Doing What I Want to do in a Different Country

My Worry: Studying abroad would not be relevant to me as an Education major because it would be too difficult to work in a classroom and get hands-on experiences.

The very first class that I had when I got here, and the one that starts my week at 9:30 on Monday morning is EHS 300 – Community Advocacy and Inquiry in Dublin with Darren Kelly. I should first mention how Darren is one of the coolest guys I know, and puts on quite an awesome class for our class of five (two Early Childhood/Elementary Education majors, two Psychology majors, and one Environmental Policy major). Every Monday we set off into our discussions and tangents about the Dublin community, how communities are affected by inside and outside forces, and how the Irish and Dublin identities have meshed with the ideas of education and social connections. This class is also paired with a Wednesday placement in a school/community program to help us apply what we learn in class and observe how it actually happens in real life.

For my placement, every Wednesday I am at the Mater Dei National School, which in English translates to ‘Mother of God National School’.  The school is a “designated disadvantaged school” located in one of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in Dublin inner city.While I am there I work in Donna McMahon’s 1stClass from the start of the day to around noon. It’s the same thing as our 1stGrade, and what we call Preschool and Kindergarten, they call Junior Infants and Senior Infants. Not only is it one of the cuter things in this world to hear 20 six-year-olds calling me “Mr. Tubbs” in their Irish accents, but also I could not emphasize enough how valuable, and fun, this experience has been so far.

The education system here is very similar to the system in America, with only a few noticeable differences. First, the Irish language is one of the core subjects that every teacher is required to know and teach, even though Ireland is considered an English speaking country. Second, about 95% of the schools are Catholic schools. The classes aren’t taught by nuns or other religious figures, but all the students wear uniforms and say their prayers at the beginning and end of the day. Overall, it’s been a really easy transition into the teaching style, and I’ve even gotten to learn some Irish from my first graders.

Donna McMahon

One of the things that surprisingly overwhelmed me was how much Donna was able to put me right into the class. One of her first questions for me was “What do you want to do?” Terrified of messing up the Irish school system, my only reply was “Whatever I can and whatever you need.” Well, gosh if that wasn’t fulfilled and then a bajillion times more. While I have been able to get some great observations, I have also been involved with a whole range of things from putting up art projects up in the hall to teaching a whole lesson on my own. I’ve been able to work in team-teaching with students of various abilities in math and reading, work with students one-on-one and also try my skill at Irish First Class conflict resolution and behavior management. I have also been able to share how in America, taxis are cabs, rubbers are erasers, and cows are cows. The craziness.

I am so glad that I’m taking Darren’s class, and I am so excited about the experiences I have had in my First Class. All of this has given me a global perspective as far as being a student, and also for being a well-rounded educator. I have gained skills in teaching in Irish schools, and more importantly the skills to efficiently transition between different school cultures, as well as appreciate the differences in styles and values that each school has in store for me and how I can fit myself into those new cultures.

Unfortunately, they have a week off next week, but I’ll have a free Wednesday! Enough time to prepare for the craziness that is the mental high experienced by students returning from break. Next time I write for you guys I’ll have come back from another day in First Class, so until then, enjoy yourselves!

Josh Tubbs

Early Childhood/Elementary Education, 2014

Resident Assistant and Student Blogger at Champlain College Dublin

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