By: Julianna Pratt, ’16 // Early Childhood and Elementary Education
This semester, one way I have stepped out of my comfort zone is by working in a school in Ireland. For my Community Advocacy and Inquiry class we are required to do a placement in either a school or local organization in Dublin. I have done endless amounts of placements and work in schools before, but there is something about working at a school half way around the world that had me a little nervous. Coming to Ireland, I knew nothing of the educational system here and couldn’t imagine it would be much different than in the states. It was a huge change though. In Ireland, the educational system is completely different. It is mostly test based and everything is determined by how well they do on their exams. This creates an entirely different aura in the school system.
I am currently working with a group of Senior Infants at St. James National School in Dublin 8. These are children that are between the age of 5 and 7, so the equivalent of kindergarten or first grade in the states. I’ve gotten to work closely with a lot of different staff members in the school which has helped me to further understand the educational system in Ireland. My mentor teacher is fabulous as well. She is really good with the students and has been a huge help to me in adjusting to the school system here by answering all of my questions and encouraging me to get involved.
Also all the teachers are good at including me in their activities. While I am there, they do team teaching which is when four teachers and resource staffers come together and teach the student four different lessons. These lessons include handwriting, reading, fine motor skills, and spelling. I have gotten a chance in the past four weeks to work with every group. This past week was my favorite though. I was able to work with the reading group and I got to listen to the students read and help them to build up strategies on how to sound out words and to recognize sight words. This was a good time for me to get to know my students better on an academic level.
I love my placement. I have gotten the opportunity to work one on one with a lot of students; giving me the chance to help them hone their skills. My students have also taken a particular interest in me. They all like to ask me questions about America and like to joke with me when I say something in a different manner. Every morning I comein they get excited to see me and then continue to fill me in on everything I’ve missed since I was there last. I’m glad I am getting the chance to become a positive role model in their lives.
Lastly, my placement has afforded me the opportunity to learn more about Ireland itself. As short as my breaks are during the day, they give me a chance to talk to the teachers and staff members about their lives in Ireland and get to know more about their culture. I have had the chance to talk to some of the younger first year teachers as well and got to talk about the difference between our educational systems. My placement has really helped me put myself out there in my community. Since our residence is in Dublin 8, I was excited to work in a school in my district. I learned a lot more than I ever expected about the people living in my area through my placement. I am thankful for every day I get to spend in the classroom.