Sunday, May 27, 2012

St. Aidan's Graduation

Hello everyone!

As I write this, I can't stop thinking about how my parents and sister will be here in 6 days - where did the time go??

Anyways, this week was pretty hectic at school. It was the students last week at school, as their summer exams (finals) begin this upcoming week. Much learning didn't occur - students were very antsy for summer! Which, I can safely safe, was felt by the teachers as well!

On Monday, one of the younger teachers at St. Aidans, Aine (who is 24 years old) invited me to get ice-cream with her and her room mates. We went to Blessington, a beautiful village with a lake about 20 minutes from where I am staying. I was hoping to get there before I left so I was glad I got to go. I am so glad Aine has been so welcoming! She is always inviting me places - it is so nice!

Aine and I at Blessington Lake

Blessington Lake - beautiful!

The most memorable thing from this week was St. Aidan's Graduation.

This past Thursday, St. Aidan’s had its graduation night for 6th years (11th grade). There are about 100 students in 6th year, and approximately 70 or 80 of them graduated. The drop out rate at St. Aidan’s is very high; most students drop out sometime during 5th year (10th grade), some as low as 3rd year (9th grade). With that being said, graduating at St. Aidan’s is something that students, staff, and community members find to be a huge accomplishment. Graduating from secondary school, allows students to continue schooling at universities, go to technical school, and overall just obtain a better job, than those who drop out. Attending St. Aidan’s graduation was a very memorable evening for me; the atmosphere was full of pride!

Before attending the event, I was really excited to go. I was eager to see how a graduation commencement is handled in a school where the graduation class is small, let alone in another country. After attending, I could see that the graduation commencement is very different than how we handle the ceremony in the United States. Students at St. Aidan’s do not wear graduation gowns; they wear their usual school uniforms. Also, they sit in the audience with everyone else, just off to the side. There also isn’t a valedictorian, or even students who give speeches.

During the beginning of the ceremony, a student-singing group started off with an opening song. Then, there was a symbolic piece, in which 6 students carried different objects to the stage. For instance, a football to represent all of the hard work in sports, a jumper to symbolize that although students are graduating, they should never forget their memories and friends at St. Aidan’s. Other items included a book, French book, exam papers, candle, and class registration; each holding some meaning to the class.

After this introduction was completed, a prayer was done and then there was a reading from part of the Bible. I expected something like this, since all schools in Ireland are Catholic (even public ones like St. Aidan’s). After this, there was a candle ceremony. Then, the Principal and Vice Principal gave speeches. One of my favorite parts was when the 6th year’s tutor (advisor), read a poem she wrote for the class. It included every single of one the student’s names that graduated in it. It was amazing how she was able to include all students, showing that the class really was very close, and that they all knew each other by their first names.

The longest part of the ceremony was the prize-giving portion. What I found fascinating was that because it was such a small group of students, students could be recognized for their achievements. For instance, students received awards for “Most Improved,” or “Most Caring”. My favorite award was giving to a girl who was the first traveler to graduate following the traditional route of attending all 5 years of school. Travelers are a group of people in Ireland who move from town to town, not staying in one place long. With that said, most travelers don’t stay in school long enough to complete all classes and graduate. The traveler that graduated looked so proud – it was so inspiring!

After the graduation was over, and students received their medals (instead of diplomas), the community all celebrated together. There was food in the hall after the ceremony where all of the families came together and celebrated the students graduating. It was such a nice evening and I was really glad I got to attend!

The stage

The 6th year class(standing in black)

The 6th year's tutor (advisor) reading her poem

The 6th year students who presented the symbolic gifts

The celebration after the ceremony

I know I have said this time and time again, but I have continued to be impressed by the sense of community that is evident at St. Aidan's. All through the graduation, you could feel the strong sense of community. I love that teachers are also always getting together to do things outside of school. For instance, on Friday the women teachers all went out to lunch. It is so nice being a part of this community, and I hope I get this opportunity when I get my own teaching job in the U.S.

I will most likely be blogging my last entry this Friday, as it will be my last day at St. Aidan's and my parents and sister come the following day. When my parents and sister get here we are off on a week-long tour of Ireland! I am SO excited! I have missed them SO much - I can't believe I haven't seem them in nearly 7 weeks!!

Thanks for reading!

