The culture of Ireland can be seen in the school environment of Scoil Bhride in several ways. Firstly, the friendly and welcoming school community is very much a representation of the people of Ireland. There is a very close sense of community within the school, particularly between the staff, as they collaborate often and share break times all together in the staff room. The staff and students were also very welcoming and friendly towards us, as we began working with the school. They appeared to be genuinely interested in getting to know us and making us feel a part of the community.
In addition to this close community, the school is laid back in many senses, as I have found many things in Ireland to be. There is not much of a rigid schedule that teachers follow in their classroom, but rather the lessons tend to flow from one subject to another following a general pattern and timeline. Several times different students have had to leave class to go to various appointments. The school seems to be very flexible in terms of this allowing students to come and go throughout the day. They also seem lenient on tardiness, as students often continue to arrive 10 or 15 minutes past the school start time.
Beyond the structure and community of the school, the Irish culture is reflected in several of the subjects taught. Firstly, all students take Irish as a second language. Irish is taught as any other second language would be taught, teaching students to read, write and speak the language. The study of this language is valuable in many senses as it helps to keep the language and culture alive. In addition it provides the students with skills and practice in learning a new language, exercising an important part of the brain. By starting to teach Irish at a young age, it helps students to develop a foundation of Irish during the time when it has been argued the brain is most suited to learn a new language.
In addition to Irish being taught as a subject, religion is also taught on a daily basis. I was very surprised initially to see the role religion played in the school considering that it is not a Catholic school, but rather a public school. This is very different from the strong emphasis in America on separation of church and state, where such religious education would not be accepted. It surprised me the first day to walk in to the school and see so many pictures and statues portraying religious figures, throughout the halls. Because I am in a second grade class, the majority of the students are preparing for their First Communion, which places an even greater emphasis on the religion class period of the day. While not all students are required to take part in these religious activities and practices, the instruction occurs within the classroom by the classroom teacher, therefore there are limited ways to avoid this instruction. On the days when Kelsey and I are in the classroom, we are at least able to pull out the students who do not practice Catholicism to work one-on-one in areas that they are struggling in, however, the other days the students have no such option. I would be interested to know how these children and families that are not practicing Catholicism feel about the emphasis placed on this religion within the classroom. I was also curious as to what age this religious education continues until. I wonder if it is just until the students make their Confirmation, or throughout high school as well.