Will be Counting Stars…

Tuesday

We visited Mairead’s school today in Dunmanway, which is an all girls school. I did not realize this until we were in the classroom. This was one of the smaller schools that we have attended. They split the grades up into groups; for example Addie and I were with second/third class. Two of other girls were with third/fourth class. This was very interesting to observe. Teachers would be required to plan differentiated instruction for all lessons. An indoor planetarium was set up in the gymnasium and each class had the opportunity to go in and learn about space. The children loved it and they were able to see where certain planets would be in view within the next couple of weeks and how to locate different constellations. Once we were back in the classroom, the students practiced their tin whistle and learned a new song from the music teacher. This was so neat to see and the children were so talented. Another teacher then came in and worked with the second class with their reading. The substitute teacher, that was there for the day, worked with the third class on their math. The second class students practiced reading aloud with a partner. While I was observing, I noticed that any word that they came across that they needed help reading or didn’t know what it meant, they would write it down. I think that this is an excellent strategy for the students to use and it shows that they are forming skills of a great reader. Addie and I read the book, The Sandwich Swap, which is about two friends that turn on each other and begin bullying. It is a great book to teach friendship and kindness to the students. The girls then had a chance to ask us questions about America and ourselves. I really enjoyed this because their questions were all so different and it gave us a chance to talk to them all. It was really neat to be in an all girls school. This was my first experience in this type of school and I really liked it.

After our school visit, Mairead took us to lunch at a very cute cafe, and it was styled after the tv show Friends coffee shop. She was so nice and it was really great to get a chance to sit and chat with everyone. We them had a two hour break to relax, but a few of us spent out time shopping. (If you know me well, this would not surprise you.) Aisling’s family invited us all to come to their lovely home for a three course dinner. It was absolutely wonderful. Her brother, played music for us on their piano though out dinner. Her entire family is very talented and I was so excited to be able to spend some time with them all. After dinner, we sat around and listened to Aisling, her mother, and her brother play instruments and we all sang traditional Irish music. This was so much fun and we even knew some of the songs from our journeys around Ireland, over past two weeks. To end such a great day Aisling took us all out to experience Cork’s night life. We all had a great time and it allowed us all to let loose and enjoy ourselves. I think that we all really needed it. I feel that I have become so close with all of these girls throughout this trip and I am really happy about that.

Wednesday

After only a few hours of rest, we were off to tour the town of Cork. Our first stop was Cork City Gaol, we were able to tour one of the prisons from many years ago. We learned about prisoners who were in the jail, their living conditions, what they were fed, as well as their punishments. They have wax figures throughout the jail that replicate some of the real prisoners. They were a little creepy to look at, but we learned about what they were put in for and how long they were there. Most the of the prisoners that were in this jail were for small crimes and they were people just like you and me. Time was very tough during this part of history and people had to do whatever they could to survive. If a prisoner tried to escape, they had to place all of their clothes outside their cell and sleep in the nude, in freezing cold temperatures. Can you imagine? I was cold while we were touring and I had multiple layers of clothing on.

The next stop was the butter museum, this was a huge industry for Ireland. Kelly Gold was there brand of butter that was distributed to many countries around the world. We have been able to try this butter while we have been here and it is very good. I really learned a lot about the process of how butter is made and more history of the country of Ireland. Our tour guide was so cute, he really had a love for his job and that made this experience even better. We then stopped for lunch at “The Buttercup Cafe.” Aisling was our tour guide for the day. She made sure that she pointed out many different locations and points of interest in Cork, including the English Market. This was an area where you could purchase fresh meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, and much more. The Queen of England stopped by there not that long ago. If she visited it, you know it has to be worth walking through. It was very nice to be able to spend the day with her in her element. We completed the day with more shopping, not that we have any room in our suitcases for what we have bought already. The style that the girls have here is just so neat and they have great stores to choose from. If only we had a Penny’s and an Oasis at home. We finally made our journey back to Courtbrack, who ever thought that we would be excited to come back. It almost felt like we were returning home, so I can’t imagine what it will be like once we all get to our own homes.

It has been a busy, amazing couple of days and I’m really sad that the end is coming near. I never would have thought that I would be taking as much from this trip as I am. I have learned so much, made great friendships, and have seen amazing cities. This trip has truly changed my view on life and education. I will never be able to thank Dr. O, Dr. B, and I can’t forget Steve for making this trip happen and making it as great as they have.

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Day Two in Cork

Sorry it has been a few days since the last time posted. We have been very busy touring the city of Cork and sight seeing with a few of our past GA’s. It was a fabulous few days and I can’t believe that it is almost time to go home.

