Not the End, But Rather a Beginning

My life has been changed; I have a whole new perspective and outlook on the things in life that truly matter. The past two weeks in Ireland were the greatest weeks of my life, and I will certainly carry this adventure with me for the rest of my life. I truly feel as if I have a second family now, and I have made friendships that will last a lifetime. Not only did I learn about the Irish school systems and way of life, I also learned about myself. My passion for teaching has only greatly increased; I know this is where I belong.
As an aspiring social studies teacher, I can incorporate this experience in seemingly all of my future lesson plans. While working with and observing the Irish teachers, I have learned new and exciting ways to teach. I have learned how to make the kids feel like they matter, and have a voice in what they are learning and doing inside of the classroom. I have also learned the true importance of parent-teacher involvement. I hope that one day I can be as good of a teacher as the ones I have had the privilege of working with while in Ireland.
There were a number of differences I was also able to observe while working in the schools. Every classroom had a SmartBoard, and the majority also had iPads for the students to use. The teachers have far more autonomy than teachers in the US. Students were challenged to learn, and were given far more responsibility. Lunches were eaten in the classroom, and foods filled with sugar were prohibited; fruit and vegetables were strongly encouraged. Compost bins and recycling was another huge part of the schools’ Green initiative. Teachers modeled respect, and the students were so well behaved. School days were shorter. Anti bullying and a healthy self image was also an important part of the school.
Again, this experience has changed my life. I am a new person with an entire new outlook on life. I would like to thank everyone involved in making this the trip of a lifetime! I would like to thank Dr. O, Dr. B, Patrick, and Aisling for all of their hard work and preparation! This couldn’t have been made possible without you all!! I would also like to thank all of the past Irish Graduate students for letting us come into your schools and classrooms, and for making us feel so at home. I will never forget the hospitality and kindness of the Irish people. Thank you, Courtney for treating me like your little sister during our time in the classrooms. I have learned so much from you, and I appreciate everything you have done for me!
I hope that everyone can experience something like this in their lifetime. I also look forward to presenting our adventure to the FSU faculty and students! I miss Ireland, and our group so much already, but this isn’t the end, just the beginning of a lifelong connection with a great country and great people!

One Last Horrah…

Yesterday was the last day of our Ireland adventure. We spent the morning and early afternoon in the quaint town of Adare. Cottages, small shops, and pubs lined the streets. At one point, I felt like I was walking back through time. The park truly captured Emerald Isle beauty. While driving to the town, we past a beautiful golf course. Tiger Woods has even played here during the Irish Open. Several of the girls and I ate at Aunty Lena’s for lunch. I ordered a traditional platter of Bangers and Mash. Delicious! This town was a great ending to the perfect trip.
After arriving back to our dorms, we headed to Penney’s in Limerick. The walk there felt great, especially after eating so much food over the past two weeks.
Our last night was spent at the Unicorn Pub with the past Irish Graduate students who we happened to work with. Everyone had a great time. I think we can all agree that it was so nice to eat dinner with everyone who made this trip so special. We will keep connections forever. Thank you Dr. O and Dr. B for the dinner!
The past two weeks have flown by and I can’t believe our journey has come to an end. This was such a life changing experience that I will take with me throughout my life. I am a changed person because of this. I have made friends that will last a lifetime. The most important aspect of this trip is that our time spent in Irish schools has only confirmed to me that I am, and always have been, meant to be a teacher. This is not the end of an educational experience, this is only the beginning of a lifelong journey in the Education profession. I would just like to thank Dr. O, Dr. B, and the Irish Graduate students for all of the planning, hard work, and dedication that was put forward to make this trip a reality. Again, I am so thankful that I was able to be a part of something so amazing. Words cannot describe our Irish experience.

