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.    

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Mother Nature

Yesterday I experienced the true weather of Ireland!  According to the locals, Hurricane Abigail was expected to bring high winds and heavy rain which is nothing out of the ordinary for Westport.  The wind was brutal while walking the Greenway to school and by the end of the school day it began to get much worse with heavy rain.  Regardless of the the weather the school day was very interesting and engaging.


The pictures shown above are from the Greenway, a path that leads us directly to and from the Gaelscoil School.  As you can see there are many homes, rolling green hills and mountains that you will be able to view while on the thirty minute walk.  However, some of the wonderful teachers were very gracious and showed us a new path that is quicker as well as easier to walk.  The new path will only be a ten minute walk through an estate to the school.

On Thursday I had the opportunity to present the gifts I brought from the states to my cooperating teacher.  The students were fascinated with learning about my hometown and where I go to school.  I was able to tell them about the state of Kentucky and Tennessee.  I presented the students with WKU pencils, a red towel, a WKU penitent and the big red blob mascot.  I also presented the teacher with a pillow with the state of Kentucky embroidered on it and all the important features that represent Kentucky.  I brought the teacher a T-shirt and ornament from my hometown.  They were all very appreciative and loved looking at the gifts.

Another opportunity I had was working with the first class or first grade students.  I was able to listen to assist the students with their reading and speaking in English.  Some of the students would translate books in English into the Irish language and explained how to say different words in the Irish language.  I also was able to learn different Irish names and how to pronounce those names. The day was a wonderful cultural experience filled with learning a new language and exposing students to another culture.  Stay tuned for more adventures to come!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Tea and Coffee! Coffee and Tea!

It has been a wonderful two days filled with planes, trains, tea, and coffee! On Tuesday we arrived in Dublin after a six hours on the Aer Lingus airline and then a four hour train ride to our final destination, Westport, Ireland.  The first day we arrived was an information overload and a complete blur, but an amazing experience.  We were greeted by our hosts and taken to the Broadlands B&B where we are staying for the next month.  We also had a short tour of the town and experienced our first attempt at buying groceries at Tesco, a local supermarket in Westport.  It was a long day filled with excitement, jet lag, and anticipation for the next day.
We began our journey in Nashville, Tennessee and flew to Chicago, Illinois. There we flew by Aer Lingus airlines to Dublin, Ireland.  Once in Dublin we boarded a train to our final destination Westport, Ireland.  

On our final form of transportation we encountered beautiful scenery as we traveled by train to Westport, Ireland.  We saw many types of livestock such as sheep and cattle.  The landscape was also extraordinary with non-traditional houses, green rolling hills, and mountains.

Located above is a picture before we embark on our first day of school.  Our day began with a thirty minute walk to Galesocil a school that embraces all culture and the Irish language to the max. The school day begins at 9 am and ends at 2 in the afternoon.  This is a much shorter school day than you would experience in the states; however, the students in Westport don't finish the school year until the end of June.
When walking to and from school we use the Greenway.  The Greenway is a walking and biking trail for the people of Westport.  Most people use it to walk to school, exercise or walk their dogs.  We also walk through the middle of Westport to get to the Greenway.  The walk is full of beautiful scenery, steep hills, and non-traditional homes.


Gaelscoil shown above is a local school that contains about 200 hundred students and currently allows parents to put their child on the waiting list at four months old.  This extreme demand for an opportunity to attend the school is due to their prestige.  The school provides all instruction in the Irish language and embraces the Irish culture.  The principal also has a direct effect on the schools atmosphere.  The staff is focused on creating a personal student to teacher relationships.  The teachers are addressed as muinteoir Victoria or teacher Victoria.  This informal use of the teachers name allows the students to develop a more positive relationship with their teachers and focus on communication among all parties of the school which is very different to the American schools system.

Another difference I discovered was that the teachers are given two breaks during the school day.  The first break is a twenty minute break in the morning and a second break in afternoon for an hour. During the first break most teachers spend their time drinking tea and coffee.  The second break is for their lunch break.  Throughout both of these break times students are left alone in the classroom to play games and eat lunch.  Of course in the states students are monitored continuously throughout the day.

The first day was an amazing experience and I learned so many new things.  The principal spent the day giving us a tour of the school, explaining the school policies and describing her philosophy of teaching.  We were also introduced to the students and staff members.  Then following the introductions the remaining time was spent with our cooperating teachers. While working in the classroom the students taught me some of the basic greetings in the Irish language.  Overall, the school was a lovely place with friendly staff members and students.

After our first full day of school we took a walking tour to downtown Westport to explore the local shops and restaurants. 

As we began our way home from our walking tour of Westport, we noticed that we were not far from one of the local attractions, Craugh Patrick Mountain. The beautiful mountain is located just behind me.  Our goal is to take a weekend and try to hike the mountain as many of the locals do.  It was a long two days, but well worth the traveling, time and effort to begin this amazing adventure in Westport, Ireland. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Westport, Ireland Awaits!

Count Down: 1 Day

In 1 Day I will be boarding an international flight to Westport, Ireland to embrace the opportunity to student teach in another country.  I am beyond excited to embark on a new adventure!  The following blog will be used to document my experiences in Ireland.  I will write about the education system, my teaching experiences in the Gaelic Primary School, and the overall culture of Ireland.  I encourage everyone to keep watching as more news becomes available on iTravel Ireland!