We started off Monday with a visit to Sinead’s school. Addie, Courtney, and I had the opportunity to observe Sinead’s junior infants classroom. She has a total of thirty one children in her class, without any type of aid with her. This would very difficult, especially when completing crafts. I really enjoyed observing her teach. She has fantastic classroom management and the children adore her. The organization of her classroom was unbelievable; I can only hope my classroom will be half as organized as hers is. She had all kinds of different materials numbered for each table. For example: craft supplies, boxes for assignments when they are completed, materials that need to be sent home, and many other different things. Addie read the book, “Here Comes Jack Frost” and then we made snowflakes out of popsicle sticks. The children did a great job with this activity. Sinead then read the students, “Snow Dude;” the author of this book had been to Frostburg State in the past. The children were able to explain the difference between an author and an illustrator. Sinead kept the students actively involved throughout the entire book. She had the students complete a think-pair-share with a partner about what they might see in a bakery and look out the window and explain what they may see in a zoo. At the end of the story, the children built their own imaginary “snow dude.” Sinead then went around the room and took pretend pictures of them with their “snow dude.” The kids loved these activities and I learned so much just by watching her. During break, she had so much food for us, it was unbelievable. She had scones, brownies, another type of dessert, tea, and coffee. As we were leaving, Sinead and two young students (whose father just left for America) waved to us as we left waving an Irish and an American flag. It was so cute!

Our next stop was Aisling’s school, which is an Irish immersion school. There isn’t any English spoken in the school. Addie and I were in Aisling’s junior infants classroom. This was really neat to be able to be in her classroom, since we have become such good friends over the last year and a half. These children are just beginning to learn Irish. Aisling explained that she will talk to them in Irish and they will answer back in Irish or English. Since they are just beginning to learn the language, they may not be able to speak in sentences, so this is when then they will respond in English. I was very impressed on how well they were speaking the language. The were working on the letter “s” and words in Irish that begin with that letter. She had the students practicing their Irish words in groups and she would go around the room and work with each table. The students were so excited they were climbing on the tables just to get closer to her; it was so cute. I read the book, “Snowmen at Night” to the students and then they painted a snowman using marshmallows. The children really enjoyed this and were very excited about us being there. Aisling also works with the choir and she had them perform for us. The talent that these young students have is incredible. They performed four or five songs for us in Irish. Their performance was absolutely beautiful.

That afternoon we were able to do a little bit of sight seeing. We went to the Jameson Experience, where we learned the process of making the whiskey. This was really cool to see and learn about. They have a blend of whiskey that is different every year. It is a blend of all the best blends that were made that year. It is called the Middleton blend and it is never the same. A few of us were to participate in a whiskey tasting at the end of the tour. We tested Jameson, a Scottish whiskey, and an American whiskey; the best was by far Jameson. Our next stop was the Titanic Experience. We were able to stand exactly where some of the people who were the last to board the Titanic stood. This was the last stop that the Titanic had before it hit the ice berg three days later. The dock where the ship was is there; it was unreal to be able to be there. The tour showed us examples of what the different cabins looked like, provided information on icebergs, hypothermia, facts about the voyage, and much more. At the beginning of the tour they have each one of us a post card describing one of the people that was on the Titanic. At the end we were able to see if our person survived. I had Nora O’Leary and she survived the sinking of the ship. We then had a fantastic dinner at a restaurant called Scoozies.

It was a fabulous day and I am so thankful that Aisling and Sinead provided us with such a great day. They welcomed all of us into there schools with open arms. I will post again soon!

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Cork Here We Come!

The day began with a complete down pour of rain, which had us all a little worried and it really didn’t help that we were all still exhausted. We started off at the Mitchelstown Caves, they were absolutely beautiful. The family who owns the cave keeps it as natural as possible. Every summer there is a concert in the cave. Wouldn’t that just be amazing to be able to attend. As a group, we sang the song Amazing Grace as a group to test out the acoustics. The tour guide informed us that if you were to sing in the concert, you would not need a microphone because of the acoustics that the cave provides. She also pointed out several figures that the rocks had formed. A few were an elephant, angel’s wing, and a penguin. We also saw stalagmites, stalactites, pillars, and curtain formations. I felt like I was back in science class, and I loved it.

We the. went to one of our past GA’s, Sinead’s mother’s home for lunch. They welcomed us with welcome arms. It was so nice of them to do that, especially because there are fourteen of us. Lunch consisted of lasagna, a salad, and garlic bread; followed by dessert. We had apple pie a la mode and dessert bars that were like twix, only better. It was very nice to have a home cooked meal and to be able to relax for a little bit. Dr. O had always told us how loving and welcoming the Irish were, but after this last week I completely understand what she has been saying. Everyone that we have worked with or came across have made us feel so welcomed. This has been very comforting since we are so far from home. They treat you like you are their family.

