Saturday, April 28, 2012

Week 2 of Teaching and Day Tour to Kilkenny

Hello everyone!

I can't believe as of this Tuesday I will already have been here 3 weeks! Time is flying by!!

Second Week of Teaching:

This second week of teaching flew by. But, I finally started teaching so that part was great. I also started working with small groups of students.
I am working with 4 of the maths teachers. Two of the teachers teach 2nd year students (8th grade), one teaches 3rd year (9th grade) and the other teaches 1st year (7th grade). I will be teaching lessons for these teachers throughout my 6 weeks at St. Aidan's.
I am also responsible for working with small groups of students who are struggling with their current maths classes. One group is 5th year (11th grade), and the other is 3rd year (9th grade). There are 7 students in the 5th year group and 4 students in the 3rd year group.

On Thursday I taught my first lesson. It was on the topic of mode and I taught it to first year students who are in the foundation level of maths (the lowest level). I actually taught a similar lesson on mode (as well as mean and median) to students during my pre-service student teaching experience last fall so it was nice being able to think about similarities and differences when teaching students in Ireland versus the United States. Overall the lesson went fine. But, I have observed that students at St. Aidan's are not the most behaved. Especially in this class specifically, students call out and talk to their peers as the teacher is teaching. This actually did not happen too much during my lesson, partly I'm guessing because I a new person to them. But, when students were talking and I tried to get them to stop, the students really didn't seem to listen too much. This is a challenge I am willing to accept and excited to get students to stay on task more! But, students were very enthusiastic in wanting to answer all of my questions which was great!

Once other students in the school found out I taught a lesson to a class, they all were repeatedly asking me to teach them. Many made references to wanting a teacher with an American accent to teach them. I found this really amusing but am glad that I am accepted by all of the students to teach them!

Friday's lesson was a continuation of the lesson on Thursday to the same group of students. Again the students were eager to volunteer. This was great to see!

Like stated earlier I have also started working with small groups of students who are struggling with their maths classes. This has been really neat. I haven't really done any group tutoring too much outside of classrooms so this is a really fun experience. I get to work closely with students on strengthening their maths skills. On Thursday I even thought a song I learned from my pre-service student teacher mentor to one of the groups. Although this song was made for younger students (7th graders), I used it with the 5th year (11th grade) group and it really helped them with the topic they were struggling with. They all even asked for copies of the song, which I was perfectly okay with doing!

Next week I will be teaching two classes for two of the other teachers. I will most likely be teaching more but this is all that was planned for Monday and Tuesday of this upcoming week.

Here are some pictures of St. Aidan's. I'll post more when I get the chance to take more!

(P.S. I have learned that if you click on each picture you can see a bigger view of it!)

 The upstairs main hallway

The canteen (cafeteria)

The main entrance

The middle sitting area, on the ground floor

The school's crest

Day Tour to Kilkenny

Well this is an interesting part of my blog. Last night (Friday) I was talking with one of the girls in my program who is student teaching here in Ireland as well and is about 30 minutes from me. I've never met her but we were talking about meeting up to do something this weekend. Jessie is away this weekend so I was without my travel buddy. At about 6pm she texted me and asked if I wanted to do a day tour for today. I decided, why not? So we booked it last minute! Twelve hours later I had to wake up (at 6am) and get to Dublin city. There we met our tour guide and bus for the day. Our tour was to Glendalough, Wickalow Mountains and Kilkenny. My parents and sister are coming in June and this was actually part of Ireland not on our tour we will be doing so I was extremely excited to see a part of Ireland I wouldn't have gotten to see if I didn't go on this tour! The girl I traveled with, Anna, was a very nice girl and we had a lot of common and to talk about since we both go to PSU.

The weather was also wonderful! Although it was a tad chilly it didn't rain at all! This past week it has rained every single day so it was a miracle we didn't get any rain :)

We first started at Glendalough. It was about a 40 minute drive from our pick-up stop in Dublin. It was beautiful!! It is a mountain/park site. There were beautiful waterfalls, lakes, and old ruins (see pictures below). It was wonderful seeing the scenery.