Until next time,

Sunday, May 20, 2012

St. Aidan's Sense of Community

Greetings everyone!!

I hope everyone is doing well. I cannot believe I have been here 6 weeks on Tuesday. Where did the time go?? Anyways, I thought I'd take this post to update on the strong sense of community I have since been impressed at, at St. Aidan's (the school where I teach).

As I blogged in an earlier post, three weeks ago this Wednesday, a teacher at St. Aidan's died suddenly. The event left the entire school in shock. The last couple of weeks have since been really hard on the teachers. But, with his passing, I have seen an amazing sense of community emerge from this terrible situation. Over the past couple of weeks, teachers have organized a few get togethers in order to help each other cope and with the healing process. I fortunately have been able to take part in these activities and they have been really memorable.

On Thursday, St. Aidan's had their annual Sport's Day. This was a day for students to just come to school and compete in field day activities. All of the teachers get really into it and help out. It was a lot of fun! Students especially loved the high jump event. I even got to take part in some events. I did the tug-o-war and the egg and spoon race. Even the teachers competed in some of the events. At the end of the day, students who won events even receive medals.

After Sport's Day, some of the teachers decided to organize a 5K walk through some of the gorgeous Dublin Mountains that can be seen from anywhere in our area. One of the teacher's young daughter was recently diagnosed with cancer. Everyone thought that we as a staff could complete a 5K to raise money for his daughter's treatment bills. Many thought this could also get the ball rolling for starting up regular social activities for the staff members. So, on Thursday, 20 or so of the teachers and myself took part in a 5K walk. The mountains were beautiful (see pictures below). It was a lot of fun getting to talk to the teachers outside of class, and getting to know them better.

Then, on Friday, the teachers got together for another social event. Approximately 20 of us or so, met in the city for dinner at a place called Chatham Brasserie. We all indulged in three-course meals. After dinner we went to a pub and continued our social event there. All the teachers really welcomed me into their social gathering. It was great! The teachers are just so friendly - one even walked me about 20 minutes to the nearest train stop when the night was over so I didn't have to walk alone. It was such a fun night!

This weekend, I took it pretty easy. Jessie (my roommate) left today (Sunday)! It was so sad seeing her go, but I'm glad we got to spend 6 weeks or so together. I am counting down the days now until my parents and sister come. I miss them SO much! I never really considered how long 8 weeks would be away from home. I miss everyone so much, but know I will be sad to leave beautiful Ireland in just 3 weeks.


Sport's Day:
High-jump (Students LOVED this event)

Our principal is nearly 60 years old and still loves being involved with this day!

Tug-o-War (Even the teachers take part in this :))

Our Deputy Principal (Vice Principal) (in blue) participating in a race

Potato Sack Race!

Wheelbarrow Races!

5k Walk:
Some of the teachers during the 5k walk

At the middle of the 5K walk we ended up at a beautiful reservoir

Night out with the teachers:

If you've noticed I've been blogging once a week - I just realized that leaves me with just two more posts until I am home!!

Thanks for reading!


Monday, May 14, 2012

Dublin Zoo, National Leprechaun Museum, and Dun Laoighaire

Greetings everyone!

First, a belated Happy Mother's Day to all of the mothers reading this. Every Mother's Day, my family, Nanny and Great Aunt travel to our golf club for a brunch. I was really bummed that I had to miss this day! I hope everyone had a lovely Mother's Day and spent sometime with their loved ones, if possible!

The weeks are flying by here - I can't believe I only have 4 weeks left! My parents and sister are coming to visit in just under 3 weeks...that leaves just two weekends left before they get here! It's crazy how fast time flies. With that said, I am missing my family and friends so much! I never really thought about how long 8 weeks is. This trip has really made me appreciate the ones I love, and realize how many wonderful people I have in my life. Thanks for everyone taking the time to read this! I really enjoy being able to keep in touch with everyone through this blog.

Up-date about St. Aidan's:

I only have three weeks left at St. Aidan's and I can't believe that! I still feel like there is so much I'd like to do to help, and leave my mark here. Currently, the tasks I am enjoying the most are working with small groups of students. My one group is made up of 6, fifth year students. They are 16 years old. I really have enjoyed working with them and revising their algebra skills with them daily. I have found it really interesting how they learn algebra versus how we teach it in America. Even a lot of the most common terms are different between the school systems. It's fun learning the differences in our vocabulary terms and teaching practices. It makes for a good time having to first understand what my students are talking about, to then be able to help them. Being here has really helped me to become a well-rounded educator and understand how vital it is for teachers to be flexible and relate to students as much as possible! For instance, when doing word problems with them, in America I would usually talk about football or baseball. But, here those sports are not the most popular. Hurling is one of the most popular sports. So, I had to understand what this game was, to be able to use it in word problems! I am hoping to make it to a hurling match before I leave!