While we were at Sinead’s, the weather cleared up just in time to go to the Blarney Castle. We have all been waiting for this part of the trip. Most of us were able to kiss the Blarney Stone. It is really neat to say that we all crossed something off of our “bucket list” today. The castle itself was really amazing to walk through and look into the different rooms. The view was beautiful, especially since the weather cooperated. While looking through the castle, we came across a room that contained the “murder hole.” There was place in the floor that was cut out. When an intruder or someone that was unwelcome entered the castle, they would dump boiling liquids onto them, shoot them with arrows, or other harmful things. We all found this to be very interesting.

We will be staying in Cork for the next couple days in a hostel. Don’t worry anyone, it’s not like the movie. However, the shower is a bit on the strange side. The water in the shower turns on with a button, just like one that you may find in a public bathroom sink. The water only runs for about a minute, then you have to press the button again to keep the water running. This could take some getting used to. Tomorrow we have another fun filled, busy day. I will post again soon. Type to you soon!

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We kissed the Blarney Stone!

Sightseeing in Dublin

Today we had the opportunity to sightsee in the most populated city in Ireland, Dublin. We began the day, by visiting the Guinness Storehouse. While we were there we learned the process of how Guinness is made, how to pour the perfect pint, and all about the creating of a world famous beer. Arthur Guinness must have known that his business would be successful, because he signed the lease for nine thousand years. He took very good care of his staff and their families; for example he made sure they went on holidays. Arthur Guinness was the father of twenty-one children. All young women wanted to marry one of the Guinness men because they would be well taken care of for the rest of their lives.

Our next stop was the Trinity College Library. This was absolutely unbelievable, I have never been in a place with so many books. The atmosphere was breathtaking. if only we could look through all of the old books. We were also able to see The Book of Kells. This is one of the oldest books in the world. It is a manuscript of the four gospels of the New Testament, written in Latin.

We then had the chance to walk all over the city of Dublin. It was very busy, but neat to learn about the history of this city. We were able to walk across the Ha’penny Bridge. People used to have to pay a ha’penny to cross the bridge when walking on foot. Another sight that we saw today, was The Spire; it was unveiled in 2002 to represent the millennium. This city is absolutely fabulous and I would love to come back and spend more time here someday. We were very lucky to have Patrick, his sister Sarah, our new GA for next year Leah, and Aisling with us today to take us around the city.

Tomorrow we will be traveling to Cork and taking part in a little sight seeing along the way. I will post again tomorrow about our journeys.

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Goodbyes, Castles, Cliffs, and Rainbows…

I was not able to blog yesterday due to the length of our schedule yesterday. The past two days have been absolutely amazing. Unfortunatly we had to say our goodbyes at Saint Conaire’s yesterday afternoon. I was able to sit in on a senior infant class (children ages 5 and 6) with Addie and observe them in their phonics lesson. They were practicing the letter names, as well as double letter sounds. I couldn’t believe what these children could do. They were reading sight word, much more difficult then the children are learning in kindergarten at home. For example seesaw, funny, slides, have, and mess. When answering questions, they were expected to answer in a complete sentence. It was so neat to see children so young performing at such a high level. Children in junior and senior infants are being taught pre-cursive when writing. They also understand that reading direction is to the right, with this they can keep their letter formation correct. I also noticed that they do not have centers (dramatic play, blocks, etc.) during the day. I found this to be much different than in the states, because there must be a certain time allotted for them during the day. We also had the pleasure of watching the children perform the musical, Oliver. The drama and vocal skills that the students in fifth and sixth class have is remarkable. It was such a pleasure to watch. There were 120 children that participated in the play and it was unbelievable how smoothly it ran. It was absolutely brilliant. We also had the opportunity to talk with the resource teachers. They informed us that the highest percentage of a disability in the country is Down’s syndrome. Ireland also has a similar system to us when it comes to IEP’s. The principal also informed us that the school has almost a hundred percentage parent participation. Isn’t that amazing, I could only wish that it was like that at home. The three days that we spent at Saint Conaire’s have been unbelievable. I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that I would have learned as much as I did in that short amount of time.
When we were leaving the school we saw a double rainbow; from that moment forward we knew that it was a good sign. Dr. B surprised us with a trip to Bunratty castle. It was amazing, we were able to walk through it and take photographs. It was so much fun, but after walking up and down the small, spiral staircases my legs were a bit shaky. Later that night, the staff from Saint Conaire’s treated us to a party at one of the oldest pubs in the country, Durty Nelly’s. There was traditional Irish music and we were able to chat with all of the staff. It was a fabulous time.

