Eason Spelling Bee finals week

So I've been pretty off the grid lately, I mentioned the Eason Spelling Bee and I'd like to go into more detail as to how it all works and what I did there.

I mentioned in a previous post during the A to Z challenge that Eason were in their 4th year of the competition and it's still growing.

It starts out in the school when the 5th and 6th classes compete with each other to be the school champion. Once the school has registered and the champion chosen they go through to the county finals and that's where I come in. I've spent the last few weeks and months working as the Eason Spelling Bee Master, which means I had the list of words and called them out. Some of the words were quite tricky and there were one or two I struggled with too....Some study may have taken place to ensure I knew how to pronounce the words and definitions. Who knew the latin words were so tricky?? Once the county finals were over and we had a county finalist for each county we were ready to roll onto the next round which took place in Connacht, Ulster, Munster and Leinster. Each county finalist competed against each other until we had one finalist ready for the All Ireland Final.

Annette, Elizabeth & I 
We traveled all around the country, I've seen more counties then I thought I ever would. I've driven more miles in my little Fiesta and eaten in more fancy places, stayed in more lush hotels and enjoyed more snuggly beds then I could ever try to count! Of course there were dodgy places too, some bad beds and some awful meals but that's the joys of Ireland wide travels. Not to mention the odd stop in Burger Kings or McDonalds on the motorways of Ireland. Not forgetting my new Tripadvisor addiction.....

I had the joy and luck to work with some amazing people too, I couldn't ask for better, nicer and more fun girls then Elizabeth, Catherine and Annette! Thanks guys! We had so much fun away together that it's very weird being home now without planning our Spelling Bee trips and where we want to go, where to eat and who's going to get us lost next! For the record I only got us lost the once...there was a diversion up around Londonderry/Derry and I've no idea where we ended up but we finally found Limavady! Thankfully!

The finals week was chaotic, we started in Castlebar on the Monday then drove to Belfast for the Tuesday morning, Youghal for Wednesday and Carlow for Thursday before the All Ireland on the Friday in RTE radion centre. Yes that is a lot of driving.....a lot of miles. A lot of counties. A lot of pit stops. Each day started out with breakfast, quick run through our day and the words for me, making sure I could say them all and they were phonetically spelt ready for Ryan Tubridy. Who was airing the final week on his show. Once I was happy it was almost time to go to the 2FM roadcaster, better known as the Chip Van for a quick chat with Tubs about the Spelling Bee and all things Education.

*Whispers* I have to admit I enjoyed the radio bits, it was fun having the chat on air talking about all things educational and especially all things spelling! I even brought Ryan some Easonology bits to play with in Belfast and we had fun with a Tangle, Manga Rocks, a globe, and astronaunt food! I could totally do that full time! I'm working on having all the podcasts available on my soundcloud here on the site, keep and eye out!
Me and Ryan in the Chip Van

I was lucky enough to meet some amazing people when on my travels, including Nicky Bryne (your man from Westlife) who my bestie Joy loves! I even met An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, that was surreal. He was telling me about George Boole and spelling and maths all in one sentence. Of course the Connacht finalists who met him weren't entirely sure who they were meeting but I think their parents got it and some of them found it to be quite fun! 

By the final we had winners from Galway, Belfast, Clare and Louth all competing to be the best speller in Ireland in 2014, the competition was fierce and the spellers were fantastic! There were some words that even Ryan found tricky enough! But they spelt them...and kept spelling until Amelia from Belfast was crowned the winner when she spelt Vermicelli! Amazing! 

It was a great experience and one I'd love to repeat next year....hint hint!! I've had a ball and made some wonderful friends in the process, some amazing memories and seen some places I never thought I'd see. Congrats to all in the Spelling Bee team and to Amelia again, our 2014 Spelling Bee Champion

Nicky Bryne & Jenny Green 

Me in Carrigstown

Me & Ryan



So June happened

And what a month!!

It started with a few weeks off, which I used to catch up with friends and family. I stayed offline to some degree, barely popping onto Twitter and no blogging. I know you missed me! And then there was a lovely holiday in Fuerteventura.....

I have news!
This happened

Yep while in Fuerteventura Gavin proposed which took me totally by surprise but I couldn't be happier and I'm pretty sure Gavin is as happy :) I won't go on about the soppy stuff other than to say we had the perfect holiday and loads to celebrate with family when we got home and caught up! 