Anna and I

I wish I could post all of the pictures I took at Glendalough - there are over 50 though, so I choose just a few highlights.

I should mention that throughout our tour we saw these fields and fields of yellow flowers. I forget their name, but a picture is below. The picture doesn't do the scenery justice.

After Glendalough we drove through the Wickalow mountains. Then we reached our other main destination besides Glendalough, Kilkenny. Kilkenny is a medieval town with a gorgeous castle called Kilkenny Castle. I was extremely excited to see the castle because I had yet to see one. The castle was beautiful. 

After Kilkenny castle we boarded the bus and headed back to Dublin. After getting off the tour bus, Anna (the girl I traveled with), decided to go to a pub. We wanted to go to the oldest pub in Dublin (The Brazen Head), a pub our tour bus driver suggested we checked out. It was really old - built in the 1100's!

All in all, it was a wonderful day to tour the countryside and towns of Ireland! I am glad I went and now have another travel buddy, Anna, to travel with for the remainder of my trip!

Until next time,

Monday, April 23, 2012

Galway City Weekend


This past weekend Jessie, myself, and three other students from the program traveled to Galway City. Galway compared to Dublin City, is much smaller. It is more of an intimate atmosphere. But, there are still streets and streets of shops, pubs, and restaurants. On Friday, Jessie and I left our house right after school, around 3:30pm. We then took the Luas (the train very similar to our Septa train), to Heusten Station. Heusten Station is a train station right outside Dublin City. We then met the three other students we were traveling with at the station. Our train ride to Galway was only 2 and a half hours. It is really neat that someone can travel anywhere in Ireland in just a couple of hours. I think it takes only 5 hours to go from the top to bottom of Ireland by car. But, any part of Ireland can be accessed by train or bus pretty much. Also, because we were students we got a great rate on the train ride (it was a total of 20 euros round trip for us, compared to the 46 euros it would have regularily been).

After arriving in Galway, we made our way to our hostel. We stayed at Kinlay Hostel, right in the center of the city. We had booked a 6 person room for the 5 of us which meant we would possibly have a stranger staying with us as well. Our room was very basic. There were three sets of bunk beds, a sink, and a small bathroom that had a shower. The shower was really interesting because you had to hold a button for the shower to work, or the water would turn off after about 5 seconds. But, we made it work. After checking in, we went to dinner. We got to the hostel around 8:30pm so by the time we went to dinner it was about 10pm. Most of the restaurants and pubs stop serving food at this time so we were fortunate enough to find a sort of "hole in the way" restaurant to eat at in town. I ordered a panini, but learned that panini's in Ireland are just basically a deli roll that is toasted. But, it was still delicious. After dinner, we headed to a pub called, The King's Head. They had a live band, who was amazing. They played American music, but played everything from Queen to today's hits. We met a few of the locals, as well as visitors from England while at the pub.

On Saturday, we finally met our room mate. His name was Clement and he was from France. It was somewhat hard to understand some of his English, but it was still really interesting and fun comparing meanings of words in English and French. Saturday we spent the day in Galway City exploring the shops and some of the sights, such as the Galway Cathedral and beautiful coast lines. Saturday night we went out to dinner again and I had Guinness stew at a lovely restaurant. It was very yummy! Saturday night we spent at a pub, called Kelly's, with our new room mate Clement and had a very good time.

Our train on Sunday didn't leave until 3pm so we were able to do some sightseeing before heading out. We went to a town called Salthill. Salthill was about a 15 minute walk from Galway City. It was a beautiful coastal town, and we spent time just wondering around. After Salthill, it was time to catch our train home. I finally finished the last book in the Hunger Game series on the train. It was a great book. Everyone else slept on the train because they were very tired. Overall, it was a great weekend and I really enjoyed myself!

Here are some pictures from Galway:

Galway City


Galway Coast

The four lovely Americans and I from my program

Irish Words:
grand - fine (they say this ALL the time)
timetable - schedule
get a lift - get a ride 

This week should be a very full and busy week for me. After observing different classes all of last week, I will start to teach this week most likely. I am working with many teachers, and students from ages 13-16. So, I will have a very wide-range of experience teaching students in Ireland!