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Today, five of us started off our day by going to one past CLC GA’s, Rosie, classroom. We were able to work with first class and read the book, The Snow Globe Family. After we read the book, we each worked with a table of students to make a snowflake. The children were great and so interested in everything we said. They asked us great questions and loved making snow with Dr. O. We explained to the children how much snow that we get in Frostburg and the one child said, “I want to live there!” The entire staff was so nice and easy to talk to.
This afternoon we traveled to The Cliffs of Moher, I have never seen anything so beautiful in my life. I think that everyone should try to make it there once in their live. I would love to go back there someday. We then also were able to see The Burren along our travels. It was also amazing, I would like to go back to this spot and spend some more time in the future. Unlike the rest of Ireland, instead of being a luscious shade of green, it is a rocky landscape that is made up of limestone pavement.

Tomorrow we are headed to Dublin for the day and I’m pretty excited about it. Will post again soon.

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Saint Conaire’s Round Two

Today Addie and I had the opportunity to complete the crafts that went along with the stories that we read yesterday. In Ms. Morris’s class, I had the students paint snowmen using marshmallows. They could not believe that they were going to be able to use them. I was also surprised because a few students had never seen a marshmallow before. Dr. O then made snow using a special powder and the students were absolutely amazed. They used wonderful descriptive words to explain how the snow felt and what it looked like. We will be doing this with the other class tomorrow. Addie had the students in Mrs. Garrahy’s class, make snowflakes using popsicle sticks. The students in both classes did an excellent job and they loved making the crafts. I was also very impressed because the students were able to recall information from the books when we asked them questions.

We were able to observe both classes during their phonics lessons. They use a program called Jolly Phonics and this has the students learning the sound of each letter before learning the name of it. They will not learn the letter names until next year. I found this to be very interesting and it makes complete sense. Each letter has its own motion that the students act out. For example for the sound of ant they use their hand to pretend it’s an ant crawling up their arm. This provides the students with a hands-on approach to recalling the sounds of their letters. This program also includes songs, stories, poems, and activities for the students to do for each letter sound. The students then also practice making the letter in the air and later using the interactive board. I feel that teaching this the sounds before the names of the letters is an excellent way to teach the children. It was absolutely amazing to see a four year old sounding out words and reading them. They were also given a word that the letters were all jumbled up with a picture. They used their sounds to spell it out and write it out the board. I was completely amazed and impressed with the ability of these young children.

While the students were completing some of their work, I was able to talk to Ms. Morris. She showed us her roll book and explained that they have to report it online, just like we do at home. However, they only get report cards once a year and that is at the end of the school year. She explained that that they have parent teacher meeting throughout the year, to explain to the parents how they are performing. She can also talk to them when they are picking the children up at the end of each day. When I explained that the students receive grades every nine weeks, she was very surprised. The students who receive support for learning English, are taken out of the classroom each day for forty minutes. At the end of the year, they are assessed to see if they need to continue with the support or not. The schools here also encourage the parents to send healthy foods in their children’s lunches. There is a campaign in Ireland to support healthy eating for their students. I noticed that the students had some type of sandwich, fruit, and yogurt in their lunch boxes. I did not see any chips or candy. This is fabulous to incorporate into the school systems. Mrs. Garrahy allowed the students to work with a lot of manipulatives before lunch to allow the students to have a break. She explained that they were not toys and that all of the centers gave the student practice with their fine motor skills. It was lovely to watch the children use their imaginations to create displays, match figures, make patterns on a string, and build structures. It was also a time for the students to converse with one another and work together. This was absolutely magical to watch.

We then had the opportunity to sit in with the resource teacher, Mrs. Garry. She was very informative and explained to us all about her job and the students she works with. We observed her working with a young boy who has a very rare disease, similar to Down syndrome. He has difficulty with his speech and his motor skills. He comes to her twice a day, a half hour each time. She works with him on literacy in the morning and math in the afternoon. She included us in the activities she was doing with him. He was working on recognizing and saying the names of the numbers, as well as writing the numbers after hearing them said aloud. Mrs. Garry works with nine different students a day, ranging in age. All of the students that she works with some sort of disability. Her job is very similar to a special education a teacher. For the students that struggle with social skills, she brings in other students from their class to engage in conversations with them. This allows the student to gain practice in understanding how to hold a conversation with someone. I really enjoyed being able to sit in on this lesson. I really learned a lot about the resource programs in Ireland after talking with her.