Accents

The realization that our trip is coming to an end is finally beginning to set in. Today we visited our last school. I think we were all in awe of the entire welcoming performance given to us. The past Frostburg Graduate student created a welcoming PowerPoint, and had the children sing and dance for us. This was so wonderful! Everything was so nice. The entire student population sang for us, and sixth class students performed a traditional Irish dance. Several students also played various instruments, including the fiddle, the accordion, and the Irish flute. The PowerPoint explained to the students where our group is from, and also explained Galway and the surrounding areas to us. What a way to be welcomed into a school! I believe we all felt like celebrities for a moment.
After the performance, we split off into our groups. My classroom consisted of fourth, fifth, and sixth classes. Courtney and I answered many questions about ourselves, and of our country. I noticed that the teachers were also very engaged with us and the students during our time in their classroom. However, the students began making fun of our accents, especially when saying the word “car.” I believe this is Patrick’s fault!
This school is the most rural out of all that we have been to so far. But, every school has worn uniforms. I must say, I wouldn’t mind having schools in America begin enforcing a uniform policy.
On the bus, Dr. O and I were talking about how wonderful the schools and the teachers have been throughout our entire experience in Ireland. I feel that the teachers make the students feel like they truly matter, which they do! And the teachers put the students first and let them have a voice in their learning. I love this about Irish schools. This is prevalent in schools at home as well, but I believe this is felt so strongly when walking into the Irish schools.
After leaving the school, we headed to Patrick’s house for lunch. Again, I’m am so thankful for the wonderful hospitality! We were served Irish stew, bread, pasta, cole slaw, hot tea, and a huge desert! Everything was delicious! I felt so at home.
Next stop, downtown Galway. For the rest of the afternoon, we shopped and looked around the many stores. As hard as it is to narrow down, I think Galway may be my favorite city so far. We ate dinner at a very nice restaurant; the Salmon was delicious!
Upon our return to Courtbrack , I had the banana. Everyday, a new person had to share an activity with the group. This idea came from Dr. B! I shared the video/poem “What Teachers Make” by Taylor Mali. I love this video, and I feel that it really captures the passion of a true teacher. Once the video was finished, our group sat in the lounge and discussed our trip thus far. I could go on for days about how this trip has changed my life. I have learned so much, not only about teaching, but about myself. This was the greatest experience of life, and this wouldn’t have happened without Dr. O or Dr. B. I am so blessed and thankful to have been given this opportunity. I’ve created memories and friendships that will last a lifetime!

A Day in Cork

We’ve been in Cork City for the past two days, although this is our first day exploring the town. Our first stop was the Cork City Gaol. Apparently this place is haunted, but I didn’t see any ghosts. The place was really interesting though. This was the jail of Cork, and the building was in use for 99 years. Several years after the jail closed, a radio company broadcasted from the building for approximately 20 years. What a place to host a radio show. The tour consisted of life stories of past inmates, and how life was spent locked inside of the prison. During the Famine, many people would commit petty crimes just to be sent here, where life could be better than living on the streets. Men, women, and children could be imprisoned.
Next stop, the Butter Museum. I had no idea that butter had such an impact on the Irish economy. And I also didn’t know that butter would be stored in bogs during the early days of butter making. The rest of the afternoon was spent shopping in downtown Cork. What girl doesn’t like to shop? I wish we had a place like this near home. After finishing up spending more money, we boarded the bus and headed back to Limerick. I tried Supermac chips for the first time tonight, and I must say they were pretty good. Tomorrow we’ll be in our final school. More to be posted then :).