On the beach after the big question
When we got home I had a few hours with Gav before heading off on my Spelling Bee travels, I will blog about that but I wanted to share the happy news and say thanks again to Gav for a magical holiday :) 

And thanks to our friends and family who've all been so happy in helping us celebrate! Thanks to everyone who text us, Tweeted us and sent us messages on Facebook! We really appreciate it! We're feeling so loved right now, and so lucky to have amazing people in our lives!

Right end of the romance, normal service shall resume with Eason Spelling Bee news tomorrow!

Excited learning Festival

It was only a week ago but it feels like a lifetime ago already. There was so much happening and most of it was really good and enjoyable. The Friday night however I felt was a bit of a let down.

Me and Marty Cooper
I arrived and was delighted to be able to catch up with colleagues and friends before heading into the conference room or hall as it was. I sat with some CESI colleagues and was delighted to see our own Minister Ciaran Cannon serenade us with his musical skills. However that's where the fun of Friday night ended for me. I felt the panels, with amazing speakers I admit, neglected the primary sector and there as nobody there who seemed to care about the primary level. While I enjoyed the speakers and panelists there was something lacking. After all without primary school, students and teachers there wouldn't be second level, third level or even industry or innovation. I found the friday night frustrating if I'm honest, there was nobody representing my life, my interests and my teaching level. When will we learn that none of the above would exist without the creativity of the primary teacher?? I felt completely overlooked. Yes Adrienne Webb (CESI Chair) was amazing along with the other speakers but in a discussion of creativity where was the most creative level? Primary school is where pupils are most creative and open to new ideas and concepts yet there wasn't a primary teachers voice to be heard on Friday night. I wasn't alone in my disappointment Friday night. The networking event afterwards was good, a chance to meet with others and chat. And the food I'm told was pretty good...

I did meet some amazing people Friday night which to me was the highlight. I met and spoke to Marty Cooper, the father of the mobile phone! There's something amazing about taking photos (with my phone) of the genius behind the mobile!! And he's an amazing guy, so lovely and friendly. I also met the Lego guys, some wonderful ideas for lego and literacy, lego and engineering, lego and creativity! I kind of want to move to a Legoland now! If anyone would like to send me? Saturday saw me meet Lord David Puttnam too,  this is the man who produced Bugsy Malone, The War of the Buttons, Chariots of Fire and The Killing Fields. I was more than a little star struck!

Lord David Puttnam, Waddles and Me.

I found the Saturday to be far more enjoyable though which I was really grateful for. The Friday left me feeling cold and a little turned off by the event so Saturday had a lot to do. I really enjoyed Evelyn O Connors presentation. I've seen her speak quite often now but Excited was like a different Evelyn, her honesty about how she struggled to be a digital classroom with no tech struck a cord with me and I'm guessing most of the hall full of people! If you want to read her thoughts on the day have a look here.

I also enjoyed learning more about MOOCs-massive open online courses. While in the back of my head I was obviously aware of them but hadn't really put that much thought into them if I'm honest. But I have no idea why I hadn't! iTunes U, YouTube, Alison are just a handful of MOOCs open to us all and ones I've used but hadn't really thought about it. I've used YouTube to remind myself how to do the Pearl Stitch in knitting after years of not knitting so why my head hadn't thought of MOOCs before is beyond me! Another one to add to me list of things to do over the summer!

Dublin Castle


I loved hearing from Peter Creeden, the principal of St. Aidans school, a very large school with a lot of mobile devices! We saw what can only be called a brilliant sneak peak of how IT and tech can change the way the classes work and run. His video of the infants working with mobile devices first thing on a random Monday morning was inspiring and it just proved that it doesn't matter what device you have in school once teacher, pupils and staff can use them and know how to use them for teaching and learning rather than just playing Angry Birds.

The youth or the young'uns there were one of highlights for me. We were treated to a presentation by the BT Young Scientists winners from Kinsale, Cork. Sure us Cork lasses are amazing didn't you know. But the way they spoke and were so clear, confident and honest was mind blowing. They reminded us that our pupils want and need tech in school, it's what they're used to. We grew up with pens and paper as the norm whereas the young whipper snappers grew up with iPads and mobile devices yet somehow we expect them to ignore the devices that are essentially a part of their right arm! Skype, Wikipedia, iPads, Powerpoint (not sure I agree with PP if I'm honest) Snapchat (again eh??) but the point remains the same, Our students should be consulted on digital learning as firstly they are the ones learning and secondly this tech may be new to some of us but it's normal to them. Broadband however needs some serious TLC is this country so if Minister Cannon could start with that please?? Also classrooms need more plug sockets for these devices......Cyberbullying was a hot topic again but I don't want to get dragged into that discussion and get sidetracked right now. The schools that were invited to showcase were simply fantastic. I loved meeting the students and teachers there. I especially loved Contuskerts lego display! And meeting Larry too!


