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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Teaching in Dublin

Colleen Hughes
October 15, 2014

Hello from Dublin!

Although we've been here since Sept. 1, our placement in Dublin just got sorted out. In the past two weeks, I've been able to be at St. Andrew's College primary school for two mornings! I am teaching in P5, which is a fifth grade classroom, which is a much different placement from any experience I've had. I have taught preschool through a volunteer program as well as sophomores and juniors during my pre-prac at Brighton High, but this is my first elementary school level prac. So far I've enjoyed it immensely!

St. Andrew's is a private school in a suburb from Dublin, about a 20 minute walk from UCD's campus. It's a relatively small school, with 1300 students from preschool through grade 12. The classroom I'm in has 21 students, which they consider to be a smaller classroom. There are many international students there, as well as Irish students, because the school has ties to the embassies in and around Dublin. A lot of the parents working in the embassies send their children to St. Andrew's. If they are American, there is a separate class for American Studies, which the kids go to a few times per week while the Irish students have instruction in the Irish language.

As soon as I walked in to St. Andrew's, you could tell you were not in a typical American private elementary school. There is an emphasis on learning for the sake of learning, rather than teaching to an inflexible curriculum or standardized tests. My CT has her students write down the things that they want to learn whenever they begin a new unit. She explained that she does this because everyone is interested in different things and has different ideas about how to learn the material. Often in the US, especially in public schools, there is little opportunity for this kind of individualized instruction.

The school has many resources, and all of the children in the primary school take PE, art, choir, Irish (or American Studies), and the standard core subjects. Additionally, they receive instruction in a musical instrument (violin, cello, bass) and take either French or Spanish. Clearly, there are myriad opportunities and activities to promote learning in various ways. The students in my classroom are bright and inquisitive, and are always eager to show off their most recent project or piece of writing! They have a blog, a class twitter account, and penpals all around the world. It is exciting to observe how much they love learning and communicating their abilities to me, their teacher, and to other students.

Today we got to speak to the headmaster of the whole school. He was incredibly welcoming and we spent half an hour speaking to him in his office. He told us about teaching and directing other schools in multiple countries, and gave us some chocolate when we left! One thing that I enjoyed hearing about was that he got his degree in engineering, went right into teaching, and never looked back. He said that he loves working with young people and appreciates how his job allows him to make a direct impact on someone' s life. It further reinforced my desire to become a teacher, because he articulated exactly the reasons why I first thought about majoring in education. 

I'm looking forward to going back to St. Andrew's on Friday, it has become my favorite part of the week!

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