Another Great Day

Yesterday morning and afternoon was spent in the quaint town of Dunmanway. We were working in St. Mary’s Senior School. We arrived to more tea and biscuits, not that I’m complaining! After speaking with the past Frostburg graduate, we split up into different classrooms. The school is considered to be a primary school, however there was an eighth class, unlike the previous schools we have visited. This was for special needs children. Susie and I spent the day with the eighth class students.
When I first heard there was a classroom where we would be able to work with special needs students, I immediately wanted to go. I’ve never been in this type of classroom before, therefore I wanted the experience. The conditions of the students ranged from Autism, to Downs Syndrome, to ADHD. The children stay in this classroom from the time they start school, until age 15 or 16. The teachers here were very kind and patient. These individuals worked with the students so well. I was able to read to, and work with several of the students. This was an eye-opening experience.
I was shocked when the teacher told us that a speech pathologist only comes to the school maybe four times a year, at most. In the US, trained individuals come to schools nearly once a week! Luckily, when additions were being added to the school building, the special needs classroom was designed to accommodate many of the students needs. Each student had his or her own iPad to use during learning activities. Each iPad is set up to suit a specific individual’s needs. Sensory experiences were also a major part of student learning. After the students had a quick break, music was played in the classroom allowing the students to dance and have some fun. Boy did they enjoy themselves! I found it so nice to see these students having so much fun. When the dancing finished, I was able to read them a book.
A planetarium was also set up in the school today, and the kids absolutely loved it. I believe the older students enjoyed the experience as well :).
Once leaving the school, we went to lunch at a local restaurant. This was so nice, and our meal was even paid for! We have been spoiled while in Ireland.
For dinner, we were kindly invited to another Irish Graduate students’ house. We were served delicious soup, bread, lamb with a mint sauce, fresh carrots and peas, and potatoes! The meal was to die for. After dinner, the deserts came. I could hardly move after finishing the meal. Everything was absolutely delicious and the hospitality was great! :) While eating, we were fortunate enough to listen to classical music being played on a grand piano. This was just great. I wish I was even slightly musically inclined. Following dinner, the group of us gathered around the piano in the living room, and sang traditional Irish songs. I could’ve done this all night.
Over the time we’ve been in Ireland, I feel like we’ve all become one big family. This has been a wonderful experience so far, and we still have some days left!

More Tea and Dessert, Please?

Today was spent in two different schools. On our way to the first school, we had a mini tour of Cork City. I’ve really enjoyed visiting all the major areas of Ireland, and comparing and contrasting them. I’ve noticed accents are different and unique to each area. Cork is beautiful, too.
I worked with fourth class in the first primary school. Again, the kids are so well behaved. I was working with Susie, and she read a book about bullying to the class. We then had the kids crumble paper, and try to flatten it out again. Once a person says something mean, those words can never be taken back, and the surface can never be perfect again. This was a great analogy to bullying, and luckily, the students had just finished a lesson on the subject days prior to our arrival. The class also performed a bully song they had been working on; they did great! After the lesson, we worked on spelling and mathematics with the kids. Before leaving, we had amazing orange chocolate brownies, tea, and another small cookie. I still can’t thank everyone enough for the wonderful hospitality.
I was placed in fifth class while at the second school. This classroom blew me away. The students could speak Irish, French, and English at age 11! I also really liked how the teacher let the students have a say in what they would be learning. They were granted autonomy, which is great. I also loved all of the student artwork placed around the room. To me, this makes a classroom. The students also put together a large project on Irish history, particularly the potato famine. They collected information and completed the project mostly by themselves. I was so impressed! The final project looked like a college project. I am still shocked at how much the students already know about America. I really enjoy answering their many questions about our country, and the various things we like to do or are interested in. After lunch, we were able to view a choral performance. The students performed so well :). Each and every time we go into a different school, I am more amazed.
After finishing up for the day, we headed to the Titanic Experience in Cobh. This was fascinating! I love every about the story of Titanic. This was also the exact location that Irish passengers would have boarded the ship before setting sail for America. The building where our tour took place was the exact building that passengers would have gotten their tickets and awaited their journey to the grand ship. We were each given a ticket with a name of an actual passenger to follow throughout the tour. I was following a 22 year old female, who was a third class passenger. She ended up surviving!
Tomorrow we will be in another school, and I look forward to posting more then.

Headed To New Places

Our first stop of the day was the Mitchelstown Caves. This was absolutely beautiful and reminded me a lot of Luray Caverns in Virginia. While standing in the caves, the group sang Amazing Grace and then a crazy version of Happy Birthday.
After departing the caves, our group was invited to a past Frostburg graduates’ house for lunch. We were served lasagne, and a salad, with warm garlic bread. For desert, we had hot tea, apple pie, and a chocolate and caramel tart-like desert. Everything was delicious! I think we can all agree that it was very nice to have a home cooked-meal, and some down time. I can’t thank them enough for opening up their home to our group, and making us feel so welcome! This was more than I ever expected. I must agree with Dr. O, the Irish are so welcoming!
After leaving there, we headed for the Blarney Castle. This was awesome as well. History comes to life when visiting places like this. Most of us even kissed the famous Blarney Stone.
Tomorrow we have a big day planned, and we will be in Cork! More will be posted soon.

Ireland

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