"I like using iPads to do tests because it doesn't even feel like work"


There was loads on the Saturday that gave me food for thought, I wish I could mention them all but I fear I may be typing all day and the chances are you'd give up reading! So what I will say is this, let your students learn the way they need to, embrace the tech and let everyone learn from each other. 

Waddles

I know what a catchy title! But all in all seriousness I've been quiet here on this blog for a reason! I had a penguin move in lately and set up his own blog and Twitter account. I may be losing it letting a cheeky penguin live in my house but it's a bit late now he's well settled in!

Waddles
Waddles blogs about things he sees and does and likes it when schools and classes tweet him and comment on his blog! Everything he writes is for children and teachers or parents can feel free to use it as a resource for whatever you might need it for! If there's anything you'd like covered feel free to let me know and Waddles and I will do our best to find it, explore it and learn about it for you!

As for me, I wanted to create a few resources that I'd have to use for literacy and lets be honest at this time of year a lot of classes are finished English readers or novels and would like something new to use! Let me say it again Waddles' Wanders is free to use for everyone all I ask is that you spread the word to others and if you can comment and tweet him otherwise he'll run out of things to say!

I've been having loads of fun the last 10 days or so that Waddles has been living with me! If you ask some of the classes I've subbing in Waddles has taken on his own very unique personality and he quite the cheeky penguin! He can often be found giving out about me on Twitter, says I'm grumpy in the morning and he really wants to try ice cream! He loves chocolate and eats raw fish for every meal but likes to finish his meal with a Penguin Bar! Naturally! He loves meeting my friends and asks everyone to take a photo with him so watch out if you've plans to meet me for coffee there may be a stow away hiding in my bag too!

Todays post is short and sweet as Waddles is demanding the laptop to do a blog post about his trip the Berlin Zoo!

Waddles can be found blogging at waddleswanders.blogspot.ie and Tweets as @WaddlesPPenguin

Edited to add: Waddles says he'd love to go visiting if anyone would like to invite him, he really loves meeting classes and schools! 

A to Z Challenge Reflections

I survived
Right so April is over and so is the A to Z Challenge. I'll miss it. I'll miss having to write a post to a deadline and getting it published on time. I liked having a time frame to work to and actually doing it. It wasn't easy, I tried to pre write some posts on a Sunday for the week ahead, especially the weeks I knew I'd be travelling away a lot with work and knew my internet access would be limited in various hotels. I was a day behind at times with my posting, days ahead at other times. I wasn't easy, and yes I am aware I made it look easy :)

I got to read a lot of new blogs I would never have found if it wasn't for the A to Z challenge. I read mostly education blogs, all new ones too! Which was really fun, there wasn't one education blog doing the challenge that I already read so I really was introduced to a whole new selection of blogs. It wasn't just education blogs I read though, I tried out a few new genres I'd never usually read or have time for and really enjoyed them too. I commented as much as I could. Which unfortunately wasn't as often as I would have liked because I mostly read them on my phone and often times I couldn't comment from a mobile site! I will be back to read some more and hopefully comment some more! Can be hard to get to read them on laptop while travelling though so comments may not always be possible!

I can't say it was all positive though. I didn't see many comments on my own blog, a few, a handful here and there, mostly from people I know on Twitter or interact with on Facebook. Thanks to those who did comment though, it really meant a lot. There was even a slight drop in readers in April, a few hundred less page views compared to March this year. Disappointing yes. I had hoped I'd reach more people through this challenge and maybe make new connections with other educators and writers.

However I don't blog for others alone, I blog for me and I really enjoyed this challenge. I may not do it next year, depends on what I'm doing work wise and where I am but I do want to do this again some time. And I will do it again. I will however pre write the posts as much as possible :)

I'm looking forward to going back to a normal blogging routine, writing about whatever takes my fancy and doing so whenever I feel like it! I have a few new ideas to implement and I'm looking forward to bringing those forward in the next few days or so! So I'll keep blogging and you'll see me back at this challenge another year!

WOOOOOOHOOOOO