Friday, December 4, 2015

Dreams Do Come True

Last Saturday, I took the trip of my dreams and visited the Cliffs of Moher.  I traveled with the All Tours Ireland tour company to ten different locations including my final dream destination.  Before taking the tour bus, I had to take a city bus from Westport to Galway and then from there I began my adventure to the Cliffs of Moher on the Lally tour bus. Throughout the tour I was able to see many scenic views of the countryside, Atlantic Ocean, Castles and a few unusual animals.  During the tour I was also able to learn more about the culture and history of Ireland.  This was an amazing experience that has opened my eyes the beautiful features Ireland has to offer.   Below is a list of the locations I visited and some the pictures I had the opportunity to take along the way.

I traveled to the following locations:

  • Cliffs of Moher
  • Dunguaire Castle/ Kinvara
  • Corcomroe Abbey
  • Poulnabrone Dolmen
  • Ballyalban Fairy Fort
  • Leamaneh Castle
  • Kilfenora/ High Crosses
  • Doolin/ Lisdoonvarna
  • Black Head
  • Fanore
  • Ballyvaughan

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Breath Taking Views

As a Black Friday celebration, I took a day tour to Connemara to do a little site seeing!  Thanks to our tour guide and host, Joe I was able to see some breath taking views that one could only dream about. Our tour began at Croagh Patrick Mountain in Westport, Ireland. This is one of the most famous mountains to climb in West Ireland.  People that seek adventure and want to see incridable scenery would love climbing Croagh Patrick under the right conditions of weather.  The climb usually takes people about four hours.  Therefore, it would normally take two hours to climb to the top and two hours to climb down. Below are some pictures from the bottom of Croagh Patrick Mountain.

Along our tour we visited the beautiful Kylemore Abby Castle and viewed the Atlantic Ocean from several different points of interest.  I was even able to visit the location of the famous American Movie "Leap Year."  During our tour we were able to stop at different places along the countryside and take pictures of the landscape.  Our tour guide also showed other student teachers and I some unusual churches that had eccentric architecture. Throughout the tour, our host described the history behind the different points of interest and the scenery.  The exposure to the culture, history and points of interest in the Connemara area as well as the surrounding cities was a meaningful experience that I will always treasure. Below are pictures are some of the beautiful views I had the opportunity to see.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What Are You Thankful For?

During the fourth Thursday in November we celebrate Thanksgiving in America.  This is the time we spend with the people closest to us such as our friends and family.  We also spend this time eating a nice meal together and engaging in different family traditions.  Even though we were unable to be with our friends and families for Thanksgiving, the faculty at the Galescoil school made us feel right at home.  They had a wonderful Thanksgiving meal to celebrate our holiday just as we would at home. Many of the faculty and students wished us a Happy Thanksgiving throughout the day.  They even honored us by flying two American flags outside the school along side the flag of Ireland.

The other student teachers and I took this opportunity to teach about Thanksgiving.  Together we taught the history and traditions within the lessons we created.  The principal allowed us to travel around to each grade to teach about the American holiday utilizing different visual aids, examples and explanations.  We made a couple different powerpoint presentations appropriate for each grade level.  For example, the students in the lower grade levels were provided with a presentation that only contained pictures and the upper grade levels were exposed to pictures as well as a significant amount of text.  The fourth, fifth and sixth grade students had more background knowledge of the Thanksgiving holiday.  In return the students had many questions that were unanswered regarding the holiday and American traditions.  The students were very appreciative of the time we spent teaching them about the holiday and the projects we taught them to make as apart of our lessons.

The pictures above show the wonderful Thanksgiving art projects the students completed last week following our lessons.  The fourth class created the turkey hands shown above and the second class created mosaic corn.  Turkey is iconic to Thanksgiving and the corn is used to decorate during the fall holidays.  I assisted the other student teachers to help the students create their very own turkey hand.  The fourth class students had a desire to show their gratitude for the time we spent with them by painting the American flag behind their turkey hands.

 I also created two small art projects that allowed students to show their creativity.  The day before Thanksgiving I gave the second class students a small Thanksgiving booklet that described the events leading up to the holiday.  I used the small booklet as a reference as I described the history of the Thanksgiving holiday.  After the lesson, the students had the opportunity to color the booklet.  My cooperating teacher created a bulletin board so that I could display the booklets in the hallway.

On Thanksgiving Day I described the things people would use to decorate with for the holiday.  I explained that dried corn is used as outdoor decorations and Fall center pieces for a table.  The students created a corn mosaic by coloring the stalk of the corn and then tearing pieces of construction paper to glue on the corn. This project was also displayed on the bulletin board, along with their Thanksgiving booklets.