Until next time,

Thursday, April 19, 2012

First Week at St. Aidan's

Hello all!

This is most likely going to be a super long post. It's already 10pm here and I have to pack but there's so much I want to write about the education system in Ireland. Me, Jessie, and three other students in our program (who are from Indiana), are off to Galway for the weekend tomorrow afternoon. One great thing about Ireland being so small is that it is very easy to travel around the whole country. In just 2 and a half hours we will go from one coast to the other. Pretty cool! We're staying in a hostel. I'll update on that later.

Anyways, this blog is just going to recap my first week at St. Aidan's. So, I'm sorry for all the teacher terms and discussion about the education system in Ireland. This is a warning for those reading this - it is all about schooling in Ireland so if you are not a teacher you will most likely be bored :)!

I am teaching at St. Aidan's Community School. It is a Catholic public school that houses approximately 500 students from ages 13-17. It is a lower-economic school but has a very good reputation. Students wear a uniform everyday that consists of black or gray pants, a gray button up, and green sweater (or "jumper") with the school's crest on it. The school day goes from 8:50am to 3:30pm, with an hour break for lunch.

Monday was my first day at St. Aidan's. I arranged with my teacher to have her pick me up on her way to school. I meet her at a hotel which is takes just under 10 minutes to walk to. This is much better than the 25 minute walk I'd have if I had to get to school on my own! She also gives me a lift home as well which is nice.

As soon as I arrived to school, I was greeted by the principal and what they call a principal deputy, which I have learned is just another name for Vice Principal. St. Aidan's doesn't start until 9am which I found to be much later than I expected when compared to high schools in the United States that start around 7:30am. Also, from 8:50am - 9am, while students have their version of homeroom, teachers gather in the teacher lounge and have tea. In this past week of being here, I have had enough tea to satisfy me for the rest of my life. But, I don't mind that ha ha. I really think the United States should adopt this whole drinking tea thing. It really is a nice way to socialize with other teachers and begin your day. Although school starts at 8:50am, teachers do not have to arrive early. This was something that completely surprised me. Every school I've worked at, teachers are required to usually arrive 30 minutes early. But, this is not the case at St. Aidan's. Also, when the students leave for the day, so do the teachers.

After the short tea time, I observed throughout the day, different teachers in the maths department. Class periods are 40 minutes, which is similar to the U.S. Something I found interesting was that although there are bells, students are not giving any transition time in between classes. One ends, and the next one begins when students enter the class.

But, students are not in grades. They are in years. This is very important because third year students have to pass a Junior Certificate Exam to attend what they call the senior levels. Basically, students in Ireland start secondary school in 7th grade (which is considered 1st year), 2nd year (8th grade), and 3rd year (9th grade). After 3rd year, to get to the senior level, students must pass an exam (junior certification). After passing, students have an option to take a transition year, where students focus on one subject (i.e., language) for a year, before entering the senior level. This 4th year is not offered at St. Aidan's because most students skip it. So, the senior level consists of 5th year (10th grade) and 6th year (11th grade). This means most students graduate from secondary school at the age of 17 in Ireland.

Throughout the week, I observed all of the maths classes offered at the school. Students are placed in one of three options: foundations, ordinary, or higher level. Because St. Aidan's is a low-economic school, unfortunately, many students are in the foundation level. These classes I observed were extremely small, and made up of about 5 to 10 students. This was actually pretty cool because the teacher has time to individually help the students during class. Also, the lowest of these classes, students just work through different level work books. Although this seems tedious and doesn't give students much of an in-depth education, it seems to keep them on track and allows for students of different learning levels a chance to learn in one classroom (i.e., a differentiated learning technique (teacher term!)).

