Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving in Ireland

Today is the fourth Thursday in November which means that it is Thanksgiving in America or as they call in Ireland, "Thursday."  One can imagine how hard it is to be away from your friends and family on day that is centered around family and tradition.  Despite us being away from home on such a special holiday, the faculty and staff at the Gaelscoil made us feel very loved and helped celebrate Thanksgiving with us.  The first thing we noticed when walked up on the school this morning was two American flags on the flag pole alongside the Irish flag.  I thought that was a very kind and thoughtful thing to do for us Americans' while at their school.

American Flags at the Gaelscoil on Thanksgiving
 Since Thanksgiving is  an American holiday we thought it would be a lovely idea to go around to each of the classes and teach about the holiday.  We taught the history and traditions that go along with the nationally celebrated holiday.  We made several different presentations that were developmentally appropriate for the different age groups.  For example, the junior and senior infants (equate to preschool and kindergarten) presentations only included relevant pictures and didn't go as much in depth with the historical background but more or less how the holiday is celebrated.

The fourth, fifth and sixth classes I absolutely loved teaching because I am such a history nerd and I could really unload some historical facts on them on the subject.  The students' really found it all to be really interesting.  The students' had so many questions about the holiday and the different traditions that went along with the holiday.  The students' enjoyed it so much that one asked, "Is that the last slide?  I really enjoyed it."  Our Thanksgiving feast is very similar to their Christmas Day meal, or that is what they kept telling me.

In addition to teaching about the holiday I was fortunate enough to do some Thanksgiving arts and crafts with the students'.  In the third class (third grade) I had them draw turkey hands and write what they were thankful for on each finger.  I really emphasized that Thanksgiving was more or less a time to show thanks for everything in your life and it is a time to show your gratitude towards things in your life.  I had a lot of students' write that they were thankful for family, friends, survival, being alive and chocolate (I'm thankful for that, too).  I even had one student write that he was thankful for me.  How sweet?

With the fourth class (fourth grade) we painted our palms and created turkeys out of those and they were able to decorate them however they liked.  The strong theme running through the turkeys in the fourth class was America! The majority of the students' either painted an American flag as the background or had a flag hanging out of the turkeys mouth.  They loved the activity and they all got super creative with it.  I even had one student place his turkey hand on a dinner plate and put corn and carrots around the turkey.  Their teacher was saying that this might have to be a tradition that they keep alive each year in the future. 

 I can not adequately explain how generous and thoughtful that the faculty and staff are in the Gaelscoil.  They are FABULOUS.  So fabulous that they provided us with a Thanksgiving meal at lunch time.  Granted, it wasn't your traditional turkey and mashed potatoes but it was the thought that really counted.  The meal that they provided included quiche, lasagna, potato salad, cole slaw, and pringles.  It seems pretty American to me :)  The spread was wonderful but not as wonderful as the company.  Despite not being home for Thanksgiving I don't feel as lonely because of the kindness of the people of Westport, Ireland. 
Lovely cake that the school had made for us

Our Thanksgiving spread in the teachers lounge

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

School Life at a Gaelic School

I absolutely love the Gaelscoil that I am at and I honestly don't want to leave.  I don't think I can stress enough how different school life is here compared to that in America.  Let me tell you ALL of the ways that school is different here compared to the other schools I have been at in the past in the States.

Lunch in the School
First of all there is no cafeteria, and all of the students' pack their lunch and eat it in the classroom.  Not only is that a foreign concept but the students' are left ALONE in the classroom for a full hour while the teachers gather, eat and talk in the teachers lounge.  During this time the students' will eat and build stuff with blocks, draw, play with tanagrams and read.  I love the amount of trust that the teachers' instill in the students' at the school.  The teachers' are not afraid of any misbehavior or poor conduct during that time. That brings me to another topic that is a difference at this school compared to schools in the states...
The students' built me this during lunch

Classroom Management and Overall Student Behavior
The students' are SO well behaved it is insane.  I mean their behavior has to be incredible if the teachers' leave them in the classroom unattended for a full hour.  I haven't witnessed any behavior issues where the teacher had to really get on to the class.  There isn't any behavior management techniques or strategies the teachers use like Clip Up and Clip Down Charts, ClassDojo, etc.  The students' know that they are held at high standards and they behave accordingly. 

School Uniforms
 ALL schools in Ireland implement school uniforms no matter if you attend a private or public school.  I love the idea of school uniforms because quite frankly it looks nice and everyone does look the same. The students' are able to add some flair to their uniform and a personal touch with the type of shoes that they wear.  Girls will typically wear boots and the boys will wear various styles of tennis shoes.   