This was an amazing opportunity to share the American culture just as the students have shared their Irish culture with me while attending the Galescoil school.  The students have expressed how much fun they had creating these Thanksgiving projects and learning about the American holiday.  I have never felt so welcome and thankful for the generosity they expressed while celebrating Thanksgiving.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Projects, Performances, and Parent Teacher Conferences

This week the students worked on creating haiku's and weaving for their art projects.  My cooperating teacher required the students to write their own haiku's based on an assigned season.  Each group of students were given Summer, Autumn, Spring, and Winter to write about.  Many of the students chose winter because the Christmas holiday is fast approaching.  I had the opportunity to assist the students in creating their haiku's by using school tablets and computers.  However, the process was very difficult due to the internet connection and the capacity of the google drive utilized by the school.  I displayed these projects on bulletin boards for the parent teacher conferences.  Below are pictures of the students projects.

 The parent teacher conferences at the school are conducted the same way as in America.  The students are released about twenty minutes early from school for two days in order to complete the parent teacher conferences.  The teachers stay until six each night for both days and discuss with the parents their student's scores as well as progress in class.  The only difference found in the parents teacher conferences are the languages spoken. The students learn the Irish language in school, but only five percent of the parents speak the Irish language.  Therefore, the teachers communicate in English to the parents.  These experiences and language barriers have been wonderful and will help me to empathize more with students as well as parents that have language barriers.

During this past week the students have also been practicing for their Christmas Concert.  I found it unusual that the students were pulled out of class at various times throughout the day to practice the music the music they would be singing and playing.  In America the music teacher would spend their related arts time practicing or schedule after school practices to avoid the loss of instructional time.  I was able to sit in on their practices and noticed that students were singing traditional Christmas songs in the Irish language as well as in the English language.  All the students are doing a wonderful job with playing different types of musical instruments and singing.  Below are some pictures of the students practicing traditional Christmas songs for their Christmas Concert in December.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Galway All The Way

This weekend I took a bus trip to Galway, Ireland for a day filled of shopping, sightseeing and exploring.  The towns that I passed through to get to my destination were beautiful!  Many of the towns had old stone work and luscious green fields.

Once in the city of Galway, I explored the different shops and culture of the Eyre Square.  Eyre Square is the heart of Galway where people enjoy shopping, street music, and special events such as the Christmas Market.  Galway has amazing shopping and a variety of stores that offer quality items for low prices.  If you are also looking for items that are handmade in Ireland, it is the place to look. I found some wonderful handmade wool items that were made in different counties within Ireland. The pictures I took and items I bought will allow me to keep those memories of visiting this beautiful city.

You can also see a variety of street music such as singers and people playing traditional Irish music.  I had the opportunity to listen to a groups of singers called The A Capella Knights that were singing Christmas carols on the street.  I also saw many people playing traditional Irish instruments and music.  My first and last stop on my adventure through Galway was the traditional Christmas Market.  The Christmas Market had vendors that sold food, candy, handmade crafts, and jewelry.  The atmosphere of the market and city was unique.  It is a place worth visiting and spending a couple of days exploring.

In the first two pictures below you will see the Eyre Square and the shopping center of Galway.  The last two pictures are of the small Christmas Market that is set up several weeks before Christmas.  Keep following to see more of my adventures and the things I will be exploring in the next week!

Compare and Contrast

Recently I have had the opportunity to locate a new path or route to school.  While walking the path I encountered beautiful landscape of rolling green hills, mountains, fields of sheep, and the old Westport House.  The walk to school generally takes about twenty minutes, depending on the weather.  As you know from my previous posts the weather in Ireland very unpredictable.  It is usually wet, rainy, and very windy.  The weather also changes dramatically from one minute to the next.  For example, during school it hailed for three minutes and twenty minutes later the sun appeared.

These are pictures of Clew Bay in Westport that I pass each day on our walk to and from school. This Bay runs up to the famous Westport House that is popular attraction in this quaint little town.

These are also more views from my walk to and from school as well as the scenery just outside the Gaelscoil school.

During this week of school I worked with students on their spelling, grammar,and comprehension skills.  I had the opportunity of facilitating the instruction while the cooperating teacher worked with other small mixed ability groups. Students are also provided with exposure to English by allowing them to read at different times throughout the day.  They read various types of chapter books and at the end of the day they listen to my cooperating teacher read Charlotte's Web. I have had the privilege of reading Charlotte's Web and the students show a tremendous amount of gratitude for taking the time to read to them.

Along with teaching, I have been comparing and contrasting the function of the Gaelscoil School versus the American school system.  There are many differences found within the structure of classroom management, the layout of the school and the content taught. There are also some similarities found in the exposure to literature and the way students converse.  Comparing and contrasting the school systems could be explained in many ways, but the following are the most common.

Classroom Management:
The students are disciplined mostly on an individual bases and not as a whole class.  This practice is even used when there are several students that show inadequate classroom behavior.  However, the students are very well mannered and show an extensive amount of respect to their teachers.  When taking this in consideration, the students rarely act out and cause disruptive behavior.  The teachers in the Galescoil school do not show any of the basic  classroom management strategies  found in the American school system such as clip up clip down, behavior sheets, sticker charts and ClassDojo. The students understand the expectations they are held accountable for and understand the consequences that will be established.