I have learned so much the last two days from being in this school. I am looking forward to everything else that is yet to come. Tomorrow will be our last day at St. Conaire’s. I will post again tomorrow about any new discoveries.

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First day in the schools

Today we had the chance to attend St. Conaire’s, where one of the past GA’s is now the principal. The entire staff welcomed us with open arms into the school. We all sort of felt like celebrities, because everyone had heard about us before we had arrived. As we pulled up to the school, I noticed that their weren’t any buses. All of the students were either walking to school or being dropped off by their parents. We then later found out that all of the students lived very close to the school and they do not use bus transportation. Peter also informed us that their school is full of diversity. There are students from over 20 different countries that occupy this school. I found this to be amazing. The schools in Ireland are set up a bit differently than they are in the U.S. They begin with junior infants (ages 4-5), senior infants (ages 5-6), first class (ages 6-7), and it goes all the way up to sixth class (ages 11-12).

Addie and I had the opportunity to work with two classes of junior infants. This was amazing to observe; the children were adorable and so well behaved. The first class that we observed was Mrs. Garrahy’s classroom. She really stressed the importance of organization and setting up a routine within the first few months of school. I completely agreed with her; if the students do not have a sense of the rules and the flow of the classroom, this will result in time wasted and mass confusion. These students knew exactly what the routines and rules were. They performed quite a few songs and rhymes for us in Irish. This was so neat to witness. Students begin school without knowing any of the Irish language. They begin to learn the language at the junior infant level and continue throughout their school career. For the young children the best practice to teach the language is though song, rhyme, and repetition. Mrs. Garrahy used a magic door for the students to go through when entering the carpet area; I would love to make something like this for my classroom. It was a door made out of cardboard and the students loved it. We were able to read the students the book, “Here Comes Jack Frost.” We will be completing a craft with the students tomorrow. One thing that I loved was that she allowed us to help out in the classroom as much as possible. I was able to have the opportunity to do a small pattern with the students using the interactive white board.

The second classroom that we got to observe was Ms. Morris. We read the book “Snowmen at Night” to the children. The children in both classrooms were very good listeners and took everything in that we said. They were able to retell us loads about the story and answer any questions that we asked them. Ms. Morris had asked the students what they knew that came from America, the students answers included: The Muppets, The Smurfs, and the American soldiers. They informed us that many of the soldiers travel through the local airport, so the children are well aware of them. Both classes used a management system of stars. The stars are given out to the different rows of tables. Both teachers also praised their students a great deal. I think that this is very important for students at this age. They are so young and new to the school environment, this is great for them. We also observed Ms. Morris teaching a math lesson on different shapes. The student had to find shapes throughout the room that represented a square or a circle. The lesson was very hands-on, which is necessary for this age group. While watching the students color in their shapes, we noticed that the students all colored in the lines. I thought that this was unreal. I have never seen a young child that was able to do this. All the students were able to do this, so this was expected of them. Both of the junior infant teachers were fabulous to work with and I am looking forward to spending more time in their classrooms.

Junior and senior infant students dismiss from school a hour earlier than the other students, so Addie and I were able to sit in with a learning support teacher. Mrs. Manning explained to us that she works with students to help improve their reading ability, her role is very similar to an intervention teacher in America. We were able to watch her work with three students that were in third class and three students, one was in fifth class and the other two were in sixth class. The younger students were working on beginning sounds and digraphs. The older students finished reading a story and played a game called, “Pass the Bomb.” These students really enjoyed coming and working with Mrs. Manning. They were a great group of kids and they were hilarious. Mrs. Manning explained a lot to us about the Irish school systems and it was lovely being able to work with her.

Teachers are given a fifteen minute break at 11 a.m for tea. Yes you read that right, all the teachers are excused at this time and the sixth class students are responsible for looking after the younger student in their classroom. It is absolutely amazing that this is able to happen. In America, this would be unheard of and it would be just asking for a lawsuit. This allows the older students to have responsibility and they absolutely love it. Wouldn’t this be nice to have! Schools in Ireland don’t have cafeterias, the students eat their lunches in their classrooms. When I found this out I was expecting their to be a mess to be cleaned up, but there wasn’t at all. The students cleaned up after themselves and there was no mess at all. The teachers are then given a lunch break and the older students come down again to watch over the students. The teachers are not only classroom teachers, they also take on many other responsibilities. Mrs. Garrahy is the second deputy in the school which is equivalent to our vice principal. Many also take on being the music, art, P.E., etc. teachers as well. The schools choir performed two songs for us after lunch. They were amazing to listen to and I was so excited that we had the opportunity to listen to them.

Tomorrow we will be returning to St. Conaire’s. I will post again tomorrow about all of the new discoveries that I have made.

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