Bathrooms in the Classroom 
Each classroom in the school has a girls and boys bathroom located in the classroom, and there are not any bathrooms located in the hallway.  I absolutely LOVE this idea because teachers know that students' will go to the bathroom just to leave the classroom and play around.  The bathrooms in the classroom keep that from happening, the students' get up without disturbing the class use the restroom, and return to their seats.  It keeps the class from missing critical instruction time by taking class bathroom breaks.

One thing that is the same between schools in America and schools in Ireland is that the Scholastic Book Fair is UNIVERSAL.  The students' still go mental for books, cheap erasers, posters and other gadgets of that sort.  I love the Book Fair.  

We have changed up our commute walk to school each morning and is so SCENIC and BEAUTIFUL.  We walk through the Westport Estate each morning and afternoon.  We walk A LOT. On average we walk about 6 miles a day and yesterday I nearly walked 7 miles.  All of those miles are thankfully hopefully cancelling out all of the scones I am eating :)

Clew Bay

On the Westport House Estate Property

Field of Sheep near my school

Westport House in the Background 


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Trains, Tea and Tesco

Yesterday we finally arrived in Westport, Ireland, after a 7 hour plane ride and a 3 hour train ride. 

The view from the train was very scenic , full of views of sheep, cattle and rolling green hills. Sounds a lot like Kentucky, huh? 
The first day of school started at 9 am which is extremely different from the 7:50 start time of most schools I've taught at in America. The school I'm teaching at is a school rich with Irish culture. All of the students and staff speak the Irish language, learn traditional Irish songs and all play instruments. The principal was adamant about the students being aware of their roots and culture. I really enjoyed that aspect of the school. 

The school has around 220 students and parents put their children on a wait list to attend that school around age 4-5 months. I was amazed at that information she told us. 

Another thing that differed from the American schools was that they take 2 separate breaks in the day. One break is 20 minutes starting at 11 am and tea and coffee is enjoyed by the staff in the lounge during this time. The second break is a hour long lunch from 12:45-1:45. I was amazed at the amount of breaks that the teachers and students took during the day. ALSO, every time I turned around I was being offered tea and coffee.

Another difference is that the students call the teachers by their first name. I would be múinteoir Gretchen to them which directly translates to teacher Gretchen. I think this is neat and a different take on the teacher student relationship. 

I cannot express how kind, friendly, warm and inviting that the staff has been to myself and my peers. It has been very easy to get acclimated to the new environment because of the welcoming people. I'm extremely grateful for this. 

The students asked us a lot of questions and the top questions were:
-Do you like KFC (typical, right?)
-Have you had Starbucks (duh)
-Have you ever seen a Lamborghini 
-Have you ever been to Las Vegas (random) 
-Do you have a lot of technology in America (too much) 

The weather also reminded me of Kentucky for the fact that it was 4 different seasons all in one day. I looked outside the lounge and stated that it turned out to be a nice day after it stopped raining; thirty minutes later it was raining sideways. Eventually it turned out to be a nice but blustery day on our 30 minute commute walk back home from school.  

On the commute we saw beautiful scenery and sights from the quaint town of Westport. 
The greenway we walk on to and from school. 
View of the town from atop the greenway on our walk from school. 

Myself and the river that runs through town. 
Craugh Patrick (mountain) in the background. I learned that a long time ago, Catholics would walk up the mountain as a religious pilgrimage barefoot as a penance. 
I plan on climbing Craugh Patrick this weekend BUT with shoes. 

The sign of the wonderful B&B we are staying at. 

If you know me, I LOVE going into different grocery stores that are new to me. Since I've been in Westport I have already went to THREE different supermarkets. Tesco, SuperValu and a small German grocery store that reminded me of the American store Aldi. I know grocery stores aren't very exciting but I loved every minute of it. 

I'm anxious to continue blogging and adding more pictures about my experience in the Gaelscoil school in Wesport, Ireland. 

Slán (goodbye in Gaelic) 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Wesport, Ireland here I come!


In 20 days I will he hopping on a plan to fly to Westport, Ireland to complete my student teaching.  I can barely contain my excitement!  This blog will be used to serve as a way to document my "life" over there for the month of my stay.  I plan to write about my observations of the educational system in Ireland, my experiences in the Gaelic Primary School I will be teaching at, and my overall experience of Ireland. Stay tuned!