The school culture at the Jes very much reflects Irish culture. The overall organization of the school is unique to Ireland. There are two potential tracks for students to follow, the Irish track and the English track. All students take Irish as a language, but students can also choose to take all of their subjects, Math, History, Science etc., in Irish. My co-operating teacher, Sean O’Flatharta teaches history for both the Irish tracks and English tracks. I might try to observe one of his classes in Gaelic in the next few weeks just to see it although I wouldn’t be able to understand much of the content at all. The other courses they offer are English, Maths, History, Geography, Science, Business Studies, French, German, CSPE Projects, SPHE, Religion, Physical Education, Music, Art, Technical Graphics, Home Economics and also Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Business, Accounting, Economics, French, German, Music, Art, Social & Scientific, Design & Communications Graphics.
Their daily schedule also reflects traditional Irish life. The students have classes in the morning and then there is a tea break at 11 until 11:30. Then there is a long lunch break from 12:15 until 2. The students do not eat their lunches at school usually.
Their curriculum and assessments are based on their leaving certification exams. In the US, we usually learn US History in addition to some European History. Similarly, at the Jes, the students all take Modern Irish history in addition to Modern European history. For me, the Modern Irish history classes are really interesting even on a pure content level because most of it I have never studied before. For the students here, however, a lot of the history is stories they’ve grown up with.
In most American schools, there is a huge emphasis on using technology in the classroom, but here, while they do use it occasionally, there is not as much as a push or pressure which reflects part of the more laid back attitude. Particularly for the 5th and 6th years, the emphasis is on knowing the material and the ability to write quality essays for their leaving certification exams at the end of the year. These are standardized tests, somewhat similar to the SATs. For history, the bulk of their assessments are based on their written work which include essays and all of their written responses to questions from the textbook that they do for homework.