There is also one student who is going to America this summer to play soccer. The program he is a part of requires him to take the SAT's. I just started working with him last week but I have really enjoyed this part of my experience. Being in Ireland, no one really knows what the SAT's are. I feel fortunate enough to have come at this time to tutor this student to get him on track for getting the score he needs to get to America!

On Friday of this week there aren't going to be any classes because St. Aidan's is having their annual Sport's Day. Sport's Day is basically like field day. There are activities and events for students to participate in. It is my hopes that I get to help out with the events or maybe even get to participate in some of them! I am very excited for Friday!

Now to update about my weekend.

This past weekend I stayed in Dublin, but took advantage of a beautiful weekend to see the local attractions. It seems that during the week it pours constantly but then the weekends are bright and sunny. I am completely okay with this ha ha!

On Friday, Claire (my host mom), Jessie, and I went to Claire's brother's pub. Jessie and I have been begging her to take us there because we really wanted to meet more of her family. Unfortuantely, her brother was not there on Friday, but we did get to meet two of her sisters. Claire is part of a huge family. She has 14 brothers and sisters, so it is nice I get to meet any of them.

On Saturday, Anna (another student teacher from PSU in the program) and I went to the Dublin Zoo. The Dublin Zoo is located in Phoenix Park, one of the largest parks enclosed recreational parks in Europe. The zoo was fun, except most of the animals were sleeping!

On Saturday, we also went to the National Leprechaun Museum. As silly as this sounds, it was actually an awesome museum. The museum was a tour-based experience. The tour guide lead us through the museum, telling us tales and folklores of fairies and leprechauns. Did you know that leprechauns didn't even wear green in traditional tales? They looked more like dwarfs, with red caps, and overalls. It wasn't until the 1950's when Walt Disney made the movie Darby O'Gill and the Little People, that leprechauns got portrayed this way! I thought that was really interesting. Anyways, the whole museum was set up as different rooms - there was a giant people's room, wishing well room, pot of gold room, etc. I would definitely recommend this museum if you're ever in Dublin!

On Sunday, I traveled to Dun Laoighaire to visit Anna's town. Dun Laoighaire is a coastal town with a yacht club and located on the Irish Sea. It was beautiful! Although it took nearly an hour to get there by bus, it was well worth it.

With that said, with every new place I travel to, I think about how I will never see those sites again. It really makes me appreciate my time in Ireland and to see as much as possible. With its green landscapes and historical towns and buildings, I know I will miss the gorgeous views when I leave.

Below are some pictures from this past weekend:

Claire's brother's pub - Smyths


Phoenix Park/Dublin Zoo:

Wellington Monument

Headquarters of the Irish Defense Forces

National Leprechaun Museum:

A very BIG chair - part of the giant's room (all the furniture was large so we would feel small)

Dun Laoighaire:

There was an outdoor gym! (This one's for you Bryan)

People were swimming!! No big was only in the high 40's. 

Me on a pile of huge rocks in the middle of the sea!

Thanks for reading!!

Until next week,

Friday, May 4, 2012

Celebrating Graduation - in London

Hello everyone!

Quite a bit to update now.

This past Sunday, I graduated from Penn State. I knew from the start that coming to Ireland would unfortunately have me miss my big day. I have always envisioned the day of walking across the stage, shaking the president's hand, and receiving my diploma. Although I was not able to be there for the ceremony, I was still there in spirit. When I was a junior in college, I never could have imagined what my four years of college would be like. Penn State has prepared me as a student, community member, PSU fanatic, and now a math teacher. Looking back over the last four years, it is hard not to tear up and think about how all of the wonderful memories I had, friendships made, and experiences completed are coming to an end. But, with so many PSU alumni all over the world and have been prepared so much by our college, I know I am ready for the real-world. So many events have taken place at PSU these past four years, of which I will never forget. I have seen first hand, how both bad and good events can bring even approximately 40,000 students together to celebrate or support one another in certain times. It is my hopes that I feel this love, support, or guidance, no matter where life takes me. I have grown so much over the past four years, and I owe PSU a big thanks for that.