Something else that's interesting to note, is that at 11am students have a 10 minute snack break where they get to visit the canteen (lunch hall). They get a snack and a quick break. These 10 minutes are also utilized by the teachers. They get tea time. I told the teachers that in the U.S. this break is non-existent and no one really drinks tea. They were shocked!! They didn't understand how we didn't get breaks or socialize over tea. At 12:30pm all students have lunch. Since there are only 500 students in the school, St. Aidan's is able to accommodate all students at one lunch period. But, the unique thing about this is that most students go home for lunch. They all live locally and lunch is an hour long so they can afford to do so. The canteen is a new concept to the school, and offers lunch to students who don't leave for a small price. Another thing I've noticed is that the teachers bring amazing lunches to school. Anything from gourmet salads to pasta dishes are brought in. I definitely stood out with my PB & J on the first day.

In general, I've noticed that most of the teachers wear the same outfits a few days in a row or every other day. Not because of a money issue, but simply because this is normal to them. I feel almost out of place with my "new" outfits everyday lol. Something else I've noticed is that female teachers are called "Miss" and male teachers, "Sir" by students. Students do not use their names when calling them. Sometimes a student will address me, but then I am not sure if it's me that he or she is asking for.

Being from America, I have become quite the talk of the school. Students who I do not know in the hallway always say hello to me. It is very welcoming. In general, students think that I know all of the American celebrities. I don't think students grasp how big America is and how small Ireland is compared to our country. Also, I am shocked by how much America influences Europe, let alone Ireland. In one of the classes a poster of Obama is on the wall. Students are also constantly listening to American music, too. Just yesterday I heard one of my student's singing my favorite song, "Call me Maybe". This was something I was not expecting in Ireland.

Overall, I have had a good week at St. Aidan's. I can't wait to start teaching classes!!

Thanks for reading!


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Exploring Ireland - First Weekend

Hello all!

Lots to update. Spent my first weekend here and it was great. It was filled with memories and great pictures. Check out my Facebook for all the photos! I'll put a few on here, as you can see below.

Anyways, on Thursday Jessie and I traveled into Dublin City. It was great! It's about a 40 minute train ride from our home, but a very easy commute. There was so much history surrounding us in the city. Many breathtaking buildings such as Trinity College and the Bank of Ireland.

There were also many many shops but everything was somewhat expensive. The city itself was really cool. There were street performers everywhere. Something interesting I saw all around the streets were people dressed as statues. Such as in the photo below. They were frozen and then if you gave them any money at all they would move around and you could take your picture with them. There were also live bands playing up and down the streets.

Jessie and I had a really fun day just hanging out in the city. In the evening we visited a few of the local pubs in the city which were fun and upbeat. There were local bands at all of them.

On Friday Jessie and I explored the surrounding "mountains" as the town calls them, that surround our neighborhood. We didn't get to climb any of the mountains but we hope to do that soon! This was the view from part of our walk.
Friday night we went to a local bar in our town square. Ireland has their own "The Voice of Ireland". One of the singers from the show was actually at the bar! It was cool seeing a "local" celebrity.

On Saturday Jessie and I didn't do much during the day. I've been reading the Hunger Games (which was very good!) and I spent all afternoon finishing that. At night, Jessie and I went to a local nightclub. It was actually surprising how much American music they played. At most of the pubs, American music is actually the majority of the music played. But, it was fun to see how the Irish dance and what type of music they like.

Today, (Sunday) was a great day! Jessie and I went to a local fishing town called Howth. It was an hour ride on the Luas but well worth it! As you can see from the photos below, the views from various spots in the town were breathtaking!

Tomorrow I start my first day at St. Aidan's! I will write in detail about the school when I learn all about it tomorrow. I am very excited!!

Hope you enjoyed this!


Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Local Town - Day 2


Yesterday morning Jessie (the other student teacher living with Claire) arrived back from "holiday" with her parents. We talked a bit over Facebook but had never met before yesterday. She is really awesome! We're going to get along just fine. After we talked a bit, we went into town, to the town square. I had to get a cell phone and a few other items. Right next to the outside square there is Tallaght Square which is a mall. With only a 10 minute walking distance or so, you can be sure I was happy!

Around the square in general, there are a lot of beautiful modern buildings but most are completely empty! They had a huge economy boom like 10 years ago so many people got loans and built buildings but then ran out of money to furnish or run them. 

