The third time is the charm rang true for my visits to Belvedere. On my last visit, I felt much more familiar and at home with the campus and students. Whereas I had been running around a lot of the time in my first two times at Belvedere, I felt that I had a good handle on where my classrooms were located as well as the other resources. This past week was actually the first time that I had a chance to photocopy a huge amount of packets for my students that I had prepared myself. It felt like something out of the movies. It is absolutely amazing what those machines can do!
What's more, I have learned the names of most of my students and find that I am better able to connect and encourage interpersonal interaction - both between myself and the other students. As a cultural phenomenon, Irish students are simply less apt to speak in class, even if they have the correct answer or they have a burning question. when asking my supervisors about this, they told me that it is more a matter of confidence and self-assurance that is trying to be stressed, especially at Belvedere. At Boston College, most classes value participation at as much as thirty percent of the grade, however, in my college classes, as well as in many of the secondary schools, apparently there is rarely even a grade given for participation. I have found this to be one of the most interesting things that I have learned about the school culture in Ireland. As a result, knowing names allows me to cold call students who I know have the answer and encourage unsolicited responses. It can be like pulling teeth when you need to pause for a minute to get each question answered.
I even had the serendipitous experience of visiting one of my classmates houses at UCD and finding that his younger brother was in my History class at Belvedere. He was quite embarrassed and walked away. It made me realize how students view teachers. The fact that I could be eating a piece of pizza not in a suit and tie was so foreign to him. We have the tendency to separate teachers from being human and view them as a job rather than the person that they are. In addition to finding it hilarious, it also made me feel much too old for my age.
In addition to getting to know the students, I have made friends with a large part of the faculty, which has been relatively easy due to the chummy atmosphere of the teacher lounge at Belvedere. During lunch period or during a break block, I have the lucky chance to pick the brains of teachers and members of higher faculty and I have learned many interesting things about Belvedere, school in Ireland, and being a teacher in general. The biggest lesson that I have taken from these interactions is to not to over-romanticize teaching. It is important to love your job and know why your there, but we cannot expect to be Robin Williams in Dead Poet Society all the time. These teachers gave me the very real advice that being a teacher is a profession and a job that brings in money. Of course it is rewarding, but there are struggles and times when you just don't want to wake up at 6 o'clock and do it. Fortunately, I have not faced this yet, but I found it invaluably helpful that they were so honest to a person who is so new to teaching. This is not something that had not been stressed in lynch classes, but once again, it means a lot more in a hands-on experience from people who you are working alongside.
This following week, I will have a different teaching supervisor and I will be teaching Biology. Even though I am an English major, teaching history gave me a larger perspective on teaching and I expect to further broaden that when teaching the sciences.