School Uniforms:  
The Gaelscoil school and other schools in Westport, Ireland have established a set uniform.  The students wear uniforms regardless if they are in a public or private school.  The Gaelsocil school must wear the traditional red sweater with the schools logo on it and wear some type of blue pants.  The students are allowed to wear other types of pants at different times throughout the week and they can wear any type of shoe.  This is similar to what you would find in most private American schools and some public schools.  However, the private schools in America can be alittle more strict on their dress code than what we have encountered in the Gaelscoil school.

Teacher Uniforms:
The teachers in the Gaelscoil are very relaxed in their form of dress.  Teachers are currently do not have a dress code; therefore, the teachers wear jeans or sports attire.  Sometimes the teachers will wear professional dress attire, but most often they will attend work in casual clothing.  This is very different to American schools where teachers are required to wear professional dress throughout the week and only wear casual wear at different times throughout the week as well as year.

School Restrooms:
Every classroom within the school has a boys and girls restroom.  They also have a sink and cups for students to have water throughout the day.  They have other restrooms located throughout the school for students, faculty, and visitors to use when in the hall.  The convenience of having restroom in the classrooms causes fewer distractions and disruptions.  The use of classroom restrooms decrease the loss of instructional time when we take the students as a class to the hall as we do in the American schools.

Classroom Content:
The Gaelscoil school currently teaches core math and reading just as you would see in your traditional American schools.  However, they share a difference in their English lessons such as the materials they use and the content they teach. Most all of their lessons are taught in the Irish language and the students continue to have Irish lessons just as we would have English lessons in American schools.

Scholastic Book Fair:
The Scholastic Book Fair is a universal book fair found in America as well as European countries.  My cooperating teacher is in charge of the book fair and keeping it open for all students to have equal opportunity to purchase items.  Many of the parents come in with their students to purchase items from the book store before and after school.  Throughout the day students purchase things at their lunch and recess breaks.  This isn't a typical way for a book fair to be scheduled in American schools, but there are some similarities.

These similarities and differences create the culture of both the Irish as well as the American Culture. We are looking forward to bringing a little touch of the American culture to the students by teaching them about Thanksgiving next week. Stay tuned to learn more about my experiences in and outside of school!

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Adventures of Ireland

On Friday I was able to work closely with the second class teacher at the Gaelscoil school. Throughout the day I was able to work with students on their comprehension and grammar skills. The students seemed to struggle most with their comprehension skills in English when reading a text. Along with working on the students' English skills I was able to give the class their spelling test in English. I find it fascinating that the teachers at the school give the students a English and Irish spelling tests on Friday of every week.  They receive new spelling words every Monday and work on them throughout the week.  My time at the school will be spent planning English lessons to assist the students with meeting the expectations for their phonics, comprehension and grammar skills.      

I will also be helping the students work on art projects, science projects and provide tradition American Christmas songs. At the end of the day I worked with different groups of students to create handmade bumble bees with small round plastic cartons, black/yellow yarn, paper wings, piper cleaners and a paper face.  The bumble bees were put on a skewer and set in a vase to make them look like they were flying.  

Along with conducting these projects and lessons, I was able to learn new English words for different objects.  For example, as American we call the top of a pencil an eraser and the students would call it a rubber.  This is also occurs when describing the back of the car as the trunk and the Irish individuals call it the boot.  It was interesting to learn new words for different objects and new words found in the Irish language.  

The picture above shows the view from the window of my cooperating teacher's classroom.  As you can see the scenery is very different to what you would see outside an American classroom.  The school we are assigned to also lack a cafeteria and playground equipment.  Everyone in the school brings their lunch from home and eats it in the classroom or break-room.  The students also would play outside on the pavement as shown in the picture above.  There are so many differences found within the schools, but so many similarities just as well.

After a great day at school, I was able to spend some time in downtown Westport.  I stopped into a local restaurant and ordered some delicious fish and chips.  The authentic atmosphere, people, and food are prevalent in the small Irish community of Ireland. 

On Saturday I spent the day exploring the town and its beautiful scenery.  Above is an iconic bridge located in the middle of town.  

I wanted to show WKU pride by sporting our red towels that read International Student Teaching. Throughout the day we toured different scenic routes and visited local shops. The town is very different compared to American cities which have many fast food restaurants, shopping malls, and main roads.  Wesport has small shops, local markets and narrow roads.  They are not equipped with shopping malls, big department stores, nice roads and interstates.  Traveling is very hard or a struggle in some areas; therefore, the main means of transportation is a bus, train or plane.  Cars are also used, but sometimes people chose to use public transit.  Overall the local cuisine, scenery, and shopping were a wonderful to experience.  If you ever have the opportunity to visit Ireland, travel to Westport for a town full of Irish culture and beautiful scenery.