Yesterday, I also met up with my teacher I will be working with at St. Aidan's Community School. She was very nice and even paid for my coffee! I can tell already that my work here will be completely different from back in the states. Although classes are 40 minutes (similar to my 42 minute classes with student teaching in the states), the maths teachers teach every type of math! For instance, they don't just have a class on Algebra 2, but instead Level 3, which would be like an all freshman general math class. My school also doesn't start until 8:50 am! My last placement in Pittsburgh started at 7:15am. I can't complain there! I am really excited to start at my school on Monday!

Last night me and Jessie went out to to local pubs. They were both in hotels. Since it was a Wednesday night they were pretty dead but we still had a good time. I tried my first Guinness. It was pretty good! Then Jessie and I found the best thing...a McDonald's. But, there menu was different than the U.S. They had some similarities but unique items as well. For instance, they had curley fries and mozzarella sticks! All the stores and restaurants close early here, so we were happy to learn that the McDonald's is open until midnight.

Today we're going into Dublin (city centre they call it). It's about a 35-40 minute ride on the luas. Excited to explore!

Words in Irish:

Maths class - math class
Food hall - grocery store
Sweater - jumper
Craic - have a good time


Claire's house.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Arriving in Dublin - Day 1

Greetings from Dublin!

It is currently 7:30pm here and my first day in Dublin is winding down. I'm really glad I arrived in the morning today; I got to spend all day settling in and exploring the near by town. I also don't think the jet lag will be too much of an issue because I had a full day to get my body used to Ireland.

My flight got in around 8:20am (European time). The flight went fast - I was able to sleep for a few of the hours on the plane. Getting through customs was a breeze! But, once getting through customs I was on my own to navigate my way to my host mom's house (she lives about 25 minutes from the Dublin Airport). I took a taxi, which was very easy to do! The  taxi driver was also very cheerful and welcoming. It is common to get a receipt when taking a taxi, something I thought was very interesting. But, it's not common to tip the driver.

Claire, my host mom, met me at her house. She works during the day as a receptionist at the town's dentist office. She is a widow and has to grown children. She has 3 grandchildren total, one was just born a week ago. I'm hoping I get to meet the baby soon. Claire was also very welcoming! As soon as I walked in she started showing me where everything was and offered to make me tea.

My room is much bigger than expected. It has two twin beds and a fairly large wardrobe. I was able to fit everything perfectly! I'll attach a picture of that later on in a future blog post.

After settling in I decided to take a walk down to the center of square. They pronounce it, "Square Tallaght" instead of the Tallaght Square. It was a 5 minute walk. In town there is a hospital, a library, and a few shops and restaurants. I think there is more to the square but I only stayed a few minutes because it looked like it was going to rain - which it actually hailed! I did walk through one clothing store though and there was actually a small grocery store (sort of like a Wawa) in the back of the store which I thought was neat!

The weather seems to change constantly here. One minute it's sunny, the next minute it's raining. I'm glad I brought an umbrella!

After exploring the square I came home and had dinner with Claire. It was really delicious!
I am currently watching "Soaps" as Claire calls it, with her. I also just looked at this book Claire has of all the students she has housed over the years. She's been doing this since about 2003 and has had many students stay with her! The book is filled with pictures and letters from all the students. I can't wait to write in it when I am done.

Tomorrow Jessie, the other student teacher Claire is housing, returns from holiday she took with her family this past week. I am excited to get to know her and hang out! She is my age and goes to the University of Iowa. I guess we will have to put our rivalry aside :). I'm glad to have someone to travel around with!

Below are three pictures I thought I'd add:

Here I am at Philadelphia International Airport with my three bags of luggage! I was somehow able to cram 2 months of belongings in just 3 bags.

This view can be seen right when I walk out of Claire's neighborhood, towards the main road. I love that just out of town is the beautiful mountains that Ireland is famous for! You can see them from the busy streets!

This was my first dinner in Ireland! It was delicious. 

Here are some phrases that the Irish say:

Bin - trash can
Luas - a train/monorail that goes all throughout Dublin
Tallaght - pronounced Talla

I hope to post every couple of days, if not every day. Hope this doesn't bore you guys too much!