 Although I was not able to walk in our graduation commencement this past weekend, I will be walking in the August commencement. I cannot wait to walk! I really missed being able to be there with my sister, family, and friends on my big day but I knew that I wouldn't be able to, with being in Ireland. Nevertheless, I graduated and am now a Penn State Alumni!!! I can't wait to start in the real-world now. All that is left is to get a teaching job! :)

Congratulations Penn State Class of 2012!!!!!!!!!!!! We did it!

Now to update about Ireland:

This past week I spent a lot of time teaching classes at St. Aidan's. Unfortunately on Wednesday a teacher at our school died suddenly before coming to school that morning. The teachers at St. Aidan's were extremely upset with this happening. Our school has about 50 teachers so it is a tight community. But, it was such an inspiring experience seeing the teachers, students, and faculty pulling together to get through the hard time. The teacher was in his 40s and was really loved by his students. As much as St. Aidan's wanted to run normally, we did get out of school early on Friday because of the funeral proceedings on Friday and Saturday. It was a very sad time to be at St. Aidan's this week but I am confident that the school will get through this.

This past week I taught a few classes - two for one of the teacher's (Liz) classes. I taught frequency tables as well as line plots. I also taught two lessons two another teacher's class (Emer). I taught mean and trend graphs. My main teacher who I am working with, Carol, had me teach a class for her as well. I taught slope. The teachers don't require any type of lesson plans so it's very strange just getting up in front of a class and teaching! It's great!

Also, this week I have started helping with lunch club. Since students have an hour off for lunch every day, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, students can go to the community school, get a free lunch and play games (pool, foose ball, play station etc.). I went on Thursday and it was a lot of fun. I ended up playing pool with a few of the students!

After a long, crazy week, it was time for some fun. Me, Jessie, and Liz (another girl in the program), decided to go to London to enjoy our three-day weekend and celebrate our graduation. I have off today (Monday) because of a bank-holiday, where all banks and most businesses are closed.

London was amazing! It has always been a dream of mine to go to London so I was extremely excited to visit. We flew into Luton, which although the tickets for the flight was extremely cheap for booking last minute and with a bank holiday (about 200 dollars round trip), the airport was about 45 minutes from where we were staying in a town just outside of London, called Paddington.

Once arriving at the airport, we took a shuttle bus to a train and then finally arrived at our hostel. Our hostel was called The Pride of Paddington and located above a local pub. It was actually quite an interesting experience. We had to check-in at the pub at the bar! But, the hostel was really nice. We had 3 other room mates stay in our room. One room mate was French and named Romain. We also had two German room mates. They were very friendly and it was nice getting to know about France and Germany from our fellow room mates. On Friday night we didn't do much. We had dinner at the pub, I have a beef and ale pie which was really delicious, and then we just hung out for a few hours and went to bed early because we had a full day ahead of us on Saturday.

On Saturday we woke up early, received our complementary breakfast at the pub and were on our way to travel. We bought a bus ticket for a "hop-on-hop-off bus" for the two days we would be in London. This would allow us to take one of the open-top busses and travel around London. This bus was awesome. They had earphones that you could plug into the seats and listen to the history as you were passing sights in London. On Saturday we took the bus to see: Big ben, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, and other parts of London. We also took an hour long river boat ride (which was free with our bus tickets). This allowed us to see SO many parts of London. It was great seeing everything in London in one day!

Sunday was a hectic day. We did a little bit of shopping in Soho and Chinatown and then headed to the airport. Unfortunately, on Friday we purchased train tickets to return on Sunday. But, the train lady who sold us them did not tell us that the trains did not run on Sunday due to the holiday. So, after a bus, two trains, a tube ride, and two very expensive cab rides we finally made it to the airport. It was quite a trip, filled with a lot of memories and great experiences. I would love to go back to London if possible!


Our hostel for the weekend (The Pride of Paddington)

Traditional Full English Breakfast

Big Ben

London Eye

The London Towers Bridge

Westminster Abbey- Where William and Kate got married

Telephone booth!

The girls!

Buckingham Palace

Classic Fish and Chips

London was beautiful!

Until then,