“Traveling will change you like little else can. It will put you in places that will force you to care for issues that are bigger than you. The world is a stunning place, full of outstanding works of art. See it. Do this while you’re still young. Do not squander the time. You will never have it again. So travel. Experience the world for all it’s worth. Become a person of culture, adventure, and compassion. Because you won’t always be young. And life won’t always be just about you.”

-Jeff Goins

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Me at the Titanic museum, Belfast.

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Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Me up at the Edinburgh Castle.

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Skyline in Edinburgh.

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My host sisters in Glendaloguh, Ireland. (We’re missing the eldest sister, Kate, in this pic.)

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2 thoughts on “Ireland-Success and Challenges

  1. Allison!

    We both had such similar experiences! Classroom management was such as challenge for me as well. I also had to somewhat conform to The Mackay’s version of classroom management and it was extremely difficult. Where the students responsive to the authoritative version of classroom management? What was the easiest part about your trip? What are you going to miss the most about Ireland? I look forward to hearing more aout your experience!

  2. Alison,
    How great to read your last reflection on your professional learning curve, cultural awareness, and emotional connections to folks and moments. It truly is a life-changing experience and difficult to articulate to others. You have been transformed in a positive and persistent way. So happy for you.

    I’m anxious to see you soon. 🙂

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