I have found it challenging to decide upon a topic to discuss in this final journal. My previous blog posts did not well conform to a single reflection question, and therefore, I believe I have already touched upon most of the themes reflected in the prompts. Rather than restate ideas I have already mentioned in previous posts, I hope it is okay that I approach this final post as an overall reflection upon my international practicum experience and describe why it was an enriching and rewarding aspect to studying abroad.
One of my favorite aspects of teaching abroad was the relationships and sense of community I gained from the experience. I thought that student teaching would provide opportunities to remove myself from the Irish college experience and better see what community and family life was like in Cork. Teaching abroad did offer a window into the Cork community. Through interactions with the teachers, I gained insight into their values, heard anecdotes of their professional and family lives, and discovered the challenges and rewards they faced as teachers.
The Irish Language teacher and I had our breaks at the same time and I would often talk with her about Cork culture. She discussed her passion for programs initiated to reclaim the heritage language: Irish. She believed it was important for the students learn to converse in Irish as it offered a strong connection to their ancestry, heritage, and national identity, especially sense that element of their identity had been stolen from them during English rule. Another adult woman in her seventies mentioned that her family adopted a way of preserving the heritage language by exclusively using Irish when talking to direct family members on the phone.
It was interesting to observe a generational gap in attitudes toward the reclamation of the Irish language. While the adults I talked to expressed admiration and passion for Irish, many of my students told me they hated their 45-minutes of daily Irish instruction. While there were several students who were naturally gifted in Irish and excelled in the class, most students struggled with the very difficult language. It would have been interesting to see if the instruction of Irish had been approached differently, such as infused throughout the day rather than solidified in a 45-minute block, if the students would have a different attitude toward the language.
Besides gaining insight into the Cork community through conversations and observations of faculty members and students, I also greatly appreciated the opportunity to continue to learn and grow in my teaching practice. Teaching in a classroom of just ten students without the pressure of being graded was a very low risk environment. My comfort level within this classroom, and also the general feeling of exploring new opportunities that comes with study abroad, pushed me further in my teaching practice than I had anticipated being pushed. As previously stated in prior blog posts, during my international practicum I substitute taught the class independently and taught a three-day mini unit on Native Americans. Having been pushed to tackle new goals and take on new challenges helped to make the most of my international practicum and made student teaching a rewarding and fulfilling experience.