Hi, my name is Emmy Burkhard. I am also studying in Galway, Ireland and doing my student teaching at Scoil Bhride. I have been placed in a 2nd grade class, along with another BC student, Kelsey O’Neil. We have been working with the class for several weeks now and have already gotten to know the school and the students quite well!
In my time spent at Scoil Bhride I have noticed several differences between this school and previous schools that I have taught at. Some of the first differences that I noticed were regarding the structure and community of the school. When we first visited the school to meet with the principal everything was very laid back. He was very friendly and welcoming and very flexible in accommodating our requests to the best of his ability. As we toured around the school I was surprised by how friendly and welcoming all of the teachers, staff and even students were. Everyone seemed happy to have us there and eager to welcome us into the community! There is a great sense of community between the teachers, as can be seen in the large and always crowded and chatty staff room. This is very much a reflection of the Irish culture, or at least the culture in Galway that I have experienced so far. Not to say that the other schools I have worked at in the States were less welcoming, but overall I felt that the sense of community was not as overwhelmingly radiant in my past experiences as here.
I have also noticed several other interesting differences within the students’ school day. For example, the daily schedule seems much more flexible and fluid than other schools I have worked with. The students receive all of their academic instruction within their single classroom and it is all instructed by their single teacher. At least at the second class level, they do not switch classrooms for different subjects or even leave the classroom for specials. (I was surprised to see they even eat their lunch in the classroom!) The day just flows from one subject to the next, with only 2 breaks- one morning break for snack and recess and one afternoon break for lunch and recess.The schedule is relatively stable, following a routine and order of subjects, but there is room for variability and flexibility where necessary. I think this flexibility is beneficial to the students and the teacher, because it allows the teacher to adjust the schedule as necessary to fit the students needs and ensure she is able to fully complete her lessons. I think this scheduling works well in this classroom because the variety of teaching methods that my CT incorporates in her lessons help to keep the students engaged and active learners, making what could be a very long day, go by quickly.
Despite these differences there are also many similarities between Scoil Bhride and other schools I have taught at in the past. The classroom that I am in is made up of a diverse group of students with many students from traveler families (as they are called here). The students have various langauge backgrounds and home cultures. In addition the students have different educational backgrounds and educational needs. This diversity resembles many of the other schools that I have taught at. I enjoy teaching and working with this diverse group of students and am making an effort to learn about each student’s background and home life on some level. Similarly to the other schools I have worked at this school uses a pull out program for students who need extra help with language or certain academic areas. Several students are pulled out througout the day to receive the more direct attention they require. I do not know much about the resources available to these students or the quality of the extra help they are receiving, but I would be interested to learn more about this as the semester progresses. In addition to this my CT also uses many similar teaching methods and behavior management techniques to those I have observed in previous experiences. She uses behavior and homework charts to document and hold students accountable for their actions and work. The class is very well behaved, and she is very well respected by the students. She uses a variety of teaching methods in her instruction, creating fun engaging ways for the students to get involved. She has a SMARTboard in her classroom that she uses very often for various purposes. Song is also a big part of the curriculm here. This reminds me of several of the other schools I have worked with where song is a popular practice and fun method of teaching.
I am looking forward to the rest of my time at Scoil Bhride and am excited to continue noting differences and similarities!