Hello! A little late in the semester, this is my first blog about preprac abroad. I am placed in a “fourth class” classroom (aka 4th grade) in a Catholic school in Galway, Ireland. The school, Scoil Bhríde (St. Bridget’s in English), serves students of many different ethnicities. Most students come from working class families, and many are travelers, immigrants and asylum seekers. The school is a warm and loving environment, something I could sense on my first visit.
On a typical day, I come into the classroom around 10am, after my morning class. My 14 students get very excited whenever I walk in the door, and it always makes my day. I usually spend most of the day observing lessons, helping out with individual work, checking homework and leading small reading groups. I actually was supposed to teach a full class lesson on Marco Polo last week, which I was so thrilled for, but I got sick and missed it. My CT is so wonderful though, he leaves everything open for me, offering that I can teach a lesson whenever, so I will definitely be taking advantage of that next week. My CT runs his class in a much less structured way than I am used to, so the subjects taught, amount of time spent on each and the order they are taught in a day always changes. This is a little disorienting for me sometimes, especially since my last CT had a very precise schedule. I have seen that it works for this teacher’s style and his class though, as many kids are pulled out of the classroom at random times throughout the day for various supports and extra help.
This less structured day also has proven to benefit me as the student teacher. Sometimes, my CT suddenly needs to leave the classroom and leaves his students in the middle of an assignment or a lesson. In these instances, I’ve been able to step in and run the class for a few minutes. I usually only do something small, like finish a poem with the class, or preside over their favorite math review game, which they call Quick Chairs. Once, during an Irish lesson, I had them teach me their favorite words (no surprise, they were all desserts!) and when all else fails me, I teach them something about where I’m from or ask them about Galway and Ireland. They are completely fascinated by the fact that I’m from New York (I’m often asked if I live on Ellis Island), and I joke that I never have to raise my voice because they hear my accent and are immediately mesmerized into silence.
One of the most interesting lessons of the day to watch is the Irish lesson. Everyday, the students learn the Irish language, a lesson I can hardly take part in. Sometimes the teacher will address me and have the kids teach me words or have me guess the meaning. Otherwise, I use this time to observe the various teaching strategies he uses to teach the language and the dynamics between students and between teacher and students. I also love when the children go out to the yard for big break (re: recess). I accompany my CT outside to monitor the students, and spend the entire time playing hand games with my students, meeting the other 4th class students, and hearing about their lives. My students are adorable, affectionate are eager to tell me about themselves. They love to tell me about their families, their likes, dislikes and whatever else is on their minds. I really love this class, between the students, my CT and the other teachers in the school, I feel very welcomed. I look forward to every preprac each week and feel that I am learning